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Is it possible to build thesaurus by simply analyzing lots of text, or it's obligatory should be handmade?

Also a question: is there free-to-download&use English language thesaurus?

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Off the top of my head there's WordNet (Online interface, Download), which is also used by NLTK.

I've got no idea how you'd go about making a thesaurus without human intervention. Maybe if you had a thesaurus in language A and a machine translation program trained to translate between language A and language B, it is conceivable that you could use that to get a thesaurus for language B (though of doubtful quality, of course).

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  • I don't think any one could be fully automated that would be usable without substantial human intervention especially since a good thesarus will also distinguish synonym by semantic meanings. I reckon hypernyms and hypnyms would be a bit easier (since the primary word in the definition of pine would be tree, ditto for oak, maple, etc, so you could link them all as a type of tree), but still subject to tons of false negatives and positives. – user0721090601 Mar 2 '15 at 2:06
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I second the WordNet answer; I've automatically generated synsets from it for a project where I was attempting to typify lexical (semantic) distance.

As for a great thesaurus, especially if you're a developer, check out wordnik.

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If you're aim is to create a Thesaurus for a minority language or a language for which there is not already a large dictionary and/or text corpus, you would probably be well served by using the "Rapid Word Collection" approach in conjunction with software such as WeSay and/or FieldWorks Language Explorer (FLEx).

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  • Thanks for the comment! I'll take a look into those tools. I am mostly interested in English and Russian languages, trying to auto-build thesaurus for the later. – Denis Kulagin Jul 16 '15 at 12:37
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You can also automate this using Elasticsearch with a decent set of documents. For example, see arxlive, which followed the method described in part 1 of this blog.

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