Saturday, December 05, 2009

Google chooses Collins COBUILD dictionary

Google launched its new dictionary service this week. Poking around, I randomly came up with the word attribute and tried it out. The defining style was immediately familiar, so I jumped over to the Collins website, and searched for attribute there. The two entries are not identical, but they're close enough as to show this is almost certainly Google's source. Here's Google's entry:

  • If you attribute something to an event or situation, you think that it was caused by that event or situation. VERB
    • Women tend to attribute their success to external causes such as luck. V n + 'to'

  • If you attribute a particular quality or feature to someone or something, you think that they have got it. VERB
    • People were beginning to attribute superhuman qualities to him. V n + 'to'
    • attribution N-UNCOUNT oft N 'of' n   /'ætrɪbj'uːʃən/
      • There's usually a lot of attribution of evil intent to those who have different views.

  • If a piece of writing, a work of art, or a remark is attributed to someone, people say that they wrote it, created it, or said it. VERB usu passive
    • This, and the remaining frescoes, are not attributed to Giotto. 'be' V-ed + 'to'
    • ...a Madonna and Child attributed to Pietro Lorenzetti. V-ed

  • An attribute is a quality or feature that someone or something has. N-COUNT usu with supp
    • Cruelty is a normal attribute of human behaviour.
    • He has every attribute you could want and could play for any team.

  • Followed by the Collins COBUILD entry:
    (FORMAL)If you attribute something to a personthingor eventyou believethat they cause it or have it. Women tend to attribute their successto luck... People were beginning to attribute superhuman qualitiesto him.verbIf a piece of writing or a remark is attributed to someonepeoplesay that that person created it or said it. ...a play attributed toWilliam Shakespeare.n-count[ˈætrɪbjuːt]An attribute is a quality or feature. Cruelty is a normal attribute ofhuman behaviour.
    What do you think? Notice that while the wording differs here and there, and Google has more senses listed, it's strikingly similar. Even some of the examples are the same.

    I think it's a great choice. The COBUILD was revolutionary when it came out, and it's still a damn fine dictionary.


    Q Higuchi said...

    Well, I looked at my copy of _Collins COBUILD English Dictionary for Advanced Learners_, and lo and behold: the entry is simply identical to Google's. There is no difference whatsoever.

    So what Google has (presumably) bought is an EFL dictionary from Collins - which, I agree, is a fine choice.

    Anonymous said...

    Which edition is it? It is not the latest (6th) edition, is it?
    (I only have access to the first and 6th editions)

    Q Higuchi said...

    Oops, my apologies - I failed to mention that it was the 3rd edition that I consulted.

    Stewart C. Russell said...

    Editions after the second don't really have much COBUILD input in them. The team was dismantled by Collins about a decade ago.