How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003 11:29:28 -0500 (EST) From: Donald F. Reindl Subject: Lexicography: An Introduction
Jackson, Howard (2002) Lexicography: An Introduction, Routledge.
Donald F. Reindl, Indiana University, Bloomington
Howard Jackson's "Lexicography: An Introduction" is an introduction to lexicography in the broadest sense, including essential terms and definitions, overviews of historical trends in the field, various "how to" aspects of lexicography, and suggestions for the systematic evaluation of lexicographic works. Chapter 1 "Words" defines basic linguistic concepts (e.g., word, lexeme, morpheme) relevant to lexicography, while Chapter 2 "Facts about words" examines the historical roots of the English language and various word types (e.g., acronyms, loanwords, compounds, synonyms, antonyms), often further subdividing these (e.g. gradable, mutually exclusive and converse antonyms). This overview will chiefly be informative to beginning students, although the examples provided and their classification can also serve as a handy reference for experienced linguists. The role of the dictionary as part of our cultural fabric is examined in Chapter 3 "The dictionary." Jackson looks at popular perceptions of "the dictionary," and gives an overview of types (historical, contemporary, general purpose, specialist, etc.) and parts (front matter, body, appendices) of dictionaries. It is also here that the primary scope of the book is established; namely, a treatment of monolingual dictionaries. It readily becomes apparent that the book is further restricted to English-language monolingual dictionaries, and chiefly British ones at that. Nonetheless, a great deal of what is addressed applies to other categories of dictionaries. Chapters 4 through 6 give an overview of the historical development of English dictionaries. Jackson is particularly good at connecting the material at hand to its social and historical context. Thus we read, for example, how the Renaissance dictionaries were conceived of as lists of difficult words for the benefit of "the unlearned Reader," "Ladies, Gentlewomen, or any other unskilfull persons," the "curious" or "ignorant," or anyone else without the benefits of a classical education (pp. 32-38). The development of the idea of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is covered extensively in chapter 5, from the founding of the Philological Society in 1842 to the launching of the OED on-line in March 2000. Along the way, there is detailed coverage of issues such as the structure of entries in the OED as well as interspersed references to decisions such as the introduction of International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) notation in the second edition of the OED. Jackson briefly crosses the Atlantic in Chapter 6 to look at the efforts by Noah Webster (1758-1843) to create a dictionary of American English. In doing so, he provides interesting documentation of Webster's own nationalist and economic motivations for establishing an orthographically distinct variety of English, as well as resistance to the idea by some of Webster's fellow Americans. However, the assessment of Webster's influence is overly modest. Jackson states that "the spelling reforms that were adopted in American English were only a limited subset of those proposed by Webster," (p. 62) citing three: -our > -or (Br. favour, Am. favor), - re > -er (Br. theatre, Am. theater), and certain single consonants (Br. traveller, Am. traveler). In fact, Webster's influence on orthography was even greater, and in some cases extends to today's British orthography, with changes such as -ck > -c (Old Br. publick, Br./Am. public; this change was also occurring in Br. by the end of the 18th century), -er > -or based on Latin spelling (Old Br. visiter > Br./Am. visitor), and -ise > -ize based on Greek or Latin origin (Br. organise, Br./Am. organize). The volume's scant six pages devoted to American lexicography end on a sour note, dwelling on negative reactions to the appearance of Webster's Third New International in 1961. Chapter 7 "Users and uses" examines two basic questions: who are the users of dictionaries and for what purpose do they use them? These are notoriously difficult to answer, except to say that a broad range of users employs dictionaries for multiple purposes. It is generally agreed that checking meaning and spelling predominate among uses of the dictionary, although speakers of English as a foreign language (EFL) frequently use monolingual English dictionaries to check syntactic patterns and look for synonyms as well. Chapters 8 "Meaning in dictionaries" and 9 "Beyond definition" delve into the nuts and bolts of dictionary composition: what to define, arrangement of material (lumping and splitting, ordering of senses historically or by frequency), writing definitions, including sense relations (synonyms, hyponyms, etc.), representation of spelling and pronunciation, and indicating inflection, word class, and usage. Regarding pronunciation, attention is drawn to the general (but not exclusive) use of IPA in British lexicography versus a "respelling" system in American dictionaries, with a useful contrastive table on page 103. Inasmuch as "any transcription system will constitute a learning task for the user" (p. 103), the British use of IPA seems a clear advantage over the idiosyncratic dots, digraphs, underlining, circumflexes and other conventions found in American dictionaries. In Chapter 10 "Etymology," Jackson observes that there is little evidence that most dictionary users make use of etymological