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GUIDELINES FOR REVIEWERS OF BILINGUAL DICTIONARIES Roger J. Steiner Walk into the neighborhood supermarket and one of the first things you might see is a group of dictionaries on sale, some of them compiled a half century ago and printed by a publisher who knows a good way to make money when he sees it. These dictionaries succeed because unsophisticated buyers do not read dictionary reviews published in learned journals. Publishers find that they can rely on their system of distribution and the low selling price made possible by reprinting the same dictionary over and over again, decade after decade, instead of hiring lexicographers to compile a new one. Sometimes one of these publishers does hire someone interested in languages but in a review of the resulting dictionary the publisher is told that he should have hired a lexicographer. According to a reviewer in Dictionaries, one of the all-time best sellers found in the supermarket, as well as in other outlets in the country, should be withdrawn from sale because: It is but another of the many amateurish works which show that, whereas airplane pilots or doctors or lawyers must be trained and licensed, lexicography is still largely an unprofessionalized field.1 For some time now, we have seen lexicography emerging as a discipline. Knowledgeable practitioners of lexicography do write dictionaries and they are asked by publishers to write confidential reviews of unpublished or published dictionaries. These reviews have a private in-house circulation and exert pressure when it counts the most: before the work is published. And after publication, reviews are published in journals available to scholars. Hundreds of reviews of bilingual dictionaries have been published in journals slanted toward pedagogy, such as The Modern Language Journal, or toward a particular language, such as 166 Roger J. Steiner167 The French Review or Hispania, or toward some other specialty. These reviews are read by librarians, teachers, and the same publisher who paid for an in-house review previous to publication. If the reviewer is given the opportunity to use enough space, the review may turn out to be an essay on lexicographical matters. It is my intention to present in systematic order a number of guidelines which have become apparent to me in the quarter of a century during which I have written reviews of bilingual dictionaries and read the reviews written by colleagues. These guidelines do not repeat the material contained in Robert L. Chapman's article on dictionary reviewing,2 for he is concerned with the monolingual dictionary and with a survey of the reviews themselves during a seventy-five-year period. My guidelines are directed toward bilingual lexicography and I do not give a survey of the published reviews of the past twenty-five years although the ideas for my guidelines have come from those reviews. Many of these reviews, however, have had a popular rather than a scholarly approach and deserve the comment Sidney I. Landau makes about some of them: . . . vehicles for displays of irrelevant learning or amusing word play. Such reviewers, however well intentioned, intelligent, and in command of the use of language, lack the basis for making informed judgments about dictionaries because they do not know why certain decisions were made [in compiling the dictionary]. They do not even know what questions should be asked, much less how to answer them.3 It is my goal to supply the questions for reviews of bilingual dictionaries—not only for the benefit of tyros but as a checklist for old hands. 168Guidelines for Reviewers The first consideration when investigating the dictionary is to find out something about its date of compilation. It may have a new title page plastered on top of an old text, with no date at all or simply "1985." Whether or not it is new or derivative may be found by comparison with other editions available in a large library or with other dictionaries from which the compilers copied. Century-old works have been advertised by the blurbists as "the highest authority."4 If the dictionary has been revised or updated, one must evaluate the quality and quantity of this revision by taking random samples from the body of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 166-181
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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