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THE HISTORY OF IDEAS AND CROSS-REFERENCING IN THE FUTURE EMED Jürgen Schäfer For the English language, the sixteenth century was a period of unprecedented lexical growth.1 Thousands of new terms from fields as diverse as music and medicine were coined, enabling Englishmen to participate in the intellectual stimulus of the Renaissance using the vernacular. Without questioning the educational achievement of the Latin-centered Elizabethan grammar school, we may safely assume that the enormous increase in original English-language scholarship and science documented for the seventeenth century was a direct result of the linguistic revolution of the sixteenth century. First attempts at anglicization were not always successful, since many words remained isolated coinages, hardly ever used a second time, while others were eventually superseded after a currency of several decades. This initial uncertainty is partly attributable to the ideological battles between the "compounders" and the "neologizers," as Richard Foster Jones has termed them.2 The first group, following the advice of Sir John Cheke, tried to form necessary new terms from existing material; Robert Recorde's touch-line, replaced later by the Latinate adaptation tangent, is a well-known example. The second, ultimately more successful, group simply coined loan words from the source languages, in most cases, though not exclusively, Latin. This pitched battle of "Latin versus English"3 is, however, only one conspicuous aspect of a more general problem for historical lexicography. For the structural linguist touch-line and tangent belong to distinct categories of word formation and have nothing to do with each other; for the literary historian, for the historian of style or of ideas, the chronological sequence of touch-line and tangent and their temporary co-existence are of particular interest. For the historian of science it is important that the concept 182 N. C. Hultin and H. M. Logan183 copy" and electronic versions of the Dictionary with its combined supplements. It had been apparent from the outset that OUP could not carry out a project of this magnitude without assistance. As a consequence, Oxford Press invited proposals from a number of firms with experience in the manipulation of large bodies of data. In addition, a copy of "A Future for the Oxford English Dictionary" was forwarded in June, 1983, to the University of Waterloo, Canada, with whom they had communicated earlier, with an invitation to submit a formal tender, outlining what it could contribute to the project as an institution heavily involved in the application of computers to humanistic as well as to scientific research. The immediate aim, as expressed in this document, was "to produce a new, up-to-date, and continually updatable version of the OED, a version which will also be available in machine-readable form." While the task was sizeable, it was neither entirely new nor conceptually original. Other dictionaries had employed computer assistance earlier, but the corpora had been generally much smaller. While Thomas Finkenstaedt and Dieter Wolff had worked on a computerized version of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary a decade ago,1 the text was much smaller and their equipment allowed only a limited exploration of the fields of information available in that dictionary. Large databases for business, taxation, and censuses have been produced, it is true, but the data is different from the sizeable textual material of the OED, which requires recognition of a complex network of relationships between elements at various levels. The magnitude of the text and the complexity of material in which so much is conveyed, not only in the words of the text, but their location, and in the form of the type-font and typographical symbols, is a challenge. Other implicit relationships dependent upon the intuition of a reader would have to be made explicit in the creation of satisfactory databases for merging and printing the Dictionary. There is, moreover, the prospect of a multitude of projects which will inevitably arise from an electronic OED, projects as yet undefined. Indeed, to use James 1 84The New Oxford English Dictionary Project Murray's own word, the project will anamorphose ("distort into a monstrous projection"). The University of Waterloo has a history of cooperation between computer studies and the humanities. The Arts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 182-198
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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