Please tell me if I must separate my question but I see that one of the major language difficulties is that some words are sorta synonyms yet occasionally some synonyms have some flavours, which distinguishes them from other synonyms. Mind maps expose the synonyms and sorta relation between words

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You can travel through associations in different directions.

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(Link to source of the above diagrams, and discussion thereof.)

My question is where do they get the mind map from? Who does produce/publish the map? How do I get my maps and how do I map foreign language map to my language or otherwise combine maps of two different languages? I guess there is no one-to-one correspondence between english, estonian and russian word map. Does the concept of mind map suggest that translation is evil? Should I learn new language as if it is my first language because and leave any attempt to find correspondence between two?


This question stems from my attempt to build a google phrasebook. I see that some words are more like synonyms. I try to put them together, this helps me to highlight the difference between similar words. Since the list is linear, a group can be tied with two groups from above and below (I put a group between two others). This way I make a transition from one group to the other. For instance, a hinderance-to impede-to resist-to oppose-opposite-to converse-conversation-dispute-a discussion -- you see how can I can split this list roughly into 3 groups: impedance, opposition and disputing. But I can connect no more than two groups together since list is linear. This way, to overcome this limitation, mind maps come to mind naturally. I am interested to know if this approach is adopted and which tools can I use for graphical phrasebooking?


I have found the answer and give it here since my questions are claimed to have no definite answer, which is confirmed by blocking the answers. The map I am looking for is built by Princeton University, project WordNet

WordNet superficially resembles a thesaurus, in that it groups words together based on their meanings. However, there are some important distinctions. First, WordNet interlinks not just word forms—strings of letters—but specific senses of words. As a result, words that are found in close proximity to one another in the network are semantically disambiguated. Second, WordNet labels the semantic relations among words, whereas the groupings of words in a thesaurus does not follow any explicit pattern other than meaning similarity.

You can browse through the thesaurus using online services like http://www.visuwords.com. It seems that the illustrations that I have posted were produced with WordNet alternative, Visual Thesaurus application. The fact that somebody builds one wordmap of all english words for everybody to use, grouping them by synonyms, confirms that the design is subjective and cannot be used/replicated by others. Thank you for putting this explicitly.

As of my another language words, how to match them with the synonyms of your primary language, I have realized that you can include foreign language into the diagrams as just another synonyms.

  • You'd have to ask the proprietors of whatever site you found those images on to find out who produced them and how they were generated; we can't answer those questions. The rest of your question is too broad to answer. Consider breaking it down to something simple and direct. But be warned that "is a mind map useful?" and similar questions will be considered opinion based. Jun 9, 2014 at 9:56
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    Translation and non-English languages, "How can I improve my English?" or "What's a good tool for...?", "open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page", "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much." It is up to the community to decide whether your question is off-topic or not; certainly, anyone can answer, and if no-one else thinks this question is off-topic, then it will remain open.
    – jimsug
    Jun 9, 2014 at 12:22
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    My (final) closevote is for Primarily Opinion-based, rather than Too Broad. In the end, "mind maps" are just another way of grouping related usages around each "core" word, mapped onto a 2-d circular space. If we had the "representational technology" it might work better mapping around a 3-d spherical space (or 4-d, 5-d, etc., if we could get our heads around the concept). If the method works for some people that's fine, but 3rd-party resources will be limited (and probably idiosyncratic), so I wouldn't recommend it myself as a "primary" approach to language acquisition. Jun 9, 2014 at 13:13
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    @Val - There are four or five preset reasons to close a question; Fumble is merely indicating which of those reasons best maps to why he has voted to close the question. Also, I think Fumble is right; we shouldn't read too much into these mind-maps. They are good approximations, and nothing more. Language is too intricate to map synonyms with precision – these are nothing more than a visualization tool.
    – J.R.
    Jun 10, 2014 at 10:28
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    If anyone is interested, I've reposted parts of this question on Linguistics.se. That being said, I'm not as sure of what is considered on-topic there, so we'll see what happens.
    – jimsug
    Jun 11, 2014 at 0:35

2 Answers 2


I've never researched this, but I would be very surprised if you found that words in English that have multiple unrelated definitions -- like "trunk" the nose of an elephant versus "trunk" a large suitcase versus "trunk" the main branch of a tree -- have the SAME multiple unrelated definitions in another language.

Even related definitions -- like "talk" a verb meaning to speak and "talk" a noun meaning a formal lecture -- I'd wonder about. I'm sure a linguist somewhere along the line has studied that question. Are such related definitions "natural" and so many different languages have the same relationships? Or are they specific to the thought processes of the people who invented one language?

I'm not sure what you mean by, "Does the concept of mind map suggest that translation is evil?" Do you mean "evil" literally here, as in, offends moral principles and violates the laws of God? Umm, I'd say "no". I'm guessing you mean, "Does this make translation difficult?"

Years ago I read an article by someone who had been involved in writing a computer program to translate between languages. He said that when his team started out, they thought this was an easy problem: If you want to translate, say, English to Spanish, you just look up the Spanish word for each English word, then re-arrange the word order a little to conform to the conventions of Spanish, and you're done.

They found that the results were totally unsatisfactory. In practice the problem is much more difficult, and one of the many reasons is that you can't always make a simple one-to-one correspondence between words in different languages. Words have shades of meaning and connotations that are not always reflected in a dictionary definition.


Many English words have more than one meaning. Consider the word pin, for example. It can function as a noun or a verb; the word can be used in the context of sewing, wrestling, bowling, golf, or chess.

As for the word talk, there are three main ways that word can be used (this is a bit oversimplified, but it will illustrate my point):

  • as a verb, meaning to speak
  • as a noun, meaning a lecture
  • as a verb, meaning to "spill the beans"

Once that is established, it wouldn't be too hard to put synonyms into specific groups.

As for how the maps are generated, I don't know for sure, but I imagine a program could look at the various candidates, and see which ones have common synonyms. That information could be used in an algorithm easily enough, especially after some programmers acquired some linguistics expertise, or vice-versa.

There is nothing evil about synonyms, but they are tricky. In other words, they are hard to pin down (Meaning 2, of course).

  • Interesting, this suggests that corresponding words of another language can treated as simple synonyms, placed into one class with English words.
    – Val
    Jun 9, 2014 at 14:01
  • @Val - Not exactly. It means some synonyms can be used as synonyms, and some can't. It depends on context. My favorite example is: What is the opposite of light? Answer: That depends. The answer could be dark, or it could be heavy – yet heavy and dark are not synonyms, even though they are both antonyms of the same word. If anything, it shows you need to be careful when doing word-for-word translations, because the translated word might be the wrong word.
    – J.R.
    Jun 9, 2014 at 14:48
  • What you are talking about is known as homophony. In your case, word 'light' would appear in different places of your map. Combining different languages, we won't have such problem. We will have the same meaning but different words. The same word in different languages can be considered as synonyms. I therefore think that salty vs. sour vs. bitter are all antonyms to a single word sweet. It is stronger example because it demonstrates that even single meaning of word, sweet, can produce multiple antonyms, depending on the axis that you are asking. But we have digressed.
    – Val
    Jun 9, 2014 at 16:30
  • I've posted on meta about this question. Jun 10, 2014 at 1:18

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