A Translation Interface

Published on November 20, 2019
Last updated on October 1, 2020
Categories: chinese, linguistics and translation

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Two windows next to each other, one of which shows usage instances for the word under, or around, the cursor.

Part of the challenge of creating an interface to help with Chinese translation lies in defining the extent of a word. For example, when a verb and an object (e.g. 吃东西 ), is combined with a two-character complement1 (e.g. 起来), the result, 吃起东西来, does not contain "起来" as a substring, because two-character complements get split up to follow both verb and object. Any digital dictionary or reference system concerned with usage examples will have to account for this fact of Chinese grammar, and contain the knowledge that, despite the results of affixation, this can be considered an occurrence of the "起来" complement.

When Linguary has evolved far enough for custom interfaces, I'll return to questions like these.
  1. In Chinese linguistics, this term (natively 补语) refers to words which, aside from their normal usage, can also be suffixed to verbs (or VOs) to express the result of the verbal action. Some of them, when used this way, have the same meaning as when used on their own, e.g. 懂 means "understand", and 看懂 means "look-understand", i.e. "understand by reading/watching". Other words take on new meanings when used as complements: 起来, which on its own is a verb meaning "rise up", means "begin doing" when used as a complement. Don't confuse the term "complement" here with the same word from the broader study of syntax; there, it usually means "argument selected by a head." (I won't link the Wikipedia page here: as of 2019-11-20, it's not well-organized, and gives space to "traditional grammarianism" alongside a mangled, wishy-washy stab at linguistics.)

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