How does digitization change dictionaries? Edit

An obvious improvement in bilingual digital lexica is that by design they can support dynamic multi-scope targeted searches and individualized organization of the data (or subsets thereof), whereas a print lexicon can be organized in only one direction. Electronic dictionaries can more easily be updated and keep up with linguistic changes such as neologisms and semantic drift. They also allow for expansion and customization by readers themselves. Furthermore, we often see a single search interface or framework application which can query several different databases, and individual dictionaries can be included or installed as need dictates. Advanced search tools can not only link the lemmata between two languages but also return any lexical entry that contains the search term somewhere in the definition, example sentence or any other data field. To aid with searching, many lexicons can suggest corrections of misspelled terms, show possible continuations and do simple word-root stemming which can be very helpful to users who are not familiar with affixes. Some digital lexica also allow for multi-level logically connected search terms (using the operators AND, OR, NOT, and so on) and a few even permit full-fledged regular expressions, which is a system for evaluating patterns of character strings, with its own grammar, conventions and user community. Thus, the reverse dictionary has now been made superfluous, and concordances can be more or less completely automatically generated. In short, restraints that had been imposed by the need for conciseness in the old medium have become less forbidding.

The calculator-size handheld devices which had their heyday over the past few decades have largely become replaced by smartphone apps. At the cutting edge of these, Word Lens (, not currently available for Chinese) provides immediate character recognition and auto-translation of any text photographed with the phone’s camera. Thus, dictionary systems and related lexical tools have recently been improving rapidly, becoming more comprehensive, faster and including many new functions.  However, when we look under the hood of today's real world implementations, things get significantly more complicated.