Category: Wordsmyth Blog
Comprehensive Dictionary Suite: Integrated Leveled Dictionaries
One of the most distinctive and useful features Wordsmyth offers is the ability to search three dictionaries, at three different reading levels, from one search box. The Comprehensive Dictionary Suite combines our Advanced Dictionary-Thesaurus with two additional Wordsmyth dictionaries, the Intermediate Dictionary-Thesaurus for upper elementary school students, and the Beginner’s Dictionary-Thesaurus for English language learners. Using the buttons beneath the search box, users can select their default dictionary level (see screenshot below) and get results from that dictionary with every search.
Because the three dictionaries are integrated in the Wordsmyth database, and not merely aggregated, the possibility that selecting a lower-level dictionary will return no results is eliminated. If the Beginner’s Dictionary has been selected and the user looks up a word not included in that dictionary, the system will automatically display the entry for that word from the dictionary at the next higher level.
Integration of the dictionaries also means that at the top of every entry the user can see which other dictionaries contain entries for the word, allowing the user to move to a simpler or more advanced level with one click, as shown in this screenshot:
Here’s an example. May is learning English as a second language, and is puzzled when a new acquaintance tells her, “I always get a big hand when I sing.” Later, May looks up “hand” in the Wordsmyth Beginner’s Dictionary to see if there is a definition of hand that helps explain what she heard. As it turns out, although there are numerous senses of “hand” in the Beginner’s Dictionary, none of them make sense of the singer’s expanding hand. May can then click on “See this entry in the Intermediate/Advanced Dictionary” to find the sense of “hand” meaning “a round of applause.” And, if she needs to know the meaning of “applause,” the default dictionary level is still at Beginner’s. She can click on the word “applause” right there in the advanced definition and the returned entry will be from the Beginner’s Dictionary. The flexible search interface of of Wordsmyth dictionaries enables users to select the reading level at which they feel most comfortable while retaining seamless access to entries at other levels.
The Interactive World Map for Children in WILD
The Wordsmyth Illustrated Learner’s Dictionary (WILD) includes all the world’s countries as headword entries. In addition to the definition and pronunciation, each country’s entry contains a map illustration showing the country and the region surrounding it. In addition, the interactive World Map for children, found in the WILD Collections, gives children an opportunity to view the parts of the world from the top level (the World), to the continent level, to the region level (in some cases), to the individual country level, and back up again. (For Canada and the United States, one can navigate further down to the province or state level.)
Mousing over a continent or region, such as Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia, or Middle East, will highlight that region and allow it to be explored. Clicking on a region will bring up an audio icon for the region’s pronunciation and an icon that links to its dictionary entry.
click to enlarge
If a child clicks to go to a dictionary entry at this or any point, he or she will find descriptive information in simple and engaging language. To return to the map once in the dictionary requires only a simple click. Once back on the region map, clicking on it will bring up the labels of all the countries in that region. The child may then click on individual countries to read about them in the dictionary or hear the pronunciation of their names.
Work is still in progress on the definitions of countries in WILD. At present, all currently recognized nations are included in the dictionary and have a minimal definition describing the country’s location in the world, but soon every country’s definition will contain further descriptive information that will give a child some impression of what that country is like. Definitions will not be encyclopedic in length or scope, but they will include such information as what animals may live there or what type of climate or terrain characterizes the nation. Any type of interesting fact about a nation may be included so that children will be encouraged to see every country of the world as unique and significant.
Animate vocabulary learning!
How to s*rch the diction?ry using wild card symbols
Did you know that Wordsmyth’s dictionary search box permits the use of wild card symbols? ”?” and “*”: These unassuming symbols are surprisingly powerful, as they can represent any letter or string of letters in a word. Understanding how to use them will increase your ability to find words you can’t spell or don’t fully recall. Wild card symbols also allow you to find groups of words that contain a particular letter pattern.
