LINGUIST List 21.936

Thu Feb 25 2010

Review: Applied Ling; Lexicography: Bergenholtz et al. (2009)

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        1.    Michael Mann, Lexicography at a Crossroads

Message 1: Lexicography at a Crossroads
Date: 25-Feb-2010
From: Michael Mann <>
Subject: Lexicography at a Crossroads
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EDITORS: Bergenholtz, Henning; Nielsen, Sandro; Tarp, SvenTITLE: Lexicography at a CrossroadsSUBTITLE: Dictionaries and Encyclopedias Today, Lexicographical Tools TomorrowSERIES: Linguistic Insights. Studies in Language and Communication. Vol. 90PUBLISHER: Peter LangYEAR: 2009

Michael Mann, Lehrstuhl für Germanistische Sprachwissenschaft,Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany


The volume contains 15 contributions (plus Introduction, and Notes onContributors) resulting from a symposium held from May 19 to 21, 2008, at theCentre for Lexicography, University of Aarhus (Denmark), whose programme was ''tofocus on the future theoretical course of lexicography'' (p. 9). Thecontributors, ''researchers from five continents'' (p. 9), present their researchon various facets of lexicography such as: printed and (mostly) electronicdictionaries, monolingual and bilingual lexicography, social and structuralaspects of dictionary making.

Sven Tarp, ''Beyond Lexicography: New Visions and Challenges in the InformationAge,'' states an ''identity crisis'' (pp. 17, 20) of lexicography due to the gapbetween lexicographic theory and practice, the possibilities of computertechnology vs. the actual realisation of electronic dictionaries, the increasingrole of the computer vs. the decreasing role of the lexicographer, informationsociety vs. the need for quick and easy access to information, and negligence ofnon-linguistic lexicographic works in lexicographic research. He advocates anindependent science of lexicography and a theory which is based on thelexicographic needs of potential dictionary users, the so-called functiontheory, whose basis is outlined in ten theses. Tarp paints the big picture andstates desiderata for future dictionaries rather than presenting a detailedworking plan.

Yukio Tono, ''Pocket Electronic Dictionaries in Japan: User Perspectives,'' dealswith hand-held electronic dictionary devices, which have become very popular inJapan. By now they have evolved to a fourth generation, capable of presentingmultimedia content and containing more than 100 dictionary titles in one device.After a short overview of the history and the marketing of pocket electronicdictionaries (PEDs), the author presents a typology of PEDs by intended usersand by functions; the latter not being clearly structured. It is pointed outthat the most important points of critique voiced in earlier reviews of PEDshave been corrected or are being corrected. Research is cited which shows thatPEDs are used more often than paper dictionaries, but also that the use of paperdictionaries results in a better recall of words. Tono presents astate-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 andteaching French vocabulary which combines a dictionary, a text corpus and anexercise generator. The description of word combinations (co-occurrences:collocations, phraseology, idiomatic expressions, proverbs) is ''at the veryheart of the BLF'' (p. 73); most of them result from corpus analysis. They can beaccessed by searching for formal or lexical criteria (such as the grammaticalcategory, lexical function or domain). Apart from these co-occurring words,another focus is on ''schémas actanciels'' at the level of sentences: verbalcomplements and verbs combining with nouns or adjectives respectively. Thepedagogical aspect is treated quite casually in the paper: Navigating throughthe data and comparing the ''lexical profiles'' of words, the learner can''discover'' which words combine (p. 78); filling-in exercises can be generatedautomatically 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 forthe Future.'' OmegaWiki is a Wiki-system based upon the concept of''DefinedMeaning'': an expression and its definition (p. 95). Translations of thedefinition and relations between DefinedMeanings connect the expressions and,using a relational database system and a localisation concept, allow access ofthe same data via different languages. Different user interfaces are availablefor different user types. Users are allowed to contribute to OmegaWiki; otherapplications 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 clearhow or if Wiktionary content is used, how the different user interfaces work orwhat is still a ''vision'' and what has already been implemented. The OmegaWikiweb page (see References) is a more comprehensible source of information.Nevertheless, the reviewer did not find different user interfaces there, nor acategory ''Horse heads'' (p. 97), nor was it possible to reconstruct the data in ascreenshot (p. 96).

Pedro A. Fuertes Olivera, ''The Function Theory of Lexicography and ElectronicDictionaries: WIKTIONARY as a Prototype of Collective Free Multiple-LanguageInternet Dictionary,'' is an analysis of the Internet dictionary ''Wiktionary''from the viewpoint of a Spanish professional reading and translating Englishtexts. First, Fuertes Olivera distinguishes two types of Internet dictionaries:''institutional Internet reference works'' and ''collective free multiple-languageInternet reference works'' (103), with Wiktionary being a prototype of the latter(p. 107) (here, it can be asked why monolingual dictionaries are not explicitlyaddressed in the typology). Wiktionary is not considered a multilingual but a''multiple-language'' (p. 113) dictionary because English is the dominant languagealso used in (amongst others) Spanish articles and outside matter. Subsequentlyit is clearly shown that Spanish articles differ considerably from Englisharticles in terms of data types and coverage - ''the Spanish entries are mostlyuseless for most users'' (p. 115) - and that there is also interlingual variationbetween different English language articles. Three proposals are made fordeveloping this type of dictionary further, concerning the accuracy ofdefinitions, checking the entries for errors, and the use of a dominant language(which is rejected). Apart from the (rather obvious) claim that dictionaries andlexicographers should bear in mind the needs of the users, the connection tofunction theory (as outlined by Tarp (see above or Tarp 2008) is rather loose.

