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The Kanji Dictionary (Spahn 1996) - Book Review


The Kanji Dictionary

Genre: Japanese Language / Kanji Dictionary
Author: Mark Spahn (1996)

review in one breath

This has been my primary Kanji Dictionary for several years. It is impressively comprehensive, covering over 7,500 single Kanji characters (compare this to the Japanese Ministry of Education's list of 1850 "standard" Kanji) and almost 47,000 multi-character compounds. The dictionary itself is about 1700 pages.

Unlike "Japanese-English" dictionaries which are ordered according to the Hiragana/Katakana (alphabet) sequence, this is a Kanji dictionary and thus is based primarily on ideogram (Kanji) construct. Since a single Kanji character can have a wide breadth of pronunciations given the context, strokes or stroke composites hold the key to unlocking the Kanji universe. Greater minds have determined that all Kanji characters are (nearly) comprised of 79 "radicals". Using the analogy of chemistry, if a Kanji character were the chemical compound, the list of 79 "radicals" is the periodic table representing the core components from which the entire system is built. Thus once you become familiar with the 79 radicals, the massive world of Kanji becomes all that less intimidating.

Here are some scans from the book. The first is of the 79 Radicals. The second is of an initial entry page for a specific radical:

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