Hi, Cory Thank you, I began to copy the entries to he.wiktionary. Do you know any place we can get alphabetical lists of Hebrew words according to first letter ? shlomo
I love what your doing adding obscure early English words. Makes me want to get some old texts and do it myself. I wouldn't worry about being new to wiki, people will correct things or clean it up, but you're doing fine :)
"I'm going to start contributing as best as I can and hope that someone who really knows what they are doing will contact me"
Thanks! I appreciate it. I feel like I'm getting the hang of it a little better now. There's nothing more frustrating to me than to not be able to find a word in a dictionary! I've got 5 or 6 large unabridged dictionaries, some of which are fairly old, and I still routinely encounter words that aren't in them. :-( The only place that gets even close is the Oxford English Dictionary Online, and it's as commerical as it can get. :-( Hopefully the wiktionary will be better someday.
Thanks again. I feel better knowing that at least someone else has looked at my stuff... --CoryCohen 00:24, 5 Sep 2004 (UTC)
First, I'm glad to see someone rounding up obscure definitions. I'm currently on the opposite tack, trying to make sure that Wiktionary does have an entry for common words like dog. I'm also interested in the way senses of a word relate. Often two apparently unrelated senses are in fact related to a third, which is often a simple physical meaning, but which sometimes has become obscure with time.
That said, I would like to make some suggestions:
- Mark obscure usages as rare, dated or archaic, or as belonging to a particular profession (e.g., the blacksmithing sense of heat), or with some other indication that these are not everyday senses.
- I'm not sure if there is an established policy for the use of these markers, but I would say
- rare if a modern writer might be expected to produce the word from time to time, perhaps for effect, but not often. E.g., decimate in its original sense (though I marked this particular case as "no longer common" -- oh well.)
- dated if it's still in living memory, but no longer widely used and has a more current equivalent. Perhaps icebox for refrigerator (though that's not marked other than as US -- hey, wiktionary is a work in progress).
- archaic if it's no longer even in living memory outside sources like the KJB and Shakespeare. E.g., spake (That one's actually marked as archaic!)
- Please be very careful of bringing in definitions from other sources verbatim. Some of the definitions you have entered can be found verbatim on Dictionary.com, and unless I'm greatly mistaken, that's off limits.
- Even if a source has fallen into public domain (e.g., Webster's 1913), it's still not a good idea to copy the definition. Usage may have changed (and dated become archaic), and even if the usage of the word hasn't, the older definition may not be as clear as it could be to modern ears.
- Similarly, you should find your own citations. If your only source for a word is the quotation given in someone else's dictionary, how do you know that you've captured usage correctly? As you've said, many of these words are not even in most dictionaries. This is an issue for all words, but it's particularly acute for rare words and senses, as they're harder to scare up by googling or searching BNC (the British National Corpus). Even then, it's still possible. I had little trouble finding a website specializing in incense that gave a definition for thus, which I then checked against dictionary.com Again, there's nothing wrong with using existing dictionaries as a cross-check. They just shouldn't be primary sources if you can at all help it.
Anyway, keep up the good work, but do be careful with the copyrights.
-dmh 04:00, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback dmh! Yeah, I figure there are lots of dictionaries with the more common words, and eventually they'll all get populated in the wiktionary as well, thanks to folks like yourself. I'm interested in the more obscure words mostly because of my interest in history. Some of the words I've encountered can only be found in the OED, or not at all. :-(
As for copyrights, Webster's, and dictionary.com, I believe that 100% of the text I've added is either:
- Rarely -- text written by me, usually without a specific source.
- First hand quotations from texts that have been appropriately cited.
- Verbatim (or almost verbatim) reuse of the public domain 1913 Webster's.
I suspect that the last bullet is the primary issue. I'm very concerned about not exaggerating the importance of my defintions (as you have rightly suggested, with your comments on labeling). For example, for most folks a "seam" is not 24 wey of glass.
The problem for me is that I'm not really interested in trying to write defintions for common words, yet if they're not there already, I can't append my more obscure definition. As you probably know, the more common words aren't necessarily the easiest to write definitions for. It seems to me like the best solution is to reuse the Webster's 1913 definition to give the page a "stub" for development by other contributors. Particularly considering some problems I see with the way translations for various senses are handled, renumbering of the senses seems to be a bad thing.
As for citing Webster's, I honestly don't feel much of a need to since it's been so heavily used for public domain dictionaries. What I'm really curious about is why there isn't more of the 1913 Webster's in the Wiktionary. I've seen several public discussions about adding the entire thing is some automated way (which I would support), but nothing actually seems to have been done. I understand that there might be some reservation about the quality, but if that were the primary roadblock, I'd expect to have at least seen a little more discussion about it. In particular, I looked for -- and was unable to find -- an official way to cite the 1913 Webster's. Perhaps I should just start something in the beer room on this topic, but I've got other topics that are more important to me...
