The New OED Project at Waterloo
The University of Waterloo , in collaboration with the Oxford University Press , has revolutionized the means by which people can access information.
Together, the OED and Supplement represent 21,000 pages describing more than 600,000 words and phrases according to derivation, history, usage, pronunciation, and variations. More than 2,400,000 quotations illustrate the evolution of meanings.
The next step, to revise and integrate the OED and
Supplement, was a formidable undertaking, impossible by
traditional typesetting methods. Only the computer, with its
extensive capacity for searching and manipulating text, offered an
economical and efficient alternative. In preparing for the March 1989
publication of the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition,
the Oxford University Press and its associates welcomed the
collaboration of the University of Waterloo, a pioneer in software
development and computer science education since the early 1960s.
Thanks to lexicographers and computer scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, the OED2, as it has come to be called, combines the OED, the Supplement and over 5,000 additions. An important extension of this monumental work is the development of the electronic version.
In January 1985, the University of Waterloo established the Centre for the New Oxford English Dictionary . Our activities have received the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Secretary of State for Canada, the Henry White Kinnear Foundation of Toronto, and the University of Waterloo.
In April 1985, the Oxford University Press and the University of Waterloo confirmed the details of their collaboration with a ``Heads of Agreement'' contract. The partnership has led to an enthusiastic exchange of people and ideas between the two institutions. Publishers, editors, administrators and lexicographers from Oxford have joined the Centre for up to four months at a time, while Waterloo personnel have made similar visits to England.
Collaboration with the Oxford University Press has led to our involvement in other projects too, notably computerizing the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary . In our work with Oxford and other publishers, the University of Waterloo is constantly broadening its international research base in the field of software applications.
The main components of our text management software are the mature products of years of research. In recognition of the significance of the record, NSERC included a description of the project in its 1991 publication Great Canadian Success Stories. While the research continues at the University, the tangible results are further developed and commercialized by Open Text Corporation , a spin-off company located in Waterloo; commercial applications hold promise for countless new users.
The fundamental goal of the Centre remains to support innovative research. From encouraging research related to the New OED project, our mandate has grown to include interdisciplinary collaboration on text research in general. For example, we assist scholars in applying our software to texts they are analyzing, compiling, annotating and revising. With our sophisticated computer facilities and offices for both personnel and visitors, the Centre is a natural focal point for researchers in all fields.
A critical component of the Centre's success has been close cooperation with lexicographers at the Oxford University Press, as well as with researchers in the humanities and social sciences, who have served as users and evaluators of the software and methods. This success is expected to be continued through similar approaches with other research partners.
For each year in the period 1985-1994, the Centre served as an international forum for publishers, editors, and scholars from the humanities, social sciences and computing both to discuss new directions in electronic text and to share their research. Proceedings of the annual conference and copies of technical reports are available from the Centre.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo enjoy unlimited access to text software and data files, including the OED, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, a six-month extract from the Ottawa Citizen and other texts. We also welcome off-campus researchers ‹ lexicographers, linguists, philosophers, sociologists and computer scientists ‹ to take advantage of our facilities and our expertise. Whether brief or extended, their visits are mutually beneficial: in completing their research projects, the scholars invariably enhance our understanding of the direction for further developments.