WWP The Project Newsletter Archive Volume 2, Number 1 Linguistics in Action

Linguistics in Action at the WWP

by Jacque Russom, Consulting Linguist
and Karen Murphy, Project Administrator and Newsletter Editor

A new project being developed at the WWP involves a novel relationship between the Women Writers Project and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The project seeks to develop a system for associating words in an historical English textbase (the WWP textbase) with a 'search term' that will unify the numerous variant spellings. Variant spellings will be linked to a normalized word that scholars might utilize to initiate a search. Once accomplished, this capability will enable scholars and lexicographers to conduct searches, create concordances, trace changes in meaning and usage of individual words or collocations. This will greatly enhance the functionality of the WWP textbase.

The spelling research and indexing of the textbase will also serve as a proofreading pass through the data. Frequency statistics on the distribution of particular spellings will identify anomalous words to be tagged or corrected.

This project is being organized by our consulting linguist, Jacque Russom, who has been volunteering her time at the WWP. Ms. Russom has worked with Language Systems, Inc. and Houghton Mifflin Co. to develop the spell-check system currently used by Microsoft Word. Ms. Russom currently is facilitating the relationship between OED and the WWP.

The WWP has agreed to an arrangement whereby the OED will have access to the WWP textbase for lexicographical research. In return, the WWP will be able to use the materials and methodologies being developed for conducting linguistic and lexicographical research -- especially on historical texts -- and will have OED technical assistance in making the textbase a useful electronic resource for scholars.

The OED editors are very eager to incorporate the WWP texts in their current revisions cycle for the dictionary (a new edition is to be published in 2005). These texts are useful to the OED in several ways:

The WWP textbase has been delivered to OED and they have modified the headers so that the OED search engine (Open Text's PAT) will associate appropriate bibliographical information with retrieved text. OED lexicographers will soon begin researching these materials along with their other source texts. The WWP will be notified of all citations or other uses to be made of the textbase and will provide permission or corrections on a case by case basis.

The Project | The Texts | Research and Encoding
Contact | Site Index | Northeastern University