Our Conference in Bloomington is now history. The Fall Newsletter will be devoted to it. Please visit this site September 1 for a full treatment.
Note that Globalex Minutes are kept updated all year on the Dictionary News segment of the Newsletter.
Our Conference in Bloomington is now history. The Fall Newsletter will be devoted to it. Please visit this site September 1 for a full treatment.
Note that Globalex Minutes are kept updated all year on the Dictionary News segment of the Newsletter.
REGISTRATION IS OPEN
We’re happy to report that registration for DSNA 22 (May 8-11, 2019, in Bloomington, Indiana) is open! Register at https://www.indiana.edu/~iucweb/dsna/
Attendance at DSNA 22 is open to members of the DSNA. If you aren’t sure about your membership status, contact the DSNA office at firstname.lastname@example.org. We encourage you to register early to guarantee your lodging preference.
We look forward to seeing you in May!
See https://dictionarysociety.com/conference/ for full details.
REQUEST FOR NOMINATIONS – CASSIDY and BAILEY AWARDS
At the upcoming DSNA biennial conference in Bloomington, two awards will be presented. These awards honor colleagues of great distinction, and they are named for distinguished colleagues:
The members of the selection committee are Donna Farina, Steve Kleinedler, Katherine Martin, Lindsay Rose Russell, and Jesse Sheidlower. We welcome nominations for either or both awards from any DSNA member. Please email your nomination(s) to Steve Kleinedler by January 15, 2019 at email@example.com . In the subject line please use Bailey Nomination: [Nominee] and/or Cassidy Nomination [Nominee].
2015: Gerald Cohen (Cassidy) J. Edward Gates (Bailey)
2017: Lise Winer (Cassidy), Madeline Kripke (Bailey)
CALL FOR PAPERS
Vernacular Practices of Lexicography
Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America invites submissions for a special issue focused on practices of lexicography arising outside of professionalized or scholarly dictionary-making. Other disciplines describe as “vernacular” the everyday practices and products that coexist (and may preexist) alongside officially codified and valorized practices. Scant research addresses the topic even though, on the scale of human linguistic history, most “practices of lexicography” have taken place outside the context of professional lexicography.
What are practices of lexicography?
What is vernacular lexicography?
Most, if not all, of what happens on Wiktionary and Urban Dictionary; digital, crowdsourced, and other electronically mediated community dictionary projects; glossaries — the brief, usually simplified and topic-constrained, dictionary-shaped word-to-definition lists found in some books; dictionary-formatted creative works; dictionary-style texts that appear in marketing, consumer goods, and internet memes that may appropriate, subvert, or parody professional standards. The tropes of structure and content in these works reveal what everyday people notice (and don’t notice) about dictionaries.
Between vernacular and professionalized lexicography
Insiders and outsiders in vernacular lexicography
Missionaries have documented the languages of the communities they work with and—though now trained by organizations like SIL (https://www.sil.org/training/lexicography)—missionary lexicography has historically been vernacular. What kind of lexicography arises when an endangered or minority language is documented, from the inside, by its native speakers? How compatible are diverse indigenous linguistic practices with (largely western) lexicographical traditions? Does adherence to present-day lexicographical standards erase essential aspects of such languages?
Inquiries and expressions of interest are strongly encouraged ASAP to special issue editor
Orion Montoya (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Final submission deadline July 8, 2019. Publication date November 2019.
PRELIMINARY ANNOUNCEMENT: eLex 2019
Electronic lexicography in the 21st century
eLex conference series continues with a conference in the beautiful city of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Portugal. Please forward this announcement to any colleagues or lists that may be interested in the conference.
Dates: 1-3 October 2019
Venue: Vila Galé Hotel, Sintra, Portugal
Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 February 2019
Conference website: https://elex.link/ (more information available soon)
Language of the conference: English
Further information such as call for papers, keynote speakers, registration etc. will be made available soon. The authors of accepted papers will be invited to submit a full paper for the conference proceedings, which are indexed by SCOPUS.
Looking forward to seeing you in Portugal.
eLex 2019 organizing committee:
Tanara Zingano Kuhn, CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra (head of the organising committee)
Margarita Correia, CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra / University of Lisbon
José Pedro Ferreira, CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra
Maarten Janssen CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra
Isabel Pereira, CELGA-ILTEC, University of Coimbra
Jelena Kallas, Institute of the Estonian Language
Miloš Jakubíček, Lexical Computing
Iztok Kosem, University of Ljubljana / Jožef Stefan Institute
Simon Krek, University of Ljubljana / “Jožef Stefan” Institute
Carole Tiberius, Dutch Language Institute
Honorary Presidential Memberships for 2018: Call for Nominations
Honorary Presidential Memberships recognize outstanding professional lexicographers and lexicologists early in their careers by awarding four-year memberships to the DSNA. Additionally, for the first DSNA conference that a recipient attends during this four-year period, $400 will be awarded to help defray the cost.
Members of the Society are encouraged to nominate graduate students or professional lexicographers in the first five years of their careers for Presidential Memberships. Please send letters of nomination to Steve Kleinedler at email@example.com. In the Subject line, please put “Honorary Presidential Membership Nomination:” followed by the last name of the nominee. Letters should explain nominee’s lexicographical or lexicological interests, relevant activity and accomplishments, how sponsors see their nominees developing professionally, and why nominees should be members of the DSNA, in terms of both what the DSNA can do for the nominee, and what the nominee can do for the DSNA.
Please send nomination emails by September 30, 2018. Presidential Members will choose Founding Members or Fellows of the Society as their namesakes: so, a successful nominee might be, for instance, the Frederic G. Cassidy Presidential Member of the Dictionary Society of North America, if they so choose. Help us identify and recognize the next generation of DSNA’s leaders today!
Calling for Members for New DSNA Membership Committee
Earlier this year, the DSNA Executive voted to install a Membership Committee, for which I have taken the pro-tem lead.
We have seen in last year’s (very successful) attempt by David Jost (thanks a lot!) that a more active outreach is crucial for a healthy membership count. In this next phase, we would like to expand our efforts and attract new groups of potential members, for which I’d like to form a committee of 4-6 people that will report to the Board. If you’re interested to help decide, via the character of its membership so to speak, where DSNA will be heading, please be in touch. There are some ideas, but nothing is set in stone at all and I hope, very much indeed, that you will bring your own ideas to the table. Think: “DSNA in the 21st century? What do you need to do to stay/become (more) relevant?”
Please contact me if interested at Stefan dot dollinger at u b c dot c a.
Assoc. Prof. Stefan Dollinger, Ph.D, M.A.
