Miao-Han Dictionary to Launch within 2011

Update: As of mid-June 2012, this dictionary has reportedly been published by the Nationalities Publishing House of Yunnan (云南民族出版社)

Chinanews.com reports (云南禄劝将出版《苗汉词典》) that a new bilingual reference book, the Miao-Han Dictionary (苗汉辞典), will be published by year-end 2011. Compilation began in 1996 and has been carried out by an editing committee of 45. It will include:

  • Pronunciations listed in international phonetic alphabet (IPA)
  • Sample sentences
  • Bilingual text (Miao and Han)
  • Over 20,000 entries with 410,000 words of text
Known variously as the Miáo (苗族), Hmong and Maewe, it is recognized as one of the 56 ethnic groups in the PRC. Within China, the Miao are located mainly in Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan and Hunan, and outside China in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. For background on the language itself, see here. The news item did not state the name of the publisher, but notes that this project is managed by the Luquan Yi and Miao Autonomous County of Yunnan Province  (云南省禄劝彝族苗族自治县).

2 thoughts on “Miao-Han Dictionary to Launch within 2011

  1. This is indeed a cause for celebration.

    But for a project of this kind to be even more thorough, you’d need a 3 way dictionary: Miao-Han-Vietnamese dictionary since the Hmong have also lived in the highlands of Vietnam and Laos in larger numbers since the 19th century (the era of French Indochine). Merely from a crude socio-linguistic perspective, Miao spoken in the far north of Vietnam –in the mountains — would incorporate French morphology and the language would have developed into a distinctive dialect that would differ from that of speakers in Guizhou, Sichuan and Hunan provinces. My guess is that the Miao in Indochine would have more in common than those in Yunnan and China’s interior.

    Still, this is a major triumph because most of the languages spoken in Yunnan (as in Myanmar), have no formal grammar books and bilingual dictionaries. If the rates of inter-marriage continue, one could imagine that over a few generations, language extinction could be accelerated.


  2. Yes, your “3-way” dictionary makes sense. But there are at least three simple reasons why we aren’t likely to see such a dictionary in the near future:

    1. It would require funding which is always difficult to obtain;

    2. Any project that cuts across borders can be difficult to manage;

    3. The Chinese government is generally not keen on such cross-border research. In my limited reading, I’ve found that reference works in the PRC tend to focus largely or entirely on “our” ethnic groups, rather than a more accurate portrayal of those ethnic groups regardless of their current location. For example, as I noted in my piece “Evenki Place Names behind the Hanzi,” (https://www.bruce-humes.com/?p=5773) one of the best works on Evenki place names (鄂温克地名考) covers ONLY places within the PRC, despite the fact that the Evenki’s traditional territory extends well into Russian territory such as Siberia.


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