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Francesco Sabatini and Vittorio Coletti. DISC Compact: Dizionario Italiano Sabatini-Colletti, edizione in CD-Rom.

Florence: Giunti Multimedia, 1997.

DISC Compact: Dizionario Italiano Sabatini-Colletti, edizione in CD-Rom, by the renowned linguists Francesco Sabatini and Vittorio Coletti, is the result of a collaborative effort involving ITD, the Istituto per le Tecnologie Didattiche, a branch of the National Research Council, and Interactive Labs, the multimedia development sector of the Giunti publishing house. This digital dictionary is accompanied by two manuals: the smaller one (32 pages), DISC Compact il Dizionario Italiano in CD-Rom, serves as a general introduction to the objectives and use of the program; La lingua italiana: come funzione, come si usa, come cambia is a larger manual (48 pages) that offers an excellent introduction to language and communication, as well as explaining the theoretical framework of DISC Compact.

The lexical entries found in DISC Compact include the usual elements of a good dictionary: the pronunciation and syllabification of lexical items, synonyms, literary quotations containing the lexical item, etymological information. Two important organizational features are worth noting. First, the program is constructed so as to allow the user to search not only by headword (lemmi), but by any inflected form (forme): any form of a noun or adjective, or any conjugated form a verb. As the authors point out, "e il primo dizionario elettronico consultabile non solo attraverso la forma nella quale i vocaboli sono convenzionalmente presentati a lemma, ma anche attrraverso tutte le forme flesse (DISC Compact il Dizionario Italiano in CD-Rom 3). Second, the user can search the entire database (disc intero) or the common word list (disc base), containing ten thousand lexical items. Terms belonging to the common word list are indicated throughout the dictionary through colour: forms that make up the disc base are in blue, while all other forms are in black. I shall present an overview of the principal features of the program, before discussing organizational and theoretical aspects concerning lexical entries.

Through the menu bar one can access one of the following eight dialogue boxes: i) ricerca: lemmi/forme; ii) indice alfabetico; iii) ricerche complesse; iv) dati e grafici; v) coniugazione verbi; vi) giochi di parole; vii) altro; viii) guida all' uso. DISC Compact allows one to search not only for inflected forms or headwords (through ricerca: lemmi/forme), but also for neologisms, such as euroseggio or eurobbligazioni, and fixed expressions, such as avere il pollice verde, per di piu; one need only have a single word within the expression to arrive at the entire expression. The Indice alfabetico makes it easy to scroll through the lexicon; in addition, the Indice alfabetico provides access either to the entire data base (disc intero) or the common word list (disc base).

The Ricerche complesse function enables one to search the database and generate wordlists using one of eight "sub-dictionaries," or specialized dictionaries: i) diz. grammaticale; ii) diz. etimologico; iii) diz. storico; iv) voci latine e straniere; v)prefissi e suffissi; vi) glossari settoriali; vii) registri d' uso; viii) diz. personalizzati. The last category, diz. personalizzati, allows user-defined search parameters. I shall provide a few examples of what can be generated with the specialized dictionaries: with the grammar dictionary one could find, for example, all transitive verbs or all adverbial expressions; the etymological dictionary permits the generation of wordlists based on the source language of Italian words; with the glossari settoriali dictionary one could access all the terminology relevant to over forty different fields. In the same section, Ricerche complesse, it is possible to carry out yet other types of searches: i) ricerche per parti di parole; ii) ricerca dentro la voce; iii) ricerche incrociate. Ricerche per parti di parole allows one to search words by strings of letters--initial, medial or final. The ricerca dentro la voce function allows one to carry out searches within entries or parts of entries. The final item in this section of the program, ricerche incrociate, allows the user to combine two or more of the options within ricerche complesse--the specialized dictionaries, ricerche per parti di parole and ricerca dentro la voce--to create highly refined search parameters. For example, I initiated a search using the following four criteria: i) forms that are nouns (using diz. grammaticale); ii) forms borrowed from learned Latin (using diz. etimologico); iii) forms beginning with initial pr- (using ricerche per parti di parole); iv) forms belonging to the literary register (using registri d'uso). The program quickly generated a list of 15 words, which could either be saved or printed. I then sought further information on my wordlist using the Dati e grafici function.

