Dictionary 2.0

We often hear of "smart" phones, but are you familiar with smart dictionaries? Researchers with the Observatoire de linguistique Sens-Texte (OLST) research group are working on developing just this type of reference work for highly specialized fields such as computer science and the environment.

Their dictionaries provide the general definitions of words in addition to providing a host of information regarding their usage. For example, a computing dictionary would contain the definitions of words like "software" and "Internet", and would also include information on the different ways in which the words can be used, the verbs that are commonly combined with them, and so on.

The development of these dictionaries was a collaborative effort requiring input from linguists, terminologists, lexicographers and other specialists with related knowledge and experience. The researchers also turned to a group of experts from fields as varied as teaching, information science and translation.

We often hear of "smart" phones, but are you familiar with smart dictionaries?

Some members of the team are focusing on the possible applications of this type of tool, such as natural language processing and machine translation. The definitions are constructed in such a way as to be compatible with computer applications. The Observatoire's director, Marie-Claude L'Homme, gives the example of someone who searches for the term "global warming" in a search engine developed from smart dictionaries. The search engine might return pages containing related terms such as "climate change", "climate warming", etc.

Other members of the team are looking into the uses of such dictionaries in the teaching of first or second languages. This avenue will be explored more thoroughly in the coming years, as will the analysis of the words themselves and their multiple meanings.

All OLST dictionaries are available online, on the olst.ling.umontreal.ca website.