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DOST: HOW WE MAKE IT AND WHAT'S IN IT A. J. Aitken I suppose we could sum the aims of the Dictionary ofthe Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) in this way. They are to provide a dictionary entry for every recorded Older Scots word, and each such entry is to display, as far as the existing evidence allows, all of the word's ramifications of form, meaning and collocation, at the same time indicating how these are distributed in time, in place and in genre. This is to be accomplished primarily through the arrangement and presentation of a generous selection of quotations from the original sources, and secondarily by editorial notes and comments pointing out features of the word's form, use or distribution which might not be immediately evident. There have been unevennesses in the thoroughness with which these aims have been attended to in different parts of the dictionary, but for some time we have I suppose been reasonably successful in achieving most of them, as much so as most historical quotation dictionaries of DOST's sort. But there is one kind of distributional information towards which DOST offers only quite crude and conjectural suggestions: that is, statistical details of distributions, of, say, competing synonyms for a given notion, or competing forms or meanings of a particular lexeme. We do provide suggestions and general indications of some of this, sometimes explicity in notes remarking that a particular word or form or meaning is common at a certain period or in a certain place or register and uncommon at some other period. But the only dictionaries which offer at all precise and reliable information on this sort of thing are a few modern computer-assisted historical dictionaries, of which DOST is not one. These, then, are the aims, and one deficiency in achieving these aims. The corpus of texts on which DOST is based is listed in the Registers of Titles of Works Quoted prefaced to the four volumes so far entirely published. The Combined Register published in vol. Ill in 1963 runs to just over 19 pages and more than doubles the length in pages of the two previous Registers of 1937 and 1951 respectively. This expansion of coverage was my fault. Sir William Craigie's original reading programmes of the 1920's and 1930's included all the most obvious and, one could fairly say, most im42 A. J. Aitken43 portant sources in print (such as the S.T.S., the publishing clubs the record publications), as well as some notable literary works and record texts in MS. (among them the entire testamentary registers). But when I came along as the young Turk I detected gaps in the regional and topical coverage of the corpus and with the help of a newly enlisted corps of voluntary excerptors set about putting this right by adding both printed and MS. works, including, for example, the Fourth Marquess of Bute's publications of western Scots records, various local records in MS., and manuscript account-books of, among others, skippers and coal-mine managers. One by-product of this was a collection in Edinburgh University Library of photostat and microfilm copies of MS. records, mostly local records; another was a substantial body of transcripts of some forty or fifty volumes of MS. works in the Dictionary's office.1 My ambition at that time was to have examined all reliable modern printed works containing a substantial body of Older Scots text plus enough manuscript material to complete the geographical and topical spread for at least part of the period. I suppose something approaching this had been achieved by 1964, after which the reading programme was allowed to fall off. In addition to the texts themselves, the contents of something over 120 published and a few unpublished glossaries, indexes, philological treatises and editorial commentaries are incorporated in the collections, as well as, from the later 1960's, the computer concordance.2 For better or worse, this is the dictionary's corpus. I have estimated that it must amount to substantially more than 200 million words of continuous text. But it is of course far from equalling the total surviving body of all...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 42-64
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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