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The Lexicography of Religious Language: One Editor's Practice Edward Gates Introduction The treatment in dictionaries of vocabularies used in particular fields follows the principles and methods of lexicography in general. Editorial work proceeds in three stages: planning the project, collecting the examples of use that form the basis of the dictionary, and preparing the explanations. In this paper I describe my work1 on the vocabulary of religion for three general dictionaries, in particular for Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (W7) published in 1963. Planning Planning the coverage and form of entries for religious terms 1 Between 1956 and 1962, I worked on the editorial staff of die G. & C. Merriam Company in Springfield, Massachusetts. My background included a college major in English, six years of graduate study in religion and ethics, and three years of experience in teaching English as a foreign language. When I joined the company in December 1956, work was well under way on W3. Although my graduate study had been in the field of religion, I could make litde contribution to the work on religious vocabulary for W3 because that part had already been edited. I was hired as a general definer, but I also dealt with a number of religious terms sent to me widi questions. I was given individual instruction in defining for several mondis and my work was reviewed for six months; I was then considered to be earning my salary. However, it was another two years before I felt that I had mastered die art. After the completion of W3 in the fall of 1960, the staff began work on W7. I was assigned to edit the vocabulary of religion, and most of this paper will deal with that task. During the last months before I left Springfield in September 1962 to resume graduate study, I had the same responsibility for Webster's New Student's Dictionary, 4th Edition. _______________The Lexicography of Religious Language_____________87 for each of the three dictionaries was governed by its function. W3 was to be a record of the English vocabulary, primarily of the standard English currently being read and written in the United States. In its 450,000 entries all but the most arcane and uncommon words relating to religious belief and practice should be found and explained in more detail than is possible in smaller works. To make the dictionary an authoritative record, most of the definitions were based on a large file of examples of use. Policies and procedures for editing W3, including entry format and style of the definitions, were detailed in two large volumes—the famous "Black Books"—in loose-leaf notebook format. W7 was abridged from W3 to answer the questions of college students and other readers in the arts and sciences. To produce a desk reference work, three-fourths of the material in W3 was to be cut out by omitting less common items and eliminating detail in definitions, including most illustrative quotations. Proper-name entries and appendices containing biographical and geographical names and other useful information were to be added. In a prospectus on the handling of religious terms for W7 dated October 14, 1960, I proposed that the terms entered should be those that college students would be likely to find in the course of their studies or general readers would be likely to find unglossed in newspapers and magazines or books of wide currency . (For the sake of consistency in company publications, the style rules for W7 were mostly those of W3.) Webster's New Student's Dictionary 4 (WNSD4) was planned as a work of approximately 80,000 entries for the use of students in grades 10 through 12. It was a revision of the third edition but was to be based on a citation corpus. It too was edited with the same style rules as W7 and drew on copy prepared for that work, as well as copy from the earlier edition. The language of definitions was to be "appropriate " for high school students. One planning decision that affected the editing of the vocabulary of religion was the exclusion of proper names from W3 and their inclusion in W7 and WNSD4. Prior editions of all...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 86-99
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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