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Word Sketches -
the Modern Lexicographer's Tool

Learn how they were created and used for the Macmillan English Dictionary

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Word Sketches – the Modern Lexicographer’s Tool

Adam Kilgarriff and Michael Rundell explain how Word Sketches were created and how they are used


The latest generation of lexical profiling software (which developed out of the probability measures originally proposed by Church and Hanks) has recently been used as a central source of linguistic data for a new, written-from-scratch pedagogical dictionary. The "Work Sketch" software uses parsed corpus data to identify salient collocates – in separate lists – for the whole range of grammatical relations in which a given word participates. It also links these collocate lists to corpus examples instantiating each combination so identified. Lexicographers found that the Word Sketches not only streamlined the process of searching for significant word combinations, but often provided a more revealing, and more efficient, way of uncovering the key features of a word’s behaviour than the (now traditional) method of scanning concordances.

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This article was delivered at the Tenth EURALEX International Congress, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The article was first published in: ‘Proceedings of the Tenth EURALEX International Congress, Copenhagen, Denmark’, August 13–17, 2002. Eds. Anna Braasch & Claus Povlsen (Vol. II. pp. 807-818).

Click here to read another article about Word Sketches by Adam Kilgarriff.