In the late eighties, as a result of technological advances, there are understood as electronic dictionaries “dictionaries on magnetic media.” These dictionaries, which are not without their interest and utility, are, in fact, a scan of the dictionary, which adds an automatic stemming allowing search. It is ultimately, a digital facsimile that allows searching and basic computer applications. Although the difference with existing electronic dictionaries is very large, however, it is interesting to continue to use digital imaging to the publication of older dictionaries or impossible to position on the market and even in most non-specialized libraries. Good example is the recent release on DVD of the New Treasure of the Spanish language Lexicographic (2001) of great interest since it allows the query of sixty-six basic dictionaries Spanish lexicography, vocabulary Nebrija from the 21. a edition of the Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy (DRAE).
Alongside these digital dictionaries language tools were built mainly spelling and, subsequently, grammar, soon to be consolidated under the name of dictionaries. These tools appear embedded in word processing applications as part of the aid offered by these applications to the automatic text correction. Strictly speaking, it is clear that this is not true but nomenclatures dictionaries lemmatized no more or less extensive, the implementation of which leaves no room for doubt. Currently, in the beginning of the century, an electronic dictionary is beyond the capacity of the dictionary information in traditional and, of course, digital dictionary or dictionaries included word processors. The electronic dictionary is, in current versions, a software application that integrates a lexical database that can be very rich in formats (text, image, sound or video) and content, with a set of tools for query, visualization an attractive and easy to use, and even printed on paper (Figure 1).
From the point of view of users, the electronic dictionary allows fast and flexible query information, takes less space and is fully accessible from any computer at any time and place (PCP 1998). However, despite all the changes, it certainly retains its original nature of the work of consultation and resolution of doubts. What is less clear is whether it really represents an advance on the traditional dictionary and if you respond or might respond to current user expectations.
From a lexicographical point of view, organized storage in a lexical database allows better management and maintenance of information, and facilitates the detection and correction of errors caused by duplication of information. However, it is worth questioning whether the current electronic dictionaries are taking advantage of today’s technology offers, and whether it has improved the construction and maintenance of dictionaries.
Finally, from a computational point of view, one wonders if all the lexical information contained in electronic dictionaries is automatically accessible. Resolving this issue means to use electronic dictionaries and computational lexicons, lexical knowledge sources for any type of work or system that requires this knowledge: theoretical lexicography, machine translation, automatic data recovery (information searchers on the Web), search “intelligent” information, and in general, any work on natural language processing.
This brief overview of what has been, is and can be an electronic dictionary helps us to understand unique meeting point between tradition and present, between lexicography and computer science. The electronic dictionary is the result of information technology increasingly complex and powerful when applied to a knowledge of the sources of most traditional lexicon, dictionaries. It is, therefore, a traditional linguistic work in a continuous and promising developments.