The dati e grafici feature allows one to obtain distribution graphs for words contained in the entire dictionary, the disc base (common words list) or any list generated by the user (lista attiva). The distribution graphs are based on various criteria, to be selected by the user: length of forms, date of entry into the language, grammatical category, etymology. I activated the dati e grafici feature for the 15-word list generated with ricerche incrociate, utilizing the criterion of date of entry into the languagee: 20% entered the language in thirteenth century, 40% in the fourteenth century, 20% in the fifteenth, accounting for 12 of the terms; one term entered the language in sixteenth century, one in the seventeenth, and one in the period 1825-49.

The coniugazione verbi option provides a complete conjugation of any verb, in simple and compound tenses, along with the appropriate auxiliary or auxilaries. The Giochi di parole function allows one to create wordlists and personalized dictionaries based on particular letters or combinations of letters found in words, to find anagrams, rhymes, homographs and palindromes, and to engage in other word games. The Altro feature offers the user a variety of interesting and valuable information, such as proverbs, quotations, illustrations, foreign words and expressions, and sound recordings for many Italian and foreign words. Finally, the last option in the menu bar, the Guida all'uso, provides user-friendly technical and linguistic information concerning the program. A noteworthy feature within the Guida all'uso is the Guida didattica, which contains explanations and interesting exercises on topics such as meaning, usage, pronunciation and etymology.

The organization and content of the lexical entries in DISC Compact merit some attention. In the manual La lingua italiana: come funzione, come si usa, come cambia, the authors underscore the importance of context in determining the communicative function of a lexical item. Principles of discourse analysis and dependency grammar inform this product. Thus, the dictionary adopts terms such as congiunzione testuale, avverbio frasale, segnale discorsivo to clarify the use of conjunctions, adverbs and expressions (for example: ma, chiaramente, per cui) in speech, beyond the traditional explanation of such forms. Verbal entries are organized not only along conventional criteria--transitive, intransitive, impersonal--but, notably, according to criteria from valency grammar (dependency grammar).

Valency, a chemistry term adopted by the French linguist Lucien Tesniere, refers to the number of syntactic units or valents (also called complements or arguments) required by a verb to form a sentence. For example, a typical transitive verb such as mangiare is said to have a valency of 2, or to be bivalent, since it requires both a subject and a direct object (2 arguments). Impersonal verbs such as piacere and nuocere, while intransitive, are also bivalent, requiring a subject and an indirect object. Verbs that allow only one complement, such as dormire, which allows only the subject slot to be filled, are classified as monovalent, since they have a valency of 1. Some verbs, such as dare and offrire, require three arguments (subject, direct object and indirect object) and are accordingly classified as trivalent (having a valency of 3), while others, such as piovere and other atmospheric verbs, are said to be avalent, since they do hot take any complements at all, and thus have zero valency. Some linguists, including the authors of DISC Compact, prefer to treat the subject separately from the other complements a verb can take; within this model verbs such as dare and offrire are said to have two arguments (the direct and indirect objects), and verbs such as piacere and mangiare--bivalent in Tesniere's model--are said to have one argument (indirect object and direct object, respectively).

What we find in DISC Compact is a blend of traditional grammar and notions based on the valency model. Verbal entries indicate first whether the verb is transitive, intransitive or impersonal, followed by information subdivided according to the number of arguments (besides the subject) the verb permits: avalent and monovalent verbs are not indicated for valency, bivalent verbs are classified as having 1 argomento, and trivalent verbs appear with 2 argomenti. The system adopted by Sabatini and Coletti is clearly explained in La lingua italiana (8 ff.); and as the authors aptly state (La lingua italiana 11), the inclusion of the criterion of valency for verbs "permette una classificazione piu precisa." In presenting lexical items from these perspectives, the authors are able to achieve one of the main aims of the DISC Compact project (cf. DISC Compact il Dizionario Italiano in CD-Rom 10): to bridge the gap between function and form, between the objectives of grammar and those of a dictionary.

Various aspects of the program strike the user when navigating through the menu bar: the possibility of carrying out searches based on lemmi or forme, the option of searching the entire database or the disc base, the possibility of creating personalized wordlists and obtaining various distribution graphs for such lists. Moreover, with minor modifications to one's word processing program, the dictionary may be accessed from a document within a word processing program. Overall, DISC Compact is an excellent product: it is flexible, user-friendly and creatiive; it is an invaluable tool for students and teachers of Italian, and for anyone interested in the Italian language.
McMaster University
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Author:Moro, A.L.
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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