Departments of English Language & Literatures, UBC Vancouver
Canadian English Lab, Director, UBC Vancouver
(located on unceded Musqueam Territory)
Middle English Dictionary Renovation
A year ago, we at the University of Michigan Library reported that 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:
What the new MED loses:
What will stay the same:
Work still in progress:
With thanks to:
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).
For a complete run of Newsletters before 2017 click on the Resources tab.
Walter D. Glanze, R.I.P.
Yvonne M. Lacy, the daughter of Walter D. Glanze, one of the founding members of the Dictionary Society of North America, has informed us that he died last Wednesday, May 30, 2018 in New York City at the age of 89. If you wish to send condolences, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The obituary for Walter Glanze can be found here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=189262915
The Stanford Dictionary Lab
Sarah Ogilvie, Associate Editor of Dictionaries, member of the Executive Board and the Publications Committee, announces her new Dictionary Lab at Stanford https://dictionarylab.stanford.edu/. Here is the About statement.
The Stanford Dictionary Lab is a research initiative that applies qualitative and quantitative analysis to the study of dictionaries and languages around the world. The Lab is open to Stanford students, professors, and collaborators beyond. In the spirit of digital humanities, many of our projects are collaborative and apply digital tools and methods (such as text analysis, data visualization, network analysis, graph theory, and machine learning) to dictionary data in order to ask new questions and create new knowledge.
Research at the Lab focusses on three main areas: research on the languages of the world by analyzing dictionary data; research on general lexicography and lexicology relating to all languages; and research on the history and creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. Often called ‘forensic dictionary analysis’, this methodology combines statistical, textual, contextual, and qualitative analyses to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of language, and the making and reception of dictionaries.
We welcome collaborations on any language of the world, so please get in touch with the Director, Dr Sarah Ogilvie (sogilvie at stanford.edu), if you have an idea for a collaborative project relating to the analysis of dictionaries and language.
A recent study at https://providrug.com/ found that, despite a common misconception, Modafinil doesn’t act like amphetamines or methylphenidate (Ritalin). It should be noted that methylphenidate does not belong to the class of amphetamines, but in some aspects, it has a similar effect. At the same time, both methylphenidate and amphetamines are used for substitution treatment in patients addicted to cocaine.
Nominating Committee Set
The nominating committee is now full: Michael Hancher (thru conference 2019), Connie Eble (thru conference 2019), Katy Isaacs (through conference 2021), and Sarah Ogilvie (through conference 2021)
Paean to dictionaries
Thanks to Lise Winer for sending this paean to dictionaries.
Alberto Manguel, The magical power of dictionaries. Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 12, 2018.
A Way with Words: Celebrating the Cordell Collection
Indiana State University has been celebrating what it calls its “Sesquicentennial Era,” from 2015 through 2020. ISU’s earliest incarnation, the Indiana State Normal School, was founded by the Indiana state legislature in 1865 but its doors didn’t open until 1870. In the midst of its festivities, on November 9, 2017, the university focused its attention on two jewels in its crown, both connected to lexicography and DSNA: the Joseph S. Schick Lecture Series and the Warren N. and Suzanne B. Cordell Collection of Dictionaries. On that evening, more than 130 members of the ISU community and a smaller group of DSNA representatives gathered in the Cunningham Memorial Library Events Area — familiar to those who attended the DSNA (2009) or ICHLL (2016) meetings at Indiana University — for a special event titled “A Way with Words.” DSNA was the event’s primary external sponsor
Joseph S. Schick, who taught in the Department of English at ISU for 30 years, endowed a lecture series on language, literature, and lexicography before 1900. To date, more than 200 scholars from around the Anglophone world have spoken in the series, including sometime DSNA members John Algeo, Richard W. Bailey, F. G. Cassidy, Jack Lynch, Jesse Sheidlower, and Allen Walker Read, who delivered the inaugural lecture in 1988. The Cordell Collection was established with a gift of 453 early dictionaries from ISU alumnus Warren N. Cordell in 1969. The collection now holds more than 30,000 volumes, as well as various archives and documents. As a tour guide for sponsors of the event puts it, “World renowned, it is the largest collection of its kind in the western hemisphere.” The collection spurred Edward Gates to organize two conferences on dictionary history during the 1970s from which DSNA was born (for more on which see my “The Dictionary Society of America: The Early Years,” parts 1 and 2, in Dictionaries 35 and 38(1)). Many once and future DSNA members — Dabney Bankert, Lisa Berglund, Monique Cormier, Giovanni Iamartino, Rod McConchie, Linda Mitchell, Chris Mulhall, Mira Podhajecka, Lindsay Russell, and John Taylor — have received grants to study in the Cordell Collection.
As a benefit of sponsorship, DSNA had a table for eight at the banquet that made up part of the evening’s program. Chairs at the table were filled by Michael Adams, Traci Nagle, Kevin Rottet, Lindsay Russell, Luanne and Mike von Schneidemesser, and Carly Bahler and Martin Maillot, two of Kevin’s graduate students. Prior to the banquet, DSNA representatives were given a special tour of the Cordell Collection and provided with the full-color, forty-page guide to the tour and collection, which includes “Remarks by Warren N. Cordell” — first published in Paul S. Koda’s A Short-Title Catalogue of the Warren and Suzanne B. Cordell Collection of Dictionaries 1475–1900 (1975) — and an annotated bibliography of the works on display in the tour, among them incunabula and early printed dictionaries and grammars of Balbi, Calepino, and Molina, as well as the newest addition to the collection, Johannes Tortellius’ De Orthographia dictionum e Graecis tractarum (1471), purchased partly with the event’s proceeds, including DSNA’s sponsorship. (Copies of the guide are available from Cinda May, Chair of Special Collections at the Cunningham Memorial Library — and DSNA member — at Cinda.May@indstate.edu.) DSNA representatives were taken behind the scenes, into the closed stacks, for a closer view of the collection.
After dinner, the assembled guests were treated to a presentation by DSNA member Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette, co-hosts and co-producers of A Way with Words, a popular public radio show about word history, usage, and related matters. Questions and answers followed, full of humor and high spirits. As we like to say, a good time was had by all — unusually, this time, in the interest of lexicography. I’m tempted to write that there’s no better way for DSNA to celebrate its historical, continuing relationship with the Cordell Collection, but, really, there is: donate materials or send gifts to support it, or use its materials, indeed, even apply for a fellowship to study there intensively. Visit https://library.indstate.edu/rbsc/cordell/cordell-idx.html and https://library.indstate.edu/rbsc/fellow.pdf.
The DSNA Professional Standards and Code of Conduct has been officially established and can be read here:
DSNA Professional Standards and Code of Conduct
Drafted August 1, 2017
Second Draft: September 26, 2017
Adopted by DSNA Executive Board: October 18, 2017
Professional Conduct and Collegiality
Freedom of expression and vigorous debate are crucial to scholarly exchange. DSNA strives to uphold these principles at all times, while strongly valuing mutual respect and providing an environment for exchange free of intimidation. We expect speakers and questioners at our meetings to demonstrate civility at all times, even in the midst of disagreement.
