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Dictionaries and technology

This step introduces the following topics: what cutting-edge technologies are dictionary makers using or planning to use?
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Researchers today have access to very powerful computers and large amounts of data. Both these elements are crucially important in dictionary making and started revolutionising lexicography some time ago. In Week 3 we saw that thanks to the corpus revolution since the 1980’s lexicographers have increasingly used corpora in their work. Over the past decades the advances in computational and corpus linguistics have made it possible for researchers to access and process very large corpora containing billions of words. This means that we can develop tools to exploit these vast amounts of data and allow lexicographers to use this data when writing and updating dictionary entries. But how can computers help a task as difficult as writing a dictionary? Lets break this down.
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New words appear in the language all the time, and finding these words requires a lot of effort because the sources to analyse are very large. For example, think of the amount of new content becoming available on the web every day. Its impossible for a lexicographer, or even a team of lexicographers to read all that content in order to find new words. Researchers in the field of computational linguistics have proposed various methods to make this task achievable. For example, by automatically identifying a list of candidate’s lexicographers can select from. Similarly, finding new meanings of words is difficult and laborious and requires the judgement of the lexicographer.
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However, recent research has proposed ways of doing this task automatically by suggesting candidates for new meanings which can then be analysed further by a lexicographer. Researchers have also produced large language resources which are useful for both humans and computers. Examples include WordNet and BabelNet. You will find out more about these next.

This step introduces the role of technology in dictionary making.

Watch the video, presented by course educator Barbara McGillivray, to find out about cutting-edge technologies dictionary-makers are using or planning to use, how lexicographic processes can be automated, and what further dictionary-related research is currently underway.

Your task

How do you think computers will help lexicographers even more in the future?
Share your responses in the comments area.
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Understanding English Dictionaries

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