Taipei find: a dictionary of Chinese-Japanese false cognates

The fact that Japanese and Chinese both share the use of Chinese characters. The connection goes beyond simply sharing characters, though: many two- and four-character expressions in Japanese come from older Chinese (these are known as Sino-Japanese items in the [[linguistics biz]]). This is how I can often “cheat” and use my knowledge of Japanese to guess what some Chinese words are saying, even if I have no idea how to pronounce them.

There are, however, many Chinese-Japanese false cognates—words which look the same and often do indeed have a shared etymology, but have quite different contemporary meanings.1 As such, I’ve often lamented to friends, especially learners of Japanese or Chinese, the lack of a dictionary highlighting these false cognates and how their usage differs between the Japanese and Chinese. A couple weekends ago I was browsing dictionaries in the Page One bookstore in [[Taipei 101]] and I found exactly that: 誤用度100%日語漢子.

Each spread shows the three sets of cognates, with an explanation of the Japanese use, in Chinese, on the left, and vice versa on the right. It’s a godsend.


By the way, here’s my favorite Chinese-Japanese false cognate:

勉強 (べんきょう)

one’s study (N), to study (V) ~する

勉強 (miǎnqiǎng)

  • V
    1. force sb. to do sth. ¹Bié ∼ tā. Don’t force him to do it.
    2. do with difficulty
  • [[static verb S.V.]]
    1. unconvincing; strained Zhège jìhuà ¹hěn ∼. This plan may not work.
  • Adv
    1. reluctantly; grudgingly Tā ∼ xiàole yīxià. He forced a smile.
    2. barely enough Tā ∼ néng shuō jǐ jù Fǎyǔ. She can speak only a little French.
  1. In French, they’re “faux amis,” but I think that sounds more like a spy.