As a Society, we recognize that lexicography and lexicology are disciplines that have a complex, sometimes exclusionary, history. We welcome new scholarship that challenges our presuppositions regarding our field, while also upholding a commitment to excellence in scholarship and research, and integrity in our work. The Society’s membership exhibits substantial diversity in terms of profession, expertise, and interest. We encourage the input of all our members, regardless of formal qualification and experience, as we together advance the scholarly and public understanding of lexicography and lexicology.
Nondiscrimination and Anti‐Harassment Standards
The DSNA is dedicated to providing a safe, hospitable, and productive environment for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, physical appearance, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or employment status. Accordingly, the Society deplores all harassment and is sensitive to the harm suffered by persons who experience it. We expect those participating in DSNA meetings and events to treat others with the utmost respect, and not to engage in behavior that is intimidating, threatening, or harassing. This expectation applies to all involved, including but not limited to our speakers, staff, volunteers, attendees and guests.
The DSNA prohibits harassment on any grounds, including race, ethnicity, religion, disability, physical appearance, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or employment status. Harassment constitutes physical or verbal behavior that is not welcome by a member and/or that is personally intimidating, hostile, offensive, coercive or threatening. It may include such actions as: (1) verbal abuse; (2) degrading comments; (3) the display of offensive objects or images outside of a scholarly context (e.g., a presentation on the treatment of profanity in a dictionary would not be considered offensive whereas the use of profanity directed at a fellow member would be); (4) conduct or comments of a lewd or lascivious nature; and (5) other conduct that the targeted individual (or group of individuals) might reasonably find to be intimidating, hostile, offensive, coercive, or threatening.
Harassment and unprofessional conduct, in any form, prevent us from carrying out our mandate of fostering a spirit of collegiality and support. Such conduct may jeopardize a member’s participation in DSNA events or their membership. If an individual believes that she or he has experienced harassment as outlined above at the Society’s meetings or events, the individual is requested to report it immediately to a member of the Executive Board and/or the President of the Societ
American Heritage Dictionary News
Steve Kleinedler, president of the DSNA, has passed on this news about the American Heritage Dictionary, from a statement that was released on February 1, 2018.
“With the continuing decline in consumer demand for print dictionaries we have reduced our front-list plans steadily over the past decade, and reorganized our staff in stages. Today, regretfully, we eliminated two positions. In the spring, Executive Editor Steve Kleinedler will transition to Editor at Large, working on a part-time basis. We will continue to update the American Heritage and Webster’s New World databases, continue to work with licensing partners, and continue to publish updated editions as the market allows.” – Bruce Nichols, SVP and Publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
News from DSNA Executive Secretary
As of 2/3/2018
The DSNA Newsletter is usually published twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. The editor is David Jost. News of members and other items of interest to our readers are welcome. Please send Newsletter correspondence, such as items for publication, to the editor at email@example.com. Send Member News submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also send submission for News on the website to David Jost.
Send correspondence re membership, etc. to
Kory Stamper, Executive Secretary, DSNA
PO Box 537
Collingswood, NJ 08108-0537
The DSNA Newsletter is usually published twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. The editor is David Jost. Member news items can be sent to email@example.com. Other Newsletter correspondence, such as articles for publication, should be directed to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send correspondence re membership, etc. to
Kory Stamper, Executive Secretary, DSNA
PO Box 537
Collingswood, NJ 08108-0537
This issue: Vol. 41 No. 2 (2017)
Cumulative issue #84
In this issue of the Newsletter you will find a celebration, bibliomania, vital history, and educational material of interest as well as much else. I have formalized various departments such as Member News, DSNA News, and so on. Once again I am grateful for the editorial help of Peter Chipman of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the American Heritage Dictionary.
Please remember that you the members are the resource for the Newsletter and I welcome all contributors.
David Jost, Editor
The DSNA Newsletter is usually published twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. The editor is David Jost. News of members and other items of interest to our readers are welcome. Please send Newsletter correspondence, such as items for publication, to the editor at email@example.com.
Send correspondence re membership, etc. to
Kory Stamper, Executive Secretary, DSNA
PO Box 537
Collingswood, NJ 08108-0537
This issue: Vol. 41 No. 1 (2017)
Cumulative issue #83
Report of election of Officers and Board Members-at-Large
The Nominating Committee of the DSNA (Chair David Jost; Connie Eble, Michael Hancher) submitted the following ballot for 2017 and these are our new officers. A biography of each is given below. Steve Kleinedler, as present Vice-President/President-Elect, becomes President for 2017-2019. Stefan Dollinger and Lise Winer continue as Members-at-Large for 2017-2019.
Elizabeth Knowles began her career as a historical lexicographer at Oxford University Press in 1977, working as a library researcher for the second Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary. She was subsequently a senior editor for a major revision of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (4th edition, OUP 1993), when she was responsible for the dictionary’s historical research programme. She took over responsibility for Oxford’s quotations dictionaries in 1993, and has edited the last four editions of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (8th edition, 2014). Other editorial credits for OUP include What They Didn’t Say: A Book of Misquotations (2006) and How to Read a Word (2010). She has written and lectured on the history of dictionaries, and she served as editor of Dictionaries from 2010 to 2013. She is currently working on a study of quotations in the English language for Oxford University Press. She has been a Fellow of the Dictionary Society of North America since 2015.
Kory Stamper is an Associate Editor at Merriam-Webster. In her 19 years as a lexicographer, she’s worked on dozens of titles, including Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, Merriam-Webster’s Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary, and the new Merriam-Webster Unabridged. In addition to defining, she writes for the M-W website (www.merriam-webster.com), appears in their popular “Ask the Editor” video series, and presents on language and lexicography at both national and international conferences. Kory received her bachelor’s degree in Medieval Studies (with an early language/literature focus) from Smith College in 1996. Her first book, Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, was just released by Pantheon/Knopf, and she is working on a second nonfiction book about defining for Pantheon.
Peter Gilliver is an Associate Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary; he has been a member of the OED’s editorial staff since 1987. For much of that time he has also been researching and writing about the history of the project; his book The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary was published by OUP in 2016. He is also the co-author (with fellow lexicographers Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner) of The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary (2006). He has been presenting papers on the history of the OED at the DSNA’s meetings since 2003, and has had several of these papers published in Dictionaries; he has also spoken and written widely elsewhere both on the history of the Dictionary and on Tolkien. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the LEME (Lexicons of Early Modern English) project.
