Acquisition of Lexical Knowledge


Work Area: Computational Lexicography and Lexicology

Keywords machine-readable dictionaries, corpora, semi-automatic construction of lexical resources, lexical databases, multilingual lexical knowledge bases

Start Date: 1 August 92 / Duration: 36 months / Status: running

[ participants / contact ]

Abstract ACQUILEX-II is a continuation and extension of ACQUILEX (BRA-3030). ACQUILEX is concerned with the acquisition of lexical knowledge for natural language processing systems, semi-automatically from machine-readable versions of conventional dictionaries (MRDs) for English, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. The long-term goal of this research is the construction of a substantial integrated multilingual lexical knowledge base for natural language processing. ACQUILEX-II will undertake theoretical research on such multilingual knowledge bases complemented, via the inclusion of dictionary publishing partners, by further work facilitating the development of substantial and high-quality dictionary databases which will form the basis for the next generation of lexical knowledge bases and conventional dictionaries.


The project builds on and extends the results achieved in ACQUILEX by continuing research on theoretical issues in the design of lexicons and constructing further and more substantial monolingual and multilingual knowledge base fragments on the basis of a mixture of MRDs and manual encoding. At the same time, the project intends to make considerable use of corpora as a further source of data for the semi-automatic construction of lexical resources. Substantial quantities of textual and spoken-transcribed corpora are rapidly becoming available within the academic and dictionary publishing communities. Whilst MRDs provide a highly-structured and focused source of lexical data, substantial corpora can supplement this information with information concerning usage, frequency, and so forth. The proposed project will develop the software tools required to enable efficient use of corpora and will utilise them in the development of dictionary databases and the lexical knowledge base. In addition, we plan to tap the expertise of professional lexicographers and of the dictionary publishing industry far more directly in the new project in the investigation of theoretical issues and by transfering the tools, techniques and insights of computational lexicology and lexicography to that community.

Approach and Methods

Work on ACQUILEX can be divided into two areas: the development of a methodology and the construction of software tools to create lexical databases from MRDs and the subsequent construction of illustrative theoretically-motivated, lexical knowledge base fragments from these databases, using a further set of software tools designed to integrate, enrich and formalise the database information. The emphasis of effort in ACQUILEX was on the development of lexical databases from MRDs and the design and implementation of a lexical representation language to underpin the lexical knowledge base. In this project, the emphasis is on the exploitation of these databases and the lexical knowledge base framework in the construction of more and more substantial lexicon fragments, and on the investigation of theoretical issues in lexicon design within the context of the unique research environment provided by the lexical databases and analysed corpora.

Progress and Results

Work is proceeding as planned and the first year deliverables are either on schedule or will be exceeded. A more sophisticated lexical representation language capable of dealing with more complex defeasible phenomena, such as blocking, has been developed and a formal semantics for this formalism specified. Corpus analysis tools have been developed for collocational analysis and lexical tagging. Further multilingual lexicon fragments exemplifying these developments are being constructed.


The project aims to foster productive collaboration between the computational linguistic and lexicographical community. We envisage that the proposed research and training activities will contribute to improvements in the quality of (particularly bi/multilingual and learners') dictionaries, to improvements in the productivity of the dictionary publishing industry and will provide impetus to electronic publishing initiatives, in addition to the central goal of producing a multilingual lexical knowledge base which can be deployed in habitable and practical natural language processing applications.

Latest Publications

Information Dissemination Activies

The project plans to hold a workshop in the autumn to report first-year results to a wider audience. A number of publications have appeared or will appear. The project software is distributed on a limited basis for research purposes.


University of Cambridge - UK
Computer Laboratory
Pembroke Street
UK - Cambridge, CB2 3QG


Universidad Politecnica de Catalunya - E
Biblograf - E
Instituto di Linguistica Computazionale, CNR - I
Università di Pisa - I
Universiteit van Amsterdam - NL
Van Dale Lexicografie - NL
Cambridge University Press - UK


Dr. E.J. Briscoe
tel +44/223 334616
fax +44/223 334748

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ACQUILEX II - 7315, August 1994

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html version of synopsis by Nick Cook