As for "finding my own citations", I'm honestly a bit confused by your comments. Every quotation I've entered is a "first hand" quotation, from a book I own (either in print or electronically). None of them are from dictionaries, although I am trying hard to select quotes that serve the double purpose of acting as a definition. I personally feel that the quotations are the single most important part of a good dictionary. Spending some time in the OED will certainly reinforce this belief. I'd like to see one or two quotations for each spelling of each sense of each word in each century. This is especially important in a collaborative project such as this, because I essentially have no way to gauge the reliability of the other contributors. Good quotations provide evidence by saying "I didn't make this definition up, reliable sources X, Y, and Z did." Many of the sources that I'm citing are among the most widely cited texts in the field of medieval history.
I agree completely with your comments about labelling. Webster's uses "obsolete" a lot, and I've marked some of my words as such (but not enough, and not consistently). Some of the ones I've written myself lead with phrases like "an old English measure". Unfortunately, I've been unable to find any guidance on the Wiktionary:Template page regarding this issue, and feel pretty strongly that what's really needed is some standardized definitions there. I'd also love to see a sizeable list of categories like blacksmithing, biology, carpentry, mining, etc. that I can place words in. the abbreviations in Websters are too cryptic and provide no valuable cross-referencing capability. On top of that, I'm honestly not qualified to make this determination for most of the words I'm encountering. In the end, I think the best solutions are:
- Having someone who knows what they're talking about mark it with a well defined keyword such as those you've suggested.
- Until then, using the contextual clues provided by good quotations. If the best quotation we can come up with for a word is from Piers Plowman or A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, that's a clue. :-)
I've actually dodged putting the really rare words in so far (mostly so I can wait to see if anyone involved freaks). They're largely mixtures of middle english and latin, but they're words I've seen in more than one location, and I'm pretty certain they were in common use from say 1100-1500. Spelling variations becomes a very complicated issue at this point as well. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, all I can do is make an educated guess about their meaning. But I suspect that 99% of the world is the same boat, and I'm hoping that the wiktionary can become a place for us to discuss and share some of these educated guesses.
Thanks again for your comments. Perhaps we should start a beer room discussion on labels and categories?
--CoryCohen 20:02, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)
- Hi Cory. No need to write to my talk page (but no harm either). I tend to watch the Recent Changes page pretty closely, and I was going to check your page for replies anyway.
- First, I realized after writing that "find your own quotations" might have come off a bit harsh. If so, I apologize. Clearly you're on top of the issue. My personal take on the matter is that Wiktionary isn't the OED, nor should it try to be. I tend to make up the quotes in my entries out of whole cloth (after duly checking other sources to make sure I've got the sense right) in order to illustrate usage. As a reader, I prefer a short made-up quote to a longer one with a full citation.
- The problem with real live quotes is that they usually weren't designed to illustrate a particular word. That's a huge reason why it took so long to assemble the OED. The editors had to go through all those slips to tease out the meaning. I'll often run through the BNC and google to make sure I haven't missed senses, but few of the hits I get would make good illustrative quotes.
- As to Webster 1913, I am very much against automatically bringing it in. If you want Webster 1913 definitions, they're already available. Meanings shift. There is no easy way to tell that an entry constructed from Webster 1913 has been checked for currency or edited for ease of reading. I suppose it would be OK to have stub entries that link to Webster, as in "we haven't constructed a modern entry for this, but in the mean time you might try these from Webster 1913 (link here)". That might also make it easier for people filling out the stubs. While we're at it, maybe add BNC and whatever other public corpora there are.
- One of the nice things about wiki is you can, if needed, do a half-assed job and expect other people to fix it up. To take a specific example, it would have been perfectly fine to put in just the interesting obscure meanings of roll, and note it as a stub (and just to be safe put in a <!-- comment to the effect that the definition you give is genuine, please don't remove it when putting in the better-known ones -->. I'll probably go in and edit those definitions a bit to boil them down.
- So have fun, just do the stuff you like, how you like. Others will take it from there and convergence will be amazingly fast. It take surprisingly little time to feel at home in a wiki. -dmh 04:20, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
- Actually, roll looks pretty good, and the quote for the obscure sense is quite illustrative. -dmh 04:22, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Thanks for the followup as well. It sounds like we're finding some common ground on a number of issues. I'm also interested talking about some areas where we seem to disagree. (Other view points are usually a good thing). Have you read my much longer rant on my User page yet? I've been quite "chatty" this evening. It covers some topics that might interest you as well. No offense taken, by the way.