Photo credit: Jean Pierre de Rosnay
Sarah Ogilvie is a linguist and lexicographer at Stanford University. She previously taught linguistics at Cambridge University (Alice Tong Tze Research Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College) and at the Australian National University (Director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and Chief Editor of Oxford Dictionaries, Australia). As a practical lexicographer she has written both diachronic dictionaries (Editor at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) responsible for World Englishes and words of non-European provenance) and synchronic dictionaries (she was Etymologist of the current Shorter Oxford Dictionary and has written several general desktop dictionaries in Britain and Australia, including thesauruses and children’s dictionaries). In addition, she works on endangered languages and wrote a bilingual dictionary and grammar of Morrobalama, an Aboriginal language of Australia. Technology is a large focus of her work and research and in 2012-2014, she worked on digital dictionaries and software for Amazon Kindle at Lab126, Amazon’s innovation lab in Silicon Valley. Sarah is originally from Australia where she studied for a BSc in Computer Science and Pure Mathematics at the University of Queensland and a MA in Linguistics at the Australian National University, before completing a doctorate in Linguistics at Oxford University. She is author of Words of the World: a global history of the Oxford English Dictionary (Cambridge University Press, 2013), and co-editor of The Concise Encyclopedia of the Language of the World (Elsevier, 2008) and Keeping Languages Alive: documentation, pedagogy, and revitalization (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Katy has retired from her role with the Newsletter. She edited 10 issues from 2008 to 2012, and assisted with the editing or production of 5 more between 2013 and 2016. The Society expresses its gratitude to her for her many years of service.
I would like to thank everyone who contributed, especially former Executive Secretary Lisa Berglund, who was unfailingly cheerful and helpful. Many of the issues would not have appeared were it not for her organizational skills. Staunch columnists David Vancil and Reinhard Hartmann filled many pages for me, and Michael Adams, Luanne von Schneidemesser, Joan Hall, Wendalyn Nichols, Rebecca Shapiro, Martha Mayou, and David Jost provided text, photos, technical and emotional support, and much needed nagging; thank you all.
ACLS Report on the DSNA
Rebecca Shapiro, our Executive Secretary, wrote the following report for the ACLS. It was published with reports from other learned societies in a document entitled “Beyond the Numbers.” Here is her explanation of how she came to write this, followed by the report itself.
I felt compelled (really) to volunteer for this because we are one of the most unusual organizations in the ACLS because of the history of academics and working lexicographers. I have liked the practical, applied nature of what many people in the society do and how willing they are to share information. I have found myself explaining how different we are at the ACLS meetings because not only are we one of the smallest but we are such an interesting hybrid group of practitioners and scholars, some of whom are both. So, when the leadership asked for a representative from a small organization, my hand went up.
Dictionary Society of North America
Rebecca Shapiro, Executive Secretary
The membership of the Dictionary Society of North America (DSNA)—a mix of academics, practicing lexicographers, and others who work with words and word usage—come from over forty countries, with the majority working in the United States and Canada. They are scholars of dictionaries, librarians, booksellers, translators, linguists, publishers, writers, book collectors, journalists, lawyers, and people with avocational interests in dictionaries, glossaries, and thesauri.
Challenges. Like many smaller societies, the DSNA confronts major economic and technological concerns. Membership in the DSNA has declined in recent years, from over 350 eight years ago to about 200 today. To some extent, our relationship with Project Muse, the digital publications database which provides online access to our annual journal, has offset the reduction in membership income; new online revenues now also cover publishing costs. Ironically, while that income has greatly exceeded our expectations, it may also be reducing membership: some of our academic members, who can now receive Dictionaries online through their libraries, have decided to drop their DSNA memberships. Likewise, some libraries that were DSNA institutional members have dropped those memberships because their Project Muse subscriptions provide what is for them the primary benefit of DSNA membership.
DSNA’s membership has always included a significant number of working lexicographers—professionals who create dictionaries and thesauri—in addition to academics and those in allied fields. In recent years, the lexicography industry has been deeply affected by increased free access to dictionaries online, as well as by the consolidation of publishing companies and a shift from full-time workers to freelancers. This shrinking workforce has reduced our membership numbers, which in turn has diminished the interaction of professionals working in the field with professionals studying the field.
One of the society’s strengths—having many long-term members—carries with it a weakness: many who have been members for decades are retiring, and we have been less successful than we had hoped at attracting new, younger members to replace them. There are several reasons. The gateways to our field are closing: lexicography is taught at fewer institutions than in the past. Our every-other-year conference schedule and annual journal allow people to lose track of us, and annual journals are not cited or indexed as widely. And we have only one paid staff person—a non-member—to follow through on day-to-day capacity-building and membership development.
New strategies. DSNA is now working to increase membership, improve the content and impact of our publication, and achieve greater visibility and relevance.
We have convened a membership committee to make fundamental changes in how we conduct member business in order to create more interest in our society and more benefits attendant to DSNA membership. These include making radical changes in membership categories and fees, and shifting the DSNA blog to a proper website. The editor of Dictionaries has been working to improve its ranking and citation rate and is considering twice-yearly publication to increase website traffic and general visibility. While making money will require spending money, we believe the costs will be well worth it.
In addition, our leadership connected with the American Dialect Society and the Linguistic Society of America and has become part of the “Word of the Year” program in January 2016. Specifically, the DSNA sponsored, based on recent usage, a “Word to Watch” for the upcoming year as a complement to the retrospective Word of the Year that the Dialect Society has designated for almost 20 years. The Word to Watch for 2016 is “ghost”: to disappear electronically from someone’s life or to make a person disappear electronically from someone’s life. We hope to make similar connections with other allied societies.
We are starting to host regional symposia to generate interest and to share ideas, information, and contacts. The first took place in January 2016 in New York City, and others are being considered for Boston and Philadelphia. DSNA members in the New York City area named their group MetroLexNYC, and groups with similar names will hopefully be founded elsewhere. MetroLexNYC planned a flexible and informal program, with just three presenters; we will test these and other format innovations at future gatherings. The initial response to the event indicates great interest in the format—indeed, after a huge snowstorm, almost 40 people attended. We plan to host quarterly gatherings to maintain interest between conferences and to encourage attendance from lapsed and potential new members.
The DSNA connects with its membership through a semiannual newsletter that provides information about the Society and its members, dictionaries or lexicographic research in progress or recently published lexicography courses and workshops, and recent or forthcoming conferences of lexicographic interest. We also publish the annual Dictionaries, which contains articles on issues relevant to the Society; notes and queries on the making, critique, use, collection, and history of dictionaries; descriptions of significant dictionary collections; reviews on books about lexicography or closely related topics; and bibliographies.
