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Reviewed by:
George D. Babiniotis. [inline-graphic xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" xlink:href="03i" /] [inline-graphic xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" xlink:href="04i" /][inline-graphic xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" xlink:href="05i" /]. Athens: Center for Lexicography. 1998. Pp. 2064. 23000 drachmas.

Greek lexicography is coming of age. The furor that accompanied the publication of Babiniotis's dictionary reflects precisely the growth of the discipline in the same way that the pangs of adolescence relate to oncoming maturity. What has been disappointing in the dictionary's reception, however, is the reluctance of those involved to raise any pertinent linguistic questions in a debate that included lengthy litigation and transformed a dictionary into a best-seller. In order to restore the balance, this review essay will touch upon issues of the dictionary's organization, lemma selection and arrangement, the use of definitions, style labels and examples, as well as broader linguistic and lexicographic issues.

It is difficult to do justice to a book of more than two thousand pages in the limited space of a review. One of the complications of dealing with such a prodigious work is the temptation to lose sight of the forest for the trees. In view of this, it must clearly be stated at the outset that Professor Babiniotis's inline graphicinline graphic, is a landmark in Greek linguistics and lexicography. It provides the largest scale picture of the Greek language after the demise of diglossia, offering a plethora of invaluable information about the multiple resources of Greek. Its breadth and scope render it a useful tool for teachers of Greek, for learners, translators, creative writers, and—generally—anyone who uses the language with some frequency. However, it is not only its size that makes Babiniotis's dictionary an outstanding work. Its distinctive character is that, with the exception of Kriaras's smaller and less-broadly focused work (1995), it is the only dictionary of the contemporary Greek language compiled by a professional linguist on the basis of expert rather than amateurish standards and principles. This major oeuvre by the doyen of modern Greek linguistics is bound to constitute one of the standard reference works for years to come, alongside Stamatakos's and Dimitrakos's earlier accomplishments. This said, we should not infer that the dictionary lacks mistakes, inadequacies, or shortcomings. Only those who have not been involved in a lexicographic project could make such a naïve assumption.

To start with the dictionary's size, the figures given on the cover are: 150,000 "words and phrases" and 500,000 "definitions and uses." Although comparisons may be deceptive, let us note that most modern dictionaries of English include fewer than 100,000 headwords (Longman's 1984 edition has [End Page 163] 90,000, the Penguin 1969 edition has 40,000, the second edition of Cobuild has 75,000 references and 100,000 examples), whereas the third edition of Collins English Dictionary reaches 180,000 lemmas and the 1987 edition of Random House has 260,000 headwords (Crystal 1987:108). Nevertheless, as Babiniotis rightly points out in his introduction (p. 27), the attempt to include as many words as possible is responsible for the distorted view of the language given by most Greek dictionaries. Babiniotis's dictionary should be praised for following criteria of use for the inclusion of a word rather than slavishly imitating earlier works. The range of lemmas includes proper names and abbreviations (incorporated in the main body of the dictionary rather than in appendices) as well as "frozen phrases" such as katharevousa sayings and Latin expressions. The useful division into main lemmas, sub-lemmas (for related compounds and derivations), internal lemmas or phrases, and detached lemmas (for transparent compounds and derivations such as those of privative α- and αυτο-) facilitates an economic description. It must be noted here that all phrases are included in the lemma of the main headword (p. 32) rather than appearing as separate lemmas.

Regarding lemma selection, the author emphasizes that the main criterion is that of use, quite aside from origin (p. 27). The principle of "idiosynchrony" (p. 28) is also followed, in order to exclude dialectal or slang...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 163-170
Launched on MUSE
1999-05-01
Open Access
No
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