The question mark
? stands for any single character (letter or number). For example, if you search for “cat??” you will find all five-letter headwords that begin with “cat”: “catch,” “cater,” “catty ” and “catty “. (“Catty ” is a unit of weight used in Southeast Asia.) Search for “???cat,” and you will find all six-letter words that end in “cat,” including “bobcat,” “fat cat” and “muscat” (a type of grape used to make wine). The query “c?a?t?” will return “coast” and “craft.” If you’re thinking this search mode sounds handy for solving crossword puzzles, you would be right. In fact, Wordsmyth has a Crossword Solver that tailors wild card searching for this specific purpose.
* stands for zero or more letters. For example, if you search for “cat*,” you will find all headwords that start with “cat,” including “catty,” “cater,” “catalog,” and “catabolism.” If you search for “*cat*,” you will find headwords that contain “cat” in the middle, such as “application” and “beef cattle.” Because an asterisk can also represent zero letters, all these searches would also turn up “cat” itself.
wild card search
Pictured left is a query for words that start with and contain the letter “q.” Amusing, yes, but wild cards searches do also have applications in an educational context. Using wild card symbols, you can find all the words that contain a particular Latin or Greek root. Try *cept* or *graph,* for example.
With a little cleverness, you can also find words that you are not sure how to spell, or that you only remember part of. For example, you might remember part of a word’s spelling, so you might enter “m*t*c*ond*ria” in the search box. You would find “mitochondria” because the first three asterisks match the letters”i,” “o,” “h,” respectively, while the fourth asterisk matches zero characters. There is no letter between the “d” and the “r” in “mitochondria.”
When your goal is to find words rather than word meanings, the wild card search is a useful tool. To really become adept at finding the words you need in Wordsmyth dictionary, you will also want to familiarize yourself with Wordsmyth’s Reverse Search, Browse, and Multi-Word Results, which will be covered in future posts. We’ll leave you with a challenge using wild card symbols: find the word in the Wordsmyth dictionary that has the most number of letters in alphabetical order. And, finally, let us know to what fiendishly clever ends you have put the dictionary wild card search.
Defining Words in WILD: Functional Definitions
Definitions for the Wordsmyth Illustrated Learner’s Dictionary (WILD) are written in what is called a “functional” style. Functional defining uses full sentences as opposed to the sentence fragments traditionally used in dictionaries and is a style that is well-suited to the needs of young readers and language learners.
Because many of the words in WILD are nouns, a large proportion of the definitions are simply of the form “An A is a B” — “A lion is a large, strong animal,” for example. However, many of the definitions in WILD are written in a format that is unique to functional defining; that is, they define by using the headword in a sentence beginning with “If” or “When” and describing in that sentence the communicative impact of the word.
Defining “cozy” and “gallop”
To define the word “cozy,” for example, we begin with the clause “When you feel cozy” and finish with the defining information: “you feel warm and comfortable and safe.” Similarly, to define the verb “gallop,” we begin with “When horses gallop” and end with the defining information: “they go at their fastest speed using their legs.”
Definition: When you feel cozy, you feel warm and comfortable and safe. When something is cozy, it makes you feel this way. Something that is cozy is often small, like a small room or bed, but it gives you a nice feeling.
Click to enlarge image.
Definition: When horses gallop, they go at their fastest speed using their legs.
Less is not always more in dictionary writing for kids
In defining words for young children in WILD, we have taken an attitude that does not generally characterize dictionary writing. While lexicographers typically aim for conciseness in defining, we don’t operate under the assumption in WILD that less is always more. In fact, we’ve taken the attitude that more is more, as long as what is contained in the definition field is simple and useful. We believe that even full-sentence, functional definitions can still be remarkably opaque and incomplete in describing meaning, and we want our users to understand the meaning of the headword described and even enjoy the experience of grasping it through reading. To this end, we very often go beyond the core defining sentence and add more information that we hope will make the meaning clear and make the experience of reading the definition both enlightening and entertaining.