Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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EDITORS: Bergenholtz, Henning; Nielsen, Sandro; Tarp, Sven TITLE: Lexicography at a Crossroads SUBTITLE: Dictionaries and Encyclopedias Today, Lexicographical Tools Tomorrow SERIES: Linguistic Insights. Studies in Language and Communication. Vol. 90 PUBLISHER: Peter Lang YEAR: 2009
Michael Mann, Lehrstuhl für Germanistische Sprachwissenschaft, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
The volume contains 15 contributions (plus Introduction, and Notes on Contributors) resulting from a symposium held from May 19 to 21, 2008, at the Centre for Lexicography, University of Aarhus (Denmark), whose programme was ''to focus on the future theoretical course of lexicography'' (p. 9). The contributors, ''researchers from five continents'' (p. 9), present their research on various facets of lexicography such as: printed and (mostly) electronic dictionaries, monolingual and bilingual lexicography, social and structural aspects of dictionary making.
Sven Tarp, ''Beyond Lexicography: New Visions and Challenges in the Information Age,'' states an ''identity crisis'' (pp. 17, 20) of lexicography due to the gap between lexicographic theory and practice, the possibilities of computer technology vs. the actual realisation of electronic dictionaries, the increasing role of the computer vs. the decreasing role of the lexicographer, information society vs. the need for quick and easy access to information, and negligence of non-linguistic lexicographic works in lexicographic research. He advocates an independent science of lexicography and a theory which is based on the lexicographic needs of potential dictionary users, the so-called function theory, whose basis is outlined in ten theses. Tarp paints the big picture and states desiderata for future dictionaries rather than presenting a detailed working plan.
Yukio Tono, ''Pocket Electronic Dictionaries in Japan: User Perspectives,'' deals with hand-held electronic dictionary devices, which have become very popular in Japan. By now they have evolved to a fourth generation, capable of presenting multimedia content and containing more than 100 dictionary titles in one device. After a short overview of the history and the marketing of pocket electronic dictionaries (PEDs), the author presents a typology of PEDs by intended users and by functions; the latter not being clearly structured. It is pointed out that the most important points of critique voiced in earlier reviews of PEDs have been corrected or are being corrected. Research is cited which shows that PEDs are used more often than paper dictionaries, but also that the use of paper dictionaries results in a better recall of words. Tono presents a state-of-the-art article with little critique or future prospects.
Serge Verlinde and Jean Binon, ''Pedagogical Lexicography Revisited,'' present the ''Base lexicale du français'' (BLF), an online environment for learning and teaching French vocabulary which combines a dictionary, a text corpus and an exercise generator. The description of word combinations (co-occurrences: collocations, phraseology, idiomatic expressions, proverbs) is ''at the very heart of the BLF'' (p. 73); most of them result from corpus analysis. They can be accessed by searching for formal or lexical criteria (such as the grammatical category, lexical function or domain). Apart from these co-occurring words, another focus is on ''schémas actanciels'' at the level of sentences: verbal complements and verbs combining with nouns or adjectives respectively. The pedagogical aspect is treated quite casually in the paper: Navigating through the data and comparing the ''lexical profiles'' of words, the learner can ''discover'' which words combine (p. 78); filling-in exercises can be generated automatically for students to improve their language skills (pp. 80, 84). A new ''needs-oriented interface'' (p. 86) now allows the user to specify his situation. Unfortunately, many of the figures (screenshots) are of poor quality and/or skewed.
Gerard Meijssen outlines ''The Philosophy behind OmegaWiki and the Visions for the Future.'' OmegaWiki is a Wiki-system based upon the concept of ''DefinedMeaning'': an expression and its definition (p. 95). Translations of the definition and relations between DefinedMeanings connect the expressions and, using a relational database system and a localisation concept, allow access of the same data via different languages. Different user interfaces are available for different user types. Users are allowed to contribute to OmegaWiki; other applications are allowed to use OmegaWiki material. Although it is quite short (8 pages), the paper is not very well structured. It is not really made clear how or if Wiktionary content is used, how the different user interfaces work or what is still a ''vision'' and what has already been implemented. The OmegaWiki web page (see References) is a more comprehensible source of information. Nevertheless, the reviewer did not find different user interfaces there, nor a category ''Horse heads'' (p. 97), nor was it possible to reconstruct the data in a screenshot (p. 96).
