AN ELECTRONIC TERM LIST (ETL)
By Fred W. Riggs
University of Hawaii
Basic ETL; Augmented ETL; Interactive ETL ; and Applications .
ABSTRACT. An Electronic Term List (ETL) will help scholarly writers hyperlink to definitions and texts that clarify the meanings and uses of terms they are considering as they write. The technology resembles that currently available in electronic spell checkers and thesauruses. Like a spell checker, it will highlight words as they are written.
In its basic form, an ETL will recognize terms that are included in a list, whereas the spell checker, by contrast, marks un-listed words. When the listed words are unfamiliar or ambiguous, the author will be reminded to add explanatory information or substitute a more understandable synonym.
In its aumented form, the ETL will support links to dictionary definitions, bibliographic references, and words-in-context. This information will clarify semantic problems that need to be solved when these words are used. Like a thesaurus, the hyperlinks will help writers find better terms to replace those they have written whenever such a replacement would help them clarify their intended meanings. Of course, they can also do nothing if they see no need for further clarification, or they could just add a few explanatory comments.
In its interactive form, an ETL will enable innovators to add new terms to the electronic list. This will enable any research group (like an association's Research Committee or Special Interest Group) to evaluate and add new terms to their conceptual repertoire. Starting as a personal list, the new items, after careful evaluation, can be added to glossaries and dictionaries sponsored by professional associations or publishers of dictionaries, thereby serving all scholars and supporting improved scholarly communication.
ATypology of LISTS
Many LISTs are visualized, at different levels of generalization. Individuals can create a personal ETL by establishing a list of the terms they find problematical or useful, including any new terms they want to propose as additions to the lexicon, or as substitutes for ambiguous or clumsy terms. Specialized research groups can create ETLs for all of their members to use - they would start by listing terms found in their seminal papers and abstracts and would expand their group LIST in response to proposals from their members. Disciplinary LISTS can be established for everyone working in a recognized discipline like Anthropology, Communications, Computer Science, Engineering, Information and Library Science, Medicine, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Semiotics, or Sociology. We visualize several levels of service for an ETL: basic, augmented, and interactive. Their rationale and differences were explained in more detail in an earlier draft whose URL can be obtained by writing the author: Fred Riggs .
The Basic List
The Basic LIST will enable writers to identify any listed word on their computer screen while writing in a word processor. It will do this by highlighting each such word as it is written or, after composing a text, the writer will be able with a mouse-click to highlight all of the listed words that are included in the draft.
A similar process is already available to writers in the form of a spell checker which highlights any word not on its comprehensive list of recognized forms. On a spell checker, the highlighted word can be ignored or responded to. One response is to recognize a misspelling and correct it. Another response is to add a new word to the list after which it will be recognized and not again highlighted.
The Basic ETL list differs from this prototype in that it will contain only a short list of words that writers want to be reminded about. Consequently, instead of marking forms not listed, it will mark those that are included in the list. Thus it will normally work in a positive rather than a negative mode it will highlight items on the list, not items that are not listed. However, an ETL may also be used in a negative mode as desired to mark any words not on the list. To see why these options may be useful, consider some of the applications listed and explained below.
AN EXAMPLE. One of these applications can be summarized here to help explain the list's rationale. Suppose that one is a member of an insider group a research committee (RC) or special interest group (SIG) in a professional society, for example and uses a set of technical terms familiar to all group members. However, the writer may want to communicate to outsiders, people who are not members of the committee. To do that, it will be helpful to recognize all the technical terms that may require an explanation or synonym to make them intelligible to the outsiders. As with a spell checker, the writer can then decide whether to ignore the prompting or do something about it. This is really all the Basic List does.
Yet this function can be very useful. Consider that members of an RC or SIG frequently use famililar words to which new meanings have been assigned. When they want to reach a wider audience, they need to add qualifiers or comments that will enable all their readers to understand what they have in mind. For example, we all know what a notebook is in everyday use, but computer users know that this word also refers to a special kind of laptop computer. An author writing this word in a text might value a service that highlights it and reminds h/er that it has a special meaning which may not be known by all potential readers.
An ETL for computer users could highlight such familiar words as bookmark, cookie, download, file, highlighting, home page, hacker, domain name, mouse, notebook, tag, password, saving, signature, surfing, toolbar, window or worm which have special meanings in computing contexts. Clicking on such words will display information that could help the author make certain that readers not yet familiar with computer terminology will understand their intended meanings.
In addition, the basic ETL could list neologisms that are even more likely to be unfamiliar to readers, terms like applet, bezel, byte, crosstalk, daemons, diskette, encryption, knowbot, modem, transponder, unicast, and zine. Actually, such terms are not so problematical precisely because they are neologisms -- writers are more likely to know they need to explain them although, eventually, familiarity makes some of them so familiar that they are often also used without explanation -- an ETL listing will remind writers to think about
PROACTIVE. Such a system will be proactive. To explain this idea, consider the text for Emotional Literacy Education. Anyone opening this text will find that it contains highlighted words. They are defined and discussed as Topics in the Encyclopedia of the Self (ES). This service requires the payment of a subscription fee. However, one can learn more about this program by going to Selfknowledge The planned ETL will provide a similar service but instead of being limited to terms that have already been pre-selected, it will enable users to create their own lists of problem terms. Ordinarily, access to definitions is always reactive in the sense that writers must initiate their inquiries by writing them in a search window or look them up in a dictionary. The ETL will short-cut this process, proactively, by prompting writers to recognize problem words as they are written.
