Mar 14, 2010

Visualizing Word Etymology

It may sound like walking backwards, human being learned to write way after they drew all the nice images on the cave walls, and now that we can store information in binary sequence ( and also some of us can even easily decode them just by looking at those ) I am talking about word visualization ( no, not about hieroglyphics ) . The idea comes from the acquisition of second or third or any language that we have to/ want to learn and in this learning process at some point we all feel that we are nothing but a child struggling with words , however smart we may be in other field of knowledge. and there come visualization for the rescue. But is it only some related picture for the word in context that can foster the process or can we do better ? Draw etymology graph of the word ? Assign colors to words that relate to their meaning ?

May be we can also draw a geographical overlay to show if words from one region relate to other. It's fascinating how words travel through space and time ! Their pronunciation and meaning both can change over time and space. It will be a fun to show somehow how the Portuguese word 'Igreja' (church) became 'Geerja' in Bangla. And also these connections reflect a view of world history. The similarity between Greek and Bangla/Sankskrit words for the numbers one to ten  compelled me to explore more about Indo-European history.

Visual Thesaurus and VisuWords are online graphical dictionaries , they show connection between words . As human brain works, it is always easier to learn about something new if we can relate this to some other thing of our previous knowledge, so this connected words may relate to some words we already know and thus help our learning process.
Here you can see the graphical representation of the word "country" , showing connection between words with similar meaning. The first screenshot is from Visual Thesaurus, but I think VisuWord does a better job by giving examples. But both this applications are English to English, so if you are looking for translation, this may not be the right place. 

And while I was searching the web for word visualization, I found this nice article about Visualizing vocabulary.