Mar 26th, 2005 by Q
Kojien vs. Super Daijirin
Many users of Japanese electronic dictionaries may not use the Japanese/Japanese dictionary included. It certainly may look intimidating to intermediate or even advanced students. Many intermediate students could stand to benefit from experimenting with the Japanese dictionary, as they may be surprised with how much they do understand. The Super Daijirin dictionary that replaces the Kojien in many new electronic dictionaries makes it easier for Japanese learners to make use of the Japanese dictionary. This article is a brief comparison between the Kojien and the Super Daijirin dictionaries.
It may seem like a subtle difference that a lot of the newer electronic dictionaries have the Super Daijirin (3rd Edition) Japanese dictionary instead of the Kojien (5th Edition). The only apparent difference upon first glance is that the Kojien has 230,000 entries while the Daijirin has 250,000. This is admittedly minor, as those 20,000 extra words will probably not be noticed by the average student of Japanese. There are, however, several major differences between the two. We can compare these two dictionaries in the context of their function in the Canon Wordtank G50, which contains the Kojien, with the new Canon Wordtank G55, which has been upgraded to the Daijirin.
When using the phrase search, the Daijirin dictionary includes hiragana readings for many kanji in parenthesis after the kanji. In the Kojien you will also find this on occasion, but it is rather rare. Let’s look at an example saying from the phrase dictionary:
The Daijirin entry:
In this case the hiragana reading provided isn’t all that helpful, but there are many cases where it is. When you compare the definitions, the difference is more striking. The Kojien explanation is significantly more difficult to read, and the examples provided afterward make an obscure reference to a character in Japanese theatre. The definition in the Kojien literally reads “There’s no time to reflect on other things in the face of urgency.” After this it quotes a line from a Kyogen play (a type of traditional Japanese theatre related to Noh). The Daijirin definition is a great deal easier to read, and translates literally as “In order to escape from impending suffering, you can’t help but sacrifice something (else).”
In general the definitions in the Daijirin are fairly easy to read, while in many cases a non-native of Japanese would have more trouble reading Kojien definitions, which often contain words more difficult than the one they are defining. There are also many cases where the Daijirin is simply more complete, and contains usage or definitions not given in the Kojien. For example:
The Kojien’s definitions are “a person who behaves however they want” and a “violent person.” The Daijirin’s definitions translate as: “1. An energetic child that gets into fights and causes mischief. 2. A person who behaves forcefully without regard for people around him.” The most popular use of this word is with regard to overactive children, so the Daijirin wins in this case.
The Kojien, however, is the Japanese dictionary. When people show the definition of words on Japanese TV, they always quote the Kojien. It is the old standby and is similar to an English dictionary meant for native English speakers in that the definitions are formal and not always easy to read. In some cases the information in the Kojien is longer and more informative than that in the Daijirin, but it seems that non-native speakers would most appreciate simple language and conciseness, as the longer a Japanese definition is, the higher the likelihood of encountering more unknown words, rendering the definition opaque. One example of a huge difference in the quantity of content is the word wakizashi (short sword):
The Kojien entry contained four very long-winded definitions, with the first one referencing the Utsubomonogatari, a Heian era story. The fourth definition (which was too long to write here) included history of the wakizashi in the Muromachi era. This sort of thoroughness might be just what you’re looking for, or it might be confusing as hell. The Daijirin is short and concise. Defining exactly what a wakizashi is, a short sword worn at the hip with a katana, and includes some synonyms. For someone just trying to figure out what the word means, this might be preferable to the history lesson contained in the Kojien.
If you already own a Japanese electronic dictionary and haven’t explored the Japanese dictionary yet, it’s certainly worth doing. In many cases when struggling through a novel or essay, you’ll inevitably come across words not in the Japanese to English dictionary, and will have to rely on the Japanese dictionary. Just looking at definitions and jumping around the dictionary looking up words in the definitions that you don’t know can be a fun way to study and learn new words. If you don’t own a Japanese electronic dictionary, and are looking into buying one, be sure to compare the Kojien and Daijirin for yourself and see which one you prefer, as eventually you’ll need to switch over to it when you outgrow the Japanese to English dictionary.