All the terms found in an Electronic Term List (ETL) will be highlighted for writers as they enter them in a text, instead of being only those that have been preselected, as in the Encyclopedia of the Self project. Moreover, whereas the ES is limited to the terms that have been pre-selected on a Web site, the ETL will highlight those entered by an author while writing on a word program. Also, the ES only hyperlinks from one list whereas the ETL will support many different lists, each with a distinctive set of terms selected to meet the needs of many different clients
To illustrate how the ETL will hyperlink an author's text, consider the copy of the abstract given at the head of this digest. It can be found by clicking on Screen Shot 2 A set of key terms used in this text are highlighted. Someone writing such a text will be reminded that the highlighted terms are on their ETL list. They will then be able, if they wish, to click on any of these expressions to bring up their dictionary definitions and texts in which they have been used. Readers can open definitions to any term in this text, but they cannot do that for the highlighted terms in the illustration because it is just a picture, not part of this text. However, the marked terms in the picture are used above in the abstract where their definitions can be opened just by double-clicking on them..
Readers may well ask how one knows what terms to include in a term list. An example may be offered based on the experience of the International Sociology Association.
A list of panels organized for this congress at its recent congress in Brisbane, Australia (July 8-13, 2002) can be found at: Timetable . If one clicks on the link for Research Committees, one will find information about each session including abstracts for the papers presented at that session. A search of these abstracts will reveal some of the terms that have a special meaning in their committee's discourse.
Eventually these abstracts will be moved to Sociological Abstracts. Information about this service and many others as well, can be found at: Silver Platter Here one can find a description of this extensive reference collection. Since each abstact is accompanied by a list of descriptors, the terms that are important in that context, it will be fairly easy to compile a list of the most frequently used terms. They can then be subjected to semantic analysis and posted, if so desired, on an ETL for the use of its committee members. Ultimately, we anticipate that the lists compiled for each committee can be consolidated in a general list for Sociology. Moreover, if the project succeeds, it should be feasible to compile similar lists for other disciplines and, eventually, for the social sciences as a whole.
Actually, the ETL concept has much wider applications as explained below.
The Augmented List
The Augmented LIST will expand the scope of an ETL by enabling authors to open definitions and relevant texts just by double clicking on any word as they write it. This means that in addition to opening hyperlinks for the terms that have been highlighted by an ETL, writers will be able to hyperlink any word they write in order to find its dictionary definitions and related texts, using a web crawler that focuses on dictionaries and encyclopedias. To experience this capability, try double-clicking any word in this text to open a window with its definitions.
NOW AVAILABLE. The Voycabulary program permits users to do this from any text posted on the Internet. To see how it works, first click on Voycabulary and then type in the URL for any document on the Web. It will pop up with the text in a distinctive blue color. Then select any word in the text and click on it to open a window in which its definitions will appear in a dictionary of your choice. From this window more relevant information can also be secured by additional links.
Another program with similar capabilities is called LookWAYup. There are three ways to use it:
1. Activate a text by installing it on a Web page. Following instructions given at LookWAYup , it has been installed on this document so readers can test the system immediately by just double clicking on any word in this text, as noted above.
2. Installing the engine on one's browser permits readers of any Web site to open definitions from words in a text posted on the Internet: first mark the term by double clicking it and then invoke the program by using its icon on a toolbar. LookWAYup Install permits one to post this ikon. Alternatively, one can open a window that permits users to drag a term from a word processor or e-mail site and drop it in the window where it will open definitions and support a hunt for texts by a search engine.
3. Moreover, opening the LookWAYup Dictionary as such a search engine enables one to type any term in the open window. A simple click will then open its definitions and sample texts.
WORD PROCESSORS. The augmented ETL will extend this technology from Web sites, where it's already available, to word processors where it is not. It will then be possible for writers to hyperlink any word they have written on the screen to bring up definitions and texts clarifying its meanings. Meanwhile, these two engines are already available, but each has a serious drawback.
Voycabulary will permit an author to bring up definitions for any word in a text provided it is posted on the Web. This may be helpful for authors with access to a personal Web Site since they can post their drafts (confidentially) on the Internet. However, they will not be able to make any changes in the draft. They can do so only by going back to the original text on their word processor. Nevertheless, if they keep both the original and the URL versions available simultaneously, this should not be too difficult.
By contrast, LookWAY up can be used to support links to definitions on a word processor using either the second or third option given above. However, the first option works only on pages already posted on the Web which means that it cannot be used by writers while composing a text. Neverthelss, the two-step process (#2 above) seems usable already: an author can highllight any word while writing and then invoke the program by using the ikon. This may well be easier to do than to work from a URL text on the Web in tandom with the original draft on a word processor. However, authors may find that after a text has been posted, they can run through it and quickly check the meanings of difficult words. If they decide that further explanations or equivalent terms would make the document more intelligible, they can jump back to the processor to make the changes and then re-post the document on the Web. This will be pretty easy to do if they are using a utility like the Macromedia Dreamweaver .
SUMMARY. If this seems confusing, some experimentation with the two programs will clarify the differences between them. Both have limitations for an author. The Augmented Term List will combine the best features of both programs: it will enable definitions to be opened directly from an author's text while writing as illustrated by Voycabulary for Web documents, and it will simultaneously enable writers to revise their texts after viewing the definitions, as they can now do with searches on LookWAYup. Moreover, when using an ETL, problem terms will be automatically highlighted, thereby calling attention, proactively, to items that may require further explanation or a synonym to assure clear communication.
The augmented term list will work like an enhanced Thesaurus resembling
what one can now find on Microsoft WORD or Correl WordPerfect.
This tool automatically opens lists of synonyms for any word a writer spells out
on a text. The Augmented ETL will expand this function. Instead of providing only
synonyms, or phrases with similar meanings, it will also offer complete definitions
of all the senses of a word plus illustrative texts and additional hyperlinks.
