Automating the creation of dictionaries

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The relationship between dictionaries and computers goes back around 50 years. But for most of that period, technology’s main contributions were to facilitate the capture and manipulation of dictionary text, and to provide lexicographers with greatly improved linguistic evidence. Working with computers and corpora had become routine by the mid-1990s, but there was no real sense of lexicography being automated. In this article we review developments in the period since 1997, showing how some of the key lexicographic tasks are beginning to be transferred, to a significant degree, from humans to machines. A recurrent theme is that automation not only saves effort but often leads to a more reliable and systematic description of a language. We close by speculating on how this process will develop in years to come.


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