Pedro A. Fuertes Olivera, ''The Function Theory of Lexicography and Electronic Dictionaries: WIKTIONARY as a Prototype of Collective Free Multiple-Language Internet Dictionary,'' is an analysis of the Internet dictionary ''Wiktionary'' from the viewpoint of a Spanish professional reading and translating English texts. First, Fuertes Olivera distinguishes two types of Internet dictionaries: ''institutional Internet reference works'' and ''collective free multiple-language Internet reference works'' (103), with Wiktionary being a prototype of the latter (p. 107) (here, it can be asked why monolingual dictionaries are not explicitly addressed in the typology). Wiktionary is not considered a multilingual but a ''multiple-language'' (p. 113) dictionary because English is the dominant language also used in (amongst others) Spanish articles and outside matter. Subsequently it is clearly shown that Spanish articles differ considerably from English articles in terms of data types and coverage - ''the Spanish entries are mostly useless for most users'' (p. 115) - and that there is also interlingual variation between different English language articles. Three proposals are made for developing this type of dictionary further, concerning the accuracy of definitions, checking the entries for errors, and the use of a dominant language (which is rejected). Apart from the (rather obvious) claim that dictionaries and lexicographers should bear in mind the needs of the users, the connection to function theory (as outlined by Tarp (see above or Tarp 2008) is rather loose.
Joseph Dung, ''Online Dictionaries in a Web 2.0 Environment,'' discusses benefits and problems of relatively new Internet technologies that allow for more dynamic dictionaries. He focuses on the aspects of accessibility, precision and scope: dictionaries now can have 'free content mobility' (p. 140), i.e. their data can be integrated in and accessed from any web site on the WWW - provided that certain technical requirements are fulfilled. Word sense disambiguation can be achieved by taking the context into account and by using a sense-tagged corpus - provided that such an expensive tool is available. The scope of one dictionary can be broadened by linking it with other dictionaries (to the reviewer it does not appear essential to link this idea to the concept of zero sum games, as done by the author (p. 155)). Dung proposes two comprehensible formulae for metering dictionary precision and recall (p. 153). On several occasions he refers to a new, dynamic Internet dictionary (''dictionary.hm,'' provided by the WordNet-project, Princeton) but also admits or points out that most of his proposals are not realised there, so that the role of this dictionary remains unclear.
Jón Hilmar Jónsson, ''Lemmatisation of Multi-word Lexical Units: Motivation and Benefits,'' votes for an independent treatment of set phrases as individual lemmas. On the basis of data from three Icelandic phraseological dictionaries and of Jónsson's experience as the author of those, a standardised form of presenting phrases is introduced. Indices play an important role in accessing the data. In the electronic 'Icelandic wordnet,' a step further is taken and phrases are treated as separate entries which can be accessed by word form, concept or grammatical category. All of the (few) examples given are in Icelandic, so fluent speakers of that language will benefit most from this chapter. The question (raised on p. 166) what is to be understood by a 'lemma' in an electronic dictionary remains unanswered (Mann [forthcoming] discusses aspects of this issue).
Zhang Yihua, ''A Bilingual Dictionary Generation System Based on the Microstructure of a Lexicographical Database,'' sketches a programme which produces different dictionaries out of one lexical database. The conception, architecture and interface structure of this system, which is rooted in the mental lexicon, is outlined. The elements of the microstructure, or the micro-data, are mediostructurally interlinked by morphological, conceptual, grammatical and pragmatic correlations, trying ''to describe the 'invisible' cognitive process of humans by means of a 'visible' metalanguage'' (p. 206). A screenshot is presented (p. 211), but it is not clear how far this project has advanced.
