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Methodological Criteria for the Preparation of a Period Dictionary Ulrich Goebel Xn the preface to the first edition ofSamuelJohnson's Dictionary ofthe Englüh Language (1755), Johnson observes: [The] writer of dictionaries . . . [is] doomed only to remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths of Learning and Genius, who press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other authour may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach, and even this negative recompense has been granted to very few. A lack of appreciation for the work of lexicographers has accompanied the discipline over the years, in part because of the failure of lexicographers to define their craft and the product of their handiwork. This failure is as apparent in the lexicography of individual languages as it is more universally in the theory of lexicography. Some 20 years ago, Ladislav Zgusta, contemplating the lack ofan expressed practical and theoretical base for lexicography, stated that one of the strangest features of lexicography is that experiences are rarely exchanged among lexicographers (Zgusta 1971, 10). In other words, lexicographers start ab ovo in determining the methodology, procedure, and theoretical underpinnings for their projects. Fortunately, this state of affairs has changed. Over the last two decades scholars have given structure to the practice of lexicography and its theoretical foundations by establishing professional societies, e.g., The Dictionary Society of North America , publishing periodicals, e.g., Dictionaries, Lexicographica, and The InternationalJournal ofLexicography, compiling bibliographies and volumes reporting on current lexicographical projects,1 and publishing the first two volumes of a monumental project involving more than 86Ulrich Goebel two hundred scholars, which seeks to present the lexicography ofall of the linguistic areas of the world.2 In the case of German, the efforts to exchange practical and theoretical knowledge nationally and internationally have been paralleled over the last fifteen years by a project that seeks to codify the German language of the last remaining period for which no major dictionary exists—the Early New High German (ENHG) period (ca. 1350-1650). A lack of ENHG research tools has impeded the identification of the period as a linguistic unit, hampered humanistic research of all kinds, and frustrated the understanding of the era as a coherent whole. But the lexicographical codification of ENHG should not imply that the language of this period is homogeneous. The population of the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period is much too disparate to support a claim of systematic linguistic uniformity. Still, ENHG is a stage in the development of the German language that is linguistically distinct from the earlier Middle High German (MHG) and the later New High German (NHG) periods. As such, understanding of the ENHG period would be enhanced significantly by the publication of research instruments that span the entire period and specify its distinctiveness. Frühneuhochdeutsches Wörterbuch (FW)3 is a major undertaking. When completed, the project will place ENHG near the forefront of German lexicography, because the semasiological and onomasiological reference instruments which will be compiled as part of the total project are meant to incorporate, whenever feasible, current lexicographical theory and practice. The methodology and procedures used in compiling the dictionary entries are described at length in the Lexicographical Introduction (LI). It serves as an extensive prolegomenon to the entries in FW. Before the publication of this LI, the editors addressed the many problems of compiling dictionary entries. These preliminary considerations became clear only after lengthy discussions with lexicographers (especially in Germany). Because of the vagueness ofwhat constitutes ENHG diachronically and synchronically, it was necessary to define the scope ofthe project, to elucidate the macrostructure and microstructure of the dictionary, and to determine the ancillary publications complementing the dictionary—before the writingofdictionary entries could proceed.4 The editors aired some of the same problems that had confronted Samuel Johnson nearly two centuries earlier when he undertook to compile his dictionary.Johnson states in his preface: Methodological Criteria for a Period Dictionary87 Having therefore no assistance but from general grammar, I applied myself to the perusal of our writers; and noting whatever might be of use to ascertain or illustrate any word or...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 85-100
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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