Joseph Dung, ''Online Dictionaries in a Web 2.0 Environment,'' discusses benefitsand problems of relatively new Internet technologies that allow for more dynamicdictionaries. He focuses on the aspects of accessibility, precision and scope:dictionaries now can have 'free content mobility' (p. 140), i.e. their data canbe integrated in and accessed from any web site on the WWW - provided thatcertain technical requirements are fulfilled. Word sense disambiguation can beachieved 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 dictionarycan be broadened by linking it with other dictionaries (to the reviewer it doesnot appear essential to link this idea to the concept of zero sum games, as doneby the author (p. 155)). Dung proposes two comprehensible formulae for meteringdictionary precision and recall (p. 153). On several occasions he refers to anew, dynamic Internet dictionary ('','' provided by theWordNet-project, Princeton) but also admits or points out that most of hisproposals are not realised there, so that the role of this dictionary remainsunclear.

Jón Hilmar Jónsson, ''Lemmatisation of Multi-word Lexical Units: Motivation andBenefits,'' votes for an independent treatment of set phrases as individuallemmas. On the basis of data from three Icelandic phraseological dictionariesand of Jónsson's experience as the author of those, a standardised form ofpresenting phrases is introduced. Indices play an important role in accessingthe data. In the electronic 'Icelandic wordnet,' a step further is taken andphrases are treated as separate entries which can be accessed by word form,concept or grammatical category. All of the (few) examples given are inIcelandic, so fluent speakers of that language will benefit most from thischapter. The question (raised on p. 166) what is to be understood by a 'lemma'in an electronic dictionary remains unanswered (Mann [forthcoming] discussesaspects of this issue).

Zhang Yihua, ''A Bilingual Dictionary Generation System Based on theMicrostructure of a Lexicographical Database,'' sketches a programme whichproduces different dictionaries out of one lexical database. The conception,architecture and interface structure of this system, which is rooted in themental lexicon, is outlined. The elements of the microstructure, or themicro-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). Ascreenshot is presented (p. 211), but it is not clear how far this project hasadvanced.

Philippe Humblé, ''Dictionaries on the Periphery. The Case of Brazil,'' achievesthe aim ''to give a panorama of Brazilian dictionary-making'' (p. 216). Only about30 years ago, the first proper Brazilian monolingual dictionaries were produced- by now, there are four fully-fledged general dictionaries, whereas mostlanguages with a much longer lexicographic tradition only have one or two. Sincethe year 2000, bilingual dictionaries have been playing an important role, foreconomic rather than touristic reasons - today, Brazilian bilingual dictionariesare available with not more than eight 'foreign' languages (an exhaustivebibliography is listed; other languages are covered by Portuguese bilingualdictionaries). Brazilian was among the first languages to have an electronicdictionary; children's dictionaries have been distributed by the government.Nowadays, however, these developments have come to a standstill and Brazilianlexicography has lost some of its creativity.

According to Humblé, the above-mentioned boom in dictionary-making reflectsdevelopments in Brazilian society. On the one hand, there is an uncertaintyabout what is 'correct' Brazilian, especially in contrast to Portuguese. On theother hand, Brazilians seek to be recognised as citizens of an independent andimportant nation. Humblé fascinatingly shows the bonds between lexicography andsociety.

Robert Lew, ''Towards Variable Function-Dependent Sense Ordering in FutureDictionaries,'' first discusses various ordering strategies for ''multiple-senseentries'' (p. 237): ordering by chronology, frequency, logic, bytextual/pragmatic aspects or by other criteria. He states that there is nosingle best ordering strategy; rather there are optimal strategies forparticular situations. Some proposals for empirical approaches to explore thesesituations are made, partially referring to existing access features ofelectronic dictionaries. In electronic dictionaries, sense ordering could bedynamically adjusted and customised to the user's needs, taking into accountfunctional-specific (production/reception), item-specific (status of the lexicalacquisition process) and domain-specific aspects. Completing this long-sightedchapter, Lew does not forget to mention the aspect of users' habits which mightlead to confusion if the presentation of a dictionary article changes dynamically.

