25 Jan 2001 wen   » (Observer)

An idea to bring together all the different people and all the spoken/written languages in the world:

A universal dictionary that focuses on the meaning rather than the word. A dictionary that gives a universally unique ID to a very specific definition/concept that is normally represented by a word. Then different words from different languages that matches precisely to the meaning will be referenced to it, with similar/related terms also referenced to it. In any case, the definition is explained in every language possible, but not every language needs to have a word that represents the definition. For example, the French word terroir, as I understand, has no precise equivalent in the English language, or the Japanese word umami, for a taste that is imparted by MSG, doesn't have equivalents in most other languages either. We can possibly explain it, but some language somewhere in the world has a concise term for it.

Why should we try to do this? Well, my reasoning is to have this dictionary available to be almost like a modern day rosetta stone that will allow us to translate information and understand each other more easily. With a dictionary such as this, the definition, and not the word is the focus, and therefore it is less likely that things "get lost in the translation" or lose their significance in context through time (Actually, I think I'm probably wrong on both of these).

The dictionary will also be extremely self-dependent and recursive (meaning, the terms to be used to do the explanations will need to refer to other entries in the dictionary, and at some point, you need to have intrinsic words that are simple and atomic in concept)

Some of the problems would obviously be political and how to differentiate subtle meaning differences and how to handle imprecise and precise synonyms (meaning completely the same meaning or slightly different meanings).

This dictionary can be very useful because unlike normal dictionaries that try to match words, it will match meanings, and therefore be much more precise. It can be used for programming, for example, where words can be easily substituted for a different language by using that language's word/representation for that meaning, and the program only needs to specify which meaning to use in its place. There are a few caveats here too, of course...but for the most part, I think it could work pretty well.

Oh, FYI, my idea was inspired by reading this article on xml.com

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