Case study: The Orkney Dictionary

We were delighted to launch the Orkney Dictionary at ScotLex-1 in Edinburgh on the 8th of April 2016.

This project provides an excellent example of what Complexli can offer, so we thought it would be instructive to look at the steps involved in creating a website for this excellent dictionary.

Orkney Dictionary coverThe first edition of the Orkney Dictionary by Gregor Lamb and Margaret Flaws was published in 1996 (with a blue cover), and the second edition followed in 2001 (with a yellow cover); both were sold out quickly.

There was therefore a real incentive to create a new Internet edition in order to make this book more widely available.

We were approached in early January by Dr. Simon W. Hall, who at that point was a Scots Language Coordinator at Education Scotland, and we quickly reached an agreement to undertake this project. He could provide us with a PDF of the book, which meant that we didn’t need to use OCR technology or to get it double-keyed abroad (unlike some other projects that we have undertaken in the past).

As a first step we converted the PDF to HTML. We then converted the HTML to relatively flat XML using Perl, and performed some simple clean-up operations.

The next step was to convert the flat XML to structured industry-standard XML similar to the varieties used by large dictionary publishers, using highly specialised software developed by Complexli over a number of years. We also developed a previewer in XSLT which emphasised the structure and thus allowed us to tidy up the data properly.

We then created a second XSLT previewer to format the data beautifully for the website. The resulting HTML was stored in a MySQL database on the web server. It might be worth noting at this point that the dictionary entries looked significantly different after this process. Whereas the book looked like a traditional dictionary, the web edition feels much more modern, e.g.:

‘Fleenk’ – before and after.
‘Fleenk’ – before and after.

Simultaneously we set up a standard WordPress installation and developed a child theme based on Twenty Sixteen. This child theme amongst other things included the CSS to make the dictionary entries display correctly and implemented the dictionary search functionality (both straight and fuzzy matching).

That was basically all that went into creating this online dictionary. The web site also includes various other pages – an introduction, some grammatical information, as well as various texts in Orkney Scots – but they were created using standard WordPress functionality, so they needn’t concern us here.

Apart from the website, an added benefit of the work Complexli has undertaken is that the dictionary data now exists as industry-standard XML, which will make it easy to add more entries in the future, as well as making it possible to make the data available to third parties.

If you have an old dictionary that you would like to bring into the 21st century, please don’t hesitate to contact us!