I wouldn't really suggest that the Wiktionary try to be the OED, but an everything to everyone kind of attitude does seem to be fairly central to the philosophy. In particular, I think the all languages decision is brilliant, because it eliminates all of the problems associated with aribtrary boundaries between the languages. As we all know words morph, and languages borrow liberally from one another. I see the era issue as just another dimension of this all encompassing attitude. The Webster 1913 definitions aren't any less correct because the they've changed over time. In fact, if they've changed enough for you to notice or care, I want both. One of my fundamental problems with practically all modern dicitionaries is that they're designed almost exclusively with the modern reader in mind. I'm looking the word up in the dictionary because it's passed out of common usage. In my experience, the OED is the only dictionary that I've seen which got this aspect right.
I agree about the time and energy taken to compile the OED and the quotations in particular. It's time consuming work. Hopefully a collaborative effort can produce something before the century is over. :-) But there's no doubt that the Wiktionary will advance faster than the OED once it has X million Internet users who adopt an attitude like:
- Wow. This word wasn't in the Wiktionary. I should add the quotation for the sentence I just saw, and let someone else say what it means. (Or it's translation or quote equivalent.)
In this way, I think there's a "critical mass" beyond which the Wiktionary will "pick up speed" so to speak. The wikipedia sure seems to have reached this point. That's one of the reasons I'm generally in support of adding the 1913 Webster's. It'll get something in there to generate that attitude. More dedicated people can and will refine the definitions for the common words either way.
Having said that, I'm open to your suggestion to "stub" the definitions more literally. If as a group we could agree on some language that would identify incomplete entries:
- This word has additional well known meanings that have not been recorded in the Wikipedia. Any meanings that are present, while believed to be accurate, are not meant to be complete. Click here to improve this definition.
or something like that, would certainly meet my personal goals for the wiktionary work I'm interested in. How would you feel about a tag or marker (invisible?) that would allow you to distinguish 1913 Webster's definitions for later refinement? I'd be happier with this sort of solution for the reasons mentioned earlier.
Thanks for the <nowiki></nowiki> tip. I'm still learning wiki. It's a bit of a strange beast.
The final topic you raised (at least in my mind) was quotation selection. I've got no real strong opinions on quotation selection so far, and very little experience. So far, I've found that I like very descriptive (almost definition like) quotes when I can find them. But, I tend to define a lot of archaic nouns where the words have very specific meanings to begin with. I suspect that some words (adjectives, emotions, philosphies, etc?) will be much better suited to quotations where the word is actually used in it's normal context. If you, or anyone else, is interested in discussing the merits of selecting certain types of quotes, I'm very interested in having that discussion.
A very similar dilemma arises when selecting sources. I'm using well respected sources for the most part so far, but they generally don't represent the most "contemporary" thinking. In some cases, I'm happy to solve the problem by narrowing the time between quotations to 50 years or thereabout. I'd like to see 1900, 1950, and 2000. Which I think would be excessive by OED standards, but then again they were paying for the ink, and the bits are basically free. :-) -- CoryCohen 06:35, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
- Thinking it over, I think it's not only harmless to add in historical quotes, a la OED, it's actually a really good idea. On the other hand, I would like to keep the flavor of existing entries, with generally short and modern illustrative quotes with the definitions. How about having a section for "Historical Quotations"? This would properly belong with the Etymology, but then I'd want to move the Etymology after the main definitions -- I don't want to skip past centuries worth of interesting background just to find out what a word actually means. The real solution is to make Wiktionary look more like a database and provide customisable views, but that's a different kettle of fish.
- Of course, if a historical quote also reads well as an illustration, I don't see any reason not to put it next to its definition, citation and all. -dmh 14:45, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Thanks for the questions. I'll try to deal with a number of them
Public Domain Works
- I'm very concerned about the negative consequences of a lot of our existing intellectual property and copyright laws. Rather than rant about it here, I'll just say that I think current protections are more than adequate, and than a lot of material currently in the public domain is in danger of being lost if people don't assert their rights more aggresively.
I very much agree that we could go much further, though copyright issues are not a big problem in Wiktionary. I find them far more important at Wikisource where we can perhaps use some of those history books. Many opinions that I have encountered here are guided by copyright paranoia. The unfounded fear of breaking the law tends to wreak havoc with common sense. I believe that there are many places where copyright infringement is a perfectly acceptable way of doing things, but such an act must come in the wake of a fully reasoned understanding of what one is doing.
