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The phrase in question is a title of an article on news.qq.com.

Both 大凉山失依孤儿 and 大凉山失孤儿 translate to "Daliangshan's lost orphans" in Google Translator. Using dictionary was no use as well, since I'm not sure how translation "to depend" fits into this title.

What's the significance of 依 in this sentence and how is 大凉山失依孤儿 different from 大凉山失孤儿?

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失依儿童, is, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, a phrase in of itself. The MoE dictionary (https://www.moedict.tw/失依兒童) defines it as:

失去父母照顧的兒童。

Which roughly reads something like: children who have lost the care of their parents.

The dictionary can be found at the link above or downloaded as Pleco add-on for free - which can also work with Pleco’s reader functions, if you’re looking for options on how to access this dictionary for your personal use.

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失依 here short for 失去依靠 (lost dependence)

失依孤儿 means 'orphans who lost dependence'

依靠 (dependence) here refer to 'anyone or anything to depend upon'

A more common term is '無依' which is short for the idiom 無依無靠 (Helpless)

if the title was '大凉山無依孤儿' it would be translated to 'Daliangshan's helpless orphans'

大凉山失孤儿 would mean 'someone lost the orphans in Daliangshan' and it make little sense because no one own orphans

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失依 is actually 失去依靠, in english this means "lost dependence", or specifically those orphan who cannot find anyone to help them get on with their lives, probably because the basic welfare and rescuing system is broken there. If there is only one character 失, then the title does not make sense semantically indeed [or one might understand it as "Daliangshan lost orphans", but this is weird]. Google translator might simply ignore the character 依 and just translate 失 into "lost". Better translations could be

The orphans who have no one to depend in Daliangshan Mountain

here the name of the place would be incorrect, but this seems not influence the meaning.

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    Interesting, I tried to translate 失依 with Zhongweng Firefox extension, MDGB and Google Translate and all of them treat those characters as completely separate, not as a phrase. Do you know of any online resource that could help me next time on my own? – Reverent Lapwing Oct 18 '18 at 13:14
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    @ReverentLapwing These are actually not the standard phrases in Chinese, so the translators may not recognize them at all. Some people might just make some words to shorten the title. These are easy for natives, but very confusing for learners. For the reference request, sorry I do not know, and maybe not easy to find such tools. Maybe next time you could break these confusing words into parts and extend them into regular words. – xbh Oct 18 '18 at 13:21

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