Online dictionaries are integrated parts of a world that is constantly changing its reality. The first online dictionaries were based on existing printed dictionaries and the second generation was based on specially developed databases. However, these dictionaries do not fully meet the needs for help and knowledge users have in specific situations. To meet these needs, it is necessary to re-assess the theoretical foundation of online lexicography and the electronic options available to produce targeted reference tools. Based on the work on the multilingual Accounting Dictionaries, I propose that lexicographers should distinguish between the database and the dictionary: The database is not a dictionary, but a repository of structured data. Furthermore, modern online dictionaries do not contain data, but are search engines that search for structured data in databases, retrieve the relevant data, and present them to users in pre-arranged orders. The core of the set of online dictionaries is an English database with Danish and Spanish databases related to it through the definitions of terms, thereby creating both monolingual and bilingual dictionaries. Users access the data in these databases through online dictionaries that allow them to make structured searches relating directly to the problems they need to solve. The search engines have been designed according to lexicographical functions, i.e. the type of help dictionaries can provide in certain types of situation. All dictionaries have both communicative and cognitive functions, but they mainly help users to solve problems in communicative situations such as understanding, producing and translating accounting texts. The monolingual dictionaries also help users acquire knowledge about accounting matters in general and specific cognitive user situations. This theoretical foundation allows lexicographers to design and develop dictionaries that search in structured datasets and then retrieve and present data types explicitly selected because they provide help in specific situations. Users who want to know how to use a specific term or phrase in a text-production situation are presented with data that are different from the data presented to users who want to know what that particular term means in accounting texts. The theoretical foundation and practical implications of this type of dynamic online dictionaries allow lexicographers to design dictionaries that meet the needs of modern users for practical lexicographical tools.
Multi-disciplinary Lexicography: Traditions and Challenges of the Xxist Century, 2011, p. 25-26