Programs. The Society meets every other year to present and hear papers about dictionaries. Occasionally, the Society holds meetings with related societies, such as the Society for the History of the English Language. Attended by roughly 100 people, our conference holds only one session at a time, engendering a collaborative atmosphere.
About DNSA. The Dictionary Society of North America was founded after a 1975 Indiana State University colloquium, “Research on the History of English Dictionaries.” It was admitted to the American Council of Learned Societies in 1994. Its principal publication, The Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America, is published by the Dictionary Society of North America.
For more information about the Dictionary Society of North America, visit www.dictionarysociety.com
(Rebecca Shapiro, Executive Secretary)
Intellectual and Social Feasts: DSNA at the American Council of Learned Societies in 2015 and 2016
The American Council of Learned Societies is likely familiar to DSNA members principally through its fellowship programs, which ACLS supports to the tune of millions of dollars each year. As an organization of societies, Council members are humanistic and humanities-oriented social science groups including, since 1994, DSNA. Constituent societies are represented by delegates, one each, who gather each year for an intellectually and, yes, socially stimulating 48 hours in May. Among delegates to societies other than our own, time and shared wisdom with dozens of colleagues representing other groups, including members of DSNA attending on behalf of other societies, is a privilege.
Besides meetings among ACLS officers and directors, a formal assembly of the delegates occurs, roll call and all, with ballots and voice votes. In 2016, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) was approved as a constituent member of the Council, and the name of the Conference of Administrative Officers, an arm of ACLS, was changed to Conference of Executive Officers (CEO). CAO, now CEO, meets twice each year, including immediately following the annual ACLS meeting. CEO has recently produced two fact-filled booklets: “Learned Societies by the Numbers: 2015” and “Learned Societies Beyond the Numbers: 2015,” available at the ACLS website.
Among meeting highlights are the report of President Pauline Yu and presentations by other speakers, some representing ACLS fellowship holders, others addressing a topic ACLS has identified for discussion. At lunch on the main meeting day, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities William “Bro” Adams offered sobering comments in 2015 and in 2016. In 2016, breaking with past practice, instead of an afternoon panel of scholars before the delegates, Pauline Yu engaged in a conversation with Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, who characterized himself as “a slightly off-kilter gay black man”; in a gently personal vein, he spoke chiefly of capitalism and inequality, and answered questions posed by Pauline Yu and by delegates in the audience. The format was a welcome change from some previous presentations by distinguished panelists sometimes rather less in touch with the interests of a wide range of delegates than delegates wished. The conversation between Yu and Walker is available for viewing at the Council’s website. Both years there were also breakout sessions addressing matters ranging from adjunct faculty to creative approaches to annual meetings, and I’ve shared the report of that last-mentioned session with DSNA officers and this year’s biennial conference organizers. The report, and all others, are available at the ACLS website.
Immediately preceding the Friday night banquet each year, delegates are treated to a different kind of feast: the Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture. In 2015, in Philadelphia, Wendy Doniger of the University of Chicago spoke about her life in learning, including a run-in with conservative Hindus in the U.S. and India who were displeased with her particular focus on ancient texts. “It never occurred to me,” she confessed, “that I could possibly make anyone mad at me by writing, full of appreciation, about Sanskrit texts whose authors had been dead for thousands of years. How foolish I was.” In 2016, in Arlington, Virginia, Cynthia Enloe of Clark University, reflecting on her life in learning, concluded with these observations: “Feminist puzzling never stops. Feminist learning never stops. That is the good news.” These two distinguished scholars grew up at about the same time in homes a mere three miles from one another (as I’ve calculated), but their lives as girls, as women, and as scholars and teachers could hardly have differed more. To see and hear, or read, remarkable tales about lives in learning and to experience model presentations devoid of slides and handouts, don’t overlook those of Doniger and other Haskins lecturers, available at the ACLS site.
(Ed Finegan, DSNA delegate to ACLS)
Real Academia Española
The noted lexicographer and long-time member of DSNA, Paz Battaner, formally took her seat “s” in the Real Academia Española (‘Spanish Royal Academy’) on January 29, 2017. She is only the eleventh woman, and the first female lexicographer, to be elected to the Academy in its more than 300 years of history.
Originally from Salamanca, where she studied with several major figures in Spanish linguistics (Alonso Zamora Vicente, Fernando Lázaro Carreter and Antonio Tovar, among others), Paz Battaner taught at several Spanish universities, including the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Barcelona, and Pompeu Fabra University. She has always been interested in words, and her Ph.D. dissertation dealt with political language in 19th century Spain (Vocabulario político y social en España, 1869-1873. Madrid: Anejos del Boletín de la Real Academia Española, 1977). In the 1980s she began working with the Spanish dictionary publisher Vox, and was the academic editor-in-chief of a children’s dictionary (Diccionario de Primaria (9-12 años), 1998). That was followed by Lema (Lema. Diccionario de Lengua Española, 2001), a desk dictionary that covered peninsular Spanish, and Diccionario de Uso del Español de América y España (2002), a desk dictionary that expanded on Lema by including vocabulary used in Latin America.
The Real Academia Española was founded in 1713 in Madrid and since 1780 has published 23 editions of its dictionary of standard Spanish, the current Diccionario de la lengua española being published in 2014. The Academy has 46 elected members, who must present an academic (literally!) lecture upon accepting their chair; Battaner’s was entitled Algunos pozos sin fondo en los diccionarios (‘Some bottomless pits in dictionaries’). Members include university professors and writers (two well-known writers who are current members are Mario Vargas Llosa and Arturo Pérez Reverte). In addition to Battaner, several current members of the Academy have directed or been directly involved in large dictionary projects. The Academy has not always been so welcoming to lexicographers: in 1972, it famously rejected the candidacy of María Moliner, author of one of the most widely respected, and widely used, dictionaries of Spanish.
(Janet DeCesaris, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona)
GLOBALEX AND THE OTHER DICTIONARY SOCIETIES
The GLOBALEX Workshop on Lexicographic Resources and Human Language Technology (http://ailab.ijs.si/globalex/) took place as part of LREC 2016 at Portorož, Slovenia on May 24 and constituted the first live step in forming an overall global constellation for lexicography. The initiative was launched nine months earlier at a meeting held during the fourth eLex conference in the UK in August 2015, and has drawn the support of lexicographic associations worldwide.
The full-day workshop was sponsored by the associations for lexicography of Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America (Afrilex, Asialex, Australex, Euralex, DSNA), and the eLex conference series on electronic lexicography in the 21st century. It set out to explore standards for lexicographic resources and their incorporation in new language technology and other solutions as part of knowledge systems and collaborative intelligence. The workshop was attended by about 60 participants, included 16 twenty-minute sessions and concluded with a roundtable about the future of Globalex.
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.
