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Is there a way for Google search to include all inflections of a lexeme in the results? I am thinking specifically of languages other than English.

Here is an example of what I have in mind.

I am interested in sample sentences of the Finnish word "hahmottaa" (To grasp, to understand).

Since Finnish is an agglutinative language, the lexeme consists a dozen or more words. E.g. "hahmotamme", "hahmotimme" etc. I want the search to include all of them.

Is that possible?

Thank you!

1 Answer 1

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Finding all inflections requires wildcards, and Google's support for wildcards appears to be limited. According to the article What is a Google Wildcard Search?, the following wildcards and operators would come in handy:

  • The period operator (.): this serves as a wildcard for a single character. So searching for hahmot.mme (without quotes) should find both "hahmotamme" and "hahmotimme". You may need to change your Google settings to Finnish (to get Finnish instead of English search results) or add site:fi to the search to limit it to resources from Finland. The search results for hahmot.mme site:fi don't impress me, though.
  • The percent symbol (%): this replaces one or more characters.
  • The underscore (_): this represents a single character. The blog post Complete List of Google Search Operators and How to Use Them describes this as "a wildcard for Google Autocomplete", which is not quite the same thing. Unfortunately, hahmot_mme site:fi does not give me any results, unlike the period operator.

The Google Search Operators List does not list any of the above operators or wildcards and I have not been able to find any documentation from Google about the wildcards I have listed.

Possibly, Google is not the ideal search engine for the type of searches you need. You would be better of with a good search system over a text corpus, but access to such corpora is usually not free of charge. See for example Finnish text corpora (Sketch Engine), International Corpus of Learner Finnish (ICLFI) and those listed by the Institute for the Languages of Finland.

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  • Thank you for your thorough answer! I have used Corpora for English before and I am familiar with the concept. I know Estonian language has an inflection synthesized, I am sure Finnish has one too and many other languages. I am a little surprised that Google hasn't linked up to those.
    – Markku P.
    May 17 at 11:28

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