Mesoamerican Languages Documentation Project (MALDP)
John Justeson and
Roberto Zavala Maldonado, directors
El Proyecto para la Documentación de las Lenguas de Mesoamérica (PDLMA)
This page was last revised on May 9, 2000. Click
here to return to the PDLMA home page.
Using the online dictionaries
The dictionaries differ among each other in some respects, but the basic
retrieval strategies are the same. The user enters
constraints on the word(s) s/he wishes to retrieve.
(2) A list is provided, 20 at a time, of all lexical items in the dictionary
that satisfy all these constraints. (3) The user selects an item
from the list, and the available data on that item is displayed as a
The search page is divided into frames, each displaying its own type
of information. The content of a frame remains when you issue commands
from it and go on to work with the results of your commands in other
frames, so you can readily work back and forth between frames.
 Enter constraints.
On the left side of the access screen there appears a scrollable list of
all of the data types that can be used to search the dictionary.
Each data type is labelled: "lexical entry", "grammatical class",
"Spanish gloss(es)", "English gloss(es)", etc. Below the label is
white query box in which the user can enter a constraint on that data
To enter a query, click on the white screen corresponding to the
desired data type. The most typical query is a search for a word
of a given meaning. For example, one way to enter a query to find
a word meaning `right' is to click on the "English gloss(es)" box,
and then type right in the box.
To submit the query, click on the "Submit" button, which appears above
and below the list of searchable data types.
The query as just described is designed to retrieve all lexical entries
that have the string right in the
English gloss field of the database, whether or not more characters
precede or follow it. For example, it will also retrieve a word meaning
`bright' or `rightly'.
The search can be constrained more by entering the word boundary
(or "pound") symbol, #, at the beginning and end:
This will retrieve only those lexical entries that include the word
bright in their English gloss field (possibly in a phrase,
such as a bright light.
The search can be constrained in the opposite way by insisting that
further characters precede and/or follow the search string. This is
done by placing two periods adjacent to the side(s) of the search string
required to have non-blank characters adjacent.
entering ..able# would help to retrieve
lexical entries that correspond to a morphologically defined subset of
English adjectives, while avoiding entries whose meaning is defined
using the verb able.
Just what counts as a "word" varies among the fields. In most cases,
a word is a string delimited by blanks or punctuation. In grammatical
fields, punctuation includes only colons, hyphens, and parentheses.
Nonetheless, it is possible to search for strings including
punctuation, word-delimiting or not, in any field.
It is possible to enter constraints on multiple fields. For example,
entering dry in the English gloss(es)
query box and #vt in the grammatical
class query box will retrieve lexical entries whose structure includes
a transitive verb and whose meaning includes `dry' -- closing in on
transitive verbs meaning `to dry (something)'.
It is not possible to construct queries that involve logical and, or,
However, flexibility is increased by provision for certain
cover symbols for classes of phonemes or grammatical types in the
Mesoamerican language data.
Cover symbols are all single capital
letters; most of them are mnemonics for their categories. (In contrast,
ordinary symbols used for the native phonemes and grammatical tags are
all lower case.) The list of cover symbols available for a given language are
provided in the frame that spans the top of the page from which
the dictionary for that language is accessed; scroll down to review
Cover symbols are provided to facilitate some searches. However, they
should be used sparingly: they substantially slow a search. Search
time is directly proportional to both the number of cover symbols
used and to the number of ordinary symbols each cover symbol replaces.
It is not recommended to use more than one cover symbol, across all
query boxes put together.
 Selecting an entry to display.
After submitting your query, the frame at the upper right of the
page will be filled with a table of lexical items in the dictionary
that are consistent with the constraints you have entered.
For each item, the table displays the lexical item, its grammatical
class, its Spanish gloss(es), and its English gloss(es).
more than 20 lexical items conform to your constraints, all of these
items are listed; otherwise, only 20
matching items are displayed at a time. If more than 20 entries
match your constraints, the total number that match is displayed at
the bottom of the list. You may either select one of the lexical
items for viewing in printed dictionary format, or you may choose
to view the next 20 matching items. (Use the "Back" key on your
browser to see earlier groups of 20.)
The table of matching lexical items will remain in the upper right
frame until you issue another search, or until you go to view the
next group of 20.
 Displaying the lexical entry.
The lexical entry is printed in "dictionary format" in the bottom right
frame of the query page. By default, all available data types are
printed. This is indicated by a check in the small box to the right
of the query box for each data type, in the leftmost frame.
Users can choose to display only a subset of the data types that may
appear in an entry by placing a check alongside the query box for only
those data types wanted for the output.
The checkbox is a toggle: if it is checked, clicking on it will remove
the check; if it is not checked, clicking on it will place a check
If the box is checked, data of that type will be displayed for the
lexical entries; if it is not checked, data of that type will not be
displayed. Lexical entries can still be searched for according to
data types that the user elects not to display.
Dictionaries currently available for online access
Online access currently requires that your browser support frames, which
provide the most convenient means of accessing the data. Non-frames versions
will be available shortly.
You may search the following dictionary databases:
San Miguel Chimalapa Soke
These databases were posted in February of 1998.