It is hoped that Globalex can facilitate knowledge sharing and cooperation among its members and with others concerned with language and language technology, promote the creation, research, exchange, dissemination, integration and usage of lexicographic resources and solutions, and enhance interoperability with the academia and industry worldwide.
The roundtable featured short interventions by a representative of each organization, including one by video and another by Skype, presenting their association and vision of Globalex, followed by a discussion with the audience. The main issues concerned the aims and obstacles facing Globalex, its organization, operation and meetings. The conference models ranged from dedicating a section to Globalex at the continental conferences, and alternating Globalex conferences with those of the different associations, to holding Globalex conferences on their own every few years.
The organizers have agreed to contribute to the new Globalex website http://globalex.link/, which begins operation this month. More details appear on page 4, and a reprint of Towards Peoplex, from 1997, is available on page 18, Kernerman Dictionary News, Number 24, July 2016 found at http://kdictionaries.com.
The African Association for Lexicography (Afrilex) was established in 1995 after a feasibility study for a lexicographical institute for Southern Africa indicated a keen interest in a unifying body among lexicographers and members of related professions. Dr Reinhard R.K. Hartmann chaired the inaugural meeting, and officially announced the birth of a new member of the Lex family.
Afrilex is managed by a Board elected biennially by the members present at a General Meeting of the association. Membership is open to individuals and institutions who have an interest in lexicography. The current membership stands at 60 individuals and 8 corporate members. The board consists of the president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, four non-officers and the conference convener.
The aims of Afrilex include the promotion and coordination of research, study and teaching of lexicography by means of publishing a journal, Lexikos, and other appropriate literature, organizing regular conferences and seminars that offer opportunities for exchange of ideas and for mutual stimulus to researchers and practitioners in the field of lexicography, and facilitating the participation in tutorials and training courses.
Afrilex seeks to develop cooperation with other international associations for lexicography as well as with local associations that are interested in the study of language.
The 21st annual International Conference of Afrilex is held in July 2016 in Tzaneen, South Africa.
Lexikos (ISSN 2224-0039) is the official mouthpiece of Afrilex, the editor being an ex-officio member of the Board. All contributions are indexed by the Thomson Reuters Web of Science Citation Index and are freely available online (http://lexikos.journals.ac.za/pub).
In its first twenty years of existence Afrilex has bestowed Honorary Membership on the following members: Prof. A.C. Nkabinde, Prof. Rufus Gouws, Dr Johan du Plessis, and Dr Mariëtta Alberts.
ASIA LEX The Asian Association for Lexicography
The Asian Association for Lexicography (Asialex) was established at the initiative of Gregory James and Amy Chi on 29 March 1997, during the Dictionaries in Asia conference at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, with the aim of fostering scholarly and professional activities in the field of lexicography and facilitating the exchange of information and ideas through meetings, publications, etc. Membership is open to any person or institution.
The first executive board was elected at that inauguration meeting, and the President, HUANG Jianhua, convened the first conference in Guangzhou (1999). From then on, elections were not held again, and usually the convener of each conference was named president for two years. The voting process was renewed in Kyoto 2011.
Asialex is governed by an executive committee that is elected for two-year terms, consisting of a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and three more members as well as four ex-officio members including the immediate past president, journal editor, and conveners of next two conferences. Lexicography – Journal of Asialex is published biannually since 2014 by Springer, in print and online, and membership is connected to the journal subscription. Until then, the activity of Asialex focused almost entirely on holding biennial international conferences. In addition to conference proceedings, a newsletter appeared in the first years and collections of papers from two conferences were published as well. Since 2015, conferences started to be held once a year, with the tenth taking place in Manila 2016, and the next one due in Guangzhou in 2017.
The challenges facing Asialex and achieving its goals are inherent in Asia’s non-homogeneity on multiple levels. This vast geographical region is composed of different areas often disconnected from each other, and its enormous linguistic diversity is often under-resourced, under-researched or under-represented. Traditionally Asialex has had a stronger presence in the eastern parts and much less in central, south and western Asia. Overcoming the challenges would uncover and leverage their resourcefulness.
The Australasian Association for Lexicography (Australex) was founded in 1990 as a companion association to Euralex. It is committed to the development of lexicography in all languages of the Australasian region.
Its interests include:
Membership consists mainly of people from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, but also from many other countries, including Japan, South Africa, Spain, the UK and Zambia. Australex includes career lexicographers, students of lexicography, researchers into dictionaries, publishers, teachers and people who just like dictionaries.
The association is governed by a committee of 10 members, who are elected every two years during the biennial conference. It consists of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, five officers and the immediate past President. Membership is free.
Until 2009, meetings were held regularly every one or two years, in addition to specific conferences (e.g. on Australian placenames of indigenous origins) and workshops (e.g. on dictionary writing). Since then conferences have been held biennially, in either Australia or New Zealand. The next conference is planned for August 2017 in the Cook Islands. It is hoped that this location will extend the range of Australex and involve speakers of more language groups, particularly endangered ones. The conferences are usually small, which has the benefit of promoting close collaboration and networking, with the opportunity for delegates to attend most of the presentations. One or more student bursaries are offered to help with conference attendance.
Australex has one self-publication of peer-reviewed papers from its 2013 conference, entitled Endangered Words and Signs of Revival (2014).
The Dictionary Society of North America (DSNA) was founded in 1975 to foster scholarly and professional activities relating to dictionaries, lexicography, and lexicology and to bring together people interested in the making, study, collection, and use of dictionaries. DSNA’s principal activities include a biennial conference, a biannual newsletter, a website, and a journal. DSNA sponsors a lexicography course at the Linguistic Society of America Summer Institute and funds a fellowship for a student to attend. Occasional informal local meetings for members have begun, and outreach efforts to promote better public understanding of lexicography are underway. DSNA is a member of the American Council of Learned Societies.
A president, vice-president, and executive secretary are DSNA’s officers and with four elected at-large members constitute the executive board, with the immediate past president an ex-officio member. The journal and newsletter editors regularly participate in the conference calls of the board and report to DSNA’s publications committee each month. Other committees address finance, nominations, membership, etc. Currently, DSNA enrolls about 250 individual and institutional members. Dictionaries—DSNA’s journal—aims to represent the best research in lexicography and lexicology, including history, theory, and practice of lexicography, and the design and use of dictionaries and related works of reference. It publishes peer-reviewed articles, invited contributions, book reviews, reports of reference works in progress, and occasional forums. Published annually, it has in recent years averaged 285 pages; a move to biannual publication is under consideration. The journal is indexed in MLA Bibliography, Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts, and Linguistics Abstracts; all issues are accessible through Project MUSE.
DSNA derives its revenue from membership fees, journal royalties, and gifts. Student memberships are free of charge. Both financially and programmatically the biennial conferences are the responsibility of the host institution.
