Course:FNEL 382/Kirrkirr

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Lexicography Tool of the Week

The lexicography tool of week 9 is Kirrkirr, a software that pulls data from dictionaries in XML format to create semantic groups and games. It in itself is not meant for creating a dictionary from start to finish, but is rather a tool to accompany the process. It was created by Kevin Jansz, Christopher Manning, and Nitin Indurkhya in 1998/1999, and the site is currently hosted by Stanford Natural Language Processing Group.

Aspects of Kirrkirr

Kirrkirr is an easy to use platform that requires little to run, and can be run on older computers. It comes with three mini dictionaries installed, which are Biao Min, Warlpiri and Japanese, but most dictionaries in XML format will run. It was intended for use by Indigenous language communities, specifically those in Australia. Clicking on a word will bring up a small semantic bunch, with the selected word in the center with related words surrounding. This bunch wiggles around in the screen by default, but the feature can be turned off. When a word is selected, the user can see the definition, create notes, look at domains, or play a word game. Clicking on one of the related words in the semantic bunch will then create another, which can get busy fairly quickly, especially when the wiggling is enabled. Although it would not be considered to be as innovative as when it was first developed, it is still a unique, engaging program.

ELAN Incompatibilities

In 2007 it was found that version 4.0.2 of Kirrkirr was incompatible with ELAN on Mac OS X. When ELAN was installed, the installer would install Java input method libraries into the Java system extensions, which would load each time Java was opened. Unfortunately, this would also crash any software using anything under JDK 4.1, such as Kirrkirr. The problem was resolved within the same year, and the program works happily alongside ELAN.


Although Kirrkirr does have its uses and is engaging, the program appears to be a result of seeing what can be done, rather than what should be done. While the semantic maps can be useful in finding related words, the most useful feature within the program is the option to include a recording and photo with the entry in the .XML format of the dictionary, which is then imported. Being able to hear the correct pronunciation and create a visual connection to an object that the learner may not have seen before is more beneficial than clusters of words. If the user was able to create the word list and add or remove audio files or photos, it would be much easier for the user. In saying that, not being able to create word lists in Kirrkirr creates limitations. Although the program was intended to be used as a companion to another program, including the ability to create the dictionary with audio and visual input would have made it an incredibly useful tool to dictionary creators and learners alike, much more so than it currently is. There is a large amount of premise within the core idea of Kirrkirr, but the program would need to be reworked and redesigned to meet the current needs of language communities and dictionary creators.

State of KirrKirr

Kirrkirr has gone without updates since 2008, and at this point could be considered obsolete.