In this section you will find an update on Globalex by Ed Finegan, an update of progress with the Middle English Dictionary by Paul Schaffner, and two notices of dictionary projects.

Update on Globalex

Ed Finegan

In the Spring 2017 issue of the DSNA Newsletter, Ilan Kernerman provided a thorough introduction to Globalex, including descriptions of the five continental associations and eLex, the groups that played an active part over the past couple of years in preparation for launching an official alliance or “global constellation for lexicography” as Globalex. As Ilan wrote at the time, “The core idea of Globalex is to work on lexicography in global contexts and bring together different segments that operate on their own – on regional, topical or any other level – to cooperate.” You can read his report at http://dictionarysociety.com/?p=375 . As DSNA’s representative to the preparatory group that formed Globalex, I attended virtual meetings of the preparatory group each month and a couple of in-person meetings, including at eLex in Leiden in 2017 and the Euralex Congress in Ljubljana in July of this year (both cost-free to DSNA, it should be noted). At the Ljubljana meeting, the preparatory group concurred formally on a document called “Guidelines,” which constitutes the operating agreement of Globalex and has since been approved by the DSNA executive board and all the continental associations. Late in July, officers of the five continental associations signed the agreement, and you can view it below. The preparatory committee plans to disband itself on August 20, and the new “management committee” will have its first meeting after that. I have agreed to represent DSNA for the initial period, and in 2020 DSNA will designate a different representative.

Globalex signed by all CA officers

At the closing session of the Euralex Congress (with quite a few DSNA members in attendance), Ilan presented a brief overview of Globalex and its history to date, including mention of several workshops. Further information about the workshops and other Globalex activities can be found at https://globalex.link/ . Discussions are underway for possible Globalex activities at DSNA’s biennial meeting in Bloomington next May.


Middle English Dictionary Renovation

Paul Schaffner

A year ago, we at the University of Michigan Library reported that the long-deferred revision of the online Middle English Dictionary and its associated resources had begun, thanks to support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (awarded under its Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program), as well as the University of Michigan Library, which has taken up the challenge of Michigan’s decades-long commitment to historical lexicography. Though no dictionary revision is ever complete, and least of all this one, we can now report that the immediate goals of the project have been met, and that our revision efforts have borne fruit in the form of a new online platform and interface, bolstered by improved and enlarged data. We have been making changes in all three of the components of the Middle English Compendium (Dictionary, Bibliography, and Corpus), but only the former two of three are getting the new interface, for now. The Corpus is merely getting new texts (roughly doubling the total, as well as expanding the genre coverage), but remains temporarily housed on the old interface.

Changes to the data underlying the Dictionary and Bibliography fall roughly into four categories: enlarging the content (more quotations, more senses, more entries, more works cited, etc.); updating the data (to reflect changes in scholarly consensus, and the recent appearance of reference works like the Digital Index of Middle English Verse and the Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English); correcting the data (where it was wrong or misleading); and ‘opening’ the data to make it less print-oriented and more computer-searchable.

Changes to the interface partly reflect changes in the data — for example, we now include a search by modern English reflex based on improved links between MED and OED; and partly reflect a more modern sensibility with regard to the user experience. We have given up the ‘90s look and embraced something a little cleaner and mobile-friendly, with some modern tricks like marginal facets (by part of speech, subject label, and language of etymon) and type-ahead word selection.

Finally, changes to the underlying indexing platform move the MED from an obsolescent, vulnerable and heavily customized one-off system to one employing modern and far more nearly off-the-shelf components, ensuring the continued viability of the site, as well as making it far easier to update regularly and frequently–something we intend to do.

The ‘old’ MED and the ‘new’ MED will run concurrently for a few months, at least till we work the bugs out of the new system (please report any you find), and probably till we add an ‘advanced search’ with cross-field Boolean options to the new system.