The series of conferences on electronic lexicography in the 21st century (eLex) was started in 2009 by Sylviane Granger in response to this emerging field. Initially, the conference (at Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium) was conceived as a one-off event, however its success and calls from the lexicographic community for a follow-up prompted Iztok Kosem and Simon Krek to turn it into a biennial conference series. The subsequent conferences in Bled, Slovenia (2011), Tallinn, Estonia (2013), and Herstmonceux Castle, UK (2015) thus focused on different topical issues and attracted increasing numbers of participants from all over the world.
As eLex is not an association, it does not have an official board, a membership fee, etc, but there is an unofficial committee consisting of chairs of organisational committees of previous conferences. The committee offers local organisers of the next eLex conference advice on and help with organisational matters. Furthermore, members of the committee maintain the eLex website, which provides links to the webpages of all previous conferences, including proceedings, programmes and other relevant information on related activities.
The eLex conferences have always promoted interdisciplinarity, bringing together specialists in dictionary publishing, corpus lexicography, software development, language technology, language learning and teaching, translation studies, and theoretical and applied linguistics. There has also been a constant effort put into the dissemination of topical developments and issues in (electronic) lexicography among members of the community worldwide. An important part of achieving this goal have been videorecordings of the presentations and round tables which have been made freely available on the conference websites.
The next eLex conference will be hosted by the Institute of the Dutch Language and held in Leiden, the Netherlands, in the second half of September 2017. Further announcements with more detailed information will be made on the eLex website and posted on relevant mailing lists.
The European Association for Lexicography (Euralex) brings together people working in lexicography and related fields. In the rapidly-changing world of language analysis and language description, it provides a forum for the exchange of relevant ideas. Though based in Europe, Euralex has a worldwide reach and a worldwide membership. Its members include lexicographers, reference publishers, corpus linguists, computational linguists, academics working in relevant disciplines, software developers, and anyone with a lively interest in language.
Euralex holds a major conference every two years, and also sponsors smaller events on specific areas within the broader field. The first conference was held in Exeter, UK, in 1983 and since then there have been conferences on a regular basis in 13 different countries all over Europe – the 17th to be held in Tbilisi, Georgia, in September in 2016. Euralex has created a digitized version of all the papers from its past conferences, freely available from its website.
Euralex maintains a discussion list for the exchange of views on anything of interest to people working in lexicography and related fields. The list is public and not limited to members. It also maintains a public Facebook page.
In cooperation with Oxford University Press, Euralex is responsible for the International Journal of Lexicography, a leading peer-reviewed academic journal that appears four times a year. Interdisciplinary as well as international, it is concerned with all aspects of lexicography, including issues of design, compilation and use, and with dictionaries of all languages, though the chief focus is on dictionaries of the major European languages – monolingual and bilingual, synchronic and diachronic, pedagogical and encyclopedic.
Euralex is governed by an executive board consisting of up to nine elected members, including four principal officers (President, Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer and Assistant Secretary-Treasurer), elected at each general meeting from among its members. The general meeting is held in connection with the biennial conference.
After the DSNA meeting in Vancouver, people were wishing to prolong the good energy that goes with a conference and were disappointed that the next one would be in two years. In that spirit, Katherine Martin, Ben Zimmer, Wendi Nichols, Ammon Shea, and I—all who live in and around New York City—created a DSNA-sponsored series on lexicography. The email messages in December were exploratory, getting a sense of what we hoped to accomplish. At a meeting we clarified the mission and named ourselves. The early winner was DSNY—perfect, until Ben or Ammon pointed out that those are the initials of the Department of Sanitation, and lexicographers aren’t really into sanitizing the language anymore anyway. Being from New Jersey and feeling a bit put upon by NY—as people from New Jersey often do—I suggested MetroDS (rejected because Ben pointed out that DS in NYC stands for Department of Sanitation and we are not in the business of cleaning up our language). Then, Ammon clinched it with MetroLex.
The first meeting in January was three days after an epic snowstorm (for NYC) and we still had around 40 people—amazing what we’ll do for lexicography, wine, and pretzels (they were all good). The talks were on works in progress at Google, OUP, and the Endangered Language Project at CUNY—Queens. The papers were short, casual, and exciting. The theme of the first session was aptly named “Language Documentation and Data Wrangling.” Three speakers made brief but provocative and fascinating presentations about ongoing projects: Daniel Kaufman, director of the Language Documentation Lab at Queens College and co-director of the Endangered Language Alliance; Katherine Martin, head of US dictionaries at Oxford University Press; and Slav Petrov, senior staff research scientist in natural language processing and machine learning at Google.
Ben Zimmer, executive editor of Vocabulary.com and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, moderated. We had a diverse audience: editors, professors, grad students, linguists, lexicographers, and friends. The questions flew, as did the time.
On April 11, Oxford University Press again hosted the second MetroLex–sponsored by the DSNA–in their New York offices. The theme was “Language, Lexicography, and the Law,” and we were fortunate to have three distinguished speakers with a wide range of experience in forensic and historical lexicography.
First on the program was Robert A. Leonard, Professor of Linguistics at Hofstra University and a much-sought-after expert witness on language. He spoke (among other things) about educating students in forensic linguistics, their contributions to the field, and his own experience in supporting legal investigations and trials. Next came Lawrence Solan, Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition. He spoke (among other things) about the fondness of judges for dictionaries and the complexities of using dictionary definitions as authorities somehow free of historical conditions that could profoundly affect the meaning of words. Fred R. Shapiro, Law Librarian at the Yale University School of Law, spoke (among other things) of the process of establishing historical usage, antedating the OED‘s records of earliest printed uses, the history of the terms for tiddlywinks and baseball, discovering and using new corpora, and the many joys of historical linguistics.
After each presentation the floor was open for questions, and lively discussion ensued, moderated by Ammon Shea, lexicographer and author. We are especially grateful to Shmuel Ross for videotaping the presentations (and discussions, which are now available to watch on YouTube). Rebecca Shapiro, Executive Secretary of the DSNA, opened and closed both events.
After two successful meetups last year hosted by Oxford University Press, the first MetroLex of 2017 was held at Columbia University, hosted by associate professor of English and comparative literature John H. McWhorter and by Cambridge University Press. The theme of this session was “Politics and Ideology in the History of Dictionary Making.” Three speakers made brief presentations about research projects:
Jack Lynch, professor of English at Rutgers University–Newark, author of You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf From Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia (2016) and The Lexicographer’s Dilemma (2009).
Noah Webster is famous for fighting the nineteenth century’s “dictionary wars” with Joseph Worcester. But before the first shot was fired in that war, Webster was engaged in hostilities with his most important predecessor, Samuel Johnson. Webster had a complicated relationship with Johnson, eagerly disavowing him and his politics while quietly cribbing much of his work. This talk focused on how Webster squeezed the word “American” into Johnson’s title.
