Lời dẫn

To date, research and compilations of Nôm characters have obtained many important achievements. I would like to discuss briefly two Nôm dictionaries that have appeared in recent years and are most related to Nôm characters with Quotations and Annotations: 

(a) Tự điển Chữ Nôm (Dictionary of Nôm characters): The collective work by the Institute of Hán Nôm Studies, under Nguyễn Quang Hồng as the chief editor, published by the Publisher of Education in Hà Nội in 2006. The book contains 1.546 pages, and the size is 16x24 cm. This is the first Nôm characters dictionary in which quotations from Nôm works (almost 50 texts) are provided for each character. It has been highly reviewed in recent years. This dictionary has more characters than the Nôm dictionaries preceding it, however it is still not fully plentiful (as there are 7.888 glyphs with 12.000 units described). For each character, there is explanation and analysis of word structure. However, there are still places that are not accurate or entirely rational. In the context of that period, the editorial board could not provide quotations in the original Nôm characters, but only in Quốc ngữ transliteration.  

(b). Tự điển Chữ Nôm trích dẫn (Dictionary of Nôm characters with quotations): The collective work compiled by the Institute of Vietnamese Studies in the United States (including 7 co-authors), published by the Institute of Vietnamese Studies, printed in Taiwan, in 2009, 1.708 pages, size 19x26 cm. The authors collected data using computers, and for the first time provided quotations in the original Nôm characters (with standard and accurate Nôm fonts created by the author) accompanied by Quốc Ngữ transliterations. The number of Nôm texts used is larger (60 texts) with many works on Nôm from the South of Vietnam. Although being presented as a dictionary, this work has no explanations for Nôm characters and there is no structural analysis of each character. 

Recognizing the advantages and disadvantages of previous works and the need to apply new approaches and methods has led me to compile Nôm Characters with Quotations and Annotations. My wish is to contribute to society a new-style dictionary of Nôm characters, with higher capacity and quality than preceding dictionaries. 

For basic understanding of the subject, the book Khái luận văn tự học Chữ Nôm (An Introduction to Nôm characters Grammatology) (Nguyễn Quang Hồng, Publisher of Education, Hồ Chí Minh city, 2008, 538 pages) has been available. In this book, the characteristics of chữ Nôm are determined from a diachronic perspective and, especially, new classification and concepts of the structures and functional environments of Nôm characters are provided (distinguishing between formal structures and functional structures, deep structures and surface structures). All these are very necessary for the selection, explanation, transliteration of texts, and also for the analysis and classification of Nôm characters structures in the dictionary. This system of textual theories was not fully developed when the author was working as the chief editor on the dictionary mentioned in (A), and it is now applied for the first time in the compilation of Chữ Nôm with Quotations and Annotations.

For materials, the author began by collecting Nôm characters texts. After that the author selected 124 documents (many times more than the number of documents used in previous dictionaries) of various formats and belonging to different time periods. For famous Nôm works, the author sometimes used two or three different texts. He solely performed all the steps of this work on the computer (except some steps in the final stage), thereby avoiding the problem of multiple errors in consistency that can occur when many people are working on a text.  Besides, we have recognized and put in the Appendix section more character forms and pronunciations presented in the two well-known dictionaries of P. de Béhaine (1772) and J.L. Taberd (1838).  

In this dictionary, the reader first looks up a Nôm character based on pronunciation (known or predicted). Corresponding to each modern Vietnamese syllable, there will be tens of different characters. Each character is a descriptive unit consisting of two columns: (a) A Chữ Nôm column identifying the glyph, pronunciation, and code of the character (according to Unicode or Vcode). (b) An explanation column consisting of structural analysis of the character and explanation of meaning. All different syllables (corresponding to one or several Nôm Characters), are arranged according to the alphabet of Quốc Ngữ. To look up an unfamiliar character for which one does not know or cannot predict the pronunciation, one can first look up the character in Chữ Nôm Look-Up Table by Radicals, then go to the page having that pronunciation.  

In the process of compiling this dictionary, the author used all the Nôm and Hán fonts currently available for computers, with the main font being Nom Na Tong. This dictionary gathered 9.200 different Nôm glyphs (not including the 250 characters in the Appendix section), corresponding to 14.519 pronunciations documented in contemporary Vietnamese national script (based on latin alphabet, chữ Quốc Ngữ), 3.000 of which were constructed by the author and had never been presented in the available Nôm fonts and dictionaries. For the modifications of these “new” Nôm characters, the author has received sponsorship, both in terms of human resources and materials, from the Nôm Preservation Foundation (United States).  The Nôm Preservation Foundation (in the United States) has supported the entire expense not only the regard of publishing but also for the printing of Nôm characters with Quotations and Annotations. Just because of this, before welcoming the dictionary to come on the scene, the author would like to express his profound gratitude to this organization and the employees of its office in Hanoi, the Nôm Na group. 

The author also sincerely thanks all his colleagues at the Institute of Hán Nôm Studies and the Literature Department of the Hanoi University of Humanities and Social Sciences for having provided some rare and valuable Nôm characters materials, helping to enrich the source of materials of this dictionary.

Finally, the author is honored that the Social Sciences Publishing House (Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences) with the Nôm Preservation Foundation (United States) has co-operated to assume responsibility in publishing Nôm characters with Quotations and Annotations and introducing it to readers in this country as well as abroad. 

The author hopes that the readers of this dictionary are not only researchers in the Hán Nôm areas, but also all those who would like to find traces of the language and writing system, literature and culture of the Vietnamese in the distant past, but still extremely close to today’s life. 

Although the author has tried his best for many years to realize this work with high expectation, mistakes are inevitable. The author hopes to receive forgiveness and instructive feedback from the readers.