Philippe Humblé, ''Dictionaries on the Periphery. The Case of Brazil,'' achieves the aim ''to give a panorama of Brazilian dictionary-making'' (p. 216). Only about 30 years ago, the first proper Brazilian monolingual dictionaries were produced - by now, there are four fully-fledged general dictionaries, whereas most languages with a much longer lexicographic tradition only have one or two. Since the year 2000, bilingual dictionaries have been playing an important role, for economic rather than touristic reasons - today, Brazilian bilingual dictionaries are available with not more than eight 'foreign' languages (an exhaustive bibliography is listed; other languages are covered by Portuguese bilingual dictionaries). Brazilian was among the first languages to have an electronic dictionary; children's dictionaries have been distributed by the government. Nowadays, however, these developments have come to a standstill and Brazilian lexicography has lost some of its creativity.
According to Humblé, the above-mentioned boom in dictionary-making reflects developments in Brazilian society. On the one hand, there is an uncertainty about what is 'correct' Brazilian, especially in contrast to Portuguese. On the other hand, Brazilians seek to be recognised as citizens of an independent and important nation. Humblé fascinatingly shows the bonds between lexicography and society.
Robert Lew, ''Towards Variable Function-Dependent Sense Ordering in Future Dictionaries,'' first discusses various ordering strategies for ''multiple-sense entries'' (p. 237): ordering by chronology, frequency, logic, by textual/pragmatic aspects or by other criteria. He states that there is no single best ordering strategy; rather there are optimal strategies for particular situations. Some proposals for empirical approaches to explore these situations are made, partially referring to existing access features of electronic dictionaries. In electronic dictionaries, sense ordering could be dynamically adjusted and customised to the user's needs, taking into account functional-specific (production/reception), item-specific (status of the lexical acquisition process) and domain-specific aspects. Completing this long-sighted chapter, Lew does not forget to mention the aspect of users' habits which might lead to confusion if the presentation of a dictionary article changes dynamically.
Rufus H. Gouws, ''Dictionaries as Innovative Tools in a New Perspective on Standardisation,'' argues that '' [d]ictionaries should not only reflect the standard but play an active role in establishing the standard'' (p. 269). Nowadays, in the ''Wikimedia era'' (p. 270), where people not only refer to dictionaries but to a variety of other sources, the ''McDonaldisation of the media'' (p. 271) should not spill over into lexicography where it would lead to the production of ''McDictionaries'' (ibid.). Nevertheless, Gouws does not advocate a practise of lexicographers sitting in an ivory tower, having lost connection to ''ordinary members of society'' (ibid.), but rather advocates a ''regulated lexicographic democracy'' (p. 275) where users can contribute to lexicographic works. Finally, though, a lexicographer should decide if a user's suggestion will find its way into the dictionary; and it is the lexicographer's future task to recognise ''real language forms'' (e.g. neologisms) (p. 275), to help with variation by recommending one or more forms (proscription), and to facilitate the access process, to elaborate a dictionary which is well accepted.
Patrick Leroyer, ''Lexicography Hits the Road: New Information Tools for Tourists,'' focuses on tourist lexicography. After pointing out several problems of existing reference tools for tourists (websites, guides, phrase books, travel dictionaries), Leroyer defines the ''genuine purpose of lexicographic tools for tourists'' (p. 297) and elaborates on three tourist situations (prospection, introspection and retrospection). Three ''transformational moves'' (p. 300) are proposed to refine existing tools for tourists and to adapt them to the particular tourist situation; these ''moves'' concern tool localisation (adaption to the tourist's destination), functionalisation (according to function theory) and ''lexicographisation'' of data access (p. 304) in order to make access easier to handle. Presenting these ideas, Leroyer shows the huge potential of lexicographic tools for tourists, which have not had the full attention of theoretical lexicography in the past years.
Raja Saravanan, ''Structural Format for a Dialect Dictionary Showing Lexical Variation with Special Reference to Microstructure and Macrostructure,'' claims to treat issues related to the preparation of (an article of) an Indian (Tamil) agricultural dialect dictionary. However, most of the sections (Dictionary-Definition, Dictionary typology, Description of lexical meaning, Component parts and structures of a dictionary) are mere summaries of very general (and elderly) lexicographic standard literature by Zgusta, Svensén, Hausmann & Wiegand and others. Only few lines are dedicated to a description of the methods used to collect the dialect data or to the structure of the dictionary in question. The exemplary article printed to illustrate the microstructure is incomplete because in the legend two items are not explained. Regrettably, it has to be stated that the author has missed the opportunity to communicate to a broader audience the peculiarities of the special fields of (a) Indian (Tamil) lexicography and (b) agricultural lexicography.
