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The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary Hardcover – 9 Jan 1998


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1616 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; 3rd Revised edition edition (9 Jan 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804820368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804820363
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 5.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 266,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Synopsis

This revised edition includes a radical index containing oer 32,000 entries and over 2000 additional readings in the on-kun index. An expanded cross-referencing system includes the character's index number in Morohashi's "Dai Kanwa Jiten", its JIS code number and character listing position.

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is (to my knowledge) the most up-to-date version of the Nelson character dictionary. The dictionary is based on the orthodox search-by-radical method. There also exists a compact version, but a long-term student of Japanese (more than 2 years of college) should really get this edition. The Jack Halpern "Ntc's new Japanese - English Character Dictionary" is also good, and is based on a more convenient search method. However, the system used in the Nelson dictionary is the one used in Japanese-Japanese character dictionaries. Final note of warning: this is a character (kanji) dictionary! this is not a phonetic dictionary! you will need, in addition to this dictionary, a Japanese - English dictionary separately (Kodansha Furigana is good, among others). {the reviewer is a student of Japanese}
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
With my copy of the original Nelson Character Dictionary looking considerably older than its 6 years and shedding pages, I decided it was time I acquired a new character dictionary. The New Nelson was an obvious choice, as learning a new look-up system takes time and patience, neither of which I have in abundance. The younger, more-attractive-looking version arrived yesterday and I'm delighted to say that it's even better than the old one! The print is larger and easier to read, while the updated appendices are most useful. I was particularly pleased to see that the list of Chinese place names includes both the Wade-Giles and Pinyin romanization systems, as I had previously been reliant upon the internet and guesswork when searching for the modern equivalents of those names given in the old Nelson. Finally, the universal radical index is a welcome addition. I would definitely recommend this to both new students of Japanese and those considering replacing their old Nelsons.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Clarke on 9 Nov 2009
Format: Hardcover
This dictionary is one of the most comprehensive Kanji to English dictionaries in existence.

This is probably why translators use it and other Kanji dictionaries (both paper and electronic) normally include New Nelson Kanji numbers.

Even the Hanji index for Unicode includes New Nelson reference numbers in their database.

It is less a learner's dictionary than a serious dictionary for Japanese users. A better learner's dictionary is the Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary, which of course has reference numbers for characters in The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary.
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By Albert Godts on 7 July 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great solution to the research of words based on radicals. So easy to use if you take the pain to read the introduction. A minor negative: why not use kana instead of romaji ?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 31 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
So near, and yet so far. 16 July 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
(The following contains a few Japanese characters. If possible, set your browser to read Shift-JIS encoding.)

- The book is now 1600 pages (the previous was about 1100). The paper seems
to be a slightly whiter, heavier, and more opaque grade. The binding is
dark blue and sort of plasticky (not sure exactly what it is), as opposed
to the maroon cloth weave of the old one.

- The pages have an airier appearance than before, but are the same size.
The gutter between columns is distinctly wider, there seems to be more
whitespace in general, and the type is bigger. The typography is still high
quality, as before. Entries now include JIS numbers when available.

- The useful appendices in back are pretty much as before, perhaps expanded
a bit. Pinyin is now given along with Wade-Giles for place names.

- The cover claims to have 1200 new characters. I'm not sure about this,
but the new characters that I noticed look like PRC-style simplified
characters.

- There is now a "Universal Radical Index" (URI) that allows you to look up
a character by any of its component radicals, and even includes a few of
what they call "nonce radicals", that is, frequently-recurring shapes that
aren't radicals, like the three dots on top of "íP".

- Sadly, nothing resembling Spahn & Hadamitzky's lookup by any character.

- There does seem to be more vocabulary. As a rough-and-ready measure of
new vocabulary, I looked under "ìd" and found a number of new words, like
ìdéqâªé'èë (denshi-ka jisho). Unfortunately this is not itself an
electronic dictionary, and the new terms didn't go as far as they might: no
"ìdãCéËíÝ"

- Here's the bad part: Nelson's has (sort of) returned to traditional
radical indexing, as opposed to the algorithmic style pioneered in previous
editions. Furthermore, it has pretty much eliminated cross-referencing from
the "wrong" radical in the main body of the text, relying instead on the
URI in the back. This may make the thing nearly unusable for previous
Nelson's owners.

