Dictionary Criticism and Lexicographical Function Theory

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Sven Tarp - Foredragsholder

Since Paolo Beni’s famous L’anticrusca, published by the Academy of Crusca in 1612 as a response to the Vocabulario compiled by the academicians from the very same Academy, dictionary criticism has played an important role in the development of dictionaries as well as lexicographical theory. The paper will discuss dictionary criticism in the light of the function theory of lexicography (cf. Tarp 2017) and will argue that this criticism is an essential lexicographical activity which constantly needs to be enhanced if the discipline should continue to develop. In this respect, the paper will above all treat dictionary criticism as a research activity that encompasses a number of specific problems, of which the most important are:

the purpose of dictionary criticism;
the main types of dictionary criticism;
the concept of dictionary criticism;
the required knowledge;
the main elements to be criticized;
the method to be applied;
the presentation of the results and conclusions;
the theoretical and practical implications.

Like any other lexicographical activity, dictionary criticism should always be performed with a specific and well-considered purpose in mind. The paper will therefore discuss the most important purposes with which criticism has been and can be made:

To raise a debate among lexicographers about concrete dictionaries.
To raise a debate among lexicographers about specific topics.
To make recommendations to the author(s) of the criticized dictionary.
To inspire other lexicographers when preparing similar dictionary projects.
To prepare or improve own dictionaries.
To transmit interesting experiences.
To initiate students into the world of lexicography.
To recommend or not recommend a dictionary to its potential users.

The paper will provide some examples of dictionary criticism carried out with the above purposes as well as their theoretical and practical outcome. In this connection it will also discuss the two main types of dictionary criticism, namely criticism of other authors’ dictionaries and self-criticism of one’s own dictionaries, where the second one is frequently ignored in the academic literature in spite of the fact that a self-critical and fearless approach to one‘s own dictionaries is of fundamental importance when preparing new projects or new editions (updating) of already published works.
Based on this discussion, the paper will proceed to a definition of the concept of dictionary criticism. It will argue that it cannot be reduced to neither a specific genre as it is defined by text linguistics nor an independent research area as defined by Wiegand (1989). Instead it will define dictionary criticism as a theory-based activity conducted within various lexicographical research areas, and the outcome of which may be expressed in texts belonging to many different genres or even kept indoors depending on the specific purpose of the criticism.
Moreover, the contribution will briefly discuss the various types of knowledge and skills required to make a comprehensive criticism, especially in terms of modern online dictionaries; the issues which may be criticized (in this respect it will distinguish between lexicographical and non-lexicographical issues); the overall method applied by the supporters of the function theory, and the way dictionary criticism could be presented in order to create debate. Finally, the paper will indicate the important role dictionary criticism has had, and still has, in the development of the lexicographical theory and practice, and will therefore endorse an open and critical discussion culture within the discipline.

Beni, P. 1612: L’anticrusca. Florence: Accademia della Crusca, 1612.
Tarp, S. 2017: Dictionary criticism and lexicographical function theory. In M. Bielińska and S.J. Schierholz (eds.): Wörterbuchkritik. Dictionary Criticism. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.
Wiegand, H.E. 1989: Der gegenwärtige Status des Lexikographie und ihr Verhältnis zu anderen Disziplinen. In F.J. Hausmann, O. Reichmann, H.E. Wiegand and L. Zgusta, (eds.): Wörterbücher, Dictionaries, Dictionnaires. An International Encyclopedia of Lexicography. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 246-280.
27 jun. 2017

Begivenhed (Konference)

TitelAfrilex International Conference
AfholdelsesstedRhodes University
Grad af anerkendelseInternational begivenhed

ID: 114505078