I have a theory, that learners of Chinese, who user a bilingual dictionary with all the characters, and the pronunciations on the right, with equal pronunciations being consecutive, listed in order of first, second, third, fourth, and then fifth tone, can have a good tone looking things up and memorizing all the characters that have a given pronunciation.

But I confess there is a point, where this gets counter-intuitive. Instead, one wants a bilingual dictionary, with the characters listed by radical, and then the completely differing pinyin pronunciations on the right. This way the learner learns to remember the character's make-up first, and then its pronunciation. Since, at this point, the user has memorized all the possible character components that could take place, there shouldn't be a problem (no longer the problem novice users encounter where they find a new character funny looking, and become concerned with not being able to draw it).

But for this to work, the now no longer beginner but intermediate stage user, will want:

  • A dictionary which lists the Chinese characters and words composed from then in order, sorted by radicals.
  • Since we are looking for a software dictionary, a keyboard input method based not on ASCII, but on bopofomo or something similar, so that the user may enter AND CONCENTRATE FIRST, on each radical.

At this stage, the user should be able to associate the pronunciation with characters' and word's shape, (in one step), and not the other way round.

SUMMARY: With this technique, the user should be able to focus on a character's radical and non-radical composition sequence, and go through associating / learning all the different pronunciations, of all the characters which look the same.

It may be innovative to provide this list, in a software dictionary, just ordered by "SAME-LOOKINGNESS", independently of what is a considered a radical and what is not (since not every readable component of a character has been traditionally considered a radical).

  • 4
    I'm failing to see the actual question here, could you clarify a bit?
    – Mou某
    Nov 2, 2016 at 9:39

1 Answer 1


In most modern dictionaries, there is a preface that allows you to search words up by radical, by directing you to the appropriate page. Most people use this section when they want to learn its pronunciation and/or its meaning.

Some old dictionaries like the Shuowen Jiezi or the Kangxi Dictionary (说文解字 and 康熙大词典 respectively) are all-radical dictionaries, which organize characters by radical.

In an online dictionary, there is a section dedicated to radicals, so it gets even more convenient.

One could also use Cangjie/Wubihua or similar to simulate this "radical-lookup".

Additionally, some dictionaries have a "first-5-stroke preface" that allows searching based on stroke order.

TL;DR: This has already been invented.

  • The idea might have already been invented, but do the libraries of various languages (e.g. Python, JavaScript, C, PHP) provide comparison functions for sorting into standard dictionary order (number of strokes, then standard order of radicals)? May 5 at 13:07

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