Le Larousse Expression - Le multidictionnaire du français au quotidien
Reviewed by Françoise Herrmann

Larousse/VUEF 2002
Publication date: October 2002
ISBN: 3 133095 911009
Regular price $70.00
Available from: www.sofworld.com
Sofworld member price $64.00

Since Le Larousse Expression - Multidictionnaire du français au quotidien CD-ROM tool does not recognize the word "multidictionnaire", this term deserves an explanation that will both delight and illuminate you. Le Larousse Expression regroups six monolingual French dictionary tools to help you circumscribe "all there is to know" about a word searched, hence coining of the term "multidictionnaire". The six dictionaries combined in Le Larousse Expression include: definitions (135,000 including etymologies), expressions (34,000, including phrases), synonyms and antonyms (92,000 and 29,000, respectively], citations (9000), grammatical difficulties (9000 articles), and homonyms (15,000). However, as the editors of Le Larousse Expression hasten to mention, Le Larousse Expression is also much more than just the sum total of six dictionaries, since it is a carefully and superbly designed electronic tool that harnesses the added dimensions of electronic mediation to further the purposes of linguistic mapping, and consultation. In particular Le Larousse Expression includes a search engine affectionately termed "Le Dénicheur" [The Scout] designed to help you find words both traditionally according to various criteria, and less traditionally, on the basis of a series of random letters, with a view to also enchanting all the Scrabble, Boggle, and Des Chiffres et des Lettres [French Wheel of Fortune] buffs!

Le Larousse Expression is a PC based application, with the following minimum configuration requirements: Pentium II 300 Mhz, 64 MB of RAM, 170 MB of HD space, Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT4 or XP, CD-ROM drive and Internet Explorer 6 (supplied with the application). The application installs completely on your HD, so that your CD-ROM drive remains available after installation for use with your other CD-ROM tools. A small (40-page), color-coded and friendly, user manual is included in the packaging, and help files, containing Windows paper-clip style assistance, are included in a pull-down menu of the application to walk you through all of the workings of the tool, and to supply you with detailed assistance.

The pop-up function, enabling Le Larousse Expression to be called up, is quite sophisticated. In addition to standard pop-up design when you double-click on Le Larousse Expression icon of the Windows toolbar after highlighting your search term in the application in which you are working, you may also double-click on an icon directly installed in MS Word, or you can call up Le Larousse Expression from a tab which appears on top of any application in which you are working. This tab expands into a mini-search toolbar, allowing you also to input a new search without waiting for Le Larousse Expression windows to open [See Figures 1 & 2]. And once you have consulted your information, you may minimize the application or close it, without closing access, since it will collapse into a small tab. This is a practical pop-up design that un-clutters your desktop and your Windows toolbar when working on multiple documents, allows you to immediately visually identify and target Le Larousse Expression when your toolbars are packed, or to launch a new search without waiting for the application windows to open.

The organizing metaphor of Le Larousse Expression is the "map" - La carte du mot - suggesting that for each term searched the linguistic territory that the word circumscribes extends in different directions. In this case, directions include the traditional polysemic and grammatical dimensions of a dictionary definition, as well as the combined directions of the five remaining dictionaries. Thus, for each word searched, your results will extend in any one of the multiple dictionary directions, or an intelligent and useful combination thereof, thanks to the electronic mediation that supports both querying and cross-listing of multiple sources of information. Thus, for example, when there are more than one result for a word searched these appear first in a separate "Results" or parsing window. For example, when you type a search for the French word "fond" [in the sense of "bottom"], results include a long scrollable list covering the noun form and the pronominal, intransitive and passive verb forms, a list of compounds and homonyms [see figure 3]. Selecting the result corresponding to your intended meaning will send you, in a second step, to the Word Map window, where you will be able to view all of the linguistic territory highlighted for this particular word beginning with Definitions, and extending to Expressions, Synonyms, Difficulties, Homonyms and Citations. And in particular within the linguistic territory, perhaps the strongest and most useful feature lies in the synonyms listing, which is itself organized according to semantic dimensions. Thus, for example, for the noun form of "fond" (bottom) you will find synonyms, and antonyms according to whether this is the "bottom of your heart" or "the bottom of a receptacle" or even, by extension, "the heart of the matter". You will also find citations clearly referenced by author, by source, and dated, including a copy of the original quote in English or in German, for example, when it has been translated. PC users will also find navigation of the Word Map familiar and friendly, since the presentation of information borrows features from Windows, such as "+/-" expansion tabs, and hierarchical tree structures.

Beyond the Word Map for your search there are four additional modules: a conjugator that calls up all forms of a verb according to mode; a grammar, hyperlinked to the Word Map module; model letters, covering domains such as housing, taxes and legal matters, also hyper-linked to the Word Map module; and the popular "Dénicheur" [Scout] function allowing you to find words according to various criteria, and allowing Scrabble or Boggle buffs to outperform anyone, since one of the search options corresponds to random positioning up to 9 letters. Thus, with the Dénicheur (the Scout), beyond winning at the Wheel of Fortune, you will be able, for example, to search for words according to any prefix or suffix, according to a series of domains such as medicine, gastronomy and defense, or according to origins or regional language variety. And all of the searches use a fresh interface modeled on the French Wheel of Fortune presentation of Des Chiffres et des Lettres, in combination with a Windows tree structure.

Finally, on the qualitative and linguistic side of Le Larousse Expression, you will find all the rigor to which you are accustomed with Larousse dictionaries. And without any formal empirical rigor you will find, for example, that the definition for the word "cookie" includes both the edible and the digital variety; that the term "courriel" for email is included (referenced as a Canadian term); that the term "butineur" [browser] is included (also referenced as a Canadian term), with "explorateur" and "fureteur" as synonyms; and that the definition for the term "zip" is limited to the variety used with clothing.

Le Larousse Expression performs a digital feat. Using electronic mediation, 6 dictionaries are included in one application, allowing you to immediately access the combined linguistic territory charted in these dictionaries for a single word. The fresh design of pop-up functions in tab format also works superbly, both to unclutter and speed up access to the application and the information contained within. Enjoy this new Larousse tool! And if you are also a Scrabble or Boggle buff, from now on, you'll win!

Figure 1: Le Larousse Expression pop-up tab

Figure 2: Le Larousse Expression mini-toolbar (expanded pop-up tab) with a search entered for the term "fond" [bottom].

Figure 3: Results window for the word "Fond" and Synonyms for "Fond" [bottom] opened in the Word Map window of Le Larousse Expression.