Friday, November 20, 2009

Google, but Yandex too: a one-stop language resource

Link to Yandex Dictionary home page

Google has dominated the English part of the internet for such a long time now, that  Western linguists often overlook tools and resources provided by search engines locally.

In Russian, one excellent language tool is on the long established search engine (Яндекс). Among the many google-type service categories there is one called Словари (dictionaries). The search window there spans around a hundred general and topical on-line dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Students of Russian and linguists would find particularly useful dictionaries of Russian stresses (a source of numerous wailings!), etymology and synonyms. A side panel on the dictionary page gives instant translation of the word you are looking for into five main European languages plus Ukrainian and Latin. And there is an automated translation option too.

Users of online dictionaries, I am told, sometimes test the completeness and modernity of a given dictionary by checking if it includes 'unprintable expletives'. I am a bit old-fashioned myself and never use them, except for linguistic purposes.  But since the 90-s they are allowed on the internet and often in print. So, I made a search on Yandex dictionaries for the three top Russian unprintables - х.. (the male c word), п....(the female c word) and е/ё....(the f word). None is included anywhere in the listed dictionaries! Luckily, for old hats like myself, the dictionary world is still dominated by 'prudes and prejudice'.

Another test of modernity is to check if anglo-barbarisms that sprung off the internet are there. With a sigh of relief I watched the search bringing 'no results' for the four social networking  words widely used by Russian users of LiveJournal (Лижет or ЖЖ,  as it is referred to by "юзеры"), the most popular blog platform in the country.

френд - friend. No results, with verb forms зафрендить, пофрендиться - to include in the list of friends, разфрендить, отфрендить - drop from the list of friends. It is interesting that the Russian word друг (drug as in Clockwork Orange) has managed to resist being adopted for internet usage, perhaps because of its stronger than in English connotation of closeness, or because of its (also strong) masculine gender assignment.

кат - cut (as in the cutout of a long internet text) only brought the archaic meaning of  палач (executioner)

скрин - screen (as in screening of comments etc., also already verbalised as расскринить - unscreen, заскринить - put behind screen) brought back only a regional listing from Dahl's (Даль) dictionary - South Russian/Ukrainian короб, ларец (box, small trunk).

бан - ban (as in blocking someone from seeing or following your blog) only provided a list of Chinese and other Asian historical figures.

It is possible, that some resources are not listed there. I could not find a frequency resource for example, nor a dictionary where words are grouped by their endings. But the convenience of having a one-stop shop for words and reference is very attractive.

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