These definitions may be those in a special glossary designed for the use of any
RC or SIG sponsoring an ETL. However, it is possible to add many other glossaries
and dictionaries as illustrated by the One Look
dictionary search engine. Moreover, this engine can be posted on any Web
Site so that users can just type in a word and open its definitions in many different
dictionaries and glossaries. An ETL will make such a utility available in its
augmented mode. Use this window for a demonstration. Try typing in any word. Fast
will open a good example, showing many special languae meanings, plus this form's
different words and senses in ordinary English.
The Interactive List
The Interactive List
The Interactive List will open an ETL to innovations provided by users. Just as, in a word speller, users can add words to the pre-established list of lexiconized words, so in an interactive ETL users will be able to input new concepts and terms with hyperlinks to some texts where they are used. At the level of personal use, this completes the process. However, for groups, interaction needs to be extended to some other members. Such interactions will support the evaluation and revision of proposed innovations, plus launching their utilization by other group members. Moreover, the innovations endorsed by a group can be recommended to other LISTs, e.g. from members of an Association's Research Committees (Special Interest Groups) to all members of the Association. Ultimately, terminological innovations adopted by members of a disciplinary association can be considered by the editors of a general dictionary for addition to their lexicons. Thus the discourse supported by an interactive list will not only contribute to the expansion of knowledge in a particular domain, but it will enrich the vocabulary of a hierarchy of groups leading, finally, to the world language community. This preliminary summary will be supplemented later with further details.
APPLICATIONS AND USES OF ETL
KNOWLEDGE ENGINEERING: Terminology, Thesauruses, SIGs , Disciplines, Publishers
LEXICOGRAPHY: Synonyms, Homonyms, Acronyms, Translations , International English
OTHER USES: Textbooks , Personal, Commercial, Legal/Governmenal
The primary target for the use of an ETL is academic with emphasis on creative researchers and their organized professional groups. Members of any group normally share a common vocabulary, fully understanding the special terms used in their group's discourse. Anyone writing just for the insiders of a group may assume that other group members will understand these terms.. However, to make certain that insiders fully understand and share the significance of their special terms, it would be desirable to publish a glossary containing them with defiitions to clarify for themselves what they want to say. An ETL containing a list of these terms will then contain links to the glossary entry where each listed term is defined. In use, an ETL containing this list will remind group members when they are writing a document that if they want outsiders to understand any listed term, it may be important to add clarifying information. Explanations and synonyms are often needed to help outsiders comprehend a writer's meanings
Ideally, any professional group has a Home Page on the Internet and they can, therefore, include their glossary on that page. All group members should be invited to review the text and raise questions about any definitions that trouble them this could be done through an e-mail list for group members. They could also, of course, use the same set-up to propose additions and revisions.
Some groups already have already created their own technical glossaries. However, if they do not have such a resource, they can create one, asking some members to review significant writings of group members and select relevant terms and to post in a together with relevant definitions and citations. Once it is understood that all group members understand their own technical terms, the ETL can be ignored when one is writing for other members to read. However, it will be very helpful when one is writing for an audience that includes outsiders. They will understand that highlighted terms on the screen before them need to be evaluated: their potential readers may not understand what they have in mind.
An economic distinction should also be made. Insiders, for example, might be authorized to use an ETL without charge, whereas outsiders might have to pay a subscription fee. However, this is not a rigid rule and other grounds might be found for distinguishing between the complimentary and compensated basis for using an ETL. The distinction between insiders and outsiders, complementary and compensated, and positive and negative modes of the ETL will be amplified in the illustrative examples discussed below. On these premises, let us consider some fields of application where ETLs will play a useful role.
However, the tool itself has many other potential applications and markets. Most of them require use of the positive ETL mode in which listed terms are highlighted on the screen of a word processor. However, there are a few important applications of the negative mode in which words not on the list are highlighted as they are by a spell checker. All of them have commercial value in so far as they create utilities that someone is willing to pay for. Let me list a few of them under three headings: Terminology, Lexicography, and Commercial.
For terminologists the starting point is conceptual, what one wants to say is first imagined and then suitable words to express meanings are selected; for lexicographers the starting point is lexucal, the identificaton and use of words as found in texts followed by the specification of their significations; and in other uses words are merely insrumental tools used in projects designed to achieve various kinds of useful goals. The applications discussed below reflect these three modes:
Go to: Terminology, Thesauruses, SIGs , Disciplines, Publishers
The term, Knowledge Engineering, is now used to refer to a variety of approaches to the management of information, including the selection of standardized terms for many uses, and expecially for indexing purposes and in the development of vocabularies required for scientific and professional work. The followng segments take up these matters: Terminology, Thesaurus for Information Retrieval, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and Disciplinary Societies.
A vast international network of terminologists promotes the "harmonization" and "standardization" of vocabulary in many different fields of knowledge. The easiest way to access the terminological world is to open the site for InfoTerm (the International Information Centre for Terminology). A succinct statement of its goals and activities reads:
Since 1996, Infoterm has been an independent international association made up of national, international and local terminology associations and organisations, as well as specialised institutions engaged in the field of terminology. The main objective remains unchanged: support for specialised communication and knowledge transfer by promoting international co-operation in the field of terminology, with great importance being attached to high-quality, multi-functional terminologies which prove essential to our modern, global and multilingual information society.
These "terminologies" are glossaries providing standardized terms for concepts used by specialists in a selected field of work. They normally also include synonyms with cross-references to the standard in this way they resemble the structure of the thesauruses used by librarians for information retrieval. Most "terminologies" are available only on paper and do not provide the easy access to data that an ETL would make possible.
It would be easy enough to copy all the terms found in a "terminology" into an ETL and make it available to specialists writing in its field of specialization. With this tool they would promptly know, whenever they typed in a word, whether or not it was entered in their special glossary, and if it was entered, they could see whether it was a standard form or a non-standard synonym, in which case the link to the standard form would promptly be opened. This should prove to be a very large market for the ETL which, I believe, would accelerate and enhance the efficiency of terminological work and improve the ability of terminologists to engineer knowledge.
