LINGUIST List 10.1973

Sun Dec 19 1999

Qs: Ispell Dictionaries, Cross-ling Advertising

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  1. Paul Rohr, Comp Ling: Ispell dictionaries for different languages
  2. George Fowler, Cross-linguistic advertising

Message 1: Comp Ling: Ispell dictionaries for different languages

Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 21:20:26 -0800
From: Paul Rohr <>
Subject: Comp Ling: Ispell dictionaries for different languages


This question is for the more computationally-oriented members of the list, 
from a software person who didn't thrive in his college linguistics class:

I was wondering what the commonly-held opinion is about the quality of 
ispell dictionaries for various languages (and the tools for building them)? 

The reason I ask is that I'm one of the principal authors of AbiWord, a 
widely-used Open Source word processor which currently runs natively on a 
variety of platforms (Win32, Linux, BeOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, etc.). We've 
had a lot of success locating translators for the user interface, but 
getting ispell dictionaries to work for languages other than English has 
been a real headache. 

One of the key features we implemented early on was the kind of interactive 
spell checking found in all modern word processors -- those little red 
squiggles and popup menus that users either love or hate.

To do so, we're reading ispell-format dictionaries directly, which is 
working out beautifully for English, but we're running into trouble handling 
ispell dictionaries for other languages which don't seem to interact well 
with our internal Unicode representations of the document content. 

I suspect that our underlying problem is purely a software issue that we'll 
eventually learn enough to figure out, but I'd feel a lot more comfortable 
investing that effort if I knew that the quality of the resulting 
dictionaries was likely to be worth the effort. 

Any opinions or assistance we could get on this issue would be very much 



PS: Anyone interested in AbiWord itself can download source or binaries of 
the latest development release from our website:
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Message 2: Cross-linguistic advertising

Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1999 09:58:13 -0500
From: George Fowler <>
Subject: Cross-linguistic advertising


For a class I will teach next fall for freshmen at Indiana University
(a general ed requirement, not a linguistics course per se) entitled
"The Language of Advertising", I am interested in finding as many
examples as possible of advertising slogans, logos, product names, and
the like, which create embarrassment or misunderstanding when an ad
campaign is mounted in another language/culture. The classic example
is Chevrolet's car the Nova, which didn't exactly fly off the shelves
in Spanish-speaking countries, because the name Nova got reparsed as
"no va", meaning 'doesn't go'! Or, Sports Illustrated this week ran
the following little snippet:

Lifetime Achievement in Advertising: Sega, the Japanese electronics 
giant, paid several million dollars for the right to put its name on 
the jerseys of the Italian soccer team Sampdoria, little realizing 
that _sega_ is Italian slang for masturbation.

Pretty funny! If people who know of other such examples will email 
them to me, I will gratefully post a summary in the fullness of time.

Thanks in advance!

George Fowler
George Fowler [Email]
Dept. of Slavic Languages [dept. tel.] 1-812-855-9906/-2608/-2624
Ballantine 502 [dept. fax] 1-812-855-2107
1020 E. Kirkwood Ave. [home tel./fax] 1-317-726-1482/-1642
Indiana University [Slavica tel./fax] 1-812-856-4186/-4187
Bloomington, IN 47405-7103 USA [Slavica toll-free] 1-877-SLAVICA
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