Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a lexicon?

The word lexicon comes from Greek. It means 1) a book containing a list of words and their corresponding definitions or 2) the whole vocabulary of a language or individual speaker. Personal Lexicon embodies both of these definitions, but also adds themes, tests, and other tools to help you organize and remember vocabulary items.

What languages does Personal Lexicon support?

The user interface for Personal Lexicon has been translated into five languages: French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and English. However, as long as you know one of these languages then you can use Personal Lexicon to learn just about any language you want. The program stores your data using UTF-8 character encoding, which means that you can create lexicons in Russian, Chinese, Hindi, Italian, or any other language that is supported by Java. With Personal Lexicon's ability to define custom lexical types and conjugations, you should have no problem creating a lexicon specifically targeted for the language you're learning. The one caveat is that currently Personal Lexicon only displays text from left to right. This is only an issue if you're learning a language that prohibits this style of writing (ex. Arabic).

What are the differences between the registered and non-registered versions?

The unregistered version of Personal Lexicon is fully functional when it comes to building, maintaining, and sharing lexicons. You can also create and manage tests. However, the unregistered version will only display the first 3 questions when taking or printing a test. Also, lexical item printouts are limited to 3 items at a time.

Aren't words and lexical items the same thing?

Most of the time the answer is probably yes, but that depends entirely on what language you're learning and what type of vocabulary you want to focus on. Sometimes a lexical item is an expression or a phrase, not a single word. Plus, depending on the language, the exact definition of a word can be fuzzy. With custom lexical types you choose how to categorize lexical items yourself.

What's a lexical type?

A lexical type is a category of lexical items that share certain characteristics. Lexical types are usually defined to include a language's parts of speaks (aka word category) plus other common structures that the learner wants to focus on like expressions or colloquialisms. In English, the parts of speech are noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. In Korean determiners and particles are also included in this list. Although some categories are always disputed for a given language, it's usually important to know how a word or lexical item is classified in order to use it properly. For example, nouns typically inflect a certain way to form the plural while verbs conjugate based on the subject. Personal Lexicon allows you to define these careerist yourself or you can simply use the built in lexical types.

Can I create a lexicon with definitions in the same language that I'm trying to learn?

Yes. If you're able to write a short definition for a given lexical item in the language that you're learning then you're encouraged to so do. This will allow you to generate definition and multiple choice tests that contain questions exclusively in the target language. However, using the primary definition field to do this can make it difficult to search the lexical item list when using the native language view. Additionally, sometimes it's very useful to be able to quickly search for a word in your native language. Therefore, it's recommended that you use the alternate definition field for definitions in the target language while the primary definition field continues to contain definitions in your native language. This way you get the benefits of both approaches and the length of alternate definitions isn't an issue. To turn on the alternate definition field open the Lexicon Properties dialog under the File menu, select the Other tab, and check the appropriate checkbox. This causes the Alternate Definition field to be visible when editing lexical items.

What's the difference between a definition and a definition entry?

A lexical item definition contains all possible meanings that the item can have while a definition entry is a particular meaning. In other words, a definition contains one or more definition entries, each one separated by a semicolon. When generating definition or multiple choice tests you may choose to show the entire definition or just one definition entry with each test question. For more information see Definitions and definition syntax in the manual.

I'm entering words that have a lexical gender. How can I mark which gender a word has?

To record the gender of a lexical item you need to ensure that the item is assigned a lexical type that defines genders. Once this is done, you will see a gender dropdown field when editing lexical items of this type. If the lexical type is defined such that gender is a required field then you won't be allowed to exit editing mode until a gender is assigned. When finished editing, the gender abbreviation will appear at the top of the lexical item display panel next to the item text. If you need to add a list of genders to a lexical type that doesn't have any defined then open the Lexicon Properties dialog under the File menu and double click on the appropriate lexical type in the list of types. This will bring up the Lexical Type dialog where you can add genders, lexical classes, conjugation forms, or inflection rules.

Should I enter an expression or compound phrase as a separate lexical item or combine it with an existing item?

