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Dictionaries, 1 (1979) THE DICTIONARY OF OLD ENGLISH Angus Cameron Antonette diPaolo Healey Old English scholars have long felt the need for a new Dictionary of Old English. A recent articulator of this need is Professor Fred C. Robinson of Yale University who, in a stock-taking essay on work in Old English, states that most scholars would suggest a new dictionary as "the single most pressing desideratum in Old English today."1 This "desideratum" arises from the frustrating inadequacies of the present Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (1882-98) by Joseph Bosworth, published posthumously, its Supplement (1908-21) by T. Northcote Toller, and its EnlargedAddenda and Corrigenda (1972) by Alistair Campbell. The difficulties lie in two directions. First, there are problems of knowledge . Bosworth wrote his dictionary having only a superficial acquaintance with the new philology of Rasmus Rask and Jakob Grimm. Moreover, his work precedes the development of historical lexicography initiated by Sir James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary. Secondly, there are problems of execution. Inconsistency mars the arrangement of the entries: in the earlier part of the Dictionary different forms of a word, reflecting usually differences in dialect and date or even inflection, are given separately; in the later part they are grouped under a single word. Moreover, many of the editions from which the citations are drawn are now either no longer extant or not easily accessible to the ordinary scholar. In short, it is difficult to use a dictionary in which we must look for any given word in at least two and occasionally as many as twelve places, and in which citations are culled from antiquated editions. It is out of these dissatisfactions that the Dictionary of Old English project at the University of Toronto arose . Two international conferences in Toronto began the project. At the first held in March 1969, the attending scholars discussed particularly questions of handling Old English texts by computer and heard reports from those already using computers in their own work.2 At the second held in September 1970, the dictionary group offered a plan of operation. Richard Venezky presented a first sketch of the computer system and Christopher Ball and Angus Cameron wrote a set ofspecimen entries and assembled a textual bibliography.3 Most of the first two years of the project was spent in collecting materials: the purchase of the microfilms of MSS. containing Old English texts and the gathering together of printed editions. Building upon the information provided by Professors Bessinger and Smith in their Concordance to the AngloSaxon Poetic Records,4 Professors Smith and Cameron prepared two /Elfric 87 88ANGUS CAMERON AND ANTONETTE DIPAOLO HEALEY concordances, to the Lives of Saints and to Pope's edition of the Homilies in a keyword in context format.5 As a result of this exercise Professor Cameron determined that the dictionary would use citations with a variable field rather than a fixed field format; that is, citations would be semantic units rather than arbitrary ones. In 1972-73 Professor Venezky began to develop the Léxico system6 and the preparation of texts began. Between the fall of 1972 and the fall of 1976 the approximately three million words which constitute the body of Old English were edited, checked, and typed. This comprised the second stage of the project.7 The third stage of the project, which is still in progress, is the generation of concordances in the Old English collating system devised by Richard Venezky. Under this system, proofread and edited scanner tapes are divided into citation units (editorial sentences) and concorded. Within the next few months all the concordances should be completed. One of the innovations of our project in this phase is that rather than printing in concordance format and then reprinting in slip format, we have moved directly from the concording process to the printing of dictionary slips. We now have in the dictionary offices 80% of the corpus of Old English in slip format. At the third international dictionary conference held in Toronto in May 1977,8 Old English scholars began to realize that the concordances on which the Dictionary ofOldEnglish would be based could also be made generally available. It was then agreed that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 87-96
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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