Even though they are mostly using the traditional radical system, they
haven't gone all the way. All the characters that should be classified
under tsuki-hen are instead classified under niku-hen. So the editors have
managed to offend both their existing clientele who like the algorithmic
system *and* traditionalists who don't.

This is a huge mistake. If they wanted to, they could have released two
editions: one based on traditional indexing, and one based on Nelsonian
indexing. And if they had more imagination, they would have included a
CD-ROM.

Bottom line: This is like a beautifully-made clock that doesn't keep time
accurately. The indexing system provides the central structure of any kanji
dictionary, so it damned well better be a good one. This one isn't. If you
are an existing Nelson's user like me, you'll be frustrated. If you are a
classicist, you'll be irritated. If you are a first-time buyer, you'll be
mystified. Apart from that, this is a very nice dictionary.

Nelson's users should stick with the older edition (which is evidently
still being printed). First-time buyers should get the older edition or
S&H's Kanji Dictionary.
83 of 91 people found the following review helpful
Significantly Improved though not Perfect 13 May 2000
By "radagasty" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary is based on the classic Nelson edition, but has undergone significant thorough revision, although whether the changes be improvements or otherwise is debateable, insofar that this new edition little resembles its older counterpart save in content. In any case, neither editions of this dictionary are suitable for beginners in the language, offering scant help in point of usage and composition.
This edition of the dictionary has a totally new system of arranging characters, discarding the strange algorithmic system in favour of the much better traditional arrangement based on the arrangement by semantic components, known as radicals, used in Chinese dictionaries following the famous and authoritative 42-volume Kangxi Character Dictionary of the Chinese Ch'ing dynasty which sets out over 40,000 characters classified under 214 radicals. This is an improvement only insofar that the idiosyncratic algorithmic system of Nelson was replace by the traditional system. However, this transition was not completed, and, instead of the full traditional system being implement, only the veneer of using the traditional arrangement is present. Upon closer examination, one finds that certain characters have been classified under different radicals than that under the traditional system fixed by the Kangxi dictionary. Granted that the Kangxi dictionary is a Chinese work that would not contain kokuji, characters invented in Japan, but these characters are very few in number compared to those borrowed from China, and, in any case, were made up according to the principles of Chinese characters, thereby having a natural place in the Kangxi classification anyway. This half-hearted implementation of the traditional system is a great misfortune, for it is at once irritating and disconcerting, making the finding of certain characters a wild-goose chase indeed. Despite the deficiencies of this method of arrangement, it is yet a significant improvement on the ridiculous mathematical arrangement used in the classic peculiar to that book, making it difficult to move to the traditional arrangement used by most Japanese dictionaries.
This new edition is very much larger and heavier, and cumbersome to use, due to the inclusion of the Universal Radical Index. This URI would seem to be an attempt to repair the shortcoming in the arrangement of characters outline above. It lists each character under every radical that could possibly be the character's radical. This makes for a very big index, substantially increasing the book's bulk without adding functionality that could have been more easily achieved by proper traditional arrangement of characters. However, the arrangement being what it is, and the cross-references in the dictionary being almost eliminated altogether, the URI is more-or-less essential.
All, however, does not bode ill for the dictionary. The quality of the entries themselves are what they always have been: clear, concise and comprehensible. They have been thoroughly revised to make the definitions more up-to-date and more copious, a number of new words having been added. In terms of content, there is indeed a noticeable improvement. Note, though, that this is not a writer's dictionary, for it gives no indication of how a particular character or word might be used. Rather, it is for the reader who encounters unknown words in a text he reads, and desires to seek its meaning in the dictionary. For this latter use, the dictionary serves its purpose admirably, having such a comprehensive vocabulary that one seldom notices its omissions.
Physically, the dictionary is well produced, giving allowances for its large size. The print is sharp, clear and not too small; the liberal use of white space gives the page a much more appealing look. This book is also well bound and generally handsome in appearance, the weighty tome it is.
