Over in the UK, the people at the Guardian newspaper recently found themselves asking whether the world’s biggest dictionary could survive in the age of the internet. So they went to Oxford to find out.
While lexicographers have traditionally had to wait for words to come to them, or strenuously attempt to gather as much information as possible about a lexical item, the internet provides access to vast amounts of textual information that can be searched, harvested, and patterned.
These days, it’s not so much as matter of survival as of optimizing research strategies to access exactly the information you want from among the quadrillion or so words available. Ja, that’s right, 1,000,000,000,000,000—one thousand trillion.*