feature request: search substitutes for tilda in defs


This is a feature request that may have been suggested before, but wanted to make sure it was in Mike's radar even if it was.

Here's the use case: There are lots of nice sample Chinese sentences in the dictionaries in Pleco, often which use more complex versions of words (adding modifiers like 下来,得到,etc.) which are not surfaced when you do a search because the dictionaries have a "~" tilda for the word in the definition.

My case example is 装不下, which can mean there is no room (e.g., when packing a suitcase). There is a definition in ABC, but there is also a sample sentence that doesn't, which is under ABC's definition for 装. It is 盒子~不下. It doesn't show up because search doesn't intelligently substitute the proper character(s) for the "~".

This could be a useful improvement for the search function.



Staff member
This has indeed been suggested before, but the big problem with it is that a lot of our data files aren't really in good enough condition to facilitate doing it automatically, so we'd have to basically go through and hand-check every example sentence in order to make sure the correct characters were actually getting substituted in the correct places - it's not always just a matter of sticking the headword in place of the tilde, there can be optional modifier characters (r, de, etc), multiple traditional variants, etc. We could probably get it working reasonably well with an automated conversion in ABC (though even in that there are enough mistakes in the character versions of example sentences to cause problems) but I don't think anything but hand-checking would deliver adequate results in Tuttle or Oxford.

However, one of our as-yet-unannounced new dictionaries (which also happens to have a ton of example sentences, something like an order of magnitude more than ABC) has very high-quality data files which already include the correct character substitutions, so once that's released you actually should be able to search it for ~ combinations, though at least initially this won't work correctly with the word-highlighting code (so you'll have to scan through the entry yourself to actually find the matching sentence).


I figure this is related, and as always ignoring potential challenges associated with any actual implementation for the moment - I would like to have a button on the definition and/or reveal screen that would -

1) toggle between tilda or the actual head word within the sample sentences, and
2) toggle the display of pinyin (forcing the user to refer to the Hanzi) in the sample sentences.


Question for anyone who might know. Just out of curiosity, what is the reason for using these tildes? Of the few English dictionaries I checked they all seem to use the actual word in example sentences making me think it's not some sort of universal dictionary rule. Are they inserted by the source company or by Pleco and why? Someone mentioned it's because they might require modifier characters before or after but it seems to me there is a sentence and a translation, simple enough to do without tildes.

Anyone know?


Staff member
They're inserted by the publishers, not by us - we've stuck with them largely because they seem to be so consistently a feature of C-E and E-C dictionaries. I think the situation in English dictionaries is different because there you're very often changing the ending of the word - it wouldn't be clear exactly what the ~ was replacing - whereas with Chinese words are pretty much immutable (well, not entirely, but within a single dictionary entry at least) and it's easy to figure out what the ~ stands for.