Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Integrated Language Tools

When I was growing up, I hardly ever looked in a dictionary. It didn't seem worth the effort, having to walk out to the living room to get it, spending the time to find the entry and then having put it back again. Nowadays, having a permenant Internet connection, if there's a word I don't know, I'll immediatelly look it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The point is, convenience can make a big difference.

Despite the utility of on-line dictonaries and thesauri, I think there's a lot further we can go. We could provide integrated access to all the various types of language tools out there - domain-specific dictionaries, idiom dictionaries, slang dictionaries, cliche dictionaries, translation tools, etc [*]. Ideally, we could simply select a particular word, phrase or body of text and immediately access any of this language-related information. No doubt such integration will come.

* In addition to all of the language tools I'm aware of, I think it would be very useful to be able to access more specific information on the relationships between synonyms. For example, if synonyms could be ranked in terms of how general or specific the concepts they describe are relative to the current term.

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