13 - Online dictionaries
"From this last dream he awakens with the most unpleasant feelings; and yet it is a masochistic wish-dream, which might be translated: It would serve me right if my brother were to make that sale against my interests".
Another very important resource that we find on the internet are online dictionaries. It is a further development of CD-ROM dictionaries. The main difference lies in the necessity to access them a more or less permanent connection. If you have a DSL or a fiber-optics line , and therefore you have a constant access to the internet, the whole global network can really be considered a work tool as accessible as the dictionary on your desk.
The advantages as compared to the CD-ROM are, for example, in terms of obsolescence. While CD-ROM is the synchronic photograph of a stage of elaboration of the research on a given phase of evolution of a language, that is "frozen" and described, online dictionary has the advantage of being updated in real time (and updates arrive in our homes without having to wait for newer editions). Moreover, if it is true that you spend to buy a permanent connection, it is also true that you don't have to buy the dictionary, as they are mostly free connections.
Again, even people who don't have advanced technologies, and connect to the network through a standard phone connection (traditional modem and telephone duplex cable) can decide to take notes in a file or a sheet of paper of all the searches to do and then, once a given number is reached, connect and do them all together, cutting connection times to a few minutes.
The advantage of continuous update has its reverse side: a printed text is usually more accurate: before investing time and money in paper publication, usually author and publishers try to have an acceptable product. With the internet as is well-known, anyone can publish her own site (providing she doesn't infringe national or international law), even if she has no counseling, no editor or publisher. If for example I decide today to publish online a siderurgy dictionary - a subject in which my competence is zero - collecting material from the internet here and there, I undoubtedly would succeed in a short time, and would accumulate a lot of authoritative material: but who could guarantee about the quality of my new product? I would be very diffident myself.
In traditional paper publication it is necessary to distinguish between more or less trustworthy publishers; in internet publishing this caution must be all the greater; in some cases it can be defined "self-publishing", making a calque on a Russian word born in the Seventies to describe a unique publishing phenomenon. Then, the Soviet regime would prevent many writers from publishing their own works, and also didn't publish the works of many dead writers that they considered out of line with the then active ideology. Photocopies also were considered outlaw, Xerox machines were rather rare and all controlled by authorities, therefore manuscripts and out-of-catalogue works could neither be copied. Since Russian are very voracious readers, they organized themselves in this way.
When one wished to have a novel circulated, ten people would share tasks. Each would type - with a manual writing machine, of course - one tenth of the novel, trying to make as many copies as possible with carbon copy. Afterwards, they redistributed pages and reassemble them to form 4 or 5 copies of the novel, that started circulating in a clandestine way, sometimes for money, sometimes through payment on account, barters of many kinds ("I give you 'Master and Margarita', you give me four rolls of toilet paper", for example). This phenomenon was known as "samizdat", meaning "self-publishing".
The internet amplifies and spreads such non-philologically accurate editions that, if on the one hand emphasize the democratic importance of the Net, on the other are a potential factor for inaccuracy, imprecision and low reliability. It is necessary to know how to distinguish between levels of reliability of the internet sources and act with due caution. The resource has a formidable value all the same.
Let us start the investigation among online dictionary by the Logos dictionary (www.logosdictionary.org). The Logos dictionary presents itself with a search grid in which it is possible:
- to click on "advanced search" if you want to have a more articulated grid;
- to click on "professional" if you are a professional translator registered in the Logos portal. To register, you need to fill in an electronic form indicating one's linguistic abilities. If you are not registered, you must click on "professional" and then on "register now". You get this page:
As you see, at the end of the form you have a username and a password to access the professional area of the dictionary. Hence you can, not only search the dictionary (also from outside the professional area), but, if you don't find a translatant that you already know, suggest your version to be introduced into the Logos dictionary. Such version is then checked by more expert supervisors, responsible for the many linguistic areas of the dictionary, then approved or rejected. Each time your professional contribution is accepted and built into the Logos dictionary, the source of that entry remains transparent, and what is more the professional's name is inserted in the "credits" page, in which they are inserted in order of merit people that contributed to the dictionary.
If you connect to the Credits paged, you get this view:
As you see, you can search everyone's credits through the parameters:
Moreover, clicking on "all" you get a list of all people who inserted entries ordered by number of inserted entries.
The Logos dictionary is therefore a structure reflecting the democratic organization of the internet: a great resource to receive information, contribution s often indispensable to work, and in which, if you share such a spirit, you may insert one's own contributions to make the other's work easier. All that without any monetary gain by anyone, even if anyone, obviously, can find such a resource economically useful.
The huge virtual community that constitutes the internet is therefore a "site" in which, thanks to the initial generosity of someone - institution or citizen - a chain effect is created that amplifies, multiplies and spreads existing resources. In the next unit we'll see some concrete applications of such resources.
FREUD SIGMUND, L'interpretazione dei sogni, in Opere, vol. 3, Torino, Boringhieri, a cura di C. L. Musatti, 1966.
FREUD SIGMUND, The Interpretation Of Dreams, translated by A. A. Brill, London, G. Allen & company, 1913.
1 Freud 1900: 151.