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Some Thoughts on the Representation of Early Middle English in the Historical Thesaurus of English w: Jane Roberts Te are met here in Ann Arbor to celebrate the completion of the Middle English Dictionary (MED), and I should like to add the congratulations of the Glasgow Historical Thesaurus project and thanks to Bob Lewis and his colleagues, not just for all of the printed volumes, but for the exhilarating pleasures of exploring die newer electronic files. We celebrate both the culmination of a great period dictionary of English and its appearance at the heart of the Middle English Compendium. It seems fitting, therefore, in this paper from the Glasgow Historical Thesaurus project (HTE),1 to suggest how, once the HTE is complete, the riches of the MED can fuel new exploration of its data. It must be stressed that die materials cited from the HTE here are provisional.2 We cannot, after all, think of any part of a thesaurus as complete until the whole is complete. A notional thesaurus does not have the luxury of the MED clarion call, "On to Z" (be it zed or zee) of the dictionary maker.3 It 'For details of the HTE project, see Kay (1994), Kay and Wotherspoon (1997), or the HTE website The HTE materials used in this paper were taken from the database early in 2001. 3Members of the MED team spoke of this often reiterated injunction. Dictionaries:Journal oftheDictionary Society ofNorth America 23 (2002) ______Some Thoughts on the Representation of Early Middle English 1 81 is, however, possible to sample work in progress, and I have chosen materials for the concept Peace as my starting point for this examination of the representation of early Middle English in the forthcoming HTE. The HTE project began in 1965, under the direction of Professor Michael Samuels. Although Professor Samuels retired some years ago, he is still very actively associated with the project, now directed by Professor Christian Kay. When announcing the project at a meeting of the Philological Society in London, Samuels pointed to the excellence of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as an account of the meanings English words have held throughout their recorded history; and he proposed that its contents should be used for the analysis of how concepts are expressed (Samuels 1965, 40). In effect, he proposed that the OED should be turned inside out and classified according to meaning. Irene Wotherspoon, who was the project's first postgraduate and is currently senior research assistant , undertook to examine descriptive problems presented by two contrasting lexical fields, as a preliminary step towards the devising of a new classification: for concrete vocabulary, she chose to examine words for parts of the body; and for abstract vocabulary , words for the expression of mental pain (Wotherspoon 1969). Others set to work on assembling the data for the HTE, abstracting and entering word meanings together with dates of usage from the OED on 6" ? 4" filing slips. Samuels himself began working on a classificatory scheme for the project, a task in which Christian Kay laterjoined. When, nearly twenty years ago, Collier and Kay reported on the HTE in Dictionaries, these initial tasks were still under way (Collier and Kay 1982-83). Only a few slips now continue to be made and added to the HTE files, reflecting new word collection by the OED, for the work of compilation was essentially completed by 1993. The HTE archive consists of some 650,000 slips. At first, the slips were filed more or less according to the sequence of numbers in Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (Dutch 1962) but, from the early 1980s, they were gradually transferred into the framework provided by the new classification. There are twenty-six major semantic fields in the classification, which begins from the directly observable physical universe and moves on to mental and social activities: 1 82Jane Roberts Table 1 Section I: The External World 01The Earth 02Life 03Sensation and Perception 04Matter 05Existence 06Relative Properties 07The Supernatural Section II: The Mind 08Mental Processes 09Emotions 10Judgement, Opinion 11Aesthetics 12Volition 13Language 14Endeavour 15Possession Section III: Society 16Social Groups 17Social Relationships 18War and Peace 19Government and Politics 20The Law 21Education 22Institutional...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 180-207
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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