The answer to this question depends on how you want to structure your lexicon, how frequently you might use the expression or phrase, and how distinct it is from it's parts. As an example, let's look at the Spanish expression tener prisa. Tener is a verb that means to have while prisa is a noun meaning hurry or haste. Put together they mean to be in a hurry. Now, you could add a new lexical item for tener prisa or you could simply include it in the comments of the lexical item tener (or prisa) assuming that item already exists. If you do the latter then you might also add a personal example that uses the expression. The choice you make depends on how important the expression tener prisa is to you and how difficult it is to remember. Assuming your native language is English then perhaps "to have hurry" is hard for you to remember and therefore you want to create a separate lexical item for it. On the other hand, if you're a moderately advanced Spanish student then you know tener is used in a lot of situations where to be is used in English and therefore, this phrase might not be much problem as long as you remember the word prisa. In this case, maybe adding some comments and a personal example to the lexical item prisa is sufficient. However, remember that by not creating a new lexical item you are giving up the ability to assign synonyms and antonyms. In this case, you could assign the synonyms estar apurado and apurarse to tener prisa. In the end, you have to decide yourself which expressions or phrases are important enough to demand a new lexical item.

The Conjugation tab contains the wrong conjugation forms. How do I fix this?

To change the conjugation forms for 1 or more lexical types go to the Lexicon Properties dialog by selecting Lexicon Properties under the File menu. From here you have 2 options. If you didn't select the correct language template when you created the lexicon then you can do it now. Assuming the language you're learning is represented by one of the templates, this action should configure the lexical types so that they have the proper conjugation forms. However, if your language isn't one of the available templates or you're configuring a custom lexical type then you will need to add conjugation forms manually. To do this double click on the lexical type within the list. This action will open the lexical type edit dialog. On the Inflection tab make sure that Conjugation is the selected method of inflection. From here you can add or change conjugation categories and forms. For more help defining a custom lexical type see the manual.

How can I find out when a lexical item was last modified?

When viewing a lexical item you can display the date it was last modified by clicking on its creation date. This will cause the date shown to change to the last modified date. Repeating the action will once again display the creation date.

Can I change the way a lexical item is sorted?

If a lexical item is made up of more than one word then you can choose which word should be used to sort the item in the lexical item list. In edit mode, place the cursor within the word you want to sort by and press F1. This will cause the first letter (or character) in the word to be underlined. Upon exiting edit mode the lexical item will now be sorted by the word you selected. Note, to again sort the lexical item by its first word simply press ESC.

What happens if I delete or change a lexical item that's used in a test question?

In general, it's a bad idea to delete lexical items unless they were entered by mistake. If you've learned a lexical item sufficiently and don't want it to appear in any more tests then it's best to simply make it inactive. However, if you do delete an item that is already contained in a test then the next time you take that test it will have one less question. Also, the test's integrity score will decrease.

Why can't I generate a usage or synonym/antonym test?

Both usage tests and synonym/antonym tests require lexical items containing certain data. Usage tests require lexical items with personal examples while synonym/antonym tests require items that have synonyms and/or antonyms assigned. If the pool of lexical items that you are using to create questions with doesn't have this data then you will be unable to create such a test. More commonly, you might be able to create a test, but without the desired number of questions. Remember, requesting that a test contain 20 questions doesn't necessarily mean that it will happen, even if it generates successfully. Be sure to pay attention to the number of selected items that the test is drawing from. This number is shown in the test generation dialog next to the number of questions that you're requesting.

How does the program recognize different forms of the same word in my personal examples?

If you chose one of the predefined templates when creating your lexicon you may be surprised later to find that different forms of the same lexical item are automatically recognized and underlined within your personal examples. In an english lexicon this means that the word dogs will be recognized when used in a personal example of the lexical item dog. In a spanish lexicon, if you enter the adjective alto, meaning tall, then other valid forms of the word will also be recognized such as alta, the feminine form, altos, the plural form, and altas, the feminine plural form. This is the case because the spanish template contains inflection rules for certain lexical types. When these rules are applied to the root word then variations of the word can be identified. For more on inflection rules and how to define them see the manual.