Whilst I would not dissuade a potential buyer from this book, I would advise him to consider carefully whether the classic edition, despite its awkward algorithmic arrangement and silghtly dated entries, might not better suit his needs than this new edition. I would not hesitate to recommend this edition to any advanced student of the language, the two main detracting factors being the arrangement of characters, which is no worse than in the classic edition and its size. Nonetheless, if size is no consideration, then this is indeed an improvement on the classic edition, albeit not perfect, but nonetheless having a better arrangement of characters, a more copious vocabulary and more up-to-date entries. In short, this new dictionary is certainly better than the classic, and surpassed by few other Japanese-English character dictionaries on the market, and flawed though it is, nonetheless indispensable for the serious reader of Japanese.
54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
The Classic Nelson has been totally ruined 18 April 2003
By "randd2003" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I purchased the original Nelson in Japan in 1962, the year it was first published. Over the last 41 years, I have worn out at least 2 copies, and presently own three.
The original Nelson was a masterpiece and for many years has been considered 'the kanji bible' for those interested in mastering Japanese characters. Unfortunately, the new version (The New Nelson, as it is inappropriately called) is a disaster... for several reasons:
1. Nelson's original 12 Step system, though still shown inside the front cover, is now unusable. For example, if a beginner wants to look up the character 'wa' (meaning peace or harmony) which is comprised of 'nogi hen' (Radical 115) plus 'kuchi' (3 additional strokes), following Nelson's 12-Step system will lead to failure--the character is not listed under Radical 115. WHY? (See reason number 2)
2. The New Nelson lists the characters under the old traditional Chinese system based on the K'ang-Hsi Dictionary of 1716. Under that archaic system, the character in question 'wa' was listed under Radical 30 ('kuchi-hen') for some reason even the Chinese could not explain. Guess what?!? This is PRECISELY what Mr. Andrew Nathaniel Nelson, PhD, most wanted to avoid in his original dictionary because in the old traditional Chinese system there was too much that was illogical and unfathomable about the ordering of the characters. So the New Nelson dictionary destroys one of the main advantages of the original Nelson dictionary.
3. The New Nelson adds a bulky, cumbersome 230-page Universal Radical Index. Every character is listed under every possible incorrect radical that any one could possible think of, any more. The end result is a total dumbing-down of the process of learning the radical-stroke character look-up system. It also makes the dictionary much bulkier and heavier and less handy. It is analogous to equipping a car with 5 extra gas tanks and 4 extra engines--in case you run out of gas or have some sort of engine problem.
We need to answer these questions:
Is the New Nelson a better dictionary than the old one? Definitely, NOT! It actually destroys the main advantage of the original Nelson--its handy character look-up system.
Is the New Nelson easier to use? Definitely, NOT! You first have to unlearn Nelson's original system of character look-up, and then try to learn an archaic, cumbersome, illogical Chinese system.
My recommendations:
1. Get a copy of the old Nelson and treat it with the utmost care. It may be a long time before an equivalent dictionary is available again.
2. Write to Charles E. Tuttle, the publisher, and complain about this horrible New Nelson.
3. Write to University of Hawaii at Manoa and complain about what they have done to an outstanding dictionary, which now has become unavailable.
I have done all the above. But what about my copy of the New Nelson that I purchased about 5 years ago?
I gave up on trying to use it and am now thinking of donating it to a needy Japanese fish pond as a form of ballast for growing barnacles or some other form of marine life... somewhere it might be useful. I'm also thinking of the Zen-related ramifications... the sound a New Nelson makes when it splashes into a fish pond on a moonlit night...
Rand Dorsey
Japanese linguist with 41+ years experience studying, researching, listening to, reading, writing, speaking, teaching, and enjoying the Japanese language.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
The New Nelson is a good buy for students of Japanese. 26 Dec 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary is a complete revision of the previous Modern Reader's dictionary compiled by Andrew Nelson. The original dictionary (now referred to as "Classic") has long been the stand-by for many students of the Japanese language. It's main strength was the large amount of character-compounds it listed. It's primary weakness was that it was slowly but surely getting outdated. So users of all character dictionaries, and Classic Nelson owners especially, have been waiting for this new revision. The question is: does it disappoint? It is important to consider at to whom this book is targeted. The foreword to both editions make claims to being a "writer's" dictionary as well as a "reader's" dictionary, but considering the title of the "Classic" edition, and the make-up of the current edition, it is clear that it is meant for those who read Japanese; Japanese language students, and those living in Japan. Frankly, the Nelson dictionary has never been a "learner's" dictionary, and this edition is no different. History, use, frequency; the Nelson dictionary makes no attempt to clarify any of this. It is a static reference tool, and it does not try to be anything else. You will not find compounds listed by the second, or third, character. There is nothing demonstrating stroke order. There are no examples of usage. It is difficult to actually glean anything from the dictionary, beyond a somewhat barren definition to a character and/or its various compounds. It is important not to try and make the Nelson dictionary something it is not. The Nelson dictionary has but one purpose; to provide a meaning to whatever character/word/compound a reader of Japanese might come across while in the course of reading some kind of literature. The "writer's" aspect of the dictionary is auxillary at best: since stroke order is not shown, basic character knowledge is required. One can use the Nelson as an aid to writing simply because of what it is, not because of any special design. What the Nelson intends to do, it does very well. It is not at all easy to "stump" the dictionary; more often than not the compound one is looking up is available. As a listing of definitions, the New Nelson is as good as any other dictionary. It lists verb and adjective forms of words under their character, as well as nouns and conjunctions. And the compound listings can't be beat. This is the reason the Nelson dictionary has been the "standard" for years, anyway. The "New" Nelson would've continued to be a standard simply by updating the definitions, and cleaning out the obsolete characters. But in this day and age, character dictionaries are ultimately judged by their character-look up systems. Every dictionary has its own system. Usually, the users of the dictionaries tend to use whichever system they are most familiar with. This makes the question of what is "better" largely moot. However, that doesn't prevent it from being argued. The New Nelson's response to the argument is the Universal Radical Index. This is immensely easy to use, and makes a lot of sense. It is the obvious answer to any question of looking up characters: simply list all characters by all their possible radicals. The only reason this has not been done before is because compiling such an index seems to be commercially a wildly impractical idea. Frankly, I'm surprised Tuttle, the publishers of the New Nelson, even had the balls to do it. There are disadvantages to such an index, and the New Nelson has them. First, such an index is HUGE. Consequently, if you were to hollow out the pages of the New Nelson, you could easily fit the Classic Nelson inside, with room to spare. This means the New Nelson is not every portable. That's fine, though. The New Nelson is made to used when reading, not in conversation. Second, to accomodate this HUGE addition to an already thick book, the editors had to take out some infrequently used characters and compounds. They also had to take out many of the cross-references, one of the strengths of the Classic Nelson. This may make some Classic Nelson users upset. But the benefits of the URI outweigh the disadvantages. There are too many characters without readily apparent radicals, and the URI is an enourmous asset. There is an important question: is the New Nelson a good buy for those with the Classic Edition? Well, it really depends on how you use it. The benefits of the URI are less for someone already familiar with the Nelson Radical Index system. In fact, users of the Classic Nelson will probably rarely ever use the URI. If you are a Japanese-language student, or a teacher for that matter, it's probably in your best interest to buy this book, even if you already have the Classic Nelson. After all, it's in your best interest to have as many different dictionaries as you can get. If you read Japanese more as a hobby, you don't need to run out and get this new dictionary right away. Go ahead and use the old Nelson until it falls apart, then buy the new one. If you are just a casual learner of Japanese, living in Japan and in need of a dictionary, then it doesn't particularly matter what you get. However for someone new to the Japanese language, student or otherwise, the New Nelson is your best bet for your first dictionary. It is comprehensive, easy-to-use, affordable, and has some appendices in the back that are quite useful. In conclusion, the New Nelson is the best Japanese-English character dictionary out there, especially for beginners. It's combination of the URI, the on-kun index, the appendices, and above all its comprehensive listing of characters and compounds can't be beat. It doesn't have everything (no dictionary does) but it has more than enough.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A True Masterpiece Ruined... 2 Nov 2008
By R. Dorsey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Tankobon Hardcover
This updates a review of the same dictionary I did in April 2003 in which I said The New Nelson totally destroys the advantages of Nelson's original work. That is still true.

