Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dictionary Usability II

More beef with electronic dictionaries. Well, more accurately, more features that I think would benefit its users.

So, traditionally, dictionaries are sorted alphabetically, which works because it's an order that doesn't discriminate words. But with the advent of the computer and cross-listing, it's so easy to create different types of indexing. Say, for example, that I knew that "octogenarian" meant "someone in their eighties". How would I look up the word that meant "someone in their nineties"? Well, there is a wildcard search, so I could look for {*genarian}, and click through the resulting list:
And that could be great, if you have some Latin training, 'cause then it'd be a quick inspection of the prefixes to figure out which one you want.

But what if I wanted to know the adjective for "liver" and only knew that "renal" was an adj. that pertained to the organ "kidney"? Well, there is a round-about way under "advanced search", where you can look for words in the definition, as well as specifying the part of speech (in this case, to narrow searches for adjectives only). But that's still a bit clumsy.

Now, say I knew that the adj. for hedgehog was "erinaceous", only because I saw a lexicographical online lecture on the TED website. how would I look up the adjectives of other animals? OED doesn't really offer anything, and of course you could do the backward "advanced" search, but it still doesn't organise your searches in an intelligent manner.

So, I think that with the definitions should be a list of related terms that aren't lexically similar, for easy clicking. So under liver would be its definitions, and then "related terms: renal, "

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