Lexical Database Software

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sun May 16 23:37:53 UTC 2004

In a message dated  Sat, 15 May 2004 17:35:17 -0700,  Dave Wilton
<dave at WILTON.NET> begs:

>  Does anyone know of a database structure for lexical entries that is either
>  free or moderately priced and that uses Microsoft Access or similar
>  software? I'm basically talking about a database for recording citations
>  source material. I'm not looking for data, just the database structure.
>  I've been in need of such a thing for a while now. My MS Access skills are
>  long atrophied and I hesitate to try and create one myself--I would spend
>  many long hours just trying to figure out how to create it in Access.

What you are asking for is beyond the capabilities of MS Access or any other
relational database.

A relational database is designed for efficient access to what we call
"atomic" data.  This is the old Greek meaning of "atomic" rather than the one from
nuclear physics:  a datum which is not splittable into pieces but which you
want to look at in one indivisible chunk.  Example:  first name.  A relational
database is quite good at extracting records for everyone in the database with
the first name "Dave"  but is simply not designed to do a search for everyone
whose first name includes the character string "...ave...", because that search
requires that first-name NOT be an atomic datum.

Could you use ACCESS or another relational database for storing citations?
With some work, yes, IF you are willing to accept that the atomic datum in your
database is a WORD, where word is defined as "letters surrounded by spaces or
punctuation characters".  You could even search for multi-word phrases by
searching for the first word of the phrase and within the results you get
checking for second, third, etc. word.  This is what a Web search engine like Google
does, although the well-known search engines have elaborate editing
capabilities for such things as recognizing that you are searching on a personal name
with a middle initial in it and therefore return any results that match on first
name and last name only.  For example, the engine when asked for "James A.
Landau" will return anything with "James Landau" but not anything referring to
"James E. F. Landau" (who by the way is a linguist of some notoriety).

You could even in ACCESS catch a certain percentage of misspelled words by
using Soundex or similar codes.

However, if you are interested in using ACCESS to search for strings of
characters instead of strings of words, then you are pounding nails with a
screwdriver.  What you need is fairly sophisticated pattern-matching software, which
is, through no fault of Microsoft or of relational database theory, a different
can of worms.

So, I will modify your request to the ADS list to read: can anyone help Mr.
Wilton find free or cheap pattern-matching software that will be apprpriate for
a lexical database of citations?

Aside to Barry Popik: I would have to see your list of what you want in a
database for a food dictionary to give you an answer.  However,  if you are
willing to live wtih the requirement that your atomic unit be an English word, you
might well be able to live with an ACCESS database, probably with a fairly
minimal VBA (Visual Basic for ACCESS) front end.

        - James A. Landau

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