- warfare (equipment mostly)
- physical objects in general
In the course of learning about these topics, I frequently encounter words that I am unable to find in a dictionary. When I do find a definition, it is often too vague to be of much value to me. I've done the best I could up until now by making personal notes, but now I'm hoping to use the Wiktionary so that other people can benefit and contribute.
My interest in history comes from my background in role-playing. Back in the early 80's I was a big fan of Dungeons and Dragons. I haven't really played in years, but since then I've been on a quest for the perfect computer facilitated role-playing game. It'll almost certainly be a MMORPG.
The closest thing I've found so far is Star Wars Galaxies. It's a long way from perfect, but it's not too bad either. You can find me there as: Ockla Aberoci, Constellation, Naboo, Chilastra Galaxy.
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. Towards this end, I tend to spend a lot of weekends scanning in 100 year old history books. Like many of my dictionary notes, not enough of this work has reached other people.
- pronunciation, which I'm not very good at.
- typesetting, primarily TeX, where I fare better.
- latin and french, as needed, limited to looking things up in a dictionary.
- spanish in high school, which I've completely forgotten.
- Unicode and international character sets.
I own well over a dozen dictionaries, including several unabridged versions, some older ones, and lots of english to foreign language dictionaries.
This section is about all things Wiktionary. I hope to store some templates here, my opinions on some Wiktionary topics, references to useful resources, etc. My personal mission for the Wiktionary is to provide quotations for obscure, archaic, and obsolete words.
I realize that adding unused words is probably not as useful as writing definitions for the more common words. However, there are many widely available resources that perform admirably when checking the spelling, comprehending the general meaning of a word, or translating to another language.
I'm trying to be very sensitive to not allowing my archaic words to overshadow their more mundane brethren. That's why you'll probably see me copying common definitions from the 1913 Webster's or some other public domain source. I want to provide something that will provide the right impression of the word, while allowing me to move forward on providing quotations for more obscure senses.
Why quotations? My experience with the OED has shown me that especially for rare words that you've never seen in print before, the 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.
The example that first comes to my mind is the word "hundred", which I've not yet had the courage to tackle. Over the centuries, it has variously held the numeric values of 108, 120, and 100. Obviously, in the present day it fairly consistently means the latter. A properly selected set of quotations can let you see the evolution of the word as well as it's definition.
As a result, I'm strongly in favor of providing quotations for every spelling, of every sense, of every word at least once or twice per century. I realize that the Wiki technology may not be optimal for recording this level of detail, but it has the obvious advantage of being a strong collaborative tool, which particularly at this point in the Wiktionary, is very important (in my opinion).
Quotations provide another benefit that I believe is critically important -- evidence. The collaborative nature of a Wiki can be it's greatest strength and simultaneously it's greatest weakness. While trying to explain my recent enthusiasm for the Wiktionary to a colleague, 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?
I'm not an etymologist, a linguist, a phoneticist, a translator, or even a decent historian. What I do know is what I've read and understood, and in most cases (at least when the knowledge is fresh), I can point to a specific source or quotation where I first gained that knowledge. By including quotations, I've significantly reduced the chance that I've made some tremendous faux pas, in conveying my knowledge of the word to other readers.
My thoughts on this topic are not yet complete, but I suspect that one of the most powerful capabilities of the Wiktionary is it's ability to organize the words into arbitrary categories in ways that printed media would never have permitted. In particular, I've noticied that the 1913 Webster's likes to categorize words into groups like:
I've not seen a lot of discussion about topical categories like this so far. Perhaps I'm not looking in the right places. If anyone creates such a list, please let me know. I'll contribute. I also don't know enough Wiki yet to understand how I'd indicate that words (senses?) are in a particular category. Do I have to maintain the bi-directional linkages by hand? If so, that's unfortunate.
I've also seen very little documentation on labels in the Wiktionary Template. The primary types of labels in Webster's is:
Obviously, my primary interest is in "labels of time". 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.
Where is it? Has the Wiktionary community made a decision to forego using this resource, as a result of quality concerns? Is the absence a technological problem? I am currently operating under the assumption that as a public domain work containing mostly factual data, citing [1913 Webster's] over and over again would not be productive. :-)
Given my limited experience, 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.
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. I've read a fair bit about the first two subjects, and still find that whenever I try to do my own independent work, I'm usually wrong. I'm happy to try if someone wants to review my work.
It's roughly the same situation for translation. I'm fluent in exactly one language -- English. All the others are just pitiful, so I'll do my best to avoid translations. I ask everyone's forgiveness for one small exception to this rule, which is that 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. Please be patient with me, I'm trying to learn various forms and conjugations. Any recommendations in this area, would be greatly appreciated.
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a great resource. If it were in the public domain, I'd be working on it instead of the Wiktionary. If you're a serious wiktionarian, I strongly recommend checking it out. Individual subscriptions are $29.95 a month, or $295.00 per year for people in north or south america. Ouch! So here's what they don't tell you. Your local college or library probably has a site wide subscription. In my case, I'm able to get a virtual network connection from my home that has an internet address in the university's range (my employer), and access the OED that way for free, from home. If you can you should too!
Things I've read or own that might be of interest to other Wiktionarians:
- Handbook of the International Phonetic Association : A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet
- Lots of information about the IPA, most of it out of my league.
- Phonetic Symbol Guide
- Phoenetic symbols in general. I found it to be a little more accesible.
- The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary
I'll put some template stuff here after dinner. :-)