Rufus H. Gouws, ''Dictionaries as Innovative Tools in a New Perspective onStandardisation,'' argues that '' [d]ictionaries should not only reflect thestandard but play an active role in establishing the standard'' (p. 269).Nowadays, in the ''Wikimedia era'' (p. 270), where people not only refer todictionaries but to a variety of other sources, the ''McDonaldisation of themedia'' (p. 271) should not spill over into lexicography where it would lead tothe production of ''McDictionaries'' (ibid.). Nevertheless, Gouws does notadvocate a practise of lexicographers sitting in an ivory tower, having lostconnection to ''ordinary members of society'' (ibid.), but rather advocates a''regulated lexicographic democracy'' (p. 275) where users can contribute tolexicographic works. Finally, though, a lexicographer should decide if a user'ssuggestion will find its way into the dictionary; and it is the lexicographer'sfuture task to recognise ''real language forms'' (e.g. neologisms) (p. 275), tohelp with variation by recommending one or more forms (proscription), and tofacilitate the access process, to elaborate a dictionary which is well accepted.

Patrick Leroyer, ''Lexicography Hits the Road: New Information Tools forTourists,'' focuses on tourist lexicography. After pointing out several problemsof existing reference tools for tourists (websites, guides, phrase books, traveldictionaries), Leroyer defines the ''genuine purpose of lexicographic tools fortourists'' (p. 297) and elaborates on three tourist situations (prospection,introspection and retrospection). Three ''transformational moves'' (p. 300) areproposed to refine existing tools for tourists and to adapt them to theparticular tourist situation; these ''moves'' concern tool localisation (adaptionto the tourist's destination), functionalisation (according to function theory)and ''lexicographisation'' of data access (p. 304) in order to make access easierto handle. Presenting these ideas, Leroyer shows the huge potential oflexicographic tools for tourists, which have not had the full attention oftheoretical lexicography in the past years.

Raja Saravanan, ''Structural Format for a Dialect Dictionary Showing LexicalVariation with Special Reference to Microstructure and Macrostructure,'' claimsto 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 verygeneral (and elderly) lexicographic standard literature by Zgusta, Svensén,Hausmann & Wiegand and others. Only few lines are dedicated to a description ofthe methods used to collect the dialect data or to the structure of thedictionary in question. The exemplary article printed to illustrate themicrostructure is incomplete because in the legend two items are not explained.Regrettably, it has to be stated that the author has missed the opportunity tocommunicate 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 LexicographicalDatabases,'' is a collection of proposals for future dictionaries and futurelexicographers, concerning macrostructural aspects and (mainly, in twelveparagraphs) the treatment of microstructural items. Summing up, the authorargues for a more detailed analysis and description of lexical items, madepossible by corpora and databases, to avoid errors which, as shown in a casestudy, can be found in present (printed) dictionaries. Storing the datamodularly, it can be used multifunctionally for different purposes. ''The onlyquestion to be solved is how to supply a user-friendly interface, so thateverybody can easily realise which facilities (s)he needs'' (p. 350). This seemsto be a little too optimistic, as further problems (e.g. details or guidelinesabout the 'how' of selecting examples out of corpora, treating multiword unitsor deciding which cultural/encyclopaedic information to include) are mostlyexcluded.

Birger Andersen and Sandro Nielsen, ''Ten Key Issues in Lexicography for theFuture,'' is a summary of the symposium's concluding discussion. Ten key issuesare put up for discussion, picking up aspects already addressed in the precedingpapers. Different positions are contrasted, thereby the wide range of opinionsabout the character of lexicography is sketched. As this chapter already is asummary, it will not be summarised further here.


According to the Introduction, the chapters of this volume can be divided intotwo groups: those dealing with ''general lexicographic issues'' and those dealingwith ''specific dictionary projects'' (p. 10). This division cannot be detected inthe order the chapters are presented: Tarp begins with general ideas, followedby Tono who treats a specific dictionary type (PEDs) rather than a specificdictionary project and by Verlinde & Binon, Meijssen and Fuertes Olivera whoclearly refer to specific dictionary projects. Dung and Jónsson, then, thoughreferring to concrete dictionaries now and then, discuss more general aspects,as well as most of the following authors; Saravanan again at least originates ina specific (agricultural) dictionary project, and so on.

As the programme of the symposium had been quite general, there can hardly befound another common denominator for all chapters besides 'lexicography,' maybesupplemented by 'recent developments in'. Most ideas and projects are presentedin 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 highaims would have been even more enlightening. Many, but not all of the chaptersdiscuss the possibilities of electronic dictionary-making. Topics vary verybroadly. About a third of the papers are clearly written in the spirit of thetheory of lexicographic functions, so one is tempted to ask: Which types ofreaders is this volume addressed to? The answer clearly is: lexicographers. So,which types of lexicographers' needs is this volume meant to satisfy? Theanswer will be: Most lexicographers will find inspiration in one or more of thechapters. The volume as a whole is directed at lexicographic experts who areinterested not only in one particular aspect of lexicography but in an overviewof what is going on in their discipline at an international level. It is themerit of the editors to have invited not only European scholars but colleaguesfrom 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 orskewed.


Mann, Michael. Forthcoming. Makrostrukturen und Zugriffsstrukturen inOnline-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 andNon-knowledge. Tübingen: Niemeyer. [Lexicographica. Series Maior 134.]


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.

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