Creating and Configuring Lexicons

To create a new lexicon, go to the File menu and select the New Lexicon menu option.  This opens the New Lexicon dialog which is used to configure various lexicon properties.  At the top of the dialog are text fields where you can enter the lexicon name as well as the names of the languages you'll be using.  Language 1 refers the language that will be used for lexical item translations. 1  This is typically your native language (probably English), but it doesn't have to be.  Language 2 always refers to the language you're learning.  By default these two languages are named Native Language and Target Language. Change them as you like along with the lexicon's name.

The next thing to setup is the list of lexical types. Lexical types are used to categorize lexical items into groups that share certain characteristics. Every lexical item that you enter into your lexicon will be assigned a lexical type. You can define the lexical types however you wish, but they should typically include the major parts of speech of the target language. For example, all languages have nouns, verbs, and adjectives, so it's recommended that they always be included in the list. Many languages also have adverbs. After that however, the parts of speech for different languages are much more variable. For instance, Latin and Germanic languages have prepositions, but Japanese and Korean have particles, which are type of postposition, not a type of preposition.

You might not want to include all parts of speech in your lexical type list. For example, conjunctions are considered a separate part of speech in most languages, but they are typically few in number. Having an other lexical type as a catch all for such lexical items is usually a good idea. Additionally, even though expressions are not technically a part of speech, they are crucial for everyday communication. For this reason, it's highly recommended that you include a lexical type for expressions in your list. But when all is said and done, it's your decision which lexical types you want to include.

If you're learning one of the languages built into Personal Lexicon then you don't have to define the list of lexical types from scratch. Instead, you can use the appropriate language template. By default, the New Lexicon dialog uses the language template of the currently selected user interface language. You'll see the name of this language in blue directly above the list of lexical types. To change the template, click the Language Templates button found in the lower right corner and then select the desired language from the dropdown in the subsequent dialog. Upon clicking the Ok button you'll see a new list of lexical types specifically defined for the language you just selected. You'll also notice that the language name above the list has changed.

Glancing over the lexical types we see that each one has a name (such noun or verb) along with other characteristics. There's an abbreviation of the name, a checkbox for genders, another one for classes, and information about how the lexical type inflects. All of these characteristics are configurable, but usually you don't have to change any of them if you're using one of the language templates. Even so, it's a good idea to have a basic understanding of what these things mean. The abbreviation of the name is obvious. This is used in various places instead of the lexical type's full name. The other characteristics may not be obvious.

If lexical items of a particular type have gender, as is the case with nouns in Latin languages, then the gender checkbox will be checked. Similarly, the class checkbox will be checked if lexical items should be assigned a lexical class. Lexical classes are used to classify lexical items even further and usually impact how the lexical item inflects. For most languages you do not need to be concerned about lexical classes. However, they are useful in languages that have declension (or case) as is true with German. Lastly, the list of lexical types also shows how each one inflects. Inflection refers to how a root word changes based on its use in a sentence. For example, English nouns inflect to form the plural and French verbs inflect based on who performs the action. Therefore, there are 3 possible types of inflection: Conjugation, Inflection Rules, and None. Out of these 3, only Conjugation inflection changes how lexical items are entered into the lexicon. If a lexical item is assign a lexical type that defines conjugations then you'll have the option of entering in the conjugations with the item. However, filling in a lexical item's conjugations is never required.

If you want to use one of the language templates, but prefer slightly different lexical types then you are free to add, remove, or change lexical types as you like. To remove a lexical type, simply select it and click the Remove button. To add a type, start by clicking the Add button. This action displays the New Lexical Type dialog, which is where you enter a name and an abbreviation for the lexical type as well as define its gender, class, and inflection properties. If you don't want to add a new type, but simply want to edit an existing one then select it and click the Details button. This action brings up the Edit Lexical Type dialog, which is identical to the New Lexical Type dialog except that it already contains the lexical type's definition. For more details on adding or editing a lexical type see Defining a lexical type.

Upon changing any of the lexical types, you'll notice the name of the language template above the list changes. If you add a new lexical type or add a gender, lexical class, or conjugation to a type already defined then a plus sign (+) is appended to the template name (ex. "Portuguese+"). This signals that all lexical types for the given language template are included in the current list, but something more has been added as well. Conversely, if you remove a gender, lexical class, or conjugation from one of the predefined lexical types then a minus sign (-) is added to the template name (ex. "Spanish-"). This signifies that the current list of lexical types includes all the types in that language template, but some of them have had parts of their definitions removed. Lastly, if you change the name of one of the lexical types or remove a lexical type from the list altogether then the template name will change to Custom. This indicates that the list of lexical types has been customized to the point that it no longer reflects the original language template.

If a language template doesn't exist for the language you're learning then you'll probably have to define the lexical types yourself, unless you want to use one of the templates defined for another language, but that is discouraged. To begin, you'll need to remove all the lexical types of the default template and then add new lexical types, defining each one as you go.

Once the list of lexical types has been fully defined, you may also want to change configuration options found on the Other tab. Here you'll find information tracking options as well as a list of user-defined geographic regions. If you prefer not to change anything on this tab right now then feel free to ignore it. You can easily change these options at any point in the future. Geographic regions can even be entered on the fly while adding or editing a lexical item. It's more important to adequately define lexical types because changing their definitions after lexical items have been entered can be problematic, although possible. See Reconfiguring a lexicon for more details.


1  If working with a monolingual dictionary then you'll enter definitions instead of translations.