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Review of  Dictionary of Lexicography

Reviewer: Donald Reindl
Book Title: Dictionary of Lexicography
Book Author: Reinhard Rudolf Karl Hartmann Gregory James
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Lexicography
Issue Number: 13.56

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Hartmann, R. K. K., and Gregory James (2001) Dictionary of
Lexicography. Routledge, paperback ISBN 0-415-14144-3,
xviii+176pp, $31.95.

Announced in Linguist List 12.1404 (May 22, 2001)

Reviewed by: Donald F. Reindl, Indiana University,
Bloomington, USA

Both professionals and amateurs in the field of
lexicography will welcome Hartmann and James' "Dictionary
of Lexicography" in this new paperback edition. The
original work, published in hardback in 1988, has been
bibliographically updated and revised, taking into account
comments on the first edition. With entries ranging from
highly theoretical constructs to everyday vocabulary, from
"abbreviation" to "zidian" and a great deal in between,
the "Dictionary of Lexicography" will hold a rightful
place on the shelves of dictionary enthusiasts of every
Ultimately, the book is a dictionary of dictionaries,
of dictionary structure, of dictionary research, and of
dictionary making -- in essence, a metadictionary. The 290
different types of dictionaries cited, ranging from
"abridged dictionary" to "writers' dictionary", underscore
this fact. As the authors point out in their note on
working methods (pp. xv-xvi), the dictionary is
principally dedicated to explicating contemporary
lexicographic terminology. Thus, one will not find here
the biographies of famous lexicographers, facts on well-
known dictionaries, or entries describing historical
breakthroughs in lexicography -- although these matters
are touched upon in the introduction (pp. vii-xiv). What
one will find, though, is a comprehensive treatment of the
working vocabulary of dictionary making today. These
include not only the most basic (although not
uncontroversial) terminology, such as "word", but also
more abstruse expressions, such as "lemmatization" ("the
reduction of a paradigm of variant word forms to a
canonical form"). In between, one discovers words for
constructs that every dictionary-user must deal with --
sometimes with considerable exasperation -- but rarely
seeks to name. Such an example is "nesting" and "niching",
the practices of clustering subentries within an entry in
non-alphabetical and alphabetical order, respectively.
The dictionary is richly supplied with bibliographic
references in the entries themselves. These are
conveniently marked with three simple icons (an open book,
stacked pages, and a computer terminal) respectively
referring the reader to relevant literature on the topic,
reference works that exemplify the term or that
incorporate the term, and websites and other electronic
information. This last feature reflects the up-to-date
character of the book, evidenced by the inclusion of such
items as "HTML", "Internet", and "World Wide Web". In
their introduction, the authors discuss the radical
transformation that computerization -- the fourth
"communicative shift" (see below) -- has had on the field
of lexicography (pp. viii-ix).
The book raises several thought-provoking topics in
the field of lexicography, for example, the "image of the
dictionary" -- that is, the "public perception of
dictionaries and other reference works." Hartmann and
James observe that little research has been done on the
topic and note that feelings among the general public
range from esteem to ignorance. Perhaps another subset of
public opinion, sometimes encountered among academic
circles, should be noted as well: scorn. This perhaps
unexpected and often undeserved sentiment is often seen
when academy dictionaries or other reference works, such
as those of Joze Toporisic in Slovenia or Blaze Koneski in
Macedonia, conflict with spoken norms. The major issue of
prescriptive versus descriptive approaches to lexicography
is dealt with in lengthier fashion beyond the relatively
brief entries on these items. In the introduction, the
authors comment on the break with normative tradition in
the making of the third edition of "Webster's New
International Dictionary of the English Language" in 1961
and the authoritative role of the dictionary as a
linguistic arbiter.
Although the authors point out that lexicography is
not a branch of linguistics (vii), linguists will not be
disappointed by Hartmann and James' treatment of language.
The book remains accessible to the layman, but authentic
linguistic terminology is not avoided. Thus, the entry for
"affix" treats, in turn, prefixes, suffixes, infixes,
derivational affixes and inflectional affixes and the
entry for "semantic change" outlines the processes of
reduction, generalization, amelioration, and pejoration.
Likewise, the entry for "canonical form" discusses the
roles of mutation and sandhi in obscuring the choice of
canonical form. The authors provide readily accessible
definitions of these terms, and often cite examples from
English when possible.
Ten illustrations are included in the "Dictionary of
Lexicography" and these provide clarity for presenting
material that would be more opaque in a running text
