Cheyenne Dictionary

There’s a nice new addition to the list of online dictionaries: Louise Fisher, Wayne Leman, Leroy Pine Sr and Marie Sanchez have published an online Cheyenne Dictionary. The online version was compiled using LexiquePro.

I’ve been thinking a bit about web dictionaries and interfaces recently as part of the field methods book (recently finished the chapter on ways of producing materials useful to a speech community) and there are a couple of different online models.

  • There is the interface that puts a published print dictionary on the Web without changing the format. That is, you just get text without links or anyway to search the database without just using search in the whole document.
  • Then there’s the version, such as we see here, where you still get all of the entries in a single page but there are also ways of exploiting hyperlinks. For example, the Cheyenne dictionary has hyperlinks within it and in the new across the top to jump to the first word in each alphabetical section. This is a nice compromise between something that is able to be printed and something that exploits the usefulness of links in a word document.
  • finally, there are the programs which give you a dialogue box in which you type the word that you want to look up. TshwaneLex allows you to do this, for example.the dictionaries differ in the extent to which they allow fuzzy searching in such dialogues. This has the advantage that if you know what you’re looking for it can be quite quick to find, and it’s probably less daunting because the user is presented with less information on the page. But it makes random browsing for cool and interesting stuff more difficult.

To be honest, I can’t decide which interface I like best. Therefore it’s probably just as well that I’m not allowed to put any of my lexicography work on the Web.

Anyway, congratulations to Chief Dull Knife College and the dictionary compilers, and thank you for sharing your language with us.

[edited to fix issues arising from voice recognition software.]


6 responses to “Cheyenne Dictionary

  1. Yes; fits with my typology of ‘Online lexicons of Australian languages’

  2. Nice comments on web versions of dictionaries. I should note that one linkable feature of Lexique Pro not found in its online format are images and sound files. I especially like to be able to click on a link and hear the words of a dictionary. I did find out that it is possible for me to manually link sound files to words in the online Cheyenne dictionary but the effort takes too many hours, which I do not currently have, to bring the online version to the point that the CD version of the dictionary has.

    I’d invite you to share you comments about dictionary formats on line with the Lexicography email discussion group, url:

  3. That’s true, thanks for reminding me. Is the linking perlable? For example, could you establish the links to sound files through a perl script and then re-convert it to Lexique?

  4. I wonder who this Cheyenne dictionary is meant to be read by – surely glosses like “inanimate object agreement marker for TI verbs” are pretty opaque to anyone except Cheyenne linguistics specialists? I also find the interface ugly with mixtures of multiple font sizes, typefaces and styles that further reduces readability.

    There is another type of web dictionary that you didn’t mention but which David Nathan and I pioneered in 1996 (way back when the web was young) and exemplified by the Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay dictionary ( This model is richly linked with lots of internal hyperlinks PLUS access from English glosses *AND* from a thesaurus – users then have multiple pathways into the language data as well as within the data itself. I also developed a test version that includes material on grammar and metalanguage (built on top of the example sentences in the dictionary, and explaining terms like “ergative” right where they are needed), and multimedia in the form of images (drawings of plants by local Aboriginal people) – although this version hasn’t been approved for publication yet it does show that thinking beyond the traditional lexicographic models does yield interesting results.

  5. Peter I edited your post to make the link live – although Coombs seems to be having problems at the moment.

    I enlarged the display on my Web browser a lotand that made it much easier to read. OThe font changes are something that Lexique does as standard, but they can be changed easily enough.

    Which program are you using for the database you mention? I suspect linguist as a whole I think less of out the data models than they really should, simply because we do what it’s easy to do in various software programs. For example, it’s a pet theory of mine that language to English dictionaries with finderlists are so common, simply because that is what it’s easy to make in shoebox. if everyone used a program like TshwaneLex, we would have a different model.

    let me make one more comment in this then, although it is not directly related to either the Cheyenne dictionary or the Gamilaraay dictionary. It is comparatively easy to get funding for editing work for paper dictionaries of endangered languages. But it’s quite difficult — or at least comparatively difficult — to get funding to do a proper Web interface. For example, I note that the ELDP specifically excludes payment to programmers as a legitimate use of grant funds. Until we have a better variety of off-the-shelf models and software packages, it’s inevitable that were going to get adaptations of printed materials as the primary means of Web publication.

  6. Pingback: Tsisinstsistots Dictionary Online « Living Languages

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