Thesauruses for Information Retrieval
A more serious problem that ETLs might help solve is caused by synonomy as a barrier to information retrieval. Indexers in all contexts want to bring together under one heading references to the same subject, whether it be in a book or library. When several different terms can be used to refer to the same subject, they usually select one of them (the authorized term) and provide cross-references to guide users to it from its synonyms (the unauthorized terms). One of the most extensive and authoritative lists of subject headings is issued by the Library of Congress information about it can be found at: Library of Congress
Although costly and not openly available on the Web, this frequently up-dated list can be found in almost all libraries. It helps librarians and users not only decide which synonym for a concept to use when cataloging a book, but it provides cross-references from the other terms that might have been used instead. A discussion of some of the perplexities involved in making such choices can be found in the Subject Cataloging Manual announced at: LC Manual . This is a complex and difficult subject that cannot be adequately explained here, but enough has been said to suggest that a set of ETLs for the subject headings (descriptors) in major fields of interest would be a welcome tool for use by the Library of Congress and all librarians engaged in cataloging. It would automatically highlight unauthorized terms and hyperlink users to the authorized term for that subject. Since these terms are identified and listed already in the LC materials with "USE" references from unauthorized terms and "USED FOR" references from the approved terms -- it should be easy enough to copy them into an ETL for cataloging purposes. I believe the technology now available to help catalogers select subject headings is clumsy enough so that they would be glad to obtain an electronic list that would facilitate their work.
An illustration of
this process can be found in the
HASSET program. This is an English electronic thesaurus for the human and
social sciences. If offers a search engine that permits one to enter any term
and open a window that give the approved heading and synonyms. For example,
if one types in national elections one will learn that the approved term
is elections, which should be used instead of national elections,
general elections, or electoral voting. If an ETL for the Hassett
vocabulary were used, it would automatically highlight any of these expressions
on a word processor and hyperlink to this information. Thus it would be able
to do proactively what the Hasset engine can only do reactively in response
to specific inquiries.
Special Interest Groups (SIGs)
Organized disciplinary associations typically maintain a set of organized research committees or special interest groups. The International Sociological Association currently has 53 such sub-disciplinary communities . Other professional societies also have many such RCs or SIGs the ISA is mentioned here only because this project was conceived in the context of ISA/RC35, the Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis (COCTA). However, all ISA research committees will be invited to participate in developing the ETL as a pilot project. Each RC wishing to participate will be entitled to have its own ETL on a complimentary basis, and to create a list of terms that have a special meaning for its (insider) members. An RC glossary containing these terms and their definitions should be published on the Research Committee's Web Site and made openly available to any inquiring scholar on a complimentary basis.
Because this paper originated in the context of a panel planned for the world congress of the International Sociological Association in Brisbane, July 2002, I think of this discipline as a prototype. However, the principles mentioned here apply equally to Political Science, Economics, Anthropology, Psychology, Geography, Communications, Journalism or any other social science discipline - actually, they apply also with equal force to the natural sciences, humanities, engineering, health and medicine, librarianship, business, architecture, computer science, and many other fields.
In most disciplines one will find glossaries (loosely called "dictionaries") that list and define a large number of terms used by its members. Many of these entries are encyclopedic in scope, presenting not only definitions but scholarly discussions of the origin and use of terms. Understandably, because of the costs involved in compiling and publishing such works, their sponsors are reluctant to give their contents away free of charge which is why they have not been posted on the Internet. However, this is not a major problem for academic users of an ETL since we may assume that they have relevant glosssaries on their desks and can easily hunt up any entry as needed.
Ultimately, however, it will be more convenient for users of an ETL to have access to an electronic glossary on the Internet. At least two Web-based sociological dictionaries already exist: Iverson's Sociology and the Athabasca University Dictionary of the Social Sciences . The former (it's just one of a set of discipline-based glossaries) contains about 130 terms. The latter offers 1000 entries for several social science disciplines. Although it is already possible to hyperlink some sociological definitions electronically, most of the definitions for sociological concepts can only be found on paper. However, since the electronic dictionaries invite contributions from users, we can well imagine that, when sociologists make regular use of an ETL for their work, they will be able to contribute new entries to the electronic dictionaries in their field and substantially expand their coverage. Meanwhile, users of sociological ETLs will find it expedient to acquire one or more of the published sociological dictionaries for desk-top reference.
The International Sociological Association will surely want, eventually, to support the development of a comprehensive electronic dictionary for its discipline. If Oxford Press, Harper Collins, or some other publisher would automate its existing dictionary and make it available to members of the Association, this could be the ideal solution. However, if this is not feasible, Ken Iverson will welcome contributions from ISA members to expand the scope of his glossary which is already available on the Web at the site referenced above. One way or another, in the future, users of a sociological ETL will be able to hyperlink its listed terms to entries posted in a comprehensive sociological dictionary on the Web. Through a process of editorial review, they should also be able to supplement the entries already available in this dictionary by new entries based on the work done within their research groups. The process of augmenting the database for a disciplinary dictionary will, of course, take time and care. As visualized here:
Comparable processes could, of course, be established in any other disciplinary association interested in enhancing the ability of its members to communicate clearly with each other on scholarly matters. But before that becomes feasible, it is important to have a laboratory in which the process will be tested and elaborated my hope is that this will be done for Sociology under the aegis of the ISA Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis for background information about this committee's history and work see: COCTA
Publishers of Glossaries and Thesauruses
All publishers of glossaries, thesauruses, and other reference works used by specialists in many fields of knowledge from Astronomy, Biology, and Chemistry to Economics, Sociology and Zoology are potential users of the ETL. A list of networks that identify them can be found at: TERMS and TOPICS Among the resources listed here, a useful guide to individual titles can be found at: Your Dictionary
Every publisher of such works is a potential user of an ETL that would list every one of its entry terms. Users will be reminded, proactively, as they write, that the entry is available whenever they write one of these terms and they can, if they wish, jump to an entry to clarify their understanding of its meaning. If the glossary is available only in print, they will be able to consult the copy on their desk. If it's freely available on the Internet, they can find the entry by hyperlinking it. If it's only available on a subscription basis, they will be motivated incentive to subscribe to the service. The ETL can also be made available to users of a glossary through a CD-ROM that will contain both the term list and the full text. Most writers will not want to open definitions of a problem word whenever they write it, but they will normally be glad to be reminded that it is easily available.
