Specialized digital frame-based lexicography from the perspective of dictionary use research

Start - End 
2019 - 2022 (completed)
Department of Languages and Cultures
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Research on dictionary use, which has grown in importance since the 1990s, is a type of dictionary research which aims to provide the foundation for the refinement of completed and ongoing lexicographic projects (Töpel 2014). Research conducted in this area aims to obtain answers that justify a particular structure or methodology or indicates the need to re-evaluate decisions made during the development process of a dictionary.

The quality of a dictionary is determined by the extent that the features it offers and the information it provides prove useful and appropriate to the intended audience. The function of dictionary-use research is to check these aspects. Empirical studies on the use of online dictionaries, for instance, allow identifying a number of user-related issues and thus contribute to the development of more effective lexicographic tools (Müller-Spitzer 2014).

Unfortunately, research on the use of digital dictionaries has mostly focused on comparing these tools with their print equivalents rather than on reflecting on alternative approaches to the design of digital dictionaries (Nesi 2000).

With this in mind, this proposal aims to contribute to research on the use of dictionaries in two ways: first, by conducting research on the use of digital dictionaries (cf. Lew & De Schryver 2014); and secondly, by turning its attention to the use of an original online dictionary – that is, a dictionary that was not created from a print version – developed within a Frame Semantics approach.

Made public recently, the Olympic Dictionary (Chishman 2016) is an online digital dictionary resulting from a project whose purpose was to describe the lexicon of Olympic sports based on the notion of Frames (Fillmore 1982; 1985). By covering the lexicon of the domain of Olympic sports, this project is characterized as a development within the field of specialized lexicography or language for specific purposes (LSP) lexicography. Although specialized lexicography differs from terminology and terminography in terms of approach, one can say that in many ways they deal with the same subject matter (Bergenholtz & Tarp 1995), i.e., ‘registers’ of technical languages or ‘sub-languages’ (Hartmann & James 2002).

The Olympic Dictionary can be classified as a unidirectional (Atkins & Rundell 2008) or monodirectional (Welker 2008) bilingual resource, i.e., it is a resource that allows access to information from a source language (Brazilian Portuguese) to a target language (English) and not the other way around.

Although many authors discuss the lexicographic potential of Frames (e.g. Martin 2006), research that investigates the validity of this model from a usage perspective is still lacking. This proposal wants to turn the tide in this respect.

With regard to the methodology, it is known that with the popularization of digital dictionaries, an increasing number of scholars have pointed out the potential of these tools in generating free and implicit feedback retrievable from log files linked to these dictionaries; however, there are very few reports of research on the use of real digital dictionaries that actually use log files to improve dictionaries (De Schryver & Joffe 2004).

Whereas one of the objectives of this project is to improve the Olympic Dictionary, this proposal foresees the use of log-file analysis in order to perform a computational tracking of all actions performed by the user (De Schryver & Joffe 2004, De Schryver et al. forthcoming). Concerning the general data protection regulation, it is important to stress that this proposal is committed to protect the identity of those whose actions will be tracked.

The main purpose of this proposal is to contribute a theoretical framework to improving the user experience of the Olympic Dictionary and the dictionary itself as well as to provide input for future research on this topic. The following goals emerge as an offshoot of the main goal: (i) to characterise the online Olympic Dictionary within a digital metalexicographic framework; (ii) to draw up proposals to study the current user behaviour of this dictionary with an aim to further improve its efficacy, and (iii) to build the necessary comparable language corpora (in Brazilian Portuguese and English) to underpin further work on this online dictionary.

Apart from the specificities of the case study and its practical results, it is important to mention the wider implications of the present proposal, as it will contribute to the theoretical development of specialised lexicography and increase the theoretical foundation of lexicography in general.




Atkins, B.T. Sue & Michael Rundell. 2008. The Oxford Guide to Practical Lexicography. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Bergenholtz, Henning & Sven Tarp (eds.). 1995. Manual of Specialised Lexicography. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Chishman, Rove. (Ed.). 2016. Dicionário Olímpico. São Leopoldo: Unisinos.

de Schryver, Gilles-Maurice & David Joffe. 2004. On how electronic dictionaries are really used. In: Williams, Geoffrey & Sandra Vessier (eds). Proceedings of the Eleventh EURALEX International Congress, EURALEX 2004, Lorient, France, July 6-10, 2004: 187–96. Lorient: Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines, Université de Bretagne Sud.

de Schryver, GillesMaurice, Sascha Wolfer & Robert Lew. 2019. The relationship between dictionary look-up frequency and corpus frequency revisited: Analysing a decade of log files attached to a Swahili-English dictionary. GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies 19(4).

Fillmore, Charles J. 1982. Frame Semantics. In: The Linguistic Society of Korea (ed.). Linguistics in the Morning Calm: 111–37. Seoul: Hanshin Publishing Co.

Fillmore, Charles J. 1985. Frames and the semantics of understanding. Quaderni di Semantica, 6(2): 222–54.

Hartmann, Reinhard R.K. & Gregory James. 2002. Dictionary of Lexicography. London/New York: Routledge.

Lew, Robert & Gilles-Maurice de Schryver. 2014. Dictionary users in the digital revolution. International Journal of Lexicography 27(4): 341–59.

Martin, Willy. 2006. Frame-based lexicons and the making of dictionaries. In: Corino, Elisa, Carla Marello and Cristina Onesti (eds): Proceedings XII EURALEX International Congress. Congresso Internazionale di Lessicografia. Vols. 1 & 2. Alessandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, Vol. 1: 281–93.

Müller-Spitzer, Carolin (ed.). 2014. Using Online Dictionaries (Lexicographica. Series Maior 145). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Nesi, Hilary. 2000. The Use and Abuse of EFL Dictionaries. How learners of English as a foreign language read and interpret dictionary entries. (Lexicographica. Series Maior 98). Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.

Töpel, Antje. 2014. Review of research into the use of electronic dictionaries. In: Müller-Spitzer, Carolin (ed.). 2014. Using Online Dictionaries (Lexicographica. Series Maior 145). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 13–54.

Welker, Herbert A. 2008. Lexicografia Pedagógica: Definições, história, peculiaridades. In: Xatara, Claudia, Cleci Bevilacqua and Philippe Humblé (eds): Lexicografia Pedagógica: Pesquisas e Perspectivas. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina; NUT – Núcleo de Tradução, p. 9-45.



Phd Student(s)


Rove Chishman

Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS), São Leopoldo, Brazil