“The extent to which people are using digital dictionaries for South Asian and Middle Eastern languages is expanding rapidly, and technical advances have made using online dictionaries easier and more powerful,” said Tubb, the Anupama and Guru Ramakrishnan Professor, and chair in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC). “Now with a few flicks of their fingers, users can do research that used to take all afternoon.”
Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the project will extend language coverage by the Digital Dictionaries of South Asia—launched in 1999—and enhance the online resources for South Asia and the Middle East for deeper exploration and wider dissemination of dictionary and pronunciation content. Additional languages covered include Kashmiri, Panjabi, Persian, Sindhi, Sinhala, Telugu and Urdu.
The expansion will be crucial to researchers in UChicago’s Division of the Humanities, as well as scholars everywhere. The need for such digital resources is especially acute during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people no longer have easy access to physical libraries, places of study or offices.
The Digital Dictionaries of South Asia currently draws more than seven million searches every year across its 52 dictionaries. “Our international audience of users are voting with their fingers,” said Nye, the project director for the Digital Dictionaries of South Asia and former bibliographer for South Asia for more than three decades.
The complex technology needed to make searching easy is handled by programmers such as Charles Cooney, AM’97, PhD’04. Another essential member of the team, Cooney is also involved in the UChicago’s ARTFL Project for French language dictionaries.
“The technical enhancements to these dictionaries will represent a quantum leap forward in these languages,” said Assoc. Prof. Whitney Cox, a SALC faculty member who uses three or four of these digital dictionaries daily.