ELL: Dictionary Making software

Peter Constable Peter_Constable at SIL.ORG
Mon Mar 5 15:25:39 UTC 2001

On 03/04/2001 08:07:21 AM owner-endangered-languages-l wrote:

>Hi all,
>I'm surprised noone's mentioned Shoebox yet! ...

Shoebox is certainly a good choice. One weak area, though, is that it
doesn't enforce consistency in your data. I believe version 5 added some
features to help in that regard, and you can maintain consistency if you
make a point of using the relevant features and of being careful about how
you work.

There is also SIL's LinguaLinks. The package includes a lexical database
tool that has some features that make it better than Shoebox for research
purposes. For example, there is a bunch of stuff built in for assigning
senses to semantic domains. (I think it comes with Louw & Nida's semantic
domain hierarchy, which isn't perfect -- none is, but I also think you can
customise it. It also has OCM category tags built in.) You can also set up
semantic relations; e.g. identify antonyms, synonyms, superlatives, etc.

The LinguaLinks package also comes with a collection of useful reference
material. A lot of people buy the package just for that.

The software does have a couple of failings that need to be acknowledged,
though: it was created in SmallTalk, and it was necessary to create all the
user-interface widgets (controls), which means that it doesn't conform to
Windows' user interface conventions. Secondly, the UI is awkward in places.
In large part, this is because everything is fully object oriented and
highly relational. Entering some things can involve several steps as you
establish all the links. The data modelling is great, but the
implementation still needs some work. Thirdly, there's no Mac version --
and there won't ever be. There was going to be a Mac version, until the
SmallTalk vendor dropped Mac support, and Mac development got killed. Just
around the time the development project was nearing completion on version 1
(late 1995), the SmallTalk vendor folded. And so there is not going to be
any significant development of the Windows version of the software tools,
either. That doesn't mean there isn't an upgrade path, however. A new set
of software tools -- "FieldWorks" -- is being developed that will replace
both Shoebox and LinguaLinks. It should better functionality than either.
It'll be a couple of years before lexical tools for the FieldWorks suite
are available, though.

- Peter

Peter Constable

Non-Roman Script Initiative, SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd., Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Tel: +1 972 708 7485
E-mail: <peter_constable at sil.org>

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