Sunday, February 24, 2013

Visuwords: Graphical dictionary

I've seen visual thesauri and dictionaries floating around the web, but I think the best one I've seen (or at least the one I've had the most fun with) is Visuwords, an online graphical dictionary. When you go to the page, you see the following space:

Visuwords screenshot

There is a search box at the top, where you can enter a word you want to explore, or you could choose to hit the "random" button to the left of the search box, which will give you exactly that--a random word.

Running down the left of the blank white area (where your word will be mapped) is a key to understand what you're about to see:

Visuwords key

Using Visuwords can help identify parts of speech and semantic relationships, both helpful in a linguistics classroom.

I chose to search for the word 'linguistics', which resulted in this graphic display:

Visuwords search for 'linguistics'

You can zoom in on the area to pay more attention to some of the detail going on:

Zoomed in section of 'linguistics'
Using the key down the side of the page, I can see that linguistics is a kind of humanistic discipline, that lexicology is a kind of linguistics, and that 'linguistic' and 'lingual' are derivations of the word 'linguistics'. If you hold your mouse over any of the the visual definition, you can get more information:

Mouse over information

In this image, you can see a yellow box of more information about the 'humanistic discipline, humanities, liberal arts, arts' entry.

All in all, I think this is a pretty cool tool to visualize relationships among words and concepts and is something I will introduce in my linguistics courses when we discuss semantics.

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