Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., Is Available on the Web
After serving the Columbia community for the past two years on only a few terminals and in plain-text, the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., (OED2) is now available on the Web for full-text searching.
|James A.H. Murray, Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, in his "Scriptorium" (ca. 1880).|
The OED2 is of course the most complete historical record of the English language. Any description of it begins to sound like its entry in the Guinness Book: the largest dictionary of the English language, containing 615,000 word forms with 139,900 pronunciations, 219,000 etymologies, and 2,436,600 quotations.
The history of the OED parallels the history of modern publishing. Conceived in 1858 as a project of the Philological Society of England, publication began in 1884 and has continued for more than a century to 1989. In 1879, Sir James Murray, the primary editor of the OED, built a "Scriptorium" to house the more than two tons of paper "slips" that formed the raw material of the series. The complete first edition was not published until 1928. And, it wasn't until 1972 that the 4-volume Supplement began to be published.
The Second Edition consolidates the first edition, the 4-volume Supplement, as well as 5,000 new words. However, to publish the OED2 as one uninterrupted set meant the integration of some 22,000 pages of text. The computerization process essential for this integration, along with the foresight of its publishers, culminated in 1984 with the publication of the first CD-ROM version: the 135-pound text became available on a disk weighing a few grams.
Academic Information Systems (AcIS) published the data on the network over two years ago. For the new Web version, Ben Beecher, Analyst/Programmer, has added several new and innovative features, making Columbia's implementation of the OED2 much more complete and useful than has previous been accomplished on the Web:
- The International Phonetic Alphabet is available, which makes the 139,900 pronunciations presentable on the Web.
- The complete list of some 500 abbreviations have been converted and are linked to in every entry.
- The many special characters used, for example, to indicate words as obsolete, are visible for the first time.
By the terms of Columbia's license agreement with Oxford University Press, access to the OED2 is limited to Columbia students, faculty, and staff.