The 16th Annual International AFRILEX Conference
UNAM, Windhoek, Namibia, 5-7 July 2011

Workshop 2: Intelligent and Dynamic Electronic Dictionaries (D.J. Prinsloo)

The aim of the workshop is to introduce and brainstorm intelligent and dynamic electronic dictionaries of the future.

The electronic era was met with great enthusiasm and expectations. De Schryver (2003) entitled his groundbreaking work as “Lexicographers’ Dreams in the Electronic-Dictionary Age”. Early publications on EDs were all about the potential of the new medium and the expected revolution it would bring along e.g. antiquating the paper dictionary in a decade or two. De Schryver (2009) and (2010) however expresses disappointment in respect of the pace of development of electronic dictionaries:

What is offered in electronic form, however, by and large mimics what used to be printed. No cognizance is taken of the true power of the digital age ... today’s dictionaries still very much look like they always have: static. To break out of the straitjacket of the paper world, many a lexicographer has touted the imminent next revolution, viz. the potential of electronic dictionaries to become dynamic. Sadly, nothing is further from the truth. ... Apart from the addition of some trivial gimmicks to electronic dictionaries, nothing whatsoever has changed.


The gradual process was from putting existing paper dictionaries or translated lexica on computer and to gradually increase the search functions and display. This is fine, but electronic dictionaries should enter an even more advanced dimension in fulfilling more sophisticated needs of the users. Heid (2009:1) says that electronic dictionaries ‘could do better’ and ‘would serve users in different situations much better if they included more relations’ and that access to data should not only be based on a single lemma. Rundell (2009:9) refers to ‘“game changing” developments that have expanded the scope of what dictionaries can do and (in some respects) changed our view of what dictionaries are for’.

The currency of dictionaries is no longer just “words” in isolation: they now also deal with bigger language systems and syntagmatic networks. (Rundell 2009:10)

De Schryver (2009) calls for adaptive and intelligent dictionaries (aiLEX) that will be able to ‘study and understand its user’ and consequently to ‘present itself to that user’.

Other interpretations of adaptive lexicography include adaptiveness in terms of treatment options as well as in terms of step by step guidance in text and speech production.


De Schryver, G.-M. 2003. Lexicographers’ Dreams in the Electronic-Dictionary Age. International Journal of Lexicography 16.2: 143–199.

De Schryver, G-M., 2009. State-of-the-Art Software to Support Intelligent Lexicography In R. Zhu (ed.). 2009. Proceedings of the International Seminar on Kangxi Dictionary & Lexicology: 565–580. Beijing: Beijing Normal University. Also:

De Schryver, G-M. 2010. State-of-the-Art Software to Support Intelligent Lexicography. In 朱瑞平 [Zhu, Ruiping] (ed.). 2010. 中華字典研究 [Chinese Lexicographic Research] 2: 584–599. 中國社科 [Chinese Social Sciences].

eLex2009: eLexicography in the 21st century: New Challenges, new applications. Conference Abstracts of eLex2009, 22-24 October 2009. Louvain-la-Neuve: Centre for English Corpus Linguistics. Université catholique de Louvain.

Heid, U. 2009Aspects of Lexical Description for Electronic Dictionaries. In: eLex 2009. (1-3).

Rundell, M. 2009. The Road to Automated Lexicography: First Banish the Drudgery then the Drudges? In: eLex 2009. (9-10).