For general dictionaries, by contrast with glossaries, it will be redundant and unnecessary to post all entries in an ETL. However, some selective lists will augment the utility of any dictionary. A few examples are offered here.
Synonymies and Near Synonyms
For example, many dictionaries contain synonomies, i.e. an entry containing a list of synonyms with definitions identifying the small differences in their meanings. However, the full synonymy is entered at only one place in the dictionary, under a lead word, and each of the synonyms has a cross-reference to the synonymy. The synonymy is not repeated in full at the entry for each of its synonyms: instead, a reference is usually provided to enable them to find the full set. By contrast, in an ETL it will be easy enough to list all synonymies entered in a dictionary and provide a hyperlink to it from each of the synonyms it lists.
For an example, see the ENCARTA entry for silent . Here the following synonyms are listed: quiet, reticent, taciturn, uncommunicative. Each is briefly defined and accompanied by a link to the word's complete entry. Users of this dictionary can find each synonymy only in the entry for its "lead term." For example, if they happen to go first to quiet or any of the other synonyms in this set, they will have to look up ehe entry for silent where the full synonymy is posted. Sometimes cross-references are missing, however. See, for example, the entry for dinner . It has a useful note comparing the usages of this word with lunch and supper, but there are no clues to take readers from the entries for lunch and supper to this note. By contrast, in an ETL, the whole synonymy will open regardless of which of its synonyms a writer types into a text.
Moreover, the ETL will be proactive, prompting a writer to recognize any word that belongs to a synonymy when s/he types it in a text. Doubleclicking on this word will open the list of its synonyms with brief definitions for each of them, thereby helping the writer select the most suitable one. This would significantly augment what is now available in the form of a thesaurus that merely lists synonyms without defining them, and only opens when one decides, reactively, to look for a better word to express an intended concept.
I suspect that lexicographers would provide synonymies for many more words if they knew that readers could promptly, using an ETL, display the whole set with a click. In effect, a dictionary could become an intelligent thesaurus that would enhance the utility of currently available thesauruses which remain only lists of words without definitions, both on paper and on word processors.
Sometimes the semantic differences between members of a synonymy are confusingly fine. To help users choose the right word, dictionaries often post usage notes that supplement their synonymies. For example, the distinction between house and home is discussed in a usage essay to be found at the end of the Encarta entry for home. This note helps a user decide when it would be more appropriate to use one word rather than its near synonym. Another good example can be found in the entry for avoid which compares its meaning with evade and elude.
Sometimes a usage note has only one word and and talks about how to use it correctly. Although not strictly a synonymy, such notes are similar in that they often mention other words to use in place of the problematical one. Examples can be found under guy; hardly; do; and done. Users are unlikely to look up such familiar words when they feel, rightly or not, that they know quite well how to use them. An ETL for synonymies that highlighted them on the page where one is writing would prompt authors to think about the correctness of their usage of such misused word.. Since such usage notes are sparsely scattered throughout a dictionary, it is not easy to find them. However, they could easily be listed in an ETL and made available by a dictionary publisher to help writers eager to avoid blatant usage mistakes and also, I believe, to enhance the utility of the dictionary and increase the publisher's profits.
A source of much confusion and game-playing among users of English occurs because different words may have the same pronunciation (homophones) or the same spelling (homographs). The word homonym is used somewhat ambiguously to refer to words that are either homophones or homographs, or both at once. There is a Dictionary of Homonyms and Homographs that identifies and discusses many of them. It is described at: Rogers with some humorous comments on why one needs to recognize homonyms and use them with care. Full information about homonyms is provided in ordinary dictionaries but it is often difficult to find the data because they are not listed as a separate category. An ETL for English homonyms could be posted for any dictionary in a way that would call the attention of writers to the fact that the word they have just written is a homonym. With a click of the mouse they could find the entries in which these words are identified and defined, helping them make proper use of them, or enabling them to play with them if that's what they want to do.
Since lists of homonyms have already been compiled see for example, HOMOGRAPHS it would be easy to post them in an ETL that would highlight the words whenever a writer wrote one of them in a text. To see how this might work, consider bow as a homograph and look up its definition in the Encarta dictionary at: bow . Here one will find a list of three entries marked as "bow(1), bow(2) and (bow3)" and full information in their entries, including the definitions of all the senses of each word.
