Le Nouveau Petit Robert de la langue française 2008 (v. 3.1)
Reviewed by Françoise Herrmann
Publisher: Dictionnaires Le Robert/Sejer Windows
Software designer: Bureau VAN DIJK
Publication date: 2007
Available from: www.amazon.com
Price: €70.00 ( $195.00 @ Amazon.com)
Installation is an especially fast, three-click process with no reboot needed. However, you will need to keep your CD handy, as it must be re-inserted every 45 days for licensing purposes. The CD case includes a small 23-page user manual, which contains all the information you need to install and search the dictionary. Once started, you will also find an on-line help button (the ? icon) at every critical junction of the interface. Table 1: Interface of Le Petit Robert 2008 on CD-ROM Publications Reviews Home
Le Petit Robert’s editorial committee directed by Alain Rey, one of the founding fathers of the Le Robert, stresses the importance of capturing both language change and language contact in the 21st century editions of the Le Petit Robert. Thus, there are many new words in Le Petit Robert 2008, some arising out of new 21st century domains of activity, and many imported from other languages in crosscultural contact, explained in considerable detail in the Famille étymologique [etymology notes] whenever applicable.
New words in the 2008 edition, reflecting significant change, arise in a series of specifically targeted domains: sports, cooking, medicine, European law and music. In the exponential domain of medicine for example, you will find terms such as électrocardiogramme d’effort (stress EKG), myélogramme (myelogram) and ostéodensitométrie (bone densitometer) correlating with new electronic diagnostic procedures; terms such as nisakiase (anisakiasis), atopie (atopia), cruralgie (cruralgia), and fibromyalgie (fibromyalgia) correlating with newly identified illnesses, and addictologie (the study of addictions), implantologie (implantology) and parodontologie (periodontics) corresponding to some of the new disciplines of medicine and dentistry, which together seem to permeate everyday language use in an unprecedented manner. In the domain of cooking, also targeted as a 21st century theme of linguistic change and crosscultural contact, you will find it interesting to see how Le Robert has elected to include terms such as ceviche, chop suey, coleslaw, enchilada, fajita, maffé, naan, pancake and pastrami. In a country that prides itself with a national cultural heritage several centuries old in the domain of gastronomie, this lexical selection, which so accurately captures the borderless and international trends of modern cooking, appears quite bold. Similarly, in the domain of music you will find newly listed instruments such as the dijderidoo (from Australia), the koto (from Japan), the djembe (from West Africa), and the berimbau (from Brasil), each of which correlates with different fusions of contemporary 21st century music, in France and elsewhere.
Beyond those more than 500 new words selected as having recently come to enrich everyday French language use, the Petit Robert editorial committee also appears particularly sensitive to language variation and what is traditionally referred to as la francophonie (the French-speaking world of Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Quebec, French speaking Africa and the Caribbean). For example, Léopold Senghor, the former first president of the Republic of Senegal and the first black member of the Academy Française, is now included among the list of cited authors, with a score of citations, in particular for illustration of the term négritude, which he coined in 1933.
There are many monolingual French language dictionaries. Le Petit Robert, an institutional giant is considered simply the best. It is outstanding on more counts than one, especially for translators. First, unattached to myths of language purity, such as those described by Alain Rey in his most recent book L’amour du français (2007), Le Petit Robert embraces language change and contact across borders and time. As a result, the timeliness and razor-sharp appropriateness of the dictionary’s listing is no figment of your imagination. Secondly, Le Petit Robert structures the information of the dictionary in a uniquely useful and complete manner. For each entry, Le Petit Robert provides extensive (pop-up) etymological and grammatical (gender/number) information in a context that includes definitions, examples, citations, synonyms, antonyms and homonyms. Thus, Le Petit Robert fulfills several different types of querying needs: semantic, morphological, syntactic and historical in a single package. Finally, on a bonus qualitative note, you will find that all of the examples and citations, so meticulously selected, function as undoubtedly the best explanations and supplements to the definitions in a didactic mode. Consider as an example the citation culled from Claude Levi-Strauss that is included in the entry for the term Anthropologie (anthropology): " l'anthropologie cherche […] à élaborer la science sociale de l'observé" (Anthropology seeks to […] set forth the social science of what is observed.)
The CD-ROM version of Le Petit Robert 2008 offers all of the above to the power of electronic speed and access, plus more. More—in the form of audio pronunciation of terms, hypertext linking of content, and sophisticated search functions enabling you to perform customized searches, unthinkable with a paper edition. More—to make your usage nimble and daring, and to give you easy and total access to all of the information contained.
