Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   


From:The Gray Wizard <dbell@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 19, 2000, 23:41
Is anyone on the list using Shoebox from SIL for lexicon management.  I
started playing with it a few days ago and what a joy!  My approach was to
import some amman iar sentences and have Shoebox attempt interlinear
translation.  In the process, I would enter the required roots and affixes
(both derivational and inflectional) into the lexicon, thereby "training"
the parser.  I was amazed at how quickly the parser became "smart" enough to
"automagically" create interlinear parses with dwindling intervention by
yours truly.  It only took a few texts for the parser to learn most of the
derivational and inflectional system requiring me only to add new roots as
they were encountered.  This despite the fact that my language, amman iar,
has some significant morphophonemic challenges.  It was a breeze to encode
the lexicon with the necessary morphophonemic rules (although it would have
been nice to define these globally rather than redundantly for each effected
affix).  I'm not sure the results would be as satisfying for a heavily
fusional language, but for highly agglutinating languages such as amman iar,
it really is quite good.

I recommend this tool to all conlangers.  Do work through the
"walk-through", however, before attempting to enter your own lexicon.  I
also recommend the approach that I took.  One could laboriously enter all
the lexicon including derivational and inflexional infixes before attempting
interlinearization, but that method requires deferring gratification until
all the work is done.  "A dream deferred is like a raisin in the sun...".
Feeding it texts and training it as you go will show some very rapid results
and give you a real appreciation of the tool.

Here's a brief example of the interlinear parse generated.  Note how well it
handles the morphophonemic rules.  I entered the \t line, Shoebox generated
the \m, \g and \p lines.  I later added the \f line.

i dhraug vasamald ergabedhel eleth
The vicious wolf pounced.

\t i   dhraug-0   vasamald
\m i   draug -0   ve-   as=         amald
\g the wolf  -[S] desc- complement= gentle
\p DET N     -ABS ADJ-  PREF=       N
\f the wolf       vicious

\t ergabedhel              eleth
\m er-  cabedo  -e   -l    el        -eth
\g do-  jump    -agt -actn assertive -past
\p AGT- V       -VAL -VC   MOOD      -TENSE
\f pounce                  did

David E. Bell

The Gray Wizard

‘Yes, I think I shall express the accusative case by a prefix!’

A memorable remark! …Just consider the splendour of the words!   ‘I shall
express the accusative case.’  Magnificent!  Not ‘it is expressed’ nor even
the more shambling ‘it is sometimes expressed’, nor the grim ‘you must learn
how it is expressed’.  What a pondering of alternatives within one’s choice
before the final decision in favour of the daring and unusual prefix, so
personal, so attractive; the final solution of some element in a design that
had hitherto proved refractory.  Here were no base considerations of the
‘practical’, the easiest for the ‘modern mind’, or for the million – only a
question of taste, a satisfaction of a personal pleasure, a private sense of

(from The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays - A Secret Vice,
by J.R.R. Tolkien [Houghton Mifflin Company 1984])