Defining a Lexical Type

If you don't use one of the built in language templates to create your lexicon then you'll need to define your own lexical types. And even if you do use one of the templates you may still want to add an additional lexical type or change how an existing type is defined. The process for doing any of these things is very similar. To add or change a lexical type, you must be in the New Lexicon dialog (or in the Lexicon Properties dialog if you're updating an existing lexicon).

To add a lexical type, select the Lexical Types tab if it's not already selected and click the Add button. This action brings up the New Lexical Type dialog. The first thing to do here is give the lexical type a name and an abbreviation. At this point, you might be done. These are the only two required fields of the dialog. If the lexical type doesn't need genders, lexical classes, or some type of inflection then go ahead and click Add to create the new type. On the other hand, if you need to track gender or class for lexical items of this type then first you'll need to define lists of genders and/or lexical classes using the Gender/Class tab. Additionally, if you want to define conjugations or setup some inflection rules then you'll use the Inflection tab.

For many languages, gender is a common attribute of nouns. Often, nouns are assigned the masculine or feminine gender. Other languages also have a neuter gender and still others define more genders (ex. Polish). To add a gender, click the Add button underneath the list of genders. Each gender you add will need a name and an abbreviation. When editing a lexical item that is assigned a lexical type that defines genders then a dropdown containing those genders will be shown. To assign a gender to the lexical item you will select it from the dropdown.

As you define genders, you'll notice two checkboxes under the list of genders. If the checkbox labeled Assignment Required is checked then you will be forced to assign a gender to each and every lexical item of this type upon entering the item into your lexicon. If the checkbox labeled Some items change gender is checked then you will also mark which lexical items are capable of changing genders. For example, in French, most nouns are assigned a static gender as is the case with bâtiment, which means building. Bâtiment is masculine and never changes gender. The word for friend, ami, is also masculine, but can change to the feminine form, amie, to indicate a female friend. Since you wouldn't want to enter two lexical items for the same word then you would just enter ami and mark it (using a checkbox) as an item that can change gender. Marking the item may impact what forms of the word are recognized (and underlined) in personal examples.

If you need to add lexical classes to the lexical type then the process is very similar to the one just described. Click the Add button underneath the list of lexical classes. As was true when adding a gender, a lexical class requires a name and an abbreviation. Plus, you can make assigning a class to a lexical item a requirement. Classifying items can be for information only or for determining how lexical items are inflected. In the German language template, nouns inflect differently depending on their lexical class. It's important for German language learners to know which inflection class a noun belongs to, otherwise they won't be able to use it properly in all cases.

The Inflection tab is where you define how lexical items of this type inflect, if at all. Inflection refers to how a root word changes based on its use in a sentence. We just saw how the French word ami inflects based on gender. Also, many languages use noun inflection to indicate plural, as is the case in English. English verbs are yet another example of inflection: "I eat spicy food" vs. "He eats spicy food". Here, the verb inflects (or conjugates) based on who is performing the action, i.e. the subject. However, it's worth noting that English verb inflection is simple compared to some other languages. In Latin languages, the subject inflection forms are more distinct, there are more irregularly verbs, and a whole new category of inflection is created by the subjective mood.

Personal Lexicon defines 2 types of inflection: Conjugation and Inflection Rules. A lexical type should define Conjugation inflection if you want to type in the inflected forms yourself. This is usually a good idea if lexical items inflect in complex or unusual ways. Going through the process of typing in the inflection forms can be good practice and can help with memorization. Typically, conjugation inflection is used for verbs, but it might also be a good choice for other lexical types that inflect in unobvious ways, like Japanese adjectives. For details on defining conjugation inflection, see Defining conjugations for a lexical type.

Alternatively, Inflection Rules should be used if lexical items inflect in simple or predictable ways and you don't want to bother typing in the various forms. The purpose of setting up inflection rules is so the program can automatically recognize various forms of a lexical item within personal examples. Only personal examples that contain a recognized form of the lexical item can be used when creating usage tests. For details on setting up inflection rules, see Defining inflection rules for a lexical type.