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"Academic Hooliganism" or "False Gold"?: The Reception of Baudouin de Courtenay's Russian Dictionary


Jan Baudouin de Courtenay (1845-1929) is best known as a phonologist, morphologist, and the founder of the Kazan' School of Linguistics; there is less awareness of his work in lexicography. This article addresses the dictionary that made him infamous in Russia: his revised edition of Vladimir Dal's Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Russian Language. This dictionary was first published from 1863 to 1866; Baudouin's third edition appeared from 1903 to 1909.

Baudouin's new edition did not delete any material contained in the revered Dal', but brought in contemporary words and copious illustrative examples. The resulting work improved upon many aspects of Dal's Dictionary, and is lexicographically superior. Baudouin selected material that allowed him to express political views, sometimes through additions to or commentary on the definitions of Dal'. Baudouin also expressed himself through examples from newspapers and other ephemeral publications.

Initially (1903), Baudouin's dictionary was accepted and even recommended for use in educational institutions. Three years later, even before all four volumes of the third edition had appeared in print, the dictionary suffered scathing criticisms in the Russian press. The Ministry of Education rescinded its recommendation. In 1906 and 1907, Baudouin responded in the press to his critics; his arguments were later repeated in the Afterword to the fourth volume of his third edition.

This article discusses lexicographic and social aspects of Baudouin's dictionary as well as the letters to the Editor opposing it. It chronicles the dictionary's fate from the early 1900s to the present.

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