Wednesday, March 07, 2007

About dictionary writing

Connel MacKenzie is one of the English language Wiktionarians who has had a big influence on the development of the Wiktionary project. He published his notions about what a dictionary should be. As I have posted a response to what Erin McKean, the current editor in chief for the NOAD, said in a presentation at Google, it is nice to write about in response to this as well.

For Connel, the project is about the English language. This is a big difference in approach to what Wiktionary is said to be about. He wants to limit it to those words that are part of the 600.000 most common terms. This is problematic because how do you judge something to be common and, what is common in one branch of the English language might not necessarily be common in another. He is of the opinion that "freak" terms should only be there in a sanitized form. To me it is important that a term is clearly and fully explained. When you "sanitize", it is not clear if the full meaning survives for someone who does not know the term. By disallowing multiple word entries, you loose the connection to those entries that are single entries in another language..

In his commentary, Connel writes about the restrictions that faces Wiktionary that are the consequence of its flat file format. You can not segregate different types of content when the basic technology does not support it. At that he would be better off being part of OmegaWiki as its technology allows for all the things he is looking for.

He hopes to get a useful Wiktionary when he has a dozen programmers available for such a project. At the same time he despairs because of "the current anarchy" it may take ten to twenty years..

I do admire the constructive work Connel has put into Wiktionary. I doubt that Wiktionary will ever become useful other than as a resource where you can look things up on the Internet.

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