Making Athabaskan Dictionaries Usable

Making Athabaskan Dictionaries Usable
Author: Wiliam J. Poser
Publication date: N.A.
Number of pages: 13

Format / Quality: PDF / excellent
Size: 151 KB


Making Athabaskan Dictionaries Usable*
William J. Poser
University of Pennsylvania

Designing a dictionary for an Athabaskan language presents unusual dificulties. Because
of the enormous complexity of the verb, it is impossible to list every form of every verb.
Because Athabaskan languages combine extensive prefixation with complex stem variation,
and because the components that contain the basic meaning of the verb are distributed
throughout the form, intercalated with grammatical morphemes, there is no straightfor-
ward, easily extracted and manipulated, citation form. Using a fixed member of the
paradigm is also problematic because the user must have substantial knowledge of the
language to be able to convert other forms to the citation form. As a result, dictionary
designers have had two unpleasant choices. One is to use fully inflected forms. These
are easy to use, but necessarily far from complete. The other possibility is to produce
root-based analytic dictionaries. Such dictionaries may be comprehensive but are almost
impossible to use for anyone without considerable meta-knowledge of the language.

The way between the Scylla of incompleteness and the Charybdis of unusability is an
on-line dictionary, internally analytic, with a morphological parser as front end. This will
allow the user to enter a fully inflected word to be analyzed by the parser. However,
dificult problems arise as to how to present the information generated by such a system.
Just as finding a word in an analytic dictionary is not trivial, so is making use of the
output from one.

13 pages

1. Introduction
2. Athabaskan Morphology
3. Traditional Approaches
4. On-Line Analytic Dictionary

(1) To Eat (Unspecified Object)
(2) To Eat (Specified Object)
(3) To Eat (Unspecified Object, Habitual)
(4) To Eat (Specified Object, Habitual)

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