In Search of the Standard in Canadian English, and: Writings on Canadian English, 1976-1987: A Selective, Annotated Bibliography (review)
- Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America
- Dictionary Society of North America
- Number 10, 1988
- pp. 169-177
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Reviews169 2,393 entries) as a guide, the dictionary would be considerably more valuable. Thomas Creamer CETA Group * * * W. C. Lougheed, ed. In Search of the Standard in Canadian English. Strathy Language Unit, Occasional Papers no. 1. Kingston, Ont.: Queen's University, 1986. ? + 192 pp. US $10.00. W. C. Lougheed. Writings on Canadian English, 1976-1987: A Selective, Annotated Bibliography. Strathy Language Unit, Occasional Papers no. 2. Kingston, Ont.: Queen's University, 1988. xii + 66 pp. $5.00. In the preface to Webster's Third New International Dictionary , Philip B. Gove describes his goal as "nothing less than coverage of the current vocabulary of standard written and spoken English." While the pronunciation is that "prevailing in general cultivated conversational usage," there is no "attempt to dictate what that usage should be." It was phrases like the last that caused cries of "permissiveness," sometimes more than the actual content of the dictionary; another gauntlet thrown down unintentionally by Gove was "prescriptive . . . definitions have not been taken over nor have recommendations been followed unless confirmed by independent investigation of usage borne out by genuine citations." Compare these statements with the following, written by editor Pamela B. DeVinne in the Illustrated Encyclopedic Dictionary of the American Heritage family. In one section of the front matter, she states: 170Reviews The usage notes never tell a reader what to do or how to react; they simply present the alternatives. It is enough to know in what circumstances a usage is preferred, or avoided—for example, in formal writing, or in very informal speech. What was frowned upon a generation ago may be widely accepted today; but the reader who understands what the norms are will at least know when they are being disregarded (8). The similarity between Gove's statements and those written by DeVinne twenty-six years later is striking. Although DeVinne wisely avoids such words as "dictate" and "prescriptive," her phrase "tell a reader what to do or how to react" is not far in meaning from "To issue orders or commands" and "To set down as a rule or guide," which are senses given in her dictionary 's definitions of dictate and prescribe, respectively. Like Gove, DeVinne makes the claim that the dictionary does not tell readers what to do. Whether or not one agrees with G. M. Story that dictionaries are "becoming more prescriptive than they were in the middle years of the century, at least in America " (49), it is of utmost importance that lexicographers know what it is that they must be prescriptive or nonprescriptive about: what exactly is, in Gove's words, "standard written and spoken English," or in DeVinne's words, "the norms." The volume In Search of the Standard in Canadian English approaches this problem from the Canadian perspective, but is certainly relevant to the theoretical study of any standard variety of English, or of a standard variety of any language, for that matter. The second volume under review is an annotated bibliography that gives information on Canadian vocabulary and pronunciation, history of Canadian English, dialectology, etc. It will be of interest not only to lexicographers, but also to those who study lexicology, phonetics, and sociolinguistics. These two interesting publications are the work of the Strathy Language Unit of Queen's University in Ontario, which was founded in 1981 by a bequest from John Richard Strathy, "to stimulate interest in Candían English usage and to publish ... a guide to written and spoken communication" (190). The Unit has prepared and distributed a questionnaire on Canadian English to be used in the creation of the guide and has computerized much material from scholarly sources on Canadian English. In addition, searches of several available Reviews171 databanks provide necessary examples of usage of words and phrases; the Unit is also in the process of creating its own databank of Canadian texts. The Occasional Papers no. 1 presents papers read at a conference (October 11-13, 1985) sponsored by the Unit; also included are responses to some papers, which often go beyond the usual commentary and are original statements in their own right. Most of the conference participants (eleven) are affiliated with Canadian colleges and universities, but the scope...