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The relationship between dictionary look-up frequency and corpus frequency revisited: a log-file analysis of a decade of user interaction with a Swahili-English dictionary

  • In an earlier publication it was claimed that there is no useful relationship between Swahili-English dictionary look-up frequencies and the occurrence frequencies for the same wordforms in Swahili-English corpora, at least not beyond the top few thousand wordforms. This result was challenged using data for German by a different team of researchers using an improved methodology. In the present article the original Swahili-English data is revisited, using ten years’ worth of it rather than just two, and using the improved methodology. We conclude that there is indeed a positive relationship. In addition, we show that online dictionary look-up behaviour is remarkably similar across languages, even when, as in our case, one is dealing with languages from very dissimilar language families. Furthermore, online dictionaries turn out to have minimum look-up success rates, below which they simply cannot go. These minima are language-sensitive and vary depending on the regularity of the searched-for entries, but are otherwise constant no matter the size of randomly sampled dictionaries. Corpus-informed sampling always improves on any random method. Lastly, from the point of view of the graphical user interface, we argue that the average user of an online bilingual dictionary is better served with a single search box, rather than separate search boxes for each dictionary side.

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Author:Gilles-Maurice de Schryver, Sascha WolferORCiDGND, Robert Lew
Parent Title (English):GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies
Publisher:School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Place of publication:Bangi Selangor
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2019
Date of Publication (online):2019/11/27
Tag:English; Swahili; corpus frequencies; language universals; lexicography; log files; online dictionaries
GND Keyword:Englisch; Korpus <Linguistik>; Lexikographie; Logdatei; Online-Wörterbuch; Sprachliche Universalien; Swahili; User <Benutzer>
First Page:1
Last Page:27
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Leibniz-Classification:Sprache, Linguistik
Program areas:Lexik
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International