The URL for the new MED is: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/

What the new MED gains:

  • Changes to roughly 12,000 entries.
  • Draft additions to about 8,000 of those…
  • …including 10,000 additional quotations.
  • 2,000 wholly new entries (mostly in draft or ‘stub’ form).
  • A smarter, more modern interface, with some faceting.
  • A more informative results list, making it easier to choose the desired entry.
  • A (beta) lookup search by modern English reflex.
  • The expansion of many cryptic abbreviations; the resolution of 80% of the surviving blind (undocumented) bibliographic references
  • Improvement of the ‘other spellings’ search by resolving all those difficult-to-parse parenthes(es and -dashes.
  • More nearly comprehensive linking to OED and DOE.
  • Redatings of some manuscripts, done in coordination with OED.
  • About 350 works added to the bibliography, including most of the major editions of the past twenty years.
  • References to DIMEV and LAEME (from the Bibliography) and to J. Norri’s Dictionary of Medical Vocabulary (from the Dictionary).
  • About 150 additional texts in the associated Corpus of Middle English.
  • The ability to be updated as often as new material is available.

What the new MED loses:

  • Some of the more sophisticated but less used multi-field Boolean searches (at least for the time being).
  • Its frozen-in-time quality.
  • Its veneer of authority and comprehensiveness, since we are adding much semi-digested material without having the time to incorporate it fully; many ‘stub entries’ on the Wikipedia model, and many draft additions, all marked as such. Making the material available seemed important enough that it was worth exposing the fact (which was always true) that the MED, like almost any dictionary, is always a contingent set of surmises, always a semi-informed work in progress.

What will stay the same:

  • The same familiar structure.
  • The same text, aside from corrections, etc.
  • The same editorial principles.
  • A continuous editorial tradition (some of the same lexicographers).
  • An unchanged platform for the Corpus, at the moment, since it sits on a generic library text-serving platform that will be upgraded separately.

Work still in progress:

  • Ongoing correction and supplementation.
  • Identification and regularization of taxonomic ‘binomials’.
  • Identification of internal cross-references and implementation as links.
  • Identification and unpacking of cited phrases and compounds.
  • Expansion of the inconsistent lists of spellings.


With thanks to:

  • The U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities
  • The University of Michigan Library
  • Michigan’s MED gift fund

Staff: Paul Schaffner (editor, P.I.); John Latta and Mona Logarbo (editors); Robert E. Lewis (MED chief editor emeritus; volunteer editor); Evan David, Sarah Huttenlocher, and Alyssa Pierce (editorial assistants); Chris Powell (eagle-eyed retrieval specialist); Bill Dueber, Gordon Leacock, and Tom Burton-West (programmers); Ben Howell (interface designer); Bridget Burke (interface developer); and Nabeela Jaffer (implementation project manager).


Digital Johnson’s Dictionary

Beth Rapp Young recently submitted a proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund “Johnson’s Dictionary Online: A Searchable Edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language [1755, 1773].” If funded, Jack Lynch (Rutgers) will be the project’s Lead Editor, working with Young and her colleagues Carmen Faye Mathes, Amy Larner Giroux, and William Dorner at the University of Central Florida to create a digital scholarly edition of Johnson’s 1st [1755] and 4th [1773] folio dictionaries. The project will offer search functionality comparable to other modern dictionaries, and will be available at johnsonsdictionaryonline.com, replacing the crowd-sourced edition currently there.  The plan is to proceed in three stages: first, create a searchable 1755 edition; second, create a searchable 1773 edition; third, enhance the coding in both editions. Facsimile images of these volumes will be contributed by The Warren N. and Suzanne B. Cordell Collection of Dictionaries at Indiana State University. Also contributing to the project are consultants Marc Alexander (University of Glasgow) and David-Antoine Williams (St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo), and Advisory Board members Robert DeMaria, Jr. (Vassar), Mark Kamrath (UCF), Lynda Mugglestone (Pembroke College, Oxford), and Allen Reddick (University of Zurich). Funding decisions will be announced in March 2019.

Beth Rapp Young, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of English
University of Central Florida


California State University, Fullerton Foundation
Fullerton, CA
Project Director: Timothy P. Henry
[Documenting Endangered Languages – Fellowships]
Project Title: Mitsqanaqa’n Ventureno-English Dictionary
Project Description: Research and analysis to complete a bidirectional dictionary of Ventureño, a dormant language of the Chumash family of central and southern coastal California, and English.
Outright: 25200 Match: 0