LINGUIST List 9.1452

Fri Oct 16 1998

Sum: Dictionary software

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  1. Michal Lisecki, SUM: dictionary software

Message 1: SUM: dictionary software

Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 21:30:03 +0100
From: Michal Lisecki <>
Subject: SUM: dictionary software

Dear all,

Quite some time ago (September 15th) I submitted a query about software
which could help translators in building their own dictionaries of uncommon
vocabulary. I am very grateful to those who provided me with information on
this, and I apologize for
the very long delay in posting this summary:

David K. Barnhart <>
John Beaven <>
Michael Dunn <>
Timothy Dunnigan <>
HOPPE Birgit <>
Robert A. Haas <>
Baden Hughes <>
David J James <>
Hanna Jankowska <>
Vern M. Lindblad <>
Simon Musgrave <>
Mitar Pitzek <pitzekEUnet.yu>
Stuart Robinson <>
Ewa Sikorska <>
Jean Quirion <Jean_QuirionUQAH.UQuebec.CA>
A. Vine <avineEng.Sun.COM>
Ralf Vollmann <>
January Weiner <>

Twice as many people emailed me with a similar request which let me know I
am not the only one looking for such a software.
I shall give now a summary of responses I got.

Unfortunatelly, I must say there is no perfect solution (at least I didn't
come across one) to my problem. However, the best one seems to be to get
some kind of dictionary to which we can add up entries. This seems to be
the easiest and least time consuming.

- ---------------------------- SHOEBOX SOLUTION
- ------------------------------------

A perfect solution for those with some linguistic background aiming at
building a more sophisticated dictionary seems to be Shoebox - a Windows
based software with quite powerful dictionary making features available
free from <>; (currently available is version 4).

SHOEBOX is a database management program, designed expressly to meet the
needs of the field linguist. Using SHOEBOX, the linguist can easily enter,
edit, and analyze lexical, textual, anthropological and other types of
data. For example, with SHOEBOX, one can:

+ Maintain a simple dictionary, or a more complex lexicon,
+ Interlinearize text, where new words are automatically entered
 into the dictionary,
+ Do grammatical filing and analysis of text data,
+ Enter and file cultural notes,
+ Maintain nonlinguistic types of databases, such as address lists
 or library catalogs.

- ------------------------------ DATABASE SOLUTION
- -------------------------------

Some other respondents suggested using a simple database management system,
, e.g. ms access, excel, lotus 123, etc. However, this has to be given
futher considerations, i.e. in MS Excel "you can only have so many
characters in one field (and sometimes this can be not enough for
definitions). Access is easy to program but is getting slower and slower
the more data you have. Anyways, if you want to write your own database,
think twice about the data structure (the kind of fields you would want).
It is a lot harder to add missing fields later on." (Birgit Hoppe)

- ---------------------------- EXISTING DICTIONARY
- --------------------------------
A good solutions is to build a database on a basis of existing dictionary
software. For this purpose some Polish respondents suggested using
"Leksykonia" which allows for adding entries. However, as it is not a very
well known software (and afaik, not available online) we might encounter
some problems with transfering the data outside the program

- ---------------------------- OTHER SUGGESTED TOOLS/REFERENCES
- --------------------

Ralf Vollman suggested using ASKSAM - "it allows context search and
thus is very suitable for text data. and it is very fast. officially, it
is not cheap, though. <>;."

In her reply, Birgit Hope wrote: "I have received your question on
dictionary making from the Linguist List. I am working as a terminologist
at the International Union of Railways (UIC) in Paris, France. UIC is
editing a database with railway terminology in 15 languages which also
includes Polish (and other Eastern European languages). 
The database is programmed in Foxpro (Dbase application). If your technical

translations happen also to be in the railway field, you might consider 
buying our database and completing it with your own terminology. If you are

interested, you may have a look at our web page at The 
product is called RailLexic."

I was also suggested to check Atril's DejaVU <>; which I
haven't tried yet (it's not cheap).

A selection of interesting tools suggested by Jean Quirion can be found at
<>; under Gestion

John Beaven suggested trying a commercial package MultiTerm from Trados.

I was also told to try Filo (
which I found completely useless...or at least I could not get the idea of
it. Maybe some you will...let me know then. I did not have much time to
look at it but it seemed to me that its purpose is just to change overall
attributes of files. To me, it did not have even a sigle dictionary
building/maintenance feature.

I was even pointed to one book by Routledge, which covers this topic. It's
_Using Computers in Linguistics_ (eds. John Lawler and Helen Aristar Dry).
It just came out this year.

Some other suggested sites include (I only browsed through them]:

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------
- ------
Still, some other respondents claim to be using a very simple and versatile
method of CRD labels (Windows 3.1 Card Files). Well, this seems to be a
good solution for those wanting to create a very simple database but there
may be some problems with transfering the data to other programs/formats.

A general suggestions for those wanting to create a bilingual dictionary
is to be aware of the fact that the software they are looking for should be
capable of displaying extended diacritic signs (e.g. Polish, French,
German, etc.)[ISO-8859-2].

I did not get many responses conceringn dictionary building software on
other platforms. I myself am using Windows 95 and Linux (Debian) but was
unable to find any software (or suggestions) which could run under Linux.
As far as MAC users are concerned, I had only one suggestion of an
organizer program for the Mac called InTouch, which is a very versatile and
powerful and simple database. Basically it is a simple data management
system but could as well help in building a simple lexical database. I
could not locate its website, but InTough is marketed by Prarie Group
software, and I'm fairly certain that the company
offers the program for PCs.
- --------------------------------------------------------------------------
- --------
I decided to use Shoebox ver 4 as it seems to offer all the features I need
at present together with a possibility to extend it in future adding
pronunciation and more complex entries. Providing you have some linguistic
background this seems to be the best choice. Other benefits include : it's
available online, it's free, comes with loads of documentation.
Other solution could be to use database software but then we need to think
of the limitations which result from such a choice.
Even better solution (providing you have money) could be buing one of
powerful dictionaries or some kind of specialized software which allows to
add up entries.

All the best,
Michal Lisecki (waiting for any other suggestions...)


tafn mike
Michal Lisecki <> finger me 4 my pgp
IRC [lisu] or [magura]
'The limits of my language mean the limits of my world' L.W.
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