Two Desiderata for Lexicography: Allolingual and Allotopolectal Collaborators and the Philological Review (with Examples from Canadian, Bahamian, and South African English)
- Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America
- Dictionary Society of North America
- Number 8, 1986
- pp. 112-145
- Additional Information
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TWO DESIDERATA FOR LEXICOGRAPHY: ALLOLINGUAL AND ALLOTOPOLECTAL COLLABORATORS AND THE PHILOLOGICAL REVIEW (WITH EXAMPLES FROM CANADIAN, BAHAMIAN, AND SOUTH AFRICAN ENGLISH) DAVID L. GOLD A former member of the staff of the G. & C. Merriam Company (now Merriam-Webster) tells me that when the late Philip B. Gove interviewed him for a position there he was warned that "You will not get far in English lexicography because you're not a native speaker." My friend appositely replied that non-natives can often view a language in ways natives do not (enjoying, so to speak, what Archimedes longed for: dos moi pou sto kai kino ten gen) and that, at any rate, in many aspects of dictionary-making, like etymology, (non)nativeness is irrelevant. He got the job, was successful in his work, and for several years has been one of the world's leading lexicographers. Too bad Otto Jespersen and many other excellent tho non-native English linguists did not apply to Gove for a job—it would have been interesting to eavesdrop on their interviews. Language-teachers tell similar stories: non-natives often have insights about the language which natives immediately recognize as correct but which had never occurred to them. And non-natives often ask legitimate questions about the language which stump native speakers. For example, natives know when to use the progressive tenses in English ("I'm looking at the picture" but "I see the picture" but "I'm seeing my girlfriend tonight"), tho how many can formulate the rules governing the progressive? Non-natives will ask point-blank when it should be used and stump most natives. Being a non-native is often helpful in studying varieties of languages too. Another friend of mine once suggested to the compiler of a certain topolectal dictionary that natives of other major varieties of English be enlisted as excerpters because they can often better spot allotopolectal usages which natives of the topolect may miss. It comes as no surprize, for example, that Allen Walker Read has undertaken the difficult task of 112 David L. Gold113 compiling a dictionary of Britishisms even tho he is not native to British English: American English is his Archimedean standpoint. And neither William A. Craigie nor George Watson, the compilers of the Dictionary ofAmerican English, was a native speaker of American English (see M. M. Mathews, "George Watson and the Dictionary of American English," Dictionaries 7 : 214-24). I do not mean to suggest that only non-natives should compile dictionaries, but, rather, that their insights may complement the natives'. Incidentally, my friend's suggestion was rejected: "How can you work on a dictionary of our English if you've never even been to our country and do not know it natively?" Students of language who have been trained in Germanspeaking areas (and sometimes elsewhere too) are acquainted with philological reviews of dictionaries. Dealing with old as well as new works, their goal is not so much to acquaint people with the dictionaries' contents or to evaluate them in general as it is to offer detailed comment on a small number of entries. These are specialists' reviews par excellence, hardly anything which might appear in the popular prints or general linguistic publications. The purpose of the following remarks is to illustrate the value of comments by allolinguophones (I am a native speaker of none of the three varieties of English in question) and of the philological review. AU three of the dictionaries are high-level works, compiled by the most competent people in their respective fields. They are full of information and it was a pleasure reading them. * * * * * John A. Holm and Alison W. Shilling, Dictionary ofBahamian English (Cold Spring: Lexik, 1982).  It is reported (x) that in basilectal Bahamian English (BE) subject and verb are not inverted in questions. The compilers attribute this feature to African influence. For example, Where he is? instead of Where is he? Precisely the same feature 114Two Desiderata for Lexicography occurs in basilectal Puerto Rican Spanish, e.g., ¿Qué tú quieres? (Standard Spanish ¿Qué quieres?, which is the surface form of¿Qué quieres tú?). It would thus be good to see whether this African feature has entered...