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Double Decker Definitions: The Role Of Frames In Meaning Explanations

10076 words - 40 pages

Double-decker Definitions: the Role of Frames in Meaning ExplanationsThere are certain kinds of structured background information (or "frames") should be treated as essential components or accompaniments of word definitions.1 For ordinary print dictionaries, the provision of such information would amount to a very large investment. Market limitations on the price of the book or on the size of the budget that can be devoted to a given dictionary project, as well as realistic expectations of the patience of the anticipated users, make it unlikely that one can incorporate even greatly abbreviated frame information into individual dictionary entries. Instead, we should be thinking in terms of a dictionary on compact disk or preferably a web utility with hyperlinks facilitating easy access to the necessary background information. Since a single background frame, entered only once, can serve many word senses, its description could be made accessible from all of the relevant entries; it does not need to occupy space within the text of individual entries. Thus, a dictionary user who did not know about the tradition of the seven-day week should be able to get quick access to the necessary information from the entries of any one of the weekday names or from semantically related words such as week, hebdomad, weekend, and fortnight.Supposing that one can provide such information, how could it become a part of the ordinary dictionary user's experience? The sheer magnitude of a project capable of producing a full registry of frame information precludes the possibility of any single publisher's creating a database of the needed kind, but because such information will ultimately be needed for a great many natural language-processing applications, it should in principle be possible to fund the creation of such a resource by a large (and generous) consortium of academic, governmental, and corporate entities. Because the results of such a "precompetitive" effort would have to be made available to all of the consortium participants, the individual publishers could choose and amplify particular components of it, adapting them to the design of and intended market for particular types of dictionaries-technical dictionaries, children's dictionaries, adult learners' dictionaries, collegiate dictionaries, and so on.In the past, and for very good reasons, dictionaries for ordinary use and dictionaries serving specific specialist domains had to be separate entities. Furthermore, dictionary editors had to make arbitrary decisions on the kinds of encyclopedic information a given dictionary was to include, for example, information having to do with names of persons, places, and historical events, and detailed facts about natural kinds. They then had to make dictionary-local decisions about matters such as whether to include information about a person, place, or event in an entry where the name had acquired a meaning in the regular vocabulary. They also had to decide whether...

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