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

(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)


The GLOBALEX Workshop on Lexicographic Resources and Human Language Technology ( 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, 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

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 (

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:

  • dictionaries of all kinds
  • the theory of lexicography
  • the history of lexicography
  • the practice of dictionary-making
  • dictionary use
  • endangered languages
  • Revivalistics
  • terminology and terminography
  • corpus lexicography
  • computational lexicography
  • sign language
  • lexicology

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.

(Ilan Kernerman)