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Dictionaries, 1 (1979) "RIDING POINT ON THE LEXICON OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WEST"* Thomas E. Toon The aim of this paper is (1) to announce a proposed period dictionary of the varieties of English which emerged and are still spoken in the North American West; (2) to set down a brief rationale for such a dictionary—with an articulation of the several stages of the task just now underway; and (3) to solicit advice from interested scholars and help from willing readers of Western American literature. The very idea of such a project is feasible (indeed, something short offoolhardy ) only because English is an exceptionally well dictionaried language. The work anticipated in this paper would extend and bring together the central corpus already well established by the lexicographical tradition begun with the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and variously developed in A Dictionary of American English (DAE), A Dictionary ofAmericanisms (DA), A Dictionary of Canadianisms oh Historical Principles (DC), and the ongoing Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). The present author and Professor Don D. Walker (Department of English, University of Utah) are directing the work. Generous grants from the University of Utah Institutional Funds Committee and the University of Utah College of Humanities are supporting the initiation stage of the project. The initial work and planning are well enough underway to make this essay both an announcement and a progress report. We welcome early comments and criticisms from the scholarly community of English lexicographers. A full plan (with working bibliography) will be completed in the next year. 1. TOWARDS A DICTIONARY OF WESTERN AMERICAN Malkiel's typology of dictionaries based on a broad classification by the features of range, perspective, and presentation makes a useful starting point for the description of a new lexicographical project.1 By range, he means "the *Some special thanks aie in order: Malcolm Sillais (Dean, College of Humanities) and Norman Council (Chairman, Department of English), my colleagues at the University of Utah, have provided encouragement and support since the conception of this project. The essays by Clarence L. Barnhart and Allen Walker Read were an excellent guide in reviewing my progress and preparing this report. Richard W. Bailey and Bernard Van't HuI, colleague lexicographers at the University of Michigan, discussed the project and this essay at length and with tireless enthusiasm. 57 58THOMAS E. TOON volume and spread of the material assembled."2 Perspective covers "the Geographer 's logistics and strategy"—"the type of curiosity that drives him in the first place to delimit and launch his project."3 Such tactical choices as the nature of definition, the kind of verbal documentation, the inclusion of special features (pronunciation, dialectal provenience, etc.) and the like are included under presentation. RANGE: Our intention is to extend and concentrate the scope of the existing historical dictionaries of English. We will follow Avis' suggestion that 'lexicographers compiling dictionaries of the English used in North America might well be advised to adopt the label North Americanism."* His arguments for obliterating a distinction between "American" and "Canadian" are particulary valid for the West: In the first place, many terms in this class were current in North America before the United States existed as a political entity. Indeed, the presentday boundary between the United States and Canada was not fixed— especially on the Pacific Coast—until well into the nineteenth century. Furthermore, Canadians and Americans from the late seventeenth century onward have moved back and forth across the border in such numbers and with such regularity that it is impossible to determine exactly where certain terms originated. So much is and has long been similar or identical in the social and economic spheres of Canadian and American life and so much, especially along the border, is shared with respect to natural resources , flora and fauna, topography, and so on, to say nothing of our common contacts with the American Indians, that hosts of terms cannot be claimed by one country or the other with any degree of confidence whatever.5 A major difficulty in limiting the range of this work is the problem of defining the West. Mathews' solution offers a sound beginning: At any particular time, that part of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 57-68
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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