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684LANGUAGE, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 3 (1986) going). Clarifying what counts as a 'construction' would improve Conrad's analysis considerably. [Received 25 November 1985.] Tolkovo-kombinatornyj slovar' sovremennogo russkogo jazyka. By Igor' Mel'cuk and Aleksandr Zolkovskij. (Wiener slawistischer Almanach, Sonderband 14.) Wien, 1984. Pp. 992. Reviewed by Anna Wierzbicka, Australian National University The publication of this 'Explanatory combinatorial dictionary of Modern Russian' {ECD) draws attention to a peculiar and yet seldom noted disproportionality in the development of modern linguistics: the fact that the extraordinary growth of most aspects of linguistic science has been accompanied by a virtually complete lack of attention to that aspect which is most obvious, and in a sense most important, to the ordinary language user—namely, the lexicon. This remarkable state of affairs reflects the wide gap which, despite many linguists' declarations and efforts, continues to separate academic linguistics from 'real life'. It reflects also the failure of linguistic science to develop adequate methodological tools for dealing with the lexicon—and a widespread lack of faith in the possibility of a purposeful, methodical, and revealing scientific study of this aspect of language. This is a truly paradoxical state of affairs: the most obvious, and it would seem the most accessible aspect of language has proved to be the most impenetrable, the most resistant to scholarly conquest. Happily, there are signs that this unfortunate and unsatisfactory state of affairs is going to change. Perhaps the 21st century will become, in linguistics, the era of the dictionary and ofan integrated approach to linguistic description. Linguistic analysis, rather than an assiduous study of the grammatical skeleton of language and its sounds, may at last become a holistic study of the entire organism—including, if one may say so, its lexical flesh (cf. Rey 1983). Among these hopeful signs, one may mention various pioneering lexicographic ventures , e.g. Hale & Laughren, ms, or Apresjan & Pall 1982 (cf. Wierzbicka 1983b, Mel'iuk 1985). The Russian ECD and its close relative, the French ECD (Mel'öuk et al. 1984), are undoubtedly among the most remarkable examples of their genre. It is significant that works displaying the most serious and the most loving attention to large numbers of individual words should come from Russian scholars. Works such as ECD can be regarded as the fruit ofalong, peculiarly Russian tradition—afact which is reflected in the quotation preceding the book's introduction: 'And indeed, every sufficiently complex word must actually become the subject of a scientific monograph; therefore it is hard to expect in the near future the completion of a good dictionary' (Sierba 1940). The importance of this tradition in Russian culture is epitomized in the fact (idiosyncratic, yet highly characteristic) that the one book which Alexander Solzhenitsyn took with him to the 'Gulag Archipelago', and which he read every day as some people read the Gospels, was a volume of Dahl's dictionary of the Russian language (cf. Scammell 1984). REVIEWS685 Mel'cuk & ¿olkovskij say in their introduction that 'an explanatory combinatorial dictionary is an essential component of any full-fledged linguistic description within the Meaning-Text Model (MTM) Theory', i.e. within the theory of language which they have been developing over nearly two decades (cf Mel'èuk 1974). It is important to stress, however, that some systematic study of the lexicon must be seen as an essential part of any full-fledged linguistic description (cf. Petöfi 1977), and that a theory of language which has nothing to say about the lexicon is like a one-legged man proposing himself as a model for the study of human walking. As has often been argued by Apresjan (e.g. 1972:39), a dictionary can and should have the same scientific status as a theoretical grammar. To achieve this, it must rise above the anecdotal and ad-hoc level ofmost practically-oriented dictionaries; i.e. , it must be based on explicitly formulated methodological principles, and must strive to reveal the systemic aspects of the lexicon, hidden behind the apparent jungle of idiosyncrasies and particularities. This can be done on at least three different levels. First, a rigorous system of definitions, formulated in a well-thought-out semantic metalanguage, can reveal structural relations between different...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 684-687
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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