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GRIMM, LITTRE, OED, AND RICHARDSON: A COMPARISON OF THEIR HISTORICITY Catuskosyam LADISLAV ZGUSTA The purpose of this paper is to discuss the historical dictionary as a type as it developed and reached its peak and present standard in the nineteenth century. The pertinent work of the Brothers Grimm, specifically the first volumes of the Deutsches Wörterbuch, will be the center of our attention.1 We shall discuss mostly entries worked out by Jacob, to the extent that whenever we say "Grimm" we mean Jacob, but some of Wilhelm's entries will also be discussed. Comparison will be made with the French dictionary of Littré2 and with the Oxford English Dictionary? A final comparison will be made with Richardson's English Dictionary? This is not a historical inquiry in the sense of concentrating on the sources used and models followed by each of these dictionaries:5 it is rather a typological study that tries to capture some of their similarities and dissimilarities. It is not easy to give a brief description of Jacob Grimm's style, because it has so many facets. To give one example, Grimm is the German historical lexicographer par excellence, but he is also modernistic enough to give in the entry of aushängen the collocation locomotive aushängen 'to detach a locomotive', whereas some twenty-five years later the entryword locomotive was not admitted into the dictionary by Grimm's successors.6 There is nothing surprising in this fact: Grimm was a Romantiker who told his readers (I, iii)7 that the further back in history one goes, the more beautiful and perfect the language, whereas the closer to the present one comes, the more decay one finds; however, the study of old texts also had for him a practical aspect, namely to allow "the flood of antiquity to flow into the present epoch," (I, vii), so that he anticipated that the Dictionary would combine the past with the present (I, xii). Grimm's entries consist of two parts. The first part consists of the headword with its grammatical category and the indication of its meaning, usually in a few Latin or German 74 Ladislav Zgusta75 words; then follow the headword's cognates, mostly in Dutch and sometimes also in other Germanic and other IndoEuropean languages. This comparative and etymological part of the entry sometimes also contains references to the Old and Middle High German forms of the headword. The second part of the entry consists mostly of quotations from authors, beginning with the sixteenth and ending in the early nineteenth century. Thus, the time span for quotations is a mere three centuries. Even within these three centuries, the greatest attention is given to Luther and Hans Sachs, whose works Grimm correctly considered the basis of modern literary German, and to Goethe: the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were for Grimm an epoch of decay, stopped only by Goethe. This organization of the entry has several consequences. One of them is that the indication of the meaning in the first part of the entry is based on the etymology or derivation of the word. Such an indication is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to express the central point of the meaning ("mittelpunct des worts" or "hauptbedeutung," I, xli). Another consequence is that one of the great difficulties of historical lexicography is avoided, namely the decision of whether the single senses of a polysemous word should be given in the sequence of their real attestation or in the sequence of their assumed development. For instance, ablasz logically must have the original sense given by its derivation from ab + lassen, but since Grimm's real, lexicographically detailed treatment of the meaning starts only in Luther's time, it is only natural that the first sense given is the technical, ecclesiastic one of 'indulgence'. Therefore, the question of whether the logical priority of the derivational sense finds a counterpart in the chronology of its actually attested occurrences does not arise. The brevity of the epoch treated in detail, only somewhat more than three centuries, and the dissociation of this detailed treatment from the etymology weakens the diachronic 76Grimm, Littré, OED, and Richardson character of Grimm's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 74-93
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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