Sunday, March 04, 2012

Counting words

I remember my first encounter with lexical statistics as if it were only yesterday. Now, you can't get much more romantic than that. Reading the introduction to a dictionary, as we do, in Europe's biggest department store, Das KaDeWe  in Berlin  in 1990, some years before its second innings as the capital of Germany.  it must have been a German-English dictionary and probably by Langenscheidt, perhaps the one pictured here.

The introduction, as I remember it,  spoke about high-frequency words and word combination. Having  made an attempt on the Italian and German in courses that were entirely grammar translation, the thought of eating practical and representing the language as it really is was a bolt.  Or a jolt.  it  atpiqued my curiosity greatly but I had no idea how I would ever follow this up.

Around the same time I was on a train from Berlin to Dresden. A fellow passenger who had just been to a computer trade fair told us of a new type of computer that was soon to come on the market. It would be about the size of an A4 note pad and eminently portable.

There really was a time before laptop computers and lexical statistics for the whole family. However did we survive?

 It must have been in 1991 after doing the Czech as a foreign-language summer school, that I met Karel Pala who very interested in lexical data.

That's how it all started!

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