The scholars of the Swiss German Dictionary (Schweizerisches Idiotikon) have collected more than 15000 pages of highly concentrated information over the last 150 years. When we began retro-digitising the dictionary a few years ago, we were unsure if we were up to the task of dealing with such a massive amount of data. Of course, it was not a hardware problem – the 100 million characters will easily fit into any storage device sold nowadays. The real challenge is how to translate a 19th-century information structure into one which today’s computers can handle.
One of the major concerns of dictionary makers before the electronic age was how to save space. Dictionary makers achieved this by using abbreviations, using typography (styles and special characters) to mark different parts of an article and using context to convey information. This specifically means that certain elements can either be omitted depending on the context or bear a different meaning. Continue reading Digitising 150 Years of the Swiss German Dictionary