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  • Theory and Practice of Specialised Online Dictionaries: Lexicography versus Terminography ed. by Pedro A. Fuertes-Olivera and Sven Tarp
  • Geoffrey Williams (bio)
Theory and Practice of Specialised Online Dictionaries: Lexicography versus Terminography, edited by Pedro A. Fuertes-Olivera and Sven Tarp. Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter Mouton, 2014. Lexicographica Series Maior. Pp. ix + 272. $154.00. ISBN 978-3-11-034883-5

This book is dedicated to special-language dictionaries as digital resources. The authors treat the concept of “specialized dictionaries” in a particularly restricted way, which is rendered even clearer in the subtitle, which places lexicography in opposition to terminography: the term “specialized dictionary” is used only for what others might term specialized language dictionaries, and excludes all other works that might deal with precise aspects of lexicography. Their usage of the term will be retained throughout this review. It is a volume that is chiefly concerned with the development of a theory of lexicography, called function theory, and the application of that theory to the fulfillment of the needs of users of specialized language using online dictionaries. Throughout the book, the emphasis is strongly laid on the needs of specified users—how to define the user community and satisfy their perceived requirements.

It is a book with a mission and, as such, it is provocative, and rightly so insofar as there is a clear need for specialized dictionaries, and these are very different from terminologies that address different users with different needs. Whether or not the reader agrees with the necessity of a function theory (which the authors promote to the exclusion of other approaches) or any theory of lexicography at all, it is still necessary to look closely at the way in which specialized discourse is served by dictionaries. Much has been written about terminology and its applications, much work has been done on teaching special-language users, and on corpus analysis of specialized discourse; but little has been written on the creation of dictionaries that can actually help with the lifelong learning process that a specialized translator or special-language user might have, in both comprehension and, above all, production. Specialized language is too often treated as the poor relation of general-language dictionaries and is far too often confused with terminography as if user needs could be satisfied only by a database of translation equivalents. This book pleads for the autonomy of a field and a theory that provides a rigorous, well-tested, methodology for the construction of specialized dictionaries. [End Page 189]

The work consists of ten chapters, including an introduction and conclusion. These take the reader through the academic status of lexicography, the need for a theory of lexicography—in particular for specialized dictionaries—and the specificity of online dictionaries, before taking a critical look at existing works in the field and finally presenting the authors’ own dictionary as a means of illustrating the theory in application. In order to set the scene, the introduction discusses the various definitions of the concept of a specialized dictionary before finally restricting usage to works created to fulfill the needs of special-language users. A short historical development shows the need for a dictionary of things as opposed to a dictionary of words—that is to say, works that give full lexicographical description to language that is used by a more restricted scientific or technical community.

The second chapter (which is the first full chapter) examines the nature of specialized dictionaries by attempting to disambiguate a very broad notion that covers all dictionaries aimed at a part of the language, or at a restricted number of users, from encyclopedic dictionaries, dictionaries of language for specific purposes, and terminological databases. The authors claim that analysis and naming of types is not systematic and has engendered a great amount of confusion. Their working definition of specialized lexicography is:

. . . the branch of lexicography concerned with the theory and practice of specialized dictionaries, i.e. dictionaries, encyclopedias, lexicons, glossaries, vocabularies, and other information tools outside general cultural knowledge and the corresponding Language for General Purposes (LGP); it represents mainly, but not exclusively, disciplines related to technology, industry, trade, economic life, law, natural and social sciences, and humanities.




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pp. 189-200
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