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Turning the linguist's lexical database into a community dictionary

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Title: Turning the linguist's lexical database into a community dictionary
Authors: Mosel, Ulrike
Issue Date: 14 Mar 2009
Description: The paper first briefly outlines the differences between a lexical data base as it typically results from a language documentation project and the kind of dictionaries the speech community wants for educational purposes with respect to the choice of head words, grammatical information, definitions of meaning and translations, encyclopaedic information and the choice of examples. The second part of the paper then explores how in spite of limited resources in terms of time, money and man power the speech community and the linguists can develop a method of dictionary making that both satisfies the needs of the community and the interests of linguists. Since it is impossible to create a comprehensive dictionary in a language documentation project, we opted for the thematic approach in which lexicographers work on particular semantic domains such as body parts, architecture or fishing, and try to cover all those lexemes of the respective domain that seem to be important for the intended dictionary users. In our project the headwords of the lexical database were classified according to their domains, and then filtered and exported from the lexical database in order to produce a mini dictionary for each selected domain. In the case of body parts, for instance, we did not only select the nouns that signify the body parts, but also verbs that express bodily actions like ‘sweat’ and ‘comb your hair’ as well as speech formulas like ‘have a heavy heart’. The indigenous lexicographers then checked this preliminary mini-dictionary for missing head words and fixed multi-word expressions,and revised the examples which often were so context dependent that they did not make much sense in isolation. Focussing on one particular semantic domain at a time helps to easily identify various kinds of lexical relations such as taxonomies, meronymies and metonymies as well as metaphorical usages, collocational restrictions and grammatical constructions. As one and the same lexeme can belong to more than one semantic domain, the mini-dictionaries must be accompanied by an index. The paper concludes with a discussion of how this kind of practical lexicography is related to frame semantics and how it can be used for semantic typology.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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