Each of the dictionary’s main features has been perfectly harnessed and designed as function buttons appearing on a horizontal tool bar (see Figure 1). Thus, for any given entry you may cut to the point, and click on: Plan for an outline of the article; Étymologie for in-depth information, with pop-ups, on the origins of the term; Conjugaison for a pop-up window containing all the inflected forms of the verb, or Féminins pluriels for a pop-up window with gender and number inflections. Similarly, for any given entry you may click on: Citations for a list of all the author citations of the article; Examples and expressions for a list of all the examples; Synonymes & Antonymes for a list of synonyms and opposites, and Homonymes for a list of homonyms, thereby accessing and displaying the information you are seeking in a neatly extracted format, immediately, without searching for it. These function buttons each greatly simplify navigation of large articles, and even smaller ones, as they enable you to target your query with the accuracy of a honing device. There is even a toggle button which allows you to revert immediately back to the full form of the article, no matter how much you have previously sliced through it.
Add to the design of hard copy information, a Prononciation button and you will hear not only the difficult pronunciation of 16,000 words in this version, but also the pronunciation of 300 complete citations, each of which are tagged with a small speaker icon. Add also a vertical toolbar (see figure 1) with a Find icon button (a magnifying glass) enabling you to find any word or sequence of words within an article; two arrow buttons enabling you to retrace your navigation steps forwards or backwards, and two letter “A” buttons (for sore eyes) with ascending and descending arrows enabling you to increase or decrease the size of the screen font, in addition to your familiar office function buttons for pasting and copying, printing, and on-line help. Last but not least, a spelling (ORTH.) button, right next to the input field allows you, in the absence of correct spelling, to enter your search term "just as it sounds" in exchange for a list of potential matches.
Beyond this perfectly correlated and empowering design of the main features of the hardcopy dictionary, Bureau VanDijk has also spruced up the dictionary search functions. As part of the regular search functions, you may search the main listing of the dictionary containing all the entries and any of three tabbed sublists containing compounds, expressions, and inflected forms. For example, you will want to search the tabbed compound list when you are unsure which part of a compound term is listed as a head word. Thus, you will find the term bête à bon Dieu [ladybug] listed under the headword coccinelle [ladybug] after inputting bête or Dieu or bon Dieu to a compound list search.
The five advanced search functions (full text, phonetic, etymology, citations and headword) accessed via the double magnifying glass icon below the input field enable searches that are impossible to perform with the paper edition. For example, you can search the complete text of the dictionary for all the occurrences of a single word or expression (lemmatized or not); headwords using a few letters, the beginning or the end of words (for crossword puzzle buffs); words containing a particular phonetic sound or a sequence of sounds (for translators of poetry, rimes or commercial jingles); words according to their origins or dates, and citations according to multiple criteria such as author, periodical or book, among others.
The hypertext links of the Le Petit Robert 2008 enable double-click navigation from one word to another anywhere in the dictionary. Thus, when the results of your search include words that are unfamiliar, you can just double-click on any one of them to access the corresponding complete headword entry elsewhere in the dictionary. Single-click hyperlinks also exist for cross-references to synonyms and antonyms, expressions, related meanings appearing in bold face purple, the names of cited authors and etymological information.
…unless you are already thinking nano! Le Petit Robert 2008 CD-Rom is the best both in terms of content and electronic design. In it you will find an up-to-date listing of French language uses, complete with etymologies, multiple definitions, cross-referenced meanings, examples and expressions to illustrate contemporary usage; citations carefully culled to further illuminate and explain meanings; synonyms, antonyms and homonyms. Designed with e-wizardry, you will find direct, targeted and immediate access to the content, plus means to easily navigate and retrieve all of this information in ways that are simply impracticable in a flip page mode. You will find it truly difficult, if not impossible, to find a better monolingual (non-technical) French dictionary, so grab a copy and enjoy!
Rey, A. (2007). L’amour du français: Contre les puristes et autres censeurs de la langue. Paris, France: Editions Denoël.
Installation is an especially fast, three-click process with no reboot needed. However, you will need to keep your CD handy, as it must be re-inserted every 45 days for licensing purposes. The CD case includes a small 23-page user manual, which contains all the information you need to install and search the dictionary. Once started, you will also find an on-line help button (the ? icon) at every critical junction of the interface.
Table 1: Interface of Le Petit Robert 2008 on CD-ROM