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The Russian Dictionary Tree: CD-ROM

The Russian Dictionary Tree by Slava Paperno and Richard L. Leed (Windows, Mac OS X) ISBN 1-58269-017-0 (one CD-ROM). Stand-alone desktop application. $39.00.

This 17,000-entry learner's dictionary of Russian allows you to search for a Russian or English word. For most entries it displays the endings of all inflected forms of the Russian word, including stress marks. Unlike many electronic resources, it is not an abridged version of a printed dictionary. Its definitions are far more detailed, and many entries contain carefully crafted example sentences and notes on style and usage—thousands of them. This dictionary was designed by language teachers for language learners.

Instead of buying this CD-ROM, you may use the same dictionary on this website by subscribing to it at a lower cost.

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An entry can be found by typing any inflected form of a Russian word. The user does not have to know the dictionary form of the word. A list of matches is displayed, each with its definition. Click on your choice to see the full entry. (You may also type an English word to see all Russian entries for which the English word is a possible translation.)

For example, if you type играю, the entries for the verb играть are retrieved and displayed:

sample screenshot from the desktop version of the RDT

Note that in most dictionaries, the top two entries would be conflated into one; so would the next two entries. Indeed, both of the top two entries are translated as "play," and both have to do with playing music. But there is an important difference, and attention to detailed semantic differences is one of the many innovations of the RDT. We'll show in a minute why this is useful to the learner.

You can click on your choice, for example the second line:
играть to play (said of a musical instrument)
and read your entry:

sample screenshot from the desktop version of the RDT

If you click the first line, instead:
играть to play (a musical piece or a musical instrument)
this entry will be offered:

sample screenshot from the desktop version of the RDT

Note the example phrases in the two entries. They are not mere illustrations. They tell you how to use the Russian verb in a sentence: in the first one, the instrument is the subject, and there is no object; in other words, one does not say in Russian, "The guitar was playing a gentle tune." To say something like that, one consults the second display that has two objects: the tune must be in the Accusative case, and the instrument must be used in the Prepositional case, with the preposition на. This is one reason to present the learner with two entries. You will discover the other reason if you look closely at the aspect information (the Perfective counterpart to играть).

Displays of this kind, with their exhaustive information in traditional linguistic notation, make the RDT a valuable learning tool. The example shown above is fairly short. Where necessary, our entries also present irregular pronunciation, inserted vowels, animacy, marginal case forms (Locative and Partitive), irregular stress in set phrases, and other pertinent data. If relevant, cultural comments are offered, too.

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