It would not be so easy to find information about homophones because their entries will not be found next to each other in an ordinary dictionary. However, if the homophones were to be listed as a group by the ETL, then whenever one wrote any member of this group it would be highlighted, enabling writers to find the other homophones in each set and look up their definitions if that seemed useful. A convenient list of homophones (confusingly called homonyms) can be found at: HOMONYMS
One of the sets in this list contains air, are, e'er, ere, err, heir, accompanied by a brief definition of each word. My guess is that the definitions are redundant because it is easy enough to identify the meanings of each word in the set, but not easy to discover all the homophones. Hence having a list of them could sometimes be useful and having an ETL that highlighted any homophone when it was written in a word processor and supported a hyperlink to list members of the set might be valued by some writers. Although not high on my priority list, I would guess that some users of a dictionary would value the ability to obtain such a list and its availability would increase sales for the dictionary. Since several lists of homophones are freely available on the Internet, it would cost almost nothing to create such an ETL. For information about these lists and a discussion of homonymy take a look at my paper on Homonymy
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Increasingly we find that abbreviations and acronyms have entered the general vocabulary as well as the technical languages used by specialists. On reason is the surely the need for new concepts which generates neologisms in the form of multi-word expressions of open phrases that are just too long to use repeatedly. Instead of coining new words that have some face validity, we prefer explanatory phrases but then represent them by shortened forms that have no etymological basis that might help one remember them. No doubt the explosive growth of e-mail has accelerated this process as writers seek to condense their messages as much as possible. For convenience, let me use acronym loosely to include unpronounceable abbreviations strictly speaking an acronym should always be, by definition, a pronounceable abbreviation.
Consider a few examples of lexiconized forms as given in the Encarta dictionary: ASAP condenses as soon as possible; AKA means also known as, FAQ abbreviates frequently asked questions. A list of some of them can be found at Acronyms many more are entered in the Encarta dictionary. Precisely because they have been lexiconized, anyone puzzled by them can readily find their meanings. I use lexiconization to refer to the process by which expressions are accepted for inclusion in a dictionary apparently this word has not itself been lexiconized! Although I use the word generically, here it is operationalized by reference to just one dictionary, the Encarta World English Dictionary. No doubt other dictionaries may give different results.
An ETL listing of
acronyms might be useful in both its positive and negative modes. In the positive
node, anyone writing one of these acronyms would be prompted to look for its
definition in case they were still unfamiliar with its meaning. In its negative
mode, however, anyone wishing to propose a new acronym for some concept would
be able to see whether or not it already existed. At least it seems reasonable
to think that no one would want to propose an acronym that had already been
lexiconized for some other meaning.
A larger number of acronyms have been created for use in specialized vocabularies. Examples used in computer language are listed in: Computer Acrnoums . Some but not all of them have already been lexiconized. Examples from include: CGI common gateway interface; PINE pine is not elm (the name given to the e-mail system I use!); MIME multi-purpose Internet mail extensions. However, quite a few technical acronyms have already been lexiconized, including HTML for hypertext markup language; SGML for standard generalized markup language; and URL for uniform resource locator.
An ETL for computer-related acronyms might well include only those that have not yet been lexiconized on the assumption it would be used in conjunction with a list of lexiconized acronyms. Users would be active members of the community of computer users who might want information about rarely used acronyms or wish to coin new ones. The same principles would apply to acronyms found in any other field of specialization.
At Lexicool one can find links for up to a thousand multi-lingual dictionaries -- and at: World Language we find machine translating capabilities for many languages. On Language to Language one can directly search for language equivalents in several major languages. There will be no need for an ETL to list the total vocablary found in any of these works, but a list may helpfully identify untranslatable words or those that present special problems for translators. Some of them involve the use of loan words and neologisms, others involve cognate forms. Listing them in an ETL would help anyone working with a multi-lingual dictionary find the entries where the special problems posed by such words are discussed.
Consider first some cognate forms -- i.e., words in different languages that derive from the same word in an ancestral language. On first look, one may well imagine that they are equivalents and this is often true, at least to some degree. For example, in both French and English, the words entrée and entry can be used to refer precisely to a dictionary entry. However, some meanings of entry cannot be translated by entrée (like an entry in a competition) and some meanings of entrée are represented in English by this loan form even though, in fact, the entrée in a menu is not the same in these two languages.
For a less trivial example, consider the different meanings of polity, policy, politics, and police in several Western languages. They are briefly discussed by Mark Rudgers at: polity . This is an entry in a short glossary of untranslatable terms compiled by the Committee on Concepts and Methods of the International Political Science Association. Another example from this source contrasts attitude (English) with actitud (Spanish). Andreas Schedler reports that though an attitude in English may be negative, it is always negative in Spanish. A multi-lingual dictionary with an ETL listing such cognate forms that look alike but have different meanings would be quite valuable for its users.
Loan words, by contrast with cognates, are not similar forms derived from a common language but words taken from one language to be used in another. Many English words are, of course, loan words from other languages: pizza (Italian), yogurt (Turkish), and tandoori (Persian and Urdu), come to mind -- they are all entered in the Encarta global English dictionary. An interesting set of architectural forms comes to mind: stoop (Dutch), porch (French) is close to portico and mezzanine(Italian), terrace (French), patio (Spanish), veranda (Hindi through Portuguese), bungalow (Bengali/Hindi), lanai (Hawaiian) -- all have entered English as recorded in the Encarta dictionary -- the most English related form is clerestory, meaning the top of a wall with windows from clear story.
Kindergarten, borrowed from German, was accepted in English to refer to pre-school education -- nursery school for pre-kindergarten is solidly English-based. In France, kindergarten gets a literal translation as jardin d'enfants, but in Quebec official preference is given to a Francophone coinage, classe maternelle . The Office de la Langue Francaise works tirelessly to replace such borrowings with French-based words. Their Grand Dictionnaire Terminologique provides information about how individual words are to be translated.
No doubt many other groups of problematic words for translators could be compiled and used for to enhance the utility of multi-lingual dictionaries, but preliminary reflection suggests that lists of cognate forms, loan words, and neologisms intended to replace them, would provide a good starting point. A different kind of problem involves the management of euphemisms used to avoid taboo words (related usually to death, sex, or excretion) -- sometimes in translation literal denotations may be the same but connotations differ. An ETL calling attention to these words and knowing how to translate them inoffensively would be worthy of study. These are but impressionistic thoughts -- a more studied discussion of how ETLs could help users of multi-lingual dictionaries is needed.