I have a lexical item that has irregular inflection forms. How can make the program recognize them in my personal examples?

Sometimes inflection rules aren't sufficient to identify various forms of a lexical item because it inflects in irregular ways. If such a form is used in a personal example then it won't be underlined, hence, the example can't be used in a usage test because the program doesn't know what part of the personal example should be extracted. To remedy this you can manually underline the irregular form by selecting the appropriate text with the mouse and pressing F1. You can also use this technique to underline separated parts of the lexical item. For example, an english student might enter the phrasal verb check out, meaning take a look at or examine. If the student enters a personal example using check out in its simple form then the program will automatically recognize and underline it (i.e. "I'm going to check out that store."). However, usually a noun or pronoun separates these two words (i.e. check it out or check that out). In these situations the program can't recognize the lexical item so you must underline the two words manually. Using F1 you can underline both words without including the middle word. To clear any manually underlined words press ESC. This will revert the personal example to auto-underlining.

Can I print lexical items grouped by theme?

Yes. Grouping lexical items by theme within a printout is quite useful when you want to study lists of related words. To print by theme, first you need to select which ones you want to print. On Windows, you can select multiply themes by clicking on each one while simultaneously holding down the Control key. On Mac, use the Apple key to do this. When finished, go to the File menu. Here you may notice that the Print option has changed to Print by Theme. Selecting it will initiate the printout. If the Print by Theme option is grayed out then you have selected a system theme (i.e. [All] or [Unassigned]). To continue, unselect any system themes and try again.

Why can't I export tests when exporting a group of lexical items?

You cannot export tests when exporting a group of lexical items. This option is only available when exporting an entire lexicon. An option to export tests could be available including in a future release. If this feature is important to you then feel free to let us know by sending an email to

Should I import a file into my lexicon if I don't know where it came from?

It is not dangerous to initiate an import even if you don't know where the import file came from. The import process will not irreversibly alter your lexicon without asking your permission beforehand. If the import file contains lexical types that are not contained in your lexicon then the program will ask you what you want to do with them. They will not be added automatically. In this way you can choose to import a file even if you're not sure what type language data it contains. If you have a Russian lexicon and the file turns out to have data for German then you can simply cancel the import when you see that the lexical types don't match. The program will also prompt you what you want to do when a duplicate lexical item is encountered, i.e. the import file contains an item that already exists in your lexicon. Here you have the option of overwriting the item in your lexicon with the new item, leaving the existing item alone and not importing the new item, or merging the 2 items in such a way that nothing about the existing item is overwritten. It's important to note that once you've resolved all conflicts and the import is finished then you cannot undo the entire import. However, you can review the all lexical items that have been imported and delete any that you wish.

Can I share a lexicon with someone using the same computer or someone on a network?

Although the intent of this software is to build an individualized lexicon, it is possible to share a lexicon with other users on the same computer. However, if you use different login accounts then whomever creates the lexicon will need to manually move it from their home directory to the directory where the program resides. After that, all users will need to make sure that they execute the program from this single location. In order to move a lexicon, first create a directory called "Personal Lexicons" at this location. After that, go to your home directory, open the "Personal Lexicons" folder, and find the folder that corresponds to the lexicon you want to share. Move it from your home directory to the "Personal Lexicons" folder you just created. That's it, you're done. Now all users will be able to open this lexicon and any changes they make will be seen by the other users. Note that if you're unable to find your home directory or you're unsure about which folder in the "Personal Lexicons" directory you should move then you can easily find this information by selecting Manage Lexicons from under the File menu. From here, find the lexicon that you wish to move and double click on it. Doing so will show you its location. Finally, you can follow these same instructions to share a lexicon on a network, however this is strongly discouraged against because this could causes unforeseen problems if two users modify the same lexicon simultaneously.

I lost my license key. How can I recover it?

If you lose your registration key then you can request that it be sent to you again. Simply send email to from the email account that you used to register. Put "license key re-request" as the subject and we will resend your license key within 48 hours.