The Best English Dictionary App

The best English dictionary app for Android could easily be Merriam-Webster. I wholeheartedly recommend it to all students and learners. These are the reasons.

Fair Price

Yes, I’m referring to the paid version of Dictionary – Merriam-Webster. There is a free version as well, but why bother when the app costs only $2.99. Compare that with other app dictionaries in Google Play Market, and you will immediately see why this is a clear win. Kudos to Merriam-Webster for making their English dictionary available to the learners who cannot afford overpriced editions of other publishers.

Functional Design

The Merriam-Webster application is clean, modern and functional. Type in the word to get brief explanations (if you only need to refresh your memory, just look here). Scroll down to see detailed definitions. Flick left or right to browse your past words. A menu reveals favourites and Word of the Day. If in Dictionary, tap the clearly visible T button to switch to Thesaurus (yes, it has thesaurus as well!), and tap D to return. Tap the words throughout the app to jump to a new heading.

Rich in Linguistic Content

Merriam-Webster app offers a dictionary page with brief and full definitions (idioms,  phrasal verbs, pronunciation…), many origins, synonyms and antonyms, usage notes. As previously mentioned, it has Thesaurus as well, fully integrated with the definitions and grouped by synonyms, related words, near antonyms and antonyms.

Dictionary that Works Offline

As expected, the paid version works offline. However, there is a restriction: prerecorded pronunciation will play only online (but, I don’t think this is a big issue).

To conclude, Dictionary – Merriam-Webster is an excellent app to learn and improve your English language. I recommend it to all people who need a decent offline dictionary/thesaurus on their phones and tablets.

FONRYE English Dictionary: Phonetic and Syllable Search

It’s not always possible to find a good searchable phonetic dictionary. That is why I created a free and open source program that searches phonetically transcribed words and filters the results against some basic rules. It uses BEEP and Moby Hyphenator II sources.

Download: FONRYE 0.3.3 (2.2 MB)

In this post: why phonetic dictionary search, what is FONRYE, download and search, settings and results, credits.

Why I needed a searchable phonetic dictionary

For several month I have been working on my M.A. in experimental phonetics. One of the prerequisites is an acceptable corpus. My work is about the English diphthongs. However, diphthongs have to be pronounced after voiced plosives and before voiced/unvoiced plosives, and the words containing diphthongs should preferably be monosyllabic.

Making a corpus is not an easy task and it involves a painstaking search for suitable material. I had no searchable phonetic dictionary of any sort (a version of Macmillan Advanced Dictionary refused to work). It was a pure luck, then, to come across a paper where the bibliography listed one interesting source:  University of Cambridge public FTP server. That is where I found BEEP and MH2 and decided to compile my own searchable dictionary, hopefully usable for the making the corpus.

What FONRYE is, and what it is not

FONRYE (named after fonetski rječnik in Serbian) is a very simple program (or script, if you like) written in Python 2.6. It is a specific piece of software I created for personal use: to search for diphthongs in a phonetic context. It does not have any fancy search rules or regular expression syntax. The plan was to use regexp, but it was very slow to run – I guess it can be improved if needed. So, please bear in mind that it was not planned for releasing: the code may contain strange comments, bad spelling etc.

Its settings are contained in the script itself, in 4 lines of code, which will be explained later. Here’s an example:

before = ('m', 'n', 'r', 'l' ),
after = sounds['voiceless'] + sounds['voiced'],
diphthongs = sounds['diphthongs'],
syllable = 0

The user enters desired search conditions, executes the program, which then saves the results in a folder, accompanied by a short info.

FONRYE phonetic dictonary search
FONRYE phonetic dictonary search, code view

How to use FONRYE

  1. On Windows/Mac: Download Python, but a version lower than 3.0. The version 2.6 is preferred. On Linux: You already have Python installed, but make sure you have an “old” version as well (again, prior to the version 3).
  2. Download FONRYE files, and unpack them. Please make sure you do not delete ‘results’ folder or the program will not work. On Windows go to Start menu and find IDLE inside Python folder. On Linux: Use any plain text editor which supports code editing, such as gedit. Or, install Python IDLE from your OS repository. Edit file run.py, enter your settings and save the file. Finally, run the program (double click run.py or press F5 in IDLE).
  3. The program will start the search, and after it finishes the results will be in results/fonyre_results_n, where n is the search counter.

Settings and results format

In the step 3 above you opened run.py file. Here is how to enter the “settings”. First, locate these lines:

before = (),
after = (),
diphthongs = ()
syllable = 0

Do not modify anything except content inside the brackets and syllable number (that is, unless you are familiar with programming). By the way, syllable = 0 means words with 1 syllable, syllable = 1 with 2 syllables etc. Enter your phonemes in the brackets. For example, the settings:

before = ('b', 'd'),
after = ('p', 't'),
diphthongs = ('ay',)
syllable = 0

…will search for all words containing diphthong ay (IPA: aɪ) if the diphthong is between b/d and p/t. After the search is done, go to ‘results/fonrye_search’ folder and locate search_info.txt (here is a vowel search info, a sample) – that is info about your search, including unique mark (ID) placed in all result files to keep track of the searches/results. The folder ‘files’ is where your searches are placed. For the provided sample search the program produced the following file/results:

# uniqueid-dzzic
BIGHT		b ay t
BITE		b ay t
BLIGHT		b l ay t
BRIGHT		b r ay t
BRIGHTS		b r ay t s
BY-PASS		b ay p aa s
DIGHT		d ay t

You can find computer phonetic code in phoncode.txt in ‘data’ directory or in the file beep-1.0-edited. Please enter only this plain phonetic notation. IPA is not applicable.

Credits

I could create and use this little project, and place it on the Net, thanks to two people who provided the core of the project: a phonetic dictionary and a hyphenation dictionary. The phonetic dictionary was compiled by Toby Robinson from Cambridge University Engineering Department;  Moby Hyphenation dictionary was created by Grady Ward. Both the projects were placed into the public domain in 1996. See Bibliography page for FTP addresses.

My credits are for some fast-writing not-so-good-looking slow Python code, which you are free to improve and share.

Feedback is very welcome!

Beolingus – Great Online German Dictionary

German to English, German to Portuguese and German to Spanish – dictionary and several useful references, and all for free – available on BeoLingus.

Beolingus is not just another online dictionary with more ads than headwords; it is full-scale reference with useful examples. The project is created by the Chemnitz University of Technology and it has been online since 1995. According to the site, Beolingus offers 396,000 word translations German-English, 112,000 word translations German-Spanish, 42,000 word translations German-Portuguese. We should also mention 37,000 synonyms of German words and more than 14,000 English, 6,500 German, and 10,000 Spanish quotes and aphorisms. Many of these great things are based on other projects and seamlessly incorporated into the site.

Beolingus Dictionary - Homepage and features

What we really like and what we find particularly useful is German-English example sentences and German / American pronunciation. This makes definitions more interesting and easier to remember; and there are no uncertainties about the pronunciation.

Example search explained - sehen
Example search explained - sehen

However, this is not all. Beolingus offers:

  • Special subjects – Expressions and words related to many specific areas such as Holidays, Family Members, Love, Games, Grammar…
  • Grammar reference – simple Preposition guide and link to another project
  • Abbreviations

Beolingus will assist you with German spelling, make your search easier with use of wildcards and offer an easy way to enter umlauts, in case you do not have German keyboard layout installed. You can even embed it in your own website or place in on Google Homepage, or maybe open it in small window so you can have more space for your work. Two thumbs up!

The address is http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/