Culture 3 min read

New CLICS Version Contains Lexical Data on Over 3000 Languages

Lonely Walker /

Lonely Walker /

In every language, there are multiple-meaning words or words that are spelled and sounded alike but have different meanings.

One of the traditional examples of homophony in the English language is the word “bank.” It could mean a financial institution or land alongside a river.

Polysemy is the case of a word or expression which has more than one meaning.

Some words have dozens of meanings. The English language is well stocked in this regard, with about 40 percent of its terms are estimated to be polysemous.

The study of such colexification cases across languages helps in many fields, such as language development, linguistic paleontology, lexical typology, and human perception.

CLICS, World’s Largest Lexical Database

It would be helpful for researchers to have a computer-assisted database for cross-linguistic colexification patterns.

And the CLICS database is just that: a data aggregation solution for colexification. The world’s largest lexical database, CLICS, stands for the Database of Cross-Linguistic Colexifications.

Through its quantitative approach in linguistics, CLICS helps scholars tackle “interconnected interdisciplinary research questions about the colexification of words across semantic categories in the world’s languages and show-cases best practices for preparing data for cross-linguistic research.” 

At first, the CLICS database had colexification data on only a couple of hundred languages. But thanks to new standardization techniques, the database has significantly increased the amount of data available over the last few years.

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CLICS catalogs relationships between words and the semantically-related concepts they describe in thousands of languages from around the world. Now scholars have access to the newest version of the CLICS database.

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has released a new version of CLICS, offering lexical associations in 3156 language varieties.

“While data aggregation was generally based on ad-hoc procedures in the past, our new workflows and guidelines for best practice are an important step to guarantee the reproducibility of linguistic research.”

The third installment of CLICS, or CLICS³, offers lexical data on an unprecedented scale and facilitates the work of scholars in many linguistic investigations. CLICS has already proven itself to be an effective tool in socio-linguistic research.

In a recent study, CLICS was used to investigate emotion semantics in a global sample of spoken languages. After comparing emotion words in 2474 languages, the team found that both cultural and biological evolution play a role in shaping emotion conceptualization.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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