Rebecca Shapiro, assistant professor of English at CUNY–New York City College of Technology, author of Fixing Babel: An Historical Anthology of Applied English Lexicography (2016).
We like to think of dictionaries as neutrally explaining what words mean or how they’re used in sentences. They can be general—for students—or specific—for language learners or a profession. But we don’t think of dictionaries as being thinly veiled conduct books telling us how low our necklines should be, how to make our own cosmetics, how to talk pleasingly to a man, or even what not to read. The Ladies Dictionary (1694) was just that sort of thing: its aim wasn’t to make women smarter, but to make women prettier.
Donna Farina, professor of multicultural education at New Jersey City University.
The focus of this talk was on usages in the Russian language that arose during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, such as krymnash ‘the Crimea belongs to us.’ We discussed the lexicographic strengths and weaknesses of some contexts with the new usages. Our goal was to gain insight into connotation, the Ugly Stepsister of the Dictionary. In a world where online presentation of lexicographic material provides possibilities not available previously in print dictionaries, how exactly should connotation, given its propensity to change so quickly, be treated in lexicographic definition and in illustrative examples?
To see the presentations, go to https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLABhWuS4vj7TFUhw3IRQdDm8koOFbFQEh.
The presentations were followed by discussion and light refreshments provided by Cambridge University Press.
We welcome suggestions for panels, panelists, and hosts for future meetings. These free events will be held roughly three times a year. We encourage you to establish MetroLexes in other regions to spark interest and keep us connected between conferences.
Few have ever mastered the English language like Abraham Lincoln. From his days as a young, backwoods bibliophile to one of history’s most expressive writers, Lincoln’s love of language helps us understand not only the man, but all that he represents. How did Lincoln acquire his remarkable way with words? An eighteenth-century dictionary now in the Rare Book Collection at Louisiana State University sheds some light on the question.
LSU’s copy of the 1770 edition of Nathan Bailey’s Universal Etymological English Dictionary was owned by Mordecai Lincoln, the future president’s uncle and one of the most influential figures in his early life. First published in 1721 and reissued many times over the next eighty years, Bailey’s dictionary was used throughout the English-speaking world, including the new state of Kentucky, where this copy came into Mordecai Lincoln’s possession at least as early as 1792.
The volume raises interesting questions. Scrawled in the margins next to Bailey’s definitions of catfish and castanets are the words: “Mordecai Lincoln, his hand and pen, he will be good, but God knows when. When he is good, then you may say, the time is come and well hurray.” Thirty years later, the first part of this jovial rhyme shows up in a copybook, written in southern Indiana by a teenage Abraham Lincoln. The copybook may be the earliest surviving example of his writing. Scholars have been unsure whether Lincoln coined the rhyme himself or copied it from an unknown source. LSU’s copy of Bailey’s dictionary suggests that the phrase was being used as a penmanship exercise in the Lincoln family long before their most famous son repeated it.
Mordecai Lincoln was clearly glad to own a copy of the dictionary. In addition to including his name in the verse mentioned above, he inscribed it in two other places: first on the page headed by the word unalterable, alongside the date “April 28, 1792,” then adjacent to a description of the English city of Lincoln. At the middle of a group of pages discolored by some kind of memento once stuck between them, we find the definition of the Hebrew name Mordecai (“Queen Esther’s guardian”).
Most intriguing is the front endpaper. Though badly mutilated, it still bears the inscription “Abraham Lincoln, his book, brought [sic] in the year of our Lord 1795.” Above this inscription is another that has almost disappeared due to paper loss, but the date 1772 is still visible, as well as the partial word “Linc—,” presumably a sign that other Lincolns owned the book before Mordecai. Also inscribed on the page, and now nearly invisible, is the name Thomas. More research is needed to determine whether this was Thomas Lincoln, Mordecai’s brother and the president’s father.
The rhyming inscription and the fact that we know Abraham Lincoln read dictionaries in his youth has led several historians to believe this was one of the books that passed through his hands. Though he may have borrowed the book from his uncle, it is far more plausible that the “Abraham Lincoln” of the inscription is the president’s cousin, Mordecai’s son Abraham, who was born around 1795. Could the mysterious usage of the word brought refer to his birth—i.e., brought forth? The word has mistakenly been given as bought by historians. The original may be a simple misspelling by a novice penman, but no matter what it signifies, it is hard to see how it could apply to the president, who was not born until 1809.
Indiana Senator Albert Beveridge, author of a well-known 1928 biography of Lincoln, was the foremost advocate of a connection between Bailey’s dictionary and the erstwhile Hoosier. Beveridge knew about the volume through James A. McMillen, librarian at Washington University in St. Louis and later library director at LSU. McMillen claimed to have acquired the book from his aunt, who in 1879 found it in a Hancock County, Illinois, house formerly occupied by one of Lincoln’s cousins—or, some say, by “Honest Abe” himself. (Mordecai’s son Abraham died in Hancock County in 1852, more reason to believe the book belonged to him and not the president.) When we trace Beveridge’s footnotes, it is clear that he confused Bailey’s dictionary with James Barclay’s, a book the young Lincoln cherished. Yet writers on Lincoln have reproduced Beveridge’s error over the years.
LSU librarians have determined that this is the same copy of Bailey’s dictionary that Harry E. Barker, a Los Angeles book dealer, used to create “facsimiles” by transcribing the original Lincoln family inscriptions into other copies of Bailey’s dictionary, which, with no intent to deceive, he then sold as curiosities to collectors of Lincolniana. Two of Barker’s creations have been located, one at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and another in the Cordell Collection of Dictionaries at Indiana State University. Staff in both libraries were instrumental in researching this story.
Regardless of whether Lincoln ever read from his uncle’s copy of Bailey’s dictionary, it is a testimony to his legacy that so many have wanted this to be a tangible relic of his life. Even if it is not what some have claimed, the book does, in fact, advance our understanding of Lincoln. Though he was unusually bright, those around him were not all as suspicious of “book larnin’” as his father, Thomas, is supposed to have been. At least one other member of the Lincoln family, we can be sure, found a dictionary to be a valuable object. Did he simply use it to better understand the Bible, or did he have other aspirations? We may never know, but this small window into the world in which Lincoln grew up is a fascinating example of the kinds of questions scholars can raise by exploring rare books and their owners.
(Michael Taylor is Public Services Librarian at the Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections, University of New Mexico https://elibrary.unm.edu/cswr/. He was formerly the Curator of Rare Books at Louisiana State University. Eighteen years ago he developed an interest in rare books as an undergraduate working on the Cordell Collection with David Vancil.)