Sunday, August 18, 2013

Powerful tools for all linguists out there

This goes out to all you people who are into historical linguistics and not only. Ask yourself "what takes most time when studying words"? Many of you try to find similarities across languages and each time you find an interesting word, you start searching in your dictionaries how that word is/was in language X. Currently, and to some extend, Palaeolexicon helps you with that. It is not enough though... In version 2, we will introduce some powerful tools for your research.

So, here is the concept. You find this word in language X and you want to know if that word exists in a similar form in another language. Palaeolexicon has currently 8 dictionaries, 6 distinct languages and many non public dictionaries that still need some work until they reach out to you e.g. Latin, Sanskrit, Hittite, Hurrian etc. Right now, you need to manually search for words in those dictionaries and make your own comparisons. If you're lucky, we have already linked them together so that you can see the similarity across languages. In most cases that doesn't happen though. So, what about a tool where you type your word of interest, its meaning and then click on a magic button that does the work for you? You put for example the Latin word "nomen" and its English meaning which is "name". Palaelexicon's algorithm will then try to match your input with all available (public and non public) words in its database and suggest you the following: όνομα (Greek), ονομαν (Phrygian), nama (Sanskrit), namo (Saxon) and so on... Well, that is a bit too easy isn't it? What if the etymology of the word you search for is not exactly the same in some languages? Assume you search for old persian martiya which means man - Palaeolexicon will suggest you words like Venetic mortuvu 'dead', Greek μέροψ 'mortal', Armenian meranim 'to die', English murder and so on. Except from sounding similar, these words share similar meanings but not exactly the same. They have a semantic similarity regarding life and death. Their semantic similarity might then divided by distance, for example a cup is a hollow object or bend, but it is also a utensil. Sounds like you're about to save many hours of research right? Of course, keep in mind that computers are not humans and the last decision is up to you. 

If you have any more suggestion on what would save your precious time while researching, please don't hesitate to contact us. 

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