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ON THE MAKING OF THE MIDDLE ENGLISH DICTIONARY Sherman M. Kuhn The external history of the Middle English Dictionary is sufficiently well known. Down to the year 1954, it is available in the Plan and Bibliography fascicle of the MED; while the simple annals after 1954 can be extracted from the published parts, A-M: the comings and goings of editors, associate editors, assistant editors, subeditors, editorial assistants, and compositors, with the dates and content of the various facicles as published. In April of the year 1975, a very generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, designed to supplement the continuing support of the University of Michigan and the Horace H. Rackham Foundation, enabled the MED to hire seven new full-time assistant editors, together with additional compositors and editorial assistants. This has resulted in nearly tripling the size of our editorial staff and approximately doubling the number of those concerned with putting the edited copy in final form for publication. [There have been further events of historical interest since 1975, when the above was written.We are now editing S and publishing P. The National Endowment for the Humanities made a large grant to the MED in 1980, which has enabled us to repair the ravages of inflation and to make some improvements in staff and equipment . After working with the MED for some time informally, Professor Robert E. Lewis from Indiana University joined the staff of the MED on August 1 , 1982, as Co-Editor. He will, D.V. , take over the Editorship when the present incumbent retires in 1983. I wish to add one further comment. While the MED, since 1930, has been a project of The University of Michigan and a plurality of the staff received their training at this university, the MED is by no means parochial: it has drawn scholars (and ideas) from many sources. The fourteen Ph.D's presently working on the dictionary represent the following universities (besides Michigan): California at Berkeley, Chicago, Glasgow, Harvard, London, This essay was originally published in Po├ętica: An International Journal ofLinguistic-Literary Studies 4 (1976). We are grateful to the editors ofthat journal and to Sherman M. Kuhn for permission to reprint it here. 14 Sherman M. Kuhn15 Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. If we add to these Associate and Assistant Editors who have served limited appointments or have retired or resigned, the list would include Iowa, Leeds, Lund, Northwestern, Oregon, Queen's (Belfast), Stanford, Toronto, Washington, and Yale.] It is the internal history of the MED which will comprise the remainder of this paper: the stages in the preparation of the dictionary and some of the principles governing our methods and procedures. In order to keep the length of the discussion within reasonable bounds, I shall confine myself as far as possible to a few matters of some general interest: answers to questions which friends and users of the MED most frequently ask me, criticisms leveled at this dictionary by reviewers, and problems often debated within the MED staff itself. The first stage in the making of a dictionary is the limitation of its field. The problem is simplest for the lexicographer working in a contemporary language; but even he must decide which outmoded words are to be included under the label "archaic" and which are to be excluded, whether any areas or dialects or technical words are to be excluded as not being in the main stream of the language, and what neologisms are to be omitted because they seem too new or faddish and unlikely to establish themselves in the language. For the maker of a historical, or period, dictionary, the problem is more complicated; he must decide what period of the language he shall cover, where that period shall begin and end, what the geographical limits, if any, of his field must be, and whether any special vocabularies or dialects should be excluded. The decisions made by the MED, with the reasoning behind them, may be of assistance to other lexicographers faced with problems similar to ours. Old English gradually turned into Middle English during the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. No matter where one draws the line between these...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 14-41
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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