I purchased my first copy of the original Nelson in Japan in 1962, the same year Nelson's original dictionary was first published. Over the last 46 years, I have worn out at least 3 copies, and presently own two.

The original Nelson is a true masterpiece and for many years has been considered by scholars and students around the world as the 'the kanji bible' for anyone interested in mastering Japanese kanji. Unfortunately, the new version (The New Nelson) is a disaster for several reasons:

1. Nelson's original 12 Step system is still shown inside the front cover.
However, it is now completely unusable because the body of the dictionary has been rearranged and no longer orders the characters by Nelson's method. That seems almost too incredible to imagine, but unfortunately it is true. For example, if a beginner wants to look up the character 'wa' (meaning peace or harmony) which is comprised of 'nogi hen' (Radical 115) plus 'kuchi' (3 additional strokes), following Nelson's 12-Step system will lead to failure--the New Nelson (incredulously) no longer lists this character under Radical 115. WHY? (See reason number 2)

2. The New Nelson lists the characters under the old traditional 18th-century Chinese system based on the K'ang-Hsi Dictionary of 1716. Under that archaic system, the character in question was listed under Radical 30 ('kuchi-hen' in Japanese) which is contrary to Nelson's original look-up method. Nor is the rationale for this arrangement anywhere explained -- it was an arbitrary thing in China that characters containing "kuchi hen" would usually be found under that radical. Why??? -- is an ancient Chinese mystery.

Guess what?!? This is PRECISELY what Mr. Andrew Nathaniel Nelson, PhD, most wanted to avoid in his original dictionary. In the old traditional Chinese system there was too much that was illogical and unfathomable about the arrangement of the characters under the 214 radicals. So the New Nelson dictionary completely destroys the most important and advantageous feature of the original Nelson dictionary.

3. The New Nelson also adds a bulky, cumbersome 230-page Universal Radical Index. Why do you think this is necessary when it wasn't necessary in the original Nelson. It's because the system used in the New Nelson too often leads to failure and despair on character look-up. Every character is listed under every possible incorrect radical that any one could possibly think of (plus a few that no one would ever think of). The end result is a total dumbing-down of the process of learning the radical-stroke look-up system. It also makes the dictionary much bulkier and heavier and less handy. It is analogous to equipping a car with 2 extra gas tanks and 3 extra engines--in case you run out of gas or have some sort of engine problem -- so unnecessary if the product is well designed from the start.

In evaluating the New Nelson, we need to answer these questions:

Is the New Nelson a better dictionary than the old one? Definitely, NOT! It actually destroys the main advantage of the original Nelson--its quick and handy character look-up system.

Is the New Nelson easier to use? Definitely, NOT! You first have to unlearn Nelson's original system of character look-up, and then try to learn an archaic, cumbersome, illogical Chinese system.

As for the unfortunate reviewers who are tied to the archaic, almost unusable 18th century Chinese method of character arrangement, those who have never learned to use Nelson's much quicker method for characters look-up and who therefore see it as a strange algorithmic system and see the New Nelson as the much better traditional arrangement -- we must have sympathy.

The ultimate test of which method is faster -- let me use a Classic Nelson and let one of them use the New Nelson (or any other character dictionary they choose). I guarantee that in a head-to-head contest, on average I will find any character in the Classic Nelson in 40-60% less time than they will using the New Nelson. I have subjected myself to this test on numerous occasions over the years and I always win convincingly.

My recommendations:

1. Get a copy of the Classic Nelson and treat it with utmost care -- just in case the publisher goes completely nuts and decides to drop this masterpiece in favor of the new, more cumbersome, dumbed-down, difficult-to-use version.

2. Write to Charles E. Tuttle, the publisher, and complain about this horrible New Nelson.

3. Write to University of Hawaii at Manoa and complain about the huge disservice they have done to aspiring students of Japanese language who will be unknowingly saddled with a much lower quality dictionary.

I have done all the above. But what about my copy of the New Nelson that I purchased about 5 years ago?

I gave up trying to use it and am now thinking of donating it to a needy fisherman who may be able to use it as a boat anchor... hehehe. I'm also contemplating the Zen-related ramifications... the sound of a New Nelson splashing into a fish pond on a moonlit night...

Rand Dorsey
Japanese linguist with 48+ years experience studying, researching, reading, writing, speaking, teaching, and enjoying the Japanese language.
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