format. In particular, the organizational "wheel"
subdividing types of reference works (p. 148), the charts
contrasting encyclopedic and terminological lexicography
with general lexicography (pp. 44, 139), and the diagram
differentiating theory and practice in lexicography are
especially helpful visual presentations. However, the
table entitled "A Selection of European Dictionary Titles"
(p. 144) is more haphazard. It primarily comprises Greek,
Latin and English titles from the 3rd century BC onwards,
but inexplicably throws in Portuguese, Inupiaq, and Hawis
(the reviewer has not been able to identify this last
language). Whereas the inclusion of non-European
dictionary titles merely appears to be a mistake, the
inclusion of the Portuguese "Diciopédia 2000" is simply
puzzling. Surely it would have been more useful to include
the German term "Wörterbuch", which has spawned calqued
names for dictionaries in a variety of languages,
presumably including the English expression "word book"
(e.g., Wilkes 1999) -- which, as a matter of fact, is also
omitted from the table. Also, a more accurate etymological
translation of "encyclopedia" would be "course of general
education" rather than "circle".
Although dictionaries and "dictionarese" have
obtained a reputation for dry -- indeed, dull -- prose,
Hartmann and James have managed to inject occasional
elements of light-heartedness into their work without
overstepping the bounds of good scholarly style. Although
they resisted emulating Samuel Johnson in their definition
of "lexicographer" (their nod to the now proverbial
"harmless drudge" was made on p. viii), only the dourest
of users will be able to resist a smile when reading that
an "inkhorn term" is "a word or phrase coined to
splendificate the writer's 'learnedness'". For the term
"circular reference", the user is referred to "reference
circularity" -- from which, of course, the user is
referred to "circular reference". Indeed, as the authors
assert, "browsing" can be an "apparently aimless, but
potentially pleasurable, casual reading of dictionaries or
other reference works."
In its scope, the volume is primarily English-
language oriented. This is acknowledged by the authors (p.
xvi), who note that the extensive 16-page bibliography is
restricted to English-language publications for practical
reasons. Nonetheless, there are occasional nods to other
languages to illustrate particular entries, such as the
mention of Japanese and Perso-Arabic script to exemplify
"bigraphism" and "aljamiado", respectively, in the entry
on "digraphia". However, the anomalous inclusion of
Chinese-language headwords such as "cidian" and "hanyu
pinyin" and the rather frequent reference to Chinese -- a
reflection of Hong Kong-based Gregory James' considerable
familiarity with Chinese lexicography -- are a notable
exception to this English-language orientation.
The dictionary has few factual shortcomings, although
one can quibble with some of the details. For example,
Devanagari is cited as an example of a syllabic writing
system in the same league as Japanese kana. However,
Devanagari is an abugida (see Garshol 2000)-- that is,
something closer to an alphabet than a syllabary -- in
that it has clearly segmentable vowel markers that are
less fused than those used, for example, in the Amharic
featural syllabary and that are analogous to the vowel
points of the Arabic and Hebrew abjads. The Cherokee
syllabary would have be a good companion example here.
Likewise, the assertion that the first "communicative
shift" (that is, the onset of speech) occurred some 50,000
years ago (citing McArthur 1986) seems to lack any firm
support, and simply serves here as an attractive parallel
number to cite alongside those for the onset of writing
(5,000 years ago) and printing (500 years ago). For a
commentary on estimates of the onset of speech, ranging as
far back as 2,000,000 years, see Bower (1989).
Organizationally, the work is cleanly laid out, with
headwords set off in boldface for easy recognition.
Typographically, the volume shows the results of careful
editing and proofreading. The only typographic error
discernable to this reviewer was the blank space at the
end of the entry for "digraph", which was intended to
contain a compound Tamil character.
Although most users of the dictionary are unlikely to
read it cover-to-cover, casual readers will indeed find
potential pleasure through aimless browsing. Hartmann and
James' "Dictionary of Lexicography" promises to be a
welcome, easy-to-use reference that will remain current in
the field for some time to come.


Bower, Bruce (1989). "Talk of Ages." In Science News (July
8, 1989), pp. 24-26 (Available at:

Garshol, Lars Marius (2000). "Types of Scripts" (Available

McArthur, Tom, ed. (1986). Worlds of Reference:
Lexicography, Learning and Language from the Clay Tablet
to the Computer. Cambridge University Press.

Wilkes, Angela (1999). My first word book. DK Publishing.

About the Reviewer:
Donald F. Reindl is a doctoral candidate in Slavic
linguistics at the Department of Slavic Languages and
Literatures at Indiana University, Bloomington, USA. His
research interests include historical linguistics,
language planning, and language contact. He is currently
working as a translator and university lecturer in
Ljubljana, Slovenia.