At international meetings sponsored by the UN, UNESCO, and many other global organizations one hears English spoken as the lingua franca. However, many words that are familiar to native speakers of English in America, England, Australia, or South Africa would not be easily understood in these international settings. A list of the English words most often used at international meetings would surely have a market - it would not only serve native-speakers of English seeking to address an international audience, but it would also become a powerful tool for non-native speakers English as a second language. It could easily supplement or even replace the Cobuild English Dictionary for Learners of English This work offers "key vocabulary" defined as all the most important English words defined in clear and simple language. In addition, there is the Longman Dictionary of American English : A Dictionary for Learners of English; the Cambridge Learner's Dictionary; and the American Heritage Children's Dictionary. Basic English was designed to be an international language using less than a thousand words. Information about the system and its word list can be found at: BASIC . Grady Ward's Moby identifies several different wordlists, some very long. Consider also the Mnemonic Encoding Wordlist -- and there are many wordlists for translators that identify words used in various languages. Regretably, none of these lists are based on usage at international meetings although they reflect some noble efforts to compile lists of simple or frequently used words. The Mnemonic list, for example, lists words with between 4 and 7 letters as though their length would qualify them for international usage! International English does not presuppose any particular type of word -- rather it represents actual usage and needs to be compiled on the basis of documentation for actual international communication by people who are not native-speakers of the language.
The U.S. Information Agency once published a "special language" list of about 1400 words that are widely used internationally it was designed for use in Voice of America broadcasts. Regretably their site listing these words has been discontinued and the U.S. State Department's Office of International Information Programs offers no clues about whether or not it maintains a comparable list of widely understood English words. Unfortunately, all such lists of basic or much used words ignore the many technical and difficult terms that are, in fact, often used at international meetings. The vocabulary of international English differs significantly from the words taught to children or learners of English, and perhaps even those suitable for international broadcasting. Although these dictionaries and lists might provide a good starting point for a dictionary of International English, my guess is that speakers at international meetings will use words not found in Cobuild, or other learners' dictionaries, and many of the vocabulary items found in these works are not often used by internationalists.
At least, this is an open question that should be answered by analysis of documents posted by participants in international meetings. ETL will provide the ideal vehicle for helping writers select words that can be well understood by sophisticated international audiences -- they do not need definitions, and writers will scarcely take the time to look for these words in an ordinary dictionary -- but if words not on the international list are highlighted as they are writen in a text, they are likely to replaced or commented on by writers who seriously want to reach an international audience.
In addition to terminological and lexicogaphic uses of an ETL, we may identify a variety of other contexts in which an ETL could be very useful:
A substantial audience for ETLs will, surely, be found in the markets served by texbook publishers. Some of them already distribute CD-ROMs with their texts to support a variety of exercises designed to help students master a subject field. It would surely be quite easy and inexpensive to add the subject index of such texts to these disks as an ETL. After posting the material on their computers, students would be reminded whenever they use a term found in the index that the text contains a discussion of the subject at a specified site. Quiz questions might also be added. Using this tool, students writing essays or compositions for a class or seminar would be stimulated and helped in a way that will surely expedite learning. The tool will also, I believe, enhance the utility of text-books using this technology and increase the markets for these works. To make this suggestion more concrete, consider the text on American Government published by W.W.W.Norton which contains a CD-ROM distributed with the book -- for this information scroll to the end of the file.
The obvious advantage of a CD-ROM is that it can be distributed with a book, but it might also be posted on the Internet where anyone could find it. Students might find this an easier way to use the material. Moreover, many not enrolled as a student might, nevertheless, find the list interesting enough to inspire them to want to buy the text in order to find the indexed information. At least, the idea seems reasonable enough to deserve a test by some enterprising publisher.
Students and professors should also be interested in developing personal ETLs to help them do their work more effectively. For example, a professor developing lectures and organizing information for class-room presentation and eventual publication could compile an ETL containing terms for the concepts and information covered in the course. If this material were made available in numbered hand-outs, both the author and students would be able to go quickly to relevant information as needed whenever they typed a word on their word processor they would see, by a highlight, if it had been discussed in the lecture notes and they could quickly find the relevant text, much more easily, I think, than if they had to hunt for it as the material is ordinarily distributed.
Another possibility for academic use of the ETL involves bibliographic control. Scholars increasingly use programs like ProCit or EndNote to compile references to the articles and books they read and use. If they were to enter the name for each author on an ETL, they could easily determine whenever they write an author's name whether or not they already have a reference for the work they have in mind. If they do, it will be easy to hyperlink the text and insert it in a paper. If they see the name is not highlighted, they will know it is not yet on their list and they can then hunt for and add it if they wish to do so when they read or learn about a new source, they will more readily be able to add it to their repertoire of easily available information.
who are truly innovative often find that they need concepts for which no readily
available term can be found. This leads them to propose neologisms. However,
as their attention shifts to other themes, they may well forget what they have
already written. To keep track of their proposals they could enter key words
on an ETL so that subsequently, whenever they write them, they could hyperlink
to a site where they had previously written about it. Such a personal list would
be different from suggestions made to a group for new terms to be added to their
list. For example, many proposed innovations by an author may relate to quite
different fields of work only those relevant to the interests of a group
should be added to the group's list. Of course, an author would want to retain
a record of h/er personal list of any proposals offered also to a group.
Personal Lists and Inter-Disciplinary Cooperation
Many creative scholars work in cross-disciplinary contexts that draw on information and concepts used in the established disciplines yet often transcend them. They have been described as hybrids, and they are often seen as the most innovative minds. Many of the intellectual giants whose work paved the way for development of our established disciplines can be so characterized. The ETL project needs to take into account the potential for useful conceptual and terminological work by individuals not working in any institutionalized context. Accordingly, in addition to making the ETL program available to disciplinary and sub-disciplinary groups, we support the use by creative individuals of a personal ETL. In effect, it would establish a personal glossary for the terms they need which transcend the limitations of mono-disciplinary vocabularies.
