I can't tell if Wenlin's etymological information is based solely on the Shuowen Jiezi
, which of course is one of the oldest character dictionaries (from the Han dynasty):
… or if it's based on newer sources, as well. What is available for Pleco and includes some of the most recent research findings are the Outlier dictionaries you can get as Add-ons. The Outlier Essentials dictionary comes with about 3,000 character etymologies, constantly growing up to 4,000. You can have a look at the demo version. This is their webpage:
The groundbreaking new Chinese character dictionary exclusively for Pleco! Understand the logic behind the writing system by learning how Chinese characters actually work. The Essentials Edition includes: 4000+ characters (4000 total) Detailed explanation for every entry Stroke order for all...
Hope this helps,
Thanks very much for your comments, Shun, which are indeed helpful. I was very impressed with the Outlier
's detailed Shang and Warring State etymologies (images and historical discussion). The treatment there is much more extensive than Wenlin's. But the latter's briefer etymologies are claimed to reflect modern scholarship. Besides the quoted material from Wieger and Karlgren, the documentation claims that "Wenlin’s Seal font and all Shuowen-related data appearing in Wenlin’s Seal character Zìdiǎn entries reflect the current state of this work (2010, ongoing)." The citation corresponding to the preceding comment seems to be:
"說文解字 ‧ 電子版》 Shuō Wén Jiě Zì — Diànzǐ Bǎn: Digital Recension of the Eastern Hàn Chinese Grammaticon. Richard Cook. UC Berkeley, Department of Linguistics, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2003. (~1800 p.) ◦ A new printing of this work in four volumes (~2400 p.) was published in 2010 as STEDT Monograph 9, including a newly available fourth volume of the complete text in Seal characters; for more information, see the author’s website: http://rscook.org
I will be interested in watching how Outlier
's work on the sound of the characters develops -- whether it presents phonological etymologies as well. These are very much needed for properly appreciating the T'ang and Song poetry. Baxter's representation of character pronunciation in Middle Chinese is given in Pleco's SCM add-on dictionary, but I haven't had a chance to see what period that purports to represent and how accurate it is. So far I've been taking Pulleyblank's Lexicon of Reconstructed Pronunciation in Early Middle Chinese, Late Middle Chinese, and Early Mandarin
(1991) as the "gold standard" for the pronunciation of characters in the Sui, T'ang, and Mongol dynasties respectively. If there are corrections to that work, I'd be interested in hearing about them. Unfortunately, Pulleyblank's Lexicon
is only available in printed form. I'd love to see it available in Pleco.