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DICTIONARIES FOR LEXICOGRAPHERS? FOR LINGUISTS? FOR LAYMEN? The Concise Oxford Dictionary, ed. by J.B. Sykes, Oxford University Press, 7th edition 1982, xxvii & 1264 pp., £7.75 The New Collins ConciseEnglish Dictionary, ed. by W.T. McLeod, London & Glasgow: Collins, 1982, xx & 1388 pp., £7.50 Longman New Universal Dictionary, ed. by P.' Procter, Harlow: Longman (& G. & C Merriam), 1982, xxvi & 1158 pp., £ 6.95 Archibald: I hear you're having a ball reviewing another batch of English dictionaries? Randolph: You know how they turn me on. There are 3 new ones, bringing the total of largish one-volume dictionaries to over 10. Who told you? A: A couple of Middle Eastern friends who'd attended meetings at Exeter . . . And Larry Urdang reports that British lexicographers are coming under the influence of American practices. R: Urdang himself has done more than most . . . A: . . .especially at Random-House and Collins . . . R: . . .to show how closely intertwined words and things are and how much people rely on the dictionary as a rule-book. A: Ah, yes, the encyclopedic and the etiquette traditions in American lexicography. R: Well, the original Collins Concise was based on an American publication; the New Concise is a shorter version of the Collins English Dictionary which made quite an impact when it appeared in 1979. The Longman New Universal is actually a joint venture with the Merriam-Webster company, although they make more capital out of the claim that they were the original publishers of Johnson's dictionary. A: How do the Collins New Concise and the Longman New Universal compare with their brothers and sisters? R: The main difference is that the New Concise is just over Vs smaller than the Collins English Dictionary of which it is a good * A variant of this review in a more conventional format was published in the Times Literary Supplement on 3 September 1982 under the title "Advancing definitions." 270 R. R. K. Hartmann271 'abridgment', as you would say, while the New Universal is bigger in terms of entries, if not in pages, than the 1978 Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, and it is a brand-new dictionary. A: Which cannot be said of the last in the trio? R: No, it's the 7th edition of the Oxford Concise, which follows close at the heels of the latest supplement of the OED. In fact, Bob Burchfield was on the telly again the other day defending the historical principle. The Concise has always had a kind of love-hate relationship with its parent, stressing that current use is at least as important as past use. A: So, What's new in this edition? R: That's a good question, Arch. They have introduced two new usage labels, D for 'disputed uses' and R for 'racially offensive uses', but they employ them sparingly, and apart from some more neologisms I can't really detect any drastic changes. A: Is it true that John Sykes, the editor, has moved to another department at O.U.P.? R: Yes, but it may not mean anything. What is interesting is that although the Concise still hits the best-seller lists with any new edition, the competition from other dictionary publishers may be beginning to have an effect on its monopoly. I actually find it encouraging that dictionaries are becoming more differentiated . . . A: . . .less uniform . . . R: . . .than they used to be even a few years ago. A: How are they recording and commenting on current usage? R: I was going to say that they are trying out some of the methods of measuring divergent usage that you and I have been advocating for years. A: Like panels or juries . . . R: . . .like using acceptability judgments in various ways. Neither linguists nor lexicographers have paid enough attention to the ordinary native speaker, his actual usage, his declared preferences. A: I quite agree. If you use informants you have to accept their statements about what is right and wrong in grammar and vocabulary, and be doubly careful about some of the rationalizations offered by so-called authorities. 272Reviews R: Many of the 'usage notes' in this year's dictionaries try to come to grips with this problem. Just one example, the word...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 270-273
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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