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Linguists record spoken Chinese
Updated: 2004-12-22 10:17

Linguists are going to complete the country's largest database of spoken Chinese, on the basis of which they will compile the first modern spoken Chinese dictionary and grammar book.

Shen Jiaxuan, director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Linguistics, said the database included three sub-bases: a live Chinese conversation base whose data was collected in Beijing; a base consisting of dialects of Shanghai, Xi'an, Guangzhou, Beijing, Chongqing and Xiamen; and a base of phonetic symbols of modern spoken Chinese.

The conversation base now has 650 hours of live conversation recorded in Beijing. They were turned into 8.9 million words in transcript.

Shen led the research project of the CASS in the past four years. Linguists always establish databases of written languages first. However, they realize that databases of spoken languages are of the same importance to linguistic research. Information technology and multimedia technologies help make the research feasible.

"Some countries have already made a lot of research in building databases of spoken languages, including Chinese," Shen said.

Some multinational companies in information technology are eager to recruit local talent in developing spoken Chinese databases.

"If we do not speed up to build our own spoken language database, we might lose advantage in studying spoken Chinese and developing applied technologies," Shen said

With his research team, Shen is now developing management and search software for the spoken Chinese database as well as a spoken Chinese database of children.

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