information. Rather, it has become an established part of the English dictionary through historical accident and tradition. Jackson characterizes American lexicography as paying less attention to etymology than British lexicography (p. 67). However, the only modern American dictionary referred to in the book -- Webster's Third New International -- features etymologies equal to or more complete than those cited from British sources. In this light, it is also odd that there is no reference to the American Heritage Dictionary (1969), which was groundbreaking in its inclusion of Indo- European roots in its etymological material. Chapter 11 "Dictionaries for learners" addresses the explosion in dictionaries designed to assist EFL learners. For the last half- century, these have sought to aid students by focusing on grammatical patterns not readily derived from standard dictionaries and limiting the range of vocabulary included. In this reviewer's experience, however, learners are sometimes frustrated by the bewildering variety of intermediate dictionaries they are expected to graduate from and into. But, as Jackson observes, the "EFL market is a lucrative one for publishers" and so we might expect this area of lexicography to expand even further. In Chapter 12 "Abandoning the alphabet," Jackson takes a look at the millennium-long history of works based on the semantic arrangement of vocabulary, culminating in the thesaurus. Nonetheless, a reliance on alphabetized lists persists and the polysemy of many words demands their multiple entry in thematic lists. Both of these factors indicate that alphabetically arranged dictionaries will remain the norm. There is a return to nuts and bolts in Chapter 13 "Compiling dictionaries," where planning, staffing, budgets, data banks, and computer corpora all receive attention in turn. Chapter 14 "Criticising dictionaries" is a particularly useful section for anyone wishing to professionally evaluate a dictionary. As Jackson points out, there are few general standards or criteria for this purpose, and popular reviews often give the impression of being written with no parameters in mind. As a remedy, Jackson offers four categories for evaluating the presentation of a dictionary, and twelve categories for critically examining its content.
A particular strength of Jackson's book lies in its relevant biographical information about influential persons in the history of lexicography. Reading details about the lives of Frederick Furnivall (1825-1910, 48-49), James Murray (1837-1915, pp. 49-51) and Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869, pp. 149-150) brings these characters to life, contributing to an understanding of not only the motivations that underlay their efforts, but the challenges they faced as well. In general, the terms and examples provided conform to standard linguistic usage. An exception is his characterization of "folk etymology" as tracing a word to an old cultural practice, such as the derivation of "bigwig" from the former practice of prominent men wearing large wigs (p. 119). A folk etymology is, of course, an erroneous explanation of a word's origin (e.g., sirloin < *Sir Loin) or popular transformation of a word to a more familiar form (e.g., chaise longue > chaise lounge). Each chapter ends with a useful annotated list of material entitled "Further Reading" to guide those interested in learning more about the topic. The internal organization of the chapters is quite good, with numbered section headers (e.g., "9.6 Usage," "9.6.1 Dialect," "9.6.2 Formality," "9.6.3 Status," etc.). Unfortunately, there is no concise overview of these section titles, neither in the table of contents nor at the beginnings of the individual chapters. One of the major shortcomings of the work is an occasional tendency to become mired in detail. The description of the features and use of the electronic version of the Concise Oxford Dictionary (pp. 70-71) reads more like a user's manual or a sales plug than an introduction to lexicography. The book becomes similarly bogged down in the discussion of learner's dictionaries, for example, by citing the page numbers of all of the color plates in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (p 140). Repetition is another problem in the book. For example, one is informed three times (pp. 25, 162, 177) that two columns of text is usual on a page, but some dictionaries have three columns of text. Similarly, the detailed explanation of how to use Boolean operators and wildcards in electronic searches on pages 70-71 is encountered again on page 141. The volume could also be improved by expanding its relatively brief index of 100 or so terms. At times, it is hard to see why some relatively obscure items were included (e.g., meronymy) but others omitted (e.g., cognate, etymological fallacy, IPA, Thorndike's block system, etc.). The lack of better indexing (and the skeletal table of contents) means that there is much useful information in the volume that is not readily accessible for later consultation. "Lexicography: An Introduction" is a work that will be enjoyed by amateur and professional linguists alike. Its virtues more than make up for its deficiencies, and the latter could easily be addressed in a revised edition.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Donald F. Reindl is a doctoral candidate in Slavic linguistics at the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. His research interests include historical linguistics, language planning, and language contact. He is currently working as a translator and lecturer at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.