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TIP #53 - This tip was sent on the week: 14th - 20 th Aug, 2005

This tip applies to the following programs:

  • ESI Professional

How to Add A New Word to the Dictionaries? - Part V - Lexicography


Before you go though this week’s tip, we strongly recommend that you go through some of our previous ones, #’s 21, 22 and 23, which specifically deal with adding new words. You must make sure that you understand all the steps, icons and functions first in order to be able to go deeper into the syntactic aspects of word addition.


Let’s not lie to ourselves: adding words and phrases to a dictionary is no easy task at all. It might be simple from the perspective of clicking buttons and selecting choices in nice little dialog and combination boxes. But every selection you make is – or rather has to be- founded on grammatical bases.


This task is known as lexicography, a scientific discipline which is also an art, the art of choosing syntactically correct and at the same time concise definitions of words, phrases and expressions of different kinds without losing the sense and the part of speech of the entry being defined, and also without including the defined word in the definition… a vice in which many a dictionary (sadly, many a Spanish dictionary) falls into more often than is to be desired. These are known as recursive definitions.


Even though you are not entering definitions but translations in a translation dictionary, you can nevertheless apply the same rules to the corresponding entries. That is, the Spanish translations of the English entries have to be concise, syntactically correct and non-recursive.


Let’s first consider nouns and noun phrases.


You can determine if it is a noun phrase if you can use the phrase as the subject of a sentence or if you can place an adjective or an article in front of it, or if you can visualize it in plural.


Take for instance the phrase “piece of cake”. You can say

A piece of cake is all I want.

In this case, you are both placing the article “a” in front of the phrase and placing a verb after it. Therefore, it complies with two of the requisites and “piece of cake” can be tagged as a noun phrase with its corresponding translation “pedazo de pastel”.


It also can be used in plural: Two pieces of cake Dos pedazos de pastel.


However, notice that there is another identical expression which is not a noun phrase. It is an exclamation which indicates that something is very easy to do.

In this sense, you have to tag the entry as an Interjection (symbol Int). Thus, at the end you will have two different parts of speech for “piece of cake”, one as a noun and the other as an interjection. The Parser or translation engine will have to decide which meaning to accept when confronted with such a phrase. We will deal with this very important issue of “stand-alone” entries in later articles.


For instance, if you type the sentence “I want a piece of cake” into the translator, the translation will come out as “Yo quiero un pedazo de pastel. This is the literal meaning of the sentence.


However, if you simply enter “Piece of cake!” as a “stand-alone sentence”, the output will be “¡Es pan comido!

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