Moreover, there are organizations like the International Social Science Council which promote research that crosses disciplinary boundaries. Creative scholars often play a leading role in such efforts - they find the inter-disciplinary milieu more hospitable to their work than strictly mono-disciplinary environments. Moreover, the current explosion of global networks and the inclusion of many scholars from third world countries means that the basic concepts of our academic disciplines which trace primarily to Western (or European) experience need to be augmented by new ways of thinking that are better adapted to contemporary global realities. Evidence for this evolving trans-disciplinary and evolutionary perspective can be found in the proliferation of new international associations for a wide range of subjects or fields of interest. See my list of international social science associations. The associations on this list that are marked with an asterisk (*) are members of the International Social Science Council and may be viewed as representative of the established disciplines. However, many other names on this list belong to non-members of the ISSC and, in many cases, represent newly-formed hybrid fields. All of them, as international associations, are products of globalization as it has grown since the end of World War II some half century ago. Potentially, all of them will find important uses for the ETL technology after they learn about its potential value for them.
Of course, there are many other associations outside the social sciences that might also be interested in using an ETL. An easy way to form an impression of the scope of these fields is to go to UNESCO programs . This site lists and links a wide range of disciplines and fields that are the subject of attention at UNESCO. Without further comment, let me just note that even as the ETL program should be made available to creative individuals, so it should also be used by all communities of scholars as they are organized globally and as they exist within and cut across all the established disciplines.
All of the uses of an ETL mentioned above focus on its academic uses, but there are surely many others that can be found in the world of industry, commerce, government and law. In many large companies, for example, there are technical branches whose staff used terms and concepts not familiar to other employees working in the business, financial, or promotional branches. Would it not be helpful if the technical specialists in an organization of any kind could develop term lists for the concepts they need to use that may not be familiar to general reader?
Whenever they wrote a listed term, they would be reminded by the highlighting that some of their colleagues might not understand what they have in mind they would be "outsiders" to their group or department. As with scholarly communities, they could then decide how to amplify their text to make their intentions clearly available to non- specialists. They should also consider the possibility of reaching potential customers or clients of the organization whose ability to understand technical terms would be even more limited than would colleagues working in the same organization. Of course, if they only wanted to reach the specialists in their own group their insiders -- they could disregard the prompting. To make sure this assumption is valid, all members of a technical group should have an opportunity to review their group's list and raise questions about any item in it that they do not clearly understand.
Legal and Governmental ETL Contexts
There are many different contexts in which the rules and practices of government impinge on individuals and raise questions where an ETL could play a useful role.
Consider, for example, matters of copyright and patent protection. Whenever someone seeks to register a name, product, or process it needs to have a name that distinguishes it from others that have already been granted protection. This can be a costly process as indicated by the following notice to be found at: Trade names .
typically follows a Full Search of a chosen name. The full search is highly
recommended; it is a comprehensive search that attempts to ensure that the chosen
name is available.
Drafting, finalizing and the filing of a one class application, excluding the preparation of formal drawings will cost USD$1,250.00. Each additional class filed at that time will cost USD$400.00.
Decisions about trademarks are made by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office which has an informative site at: US PTO The site supports searches, for a fee, and provides information about the trademark system. It may be that proprietary and lgal limitations would prevent the listing of trademarks on an ETL, but if that were possible, then anyone trying to design a useful trademark for h/er product or company would be able to determine, just by writing it down, whether or not it had already been registered. More realistically, lawyers helping clients secure protection for a trademark might have good reason to use afnd pay for such a list it should save them a lot of time and expense if they follow the procedures mentioned above.
Existing procedures seem to require applicants to file requests before they have full information about the possibility that their proposals will replicate existing trademarks and hence prove non-viable. No doubt there are many other dimensions to the protection of patents and copyrighted texts, and they can scarcely be explained here. The case of trademarks seems to be the simplest because it should be possible to post a complete list of all registered trademarks and enable applicants (or their legal advisers) to determine freely and quickly whether or not their proposal would be acceptable.
Broadly speaking, wherever a registry of approved names exists, an ETL could be created to list all of them and enable users to find information about any one of them or to determine that a proposed name is not on the list. Thus both the positive and negative modes of the ETL would be useful in some cases. The positive mode could enable a users to f ind any existing geographic locations cities, states, or villages, for example and open information about them. By contrast, the negative mode would be useful when trying to name or re-name a community by choosing a name not already in use. The same principle could be used to identify the names of buildings, as on a university campus. At Indiana University when I taught there I recall that a venerable panel of emeritus professors assumed responsibility for naming new buildings on the premise that they could remember all of the existing names. A charming task but one that could be automatized by an ETL for the names of buildings.
Surely there are many other potential applications for the ETL as a tool that can help government officials, lawyers, physicians, agronomists, engineers, journalists, social workers, and many other professional and organizational categories. However, enough has been said above to illustrate the diverse potentialities of this new tool. It is currently under development but should soon be made available through the facilities of the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii. Progress will be continuously reported on the Riggs Home Page. The process has been launched. Let it continue.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: thanks are due to Henry Teune, Rebecca Knuth, Zach Tomaszewski, Luz Quiroga, Jonanathan Roberts, David Pager, Walter Creed, Fernando Cruz, Robert Hankin, and others who have encouraged me and provided good ideas. However, they are not responsible for errors and defects in this paper for which I take full responsibility.
For more informatioin about this project contact the author at: Fred Riggs This is a draft -- readers are invited to send comments and suggestions to the author . All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
Copyright by Fred W. Riggs. Patent Pending.
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