Talk:defining vocabulary

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Creating defining vocabulary[edit]

The problem with this is not whether we should have one. It is whether we have someone willing and able to do the tremendous amount of work that may be required for its development. Eclecticology 07:00 Jan 18, 2003 (UTC)

I think by now we can say with some confidence that we don't need one. This shouldn't come as a surprise, since other dictionaries don't have them either (at least not explicitly), and even if we did it would surely be roundly ignored by people actually making entries.
That's not to say that we can't make our definitions more clear. There is certainly ample room for that. I just don't think that that particular approach to clarity is appropriate for Wiktionary. As far as I can tell, it's not a very common approach anyway, the exception being Longmans. I found this discussion of the virtues of a defining vocabulary here:
A quick look at a dictionary that does not have a defining vocabulary shows how useful it is to have one. The Collins English Dictionary (1986) gives the following definition for the word unscrupulous:
unscrupulous adj. without scruples; unprincipled.
Reading this definition, the first problem is the word 'scruples' . If you don' t know what unscrupulous means, how can you possibly know what 'scruples' mean? Collins' definition for scruple is:
scruple n (often pl.) a doubt or hesitation as to what is morally right in a certain situation.
This definition seems to show that unscrupulous means 'without any doubts or hesitation about what is morally right in a certain situation'. Unfortunately, this is not actually very close to the real meaning.
Compare the Collins definition with the one in the Longman Essential Activator (1997), which uses a defining vocabulary of two thousand words.
unscrupulous [adj] someone who is unscrupulous uses dishonest and unfair methods to get what they want, and does not care if they cause problems for other people: Some unscrupulous employers hire illegal migrants to work for low wages. Unscrupulous landlords.
The Longman definition shows two important features of unscrupulous. Firstly, an unscrupulous person is willing to use unfair and dishonest methods to get what they want. Secondly, an unscrupulous person does not care about causing problems for other people. Because the definition uses only words from the defining vocabulary, the meaning is shown in a clear way that students can easily understand.
While I completely support the goal of producing easily understandable definitions, I find the examples above almost entirely specious. The problem with the Collins definition isn't the lack of a defining vocabulary, it's that the definition of unscrupulous as lacking scruples is just not a very good definition. Defining it as dishonest, liable to use unfair methods without regard to others or something similar would probably be fine.
There could still be value in a defining vocabulary: terms like liable and without regard to could be replaced by more accessible terms like likely and without caring about. Such editing seems like a good idea, but is certainly not a sine qua non for a dictionary.
Another interesting feature of the Longman approach — again quite independent of the notion of "defining vocabularly" — is that it abandons the generally terse "dictionary-speak" style in favor of a more discursive style. Again, this may not be a bad idea, but as a practical mattter it isn't the style that Wiktionary uses, and switching to it this far along would be impractical. As it is, we tend to re-word discursive definitions into terse ones, most likely precisely because they jar.
In short, using the wiki approach to construct a Longman-style dictionary might well be an interesting and useful program, but it's not the one we've taken on. -dmh 21:44, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)
The aims of the defining vocabulary seem to be comparable with those of Simple English. Both aim to restrict themselves to a vocabulary of a thousand or two words to maximise their possible user bases. Would it not be wiser to create a Longman-esque dictionary at, much like Wikipedia has a seperate Simple English project. --OldakQuill 21:08, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)
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defining vocabulary[edit]

This would seem to be a vocabulary used for defining or that defines, especially as it is only used in the "lexicography" context. DCDuring TALK 01:31, 9 March 2011 (UTC)

IMO it depends how accurate the definition is. Better wording would certainly help, as currently, I'm not really sure what it means. Mglovesfun (talk) 02:00, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
  • Keep given it is attestable, which seems to be the case: google books:"defining vocabulary". The current def reads "A relatively small set of words used to define all other terms in a dictionary", which is at least in part comprehensible even if a bit incomplete or worthy of further explanation. The definition can be read in several ways. It can be (a) a set of undefined terms in terms of which all other terms can be defined. Alternatively, (b) it is a minimal set of terms such that all other terms are free from cycles in definitions. This can be understood in terms of the dyadic relation definitionDependsOn(Term, Term), which generates a directed graph, but one that is not necessarily acyclic. If "cat" is defined as "a meowing animal", then definitionDependsOn("cat", "animal") and definitionDependsOn("cat", "meow"). On yet another reading, (c) it is a set of terms allowed in definitions, so no other terms are allowed in definitions. Whatever the definition of "defining vocabulary", it cannot be directly inferred merely from reading the term "defining vocabulary" word per word. --Dan Polansky 09:38, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
Almost a technical term, no? Seems idiomatic as well, per Dan, if weakly. Overall I'd say keep. DAVilla 05:38, 12 March 2011 (UTC)

kept -- Liliana 14:34, 18 October 2011 (UTC)