- I own well over a dozen dictionaries, including several unabridged versions, some older ones, and lots of english to foreign language dictionaries.
These are essentials when working with words, and one can never have too many. A lot of interesting and useful material is found through Google, but it must be supplemented with material from other sources.
- I realize that adding unused words is probably not as useful as writing definitions for the more common words. I'm trying to be very sensitive to not allowing my archaic words to overshadow their more mundane brethren.
There's no need to dwell on the purely utilitarian. If you are familiar with the game "Balderdash" you know that it has some very interesting words, though if entering these I like to have some verification from other sources.
- ...quotations provide more value than the definition itself. They often communicate context, usage, definition, era, and form all at once. Quotations provide a resource where a curious reader can go to get a larger context, and in many cases, find more occurences of the word in question. They can communicate ambiguities that are subtle, and extremely difficult to boil down to concise definition.... A properly selected set of quotations can let you see the evolution of the word as well as it's definition. ... Quotations provide another benefit that I believe is critically important -- evidence.
Another point with which I strongly agree. If you can find a good properly identified quote, it is far superior to some of the lame forced sentences that people have made up themselves; many of these should probably be completely replaced.
- ...he summed up it up nicely by saying: Why would I want to use a definition by some yahoo on the Internet, when there's definitions by a professional who actually knows how to define words?
That says more about him than about dictionaries. The way that modern society depends on professionals is truly frightening. It's a symptom of failing to think or do for oneself. ... but that's another story. :-)
To use a category is a simple matter of putting [[Category:xxxx]] in an article. There has been some discussion at Wiktionary talk:Categories but nothing conclusive. The categories in the 1913 Webster reflect that a term's usage tends to be limited to a particular plac or field of study. I've tended to be very conservative about the use of categories. If defined too finely the categories can become useless.
- What is obsolete? Archaic? Rare? Do the labels go before or after the definition? Are the italicized? Are they in parentheses? Perhaps we should adopt the same definitions that Webster has in order to promote consistency. Or can we improve on the original idea? Personally, I'd like to have indexes or filters that would allow me to browse archaic words by era.
I think that these labels are mostly subjective. I tend to put them in parentheses and italics at the beginning of a definition. Your idea for indexes and filters should work if the quotations are properly dated. Many of the words that were current in 1913 are now obsolete.
- Where is it? Has the Wiktionary community made a decision to forego using this resource, as a result of quality concerns? I think I support adding all the words from this source to the Wiktionary as stubs for future expansion. I readily admit that it has some serious deficiencies. In particular, I've found at least one quotation that I was unable to find myself, and I will not be copying quotations from there without first hand knowledge.
If any characteristic is to be blamed for not importing all the 1913 Webster material it is boredom and attention span. I fully support the importation of this material including almost all the quotations. They should not just be stubs. Each one needs a lot of work to conform to Wiktionary's own standards. (If our Webster material looked like all the others it would not be special.) Some of the words should be upgraded immediately (eg. plant and animal names should be linked to their modern names where applicable. Quotations should be identified better than the cryptic manner used by Webster. If you can't track it down yourself don't worry, add it anyway and someone else may have better luck.
Etymology, Pronunciation, & Translation
- I consider myself so inept in these arenas, that I'm going to do everyone a big favor, and just not go there.
- It's roughly the same situation for translation. I'm going to try to create entries for some Latin words. Every latin dictionary resource I've found is so useless for historical purposes, that I figure something is better than nothing.
Stick to your own level of comfort. The Webster etymological material is mostly useful, though their abbreviations should be expanded. I avoid pronunciation issues except where something special needs to be noted. I generally have little to do with the translations, but we do have other members who have a passion for long lists of translations of a given word. For them the primary purpose of the project is as an aid to translation.
Oxford English Dictionary
I agree that it's a great resource, but until we've absorbed the free material I'm not ready to cough up the money they want.
- The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary
I'm sure we have many more insane people among our contributors. :-) Eclecticology 09:04, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Having read some of the long discussions on this page, I just wanted to say hi and welcome to Wiktionary. It is good to see another user on Wiktionary who is as enthusiastic about it as you seem to be! — Paul G 14:57, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Common words hard to define
Hi Cory, I read all of the above information, I agree that common words can be very difficult to define. example: the is very difficult to define without using "the" in the definition. I'm watching this page, as you seem to have interesting discussions herePedant 00:52, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Glad you're here!
It's delightful to see someone so passionate about Wiktionary! We do need to clarify the issues you talk about on your User page. I do suggest you mention them, maybe a week or so apart, on the Beer parlor until something gets done... Thanks again for working on the project. JesseW 10:40, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)
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- Contact us on IRC at #wikimedia-pa
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