Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Interactive Map of Chinese

Hanzi, the written language of Chinese, has tens of thousands of separate characters. Many of those characters are not widely used. However, to be truly literate in written Chinese, you need a knowledge of at least three to four thousand characters.

The Hanzi Universe is an interesting experiment in mapping 8,615 Chinese characters according to their visual similarity. The Structural Similarity Index was used to create a map of the Chinese characters organized by their visual similarity. The Mapbox interactive mapping platform has then been used to allow users to explore this map of 8,615 different Chinese characters.

You can explore the Hanzi Universe map just as you would any other interactive map by zooming in and out and by panning the map. You can also search the map by pinyin, the official romanization system for Chinese. Characters on the map are colored by one of the five tones used when pronouncing the word in Mandarin. If you select a character on the map you can listen to the word by clicking on the headphones icon. You can also view the character's meaning, learn the number of strokes that are used to make the character and view the word's pinyin spelling.

If you are interested in spoken Chinese then you might also like the Phonemica interactive map. Phonemica is a really interesting map of Chinese spoken stories. The project was conceived as a way to preserve spoken stories in China as spoken in the local vernacular.

Anyone can record a story at home and submit it to the map. Different Chinese languages and dialects are differentiated on the map by different colored map markers. You can also filter the results shown on the map by location, keyword and language / dialect. If you click on a map marker you can click through to listen to the recording of the submitted story.

You can find more maps about languages spoken around the world by using the languages tag.

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