Announcing PanLinx

PanLinx is the newest experimental interface for the panlingual dictionary database named PanLex. It’s aimed mainly at search engines, but you can also try it out.

PanLinx is the latest experimental interface for PanLex. You can try it now at

In case you asked “What is PanLex”, here’s a quick answer: It’s a database that aims to include every known translation from every word (or dictionary-type phrase) into any language in the world. We’re talking about potentially hundreds of millions of words and trillions of translations.

The PanLex project is sponsored by The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. The project’s main activity is building the database, but incidentally we have created some interfaces to give people (and machines) access to it. Before PanLinx, the interfaces relied on forms to be completed by users (fill in a text field, click on a button, etc.). This meant that most of the data would be invisible to most search engines, since search engines generally follow links and don’t fill out forms. We decided to create a different, link-only interface that would allow search engines to navigate across the database and reach data about millions of words and their translations. In principle, then, if you entered some obscure word in a search engine, you might be taken to the PanLinx page about that word.

For example, if you entered “bangunan” in a search engine, the hits would include, a page showing all of PanLex’s translations of that (Malay) word, because the search engine would have crawled the links from the main PanLinx page to its millions of subsidiary pages and indexed them all.

Millions of pages? Yes, roughly 18 million at present. But PanLinx isn’t really a collection of 18 million pages sitting on a disk drive. As systems go, it’s a very small system, with a home page containing about 260 links, plus a program (about 100 lines of code) that regenerates that home page periodically to incorporate additions to the database, plus another program (less than 200 lines of code) that creates a new momentary page (also containing about 260 links) whenever anybody clicks on any of those links, and so forth.

Will search engines actually fall for this trick? Well, from our perspective, it isn’t a trick. PanLinx delivers real information about translations among millions of words in thousands of languages. The mission of search engines is to get people to the information that they want. We don’t know which search engines will crawl how far from the root to the leaves of the PanLinx tree, but 3 days after PanLinx went live Google was already showing some hits 2 hops into the tree. Search engines are somewhat secretive about their rules. PanLinx gives us a platform to experiment with methods of making PanLex data findable through search engines. And, even though we built PanLinx primarily with search engines in mind, you are free to explore it yourself. If you have anything to report (such as “I converted PanLinx into a parlor game”), please comment below. Thanks.


1 thought on “Announcing PanLinx

  1. Since this entry was posted, the URL of PanLinx has changed. It is now PanLinx has also been reimplemented to use the PanLex API. The example also doesn’t work any longer. For a current example, search in Google for “angalidigal” and Google will link you to a page that translates this Unangam Tunuu word into English as “light” or “bright”.

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