Author: Henri Bejoint
Hardback: ISBN: 0198299672 9780198299677 Pages: 544 Price: U.S. $ 55.00
This book looks at how English words have been recorded, ordered, dissected, and displayed in dictionaries in Great Britain and the USA from the seventeenth century to the present. In the process it offers a complete introduction to how dictionaries are made. It considers the aims of their authors, the methods of their compilation, and the concepts and beliefs that lie behind them.
Henri Béjoint compares the descriptive approach of English lexicography with its more prescriptive American counterpart, and contrasts both with the lexicography of France. Computers have transformed the way dictionaries are produced and presented. Yet, as the author shows, many aspects of lexicography have hardly changed over the centuries: the challenge of distinguishing a word's senses, for example, and of tracing the history of its forms and uses. Problems equally remain: how to treat taboo-words and insults is as difficult as it ever was and the nature of meaning is subject still to fierce debate.
The history of lexicography is characterized by the ambitions and achievements of great eccentrics and yet greater intellects. Johnson, Webster, and Murray stalk these pages with a host of scholars and entrepreneurs: Professor Béjoint vividly documents their lives and deftly takes apart their work. "Dictionaries are an endless source of enjoyment," he writes, "and perhaps the most important object of this book is to try to persuade the reader that lexicography is a fascinating domain."