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Multilingual thesauri

Relative newcomers to the translation world, multilingual thesauri typically consist of two or more monolingual thesauri cross-referenced by concept rather than alphabetically. By means of these links, a user can follow correspondences across multiple languages and rapidly browse an entry's subcategorizations of meanings and its synonyms. Like a traditional monolingual thesaurus, a multilingual thesaurus is best used to complement one's passive knowledge of a language, particularly as a memory aid for infrequently used words and for basic grammatical information, such as gender and inflection. As such, it is more useful as an aid for writing in a foreign language. For this reason, multilingual thesauri have found favor in the administrative sector among non-language professionals preparing correspondence in foreign languages. Professional translators, in fact, may find the basic vocabulary of the current generation of such packages too limited. Most translate into their mother tongue, of which they obviously have a higher active knowledge.

A well-designed interface can make an electronic multilingual thesaurus easier to navigate than traditional monolingual paper-based thesauri. In addition, the underlying lexical data can be organized in such a way as to allow other ways of navigating around entries than just on the basis of the formal synonym relationship. These second order relationships might include:

One common enhancement to a multilingual thesaurus package is a notation facility for adding user entries. Another is a morphology-generation function, something particularly useful for the inflection-rich Romance languages.