Online dictionaries leaving books on the shelf

Academics and researchers from across Europe are getting together in a COST Action to study how the internet has completely changed the way we use dictionaries.

The digital age has revolutionised our use of dictionaries. Rather than consult a heavyweight tome from a bookshelf, we are far more likely to look up a word on the web and follow the result to an online dictionary resource.

This change in habit has, in turn, inspired further study and investigation across Europe that COST is helping to enhance. The European Network of e-Lexicography (ENeL) is a COST Action that has linked up lexicographers and helped share knowledge on this issue as it has evolved in recent years.

ENeL has successfully united lexicographers, researchers and arguably the most important group in this field – the end users of dictionaries themselves. A survey conducted across 29 countries and 26 languages, the first of its kind on such a scale, is just one of the ways in which the switch from using printed to online dictionaries has been assessed, thanks to COST.

“For me, the highlights have been establishing links between lexicographers to facilitate knowledge transfer across Europe,” says Dr Iztok Kosem, from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ljubljana and the Vice-Chair of ENeL. “Various external events organised by the Action, like training schools and workshops, including one co-organised with another COST Action called PARSEME , have proved to be invaluable."

“These events are a very useful and efficient mechanism of carrying out one of the main aims of COST, namely the transfer of knowledge and experience of experienced researchers to early career investigators.”

Dr Kosem led the core research team for the survey of dictionary use, conducted in the summer of 2017. It compared the use of dictionaries in different European countries, as well as comparing the attitudes to dictionaries by different types of users across the continent. Without COST’s help, Dr Kosem says that this groundbreaking piece of work could not have been carried out.

“Thanks to the networking opportunities presented by the Action, we were able to organise and conduct the survey. I cannot imagine even thinking about the survey, never mind finding the relevant people, without ENeL!”

The four working groups of ENeL helped the Action’s members to look at a wide range of issues involved in the evolution of how dictionaries are produced and used across Europe, as Dr Kosem enthuses: “One of the advantages of ENeL has been its diversity. Each working group has attracted different types of lexicographers and researchers, both experienced and those who are just starting out in their careers. This gave ideal opportunities to exchange practices and ideas, gain new skills and discuss problematic topics.”

And according to Dr Kosem, the spirit of pan-European collaboration begun by ENeL is set to continue.

“Nurturing the network, mainly in the form of joint projects between lexicographers and institutions from different countries, is next on the agenda,” he adds. “Applications have already been written and submitted during the Action, and more are planned.”

One example of their fruitful collaboration is the succesful application for the Horizon 2020 project ELEXIS (European Lexicographic Infrastructure).


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Last updated: 26 February 2018 top of page