Languages are constantly changing; otherwise we would still speak and write today as we did in the days of Charlemagne. While German grammar has remained virtually unchanged since the time of Goethe, its vocabulary – as evidenced in bodies of large corpora – has increased by approximately one third in the 20th century alone: from about three and a half to more than five million words. The reason for this is that nowadays there are more (and more different) things to express, and sometimes speakers also want to express the same things in a different way. Due to cultural and technical developments, but also through globalisation, there are constantly new things, new actions, new ideas, for which new words are needed, or old words with slightly different characteristics - history takes its course, language adapts. It is difficult to capture these rapid changes lexicographically using the classic printed dictionary; however, the digital approach opens up completely new possibilities. There are nearly no limits to its scope when words are added or their properties change, updates can be made, errors corrected immediately. The user can be given access to the data on which the description of the words is based, and through use of a few simple digital tools form their own opinion.
The Center for Digital Lexicography for the German Language pursues precisely this goal, namely to describe the German language comprehensively, while remaining true to a scientifically pure approach - on a digital platform that is accessible, free of charge, for everyone. This platform links several resources, dedicated to synchronic and diachronic descriptions of words. These can be queried simultaneously with a single search entry. The ZDL brings together digital dictionaries that are already in use as well as developing ones, extensive corpus resources covering several centuries of German language history, and digital linguistic tools that clearly visualise syntactic and historical data for specific words. Over the next few years, the portal will be continuously expanded and improved.
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Klein (Main coordinator ZDL)
PD. Dr. Alexander Geyken (Head of Berlin office)