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Redefining the dictionary - Erin McKean


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Is the beloved paper dictionary doomed to extinction? In this infectiously exuberant talk, leading lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the many ways today's print dictionary is poised for transformation. As the CEO and co-founder of new online dictionary Wordnik, Erin McKean is reshaping not just dictionaries but how we interact with language itself.

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McKean argues that most online dictionaries are simply “paper thrown up on a screen.” She acknowledges that some web sites enable users to submit words but feels that they are “not scientific enough. They show the word, but they don’t show any context. Where did it come from? Who said it? What newspaper was it in? What book?”Compare several online dictionaries and word-collecting sites. Which are the best in your opinion? What features are most interesting, innovative, and/or helpful? Create a set of reviews, and share it with your classmates via your school’s web site, newspaper, or another means. Candidates include:VisuWords Dictionary Dictionaries Online Visual Dictionary Online (the dictionary McKean founded) believes that the Internet can support a “citizen science” approach to lexicography, enabling a large community of users to spot and document “un-dictionaried” words. Working together with classmates, begin a list of “un-dictionaried” words that you notice in media reports, TV shows, song lyrics, and everyday conversations around you.Erin McKean’s “The Word” columns inThe Boston Globe

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