Julia Pajzs, ''On the Possibility of Creating Multifunctional Lexicographical Databases,'' is a collection of proposals for future dictionaries and future lexicographers, concerning macrostructural aspects and (mainly, in twelve paragraphs) the treatment of microstructural items. Summing up, the author argues for a more detailed analysis and description of lexical items, made possible by corpora and databases, to avoid errors which, as shown in a case study, can be found in present (printed) dictionaries. Storing the data modularly, it can be used multifunctionally for different purposes. ''The only question to be solved is how to supply a user-friendly interface, so that everybody can easily realise which facilities (s)he needs'' (p. 350). This seems to be a little too optimistic, as further problems (e.g. details or guidelines about the 'how' of selecting examples out of corpora, treating multiword units or deciding which cultural/encyclopaedic information to include) are mostly excluded.
Birger Andersen and Sandro Nielsen, ''Ten Key Issues in Lexicography for the Future,'' is a summary of the symposium's concluding discussion. Ten key issues are put up for discussion, picking up aspects already addressed in the preceding papers. Different positions are contrasted, thereby the wide range of opinions about the character of lexicography is sketched. As this chapter already is a summary, it will not be summarised further here.
According to the Introduction, the chapters of this volume can be divided into two groups: those dealing with ''general lexicographic issues'' and those dealing with ''specific dictionary projects'' (p. 10). This division cannot be detected in the order the chapters are presented: Tarp begins with general ideas, followed by Tono who treats a specific dictionary type (PEDs) rather than a specific dictionary project and by Verlinde & Binon, Meijssen and Fuertes Olivera who clearly refer to specific dictionary projects. Dung and Jónsson, then, though referring to concrete dictionaries now and then, discuss more general aspects, as well as most of the following authors; Saravanan again at least originates in a specific (agricultural) dictionary project, and so on.
As the programme of the symposium had been quite general, there can hardly be found another common denominator for all chapters besides 'lexicography,' maybe supplemented by 'recent developments in'. Most ideas and projects are presented in such a general way that points of critique can hardly be found - this, again, is a point of critique: a little more detail about how to reach the mostly high aims would have been even more enlightening. Many, but not all of the chapters discuss the possibilities of electronic dictionary-making. Topics vary very broadly. About a third of the papers are clearly written in the spirit of the theory of lexicographic functions, so one is tempted to ask: Which types of readers is this volume addressed to? The answer clearly is: lexicographers. So, which types of lexicographers' needs is this volume meant to satisfy? The answer will be: Most lexicographers will find inspiration in one or more of the chapters. The volume as a whole is directed at lexicographic experts who are interested not only in one particular aspect of lexicography but in an overview of what is going on in their discipline at an international level. It is the merit of the editors to have invited not only European scholars but colleagues from around the world.
In terms of typography, layout and design, the book is quite legible; unfortunately, several of the figures (in the chapters by Verlinde & Binon, Dung, Jónsson, Lew) are of poor quality: they show JPEG artefacts, are blurry or skewed.
Mann, Michael. Forthcoming. Makrostrukturen und Zugriffsstrukturen in Online-Wörterbüchern zur Linguistik. In: Schierholz, Stefan J. & Wiegand, Herbert Ernst (eds.): Probleme der linguistischen Fachlexikographie. OmegaWiki. Accessed August 20, 2009 . Tarp, Sven. 2008. Lexicography in the Borderland between Knowledge and Non-knowledge. Tübingen: Niemeyer. [Lexicographica. Series Maior 134.]
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Michael Mann is a research assistant and PhD student (preparing a doctoral
thesis on Internet lexicography) whose interests include lexicography,
corpus linguistics, German morphology and syntax.