- Regarding the Joyce Word Dictionary
James Joyce invented thousands of words, most of which have yet to be thoroughly defined or analyzed, and many still elude understanding. In looking at the Oxford English Dictionary’s insufficient treatment of Joyce’s neologisms, ninety-two of which are currently listed in the OED online but only three of which are from Finnegans Wake, the project’s founder, Natasha R. Chenier, realized that an online dictionary entirely devoted to Joyce’s neologisms was urgently needed.1 Only a dictionary dedicated to such neologisms would have enough space to represent sufficiently Joyce’s lexical contribution to literature and language.
The first thing Chenier decided was that the JWD would be digital, facilitating the evolving nature of its content. Furthermore, a digital project could be open access and would circumvent printing costs, as well as the need for supplements and new editions. The aim would be to develop a sustainable and informative database where Joyce scholars, lexicographers, and readers around the world could contribute to a valuable literary resource. Rather than assuming an authoritative role in the definition of words, the JWD would take more of a federated approach, permitting the coexistence of multiple word meanings. The guiding principle of the JWD is the inclusivity advocated by Leopold Bloom. Now formed, the project’s advisory board, consisting of Bill Brockman, Ciaran McMorran, Elizabeth M. Bonapfel, Fritz Senn, James O’Sullivan, Ira Nadel, Jerome McGann, Matt Cohen, and Terence Killeen, will oversee the development and [End Page 17] direction of the dictionary.
From a technical perspective, the dictionary currently functions as a self-hosted Wordpress installation. Using a platform like Wordpress means that the user-centered aspects of the site can be maintained with greater ease and fewer resources. The current beta version of the site will be improved, particularly in relation to the interface through which users navigate through the neologisms. The site’s current lack of responsive interface will also be addressed, so that the resource can be utilized more efficiently on mobile devices. The data itself is held in CSV format, so that it is sustainable and flexible—it can be readily ported to different systems, as well as shared with external users and platforms, as required. Currently, this data is managed in a Wordpress plugin that has been tailored to suit user purposes, providing an intuitive interface through which the relevant editors might add new content without having to interact directly with the underlying CSV file.
In July 2015, Chenier presented a prototype of the JWD at the University of Pennsylvania’s Keystone Digital Humanities Conference. The prototype contained three analyses of words from Ulysses and was well received. While there, Chenier met with Jean-Michel Rabaté, who posed a vital question: “How do you plan to treat Finnegans Wake?” This query was put to the board, and McMorran and Killeen boldly volunteered to take the first page of the Wake as their task but not before providing details about how the project might go about identifying neologisms. Killeen put forth some provisional guidelines:
[Words] not in an English dictionary (maybe the OED?); not just a generic compound (thus … on the first page “rearrived” does not qualify because it’s just putting the standard prefix “re” in front of “arrived”); the words of the Wake are held to be basically English, so a word which is definitely foreign in origin is admitted (e.g. on the same page “passen-core” is a neologism even though it is clearly based on the French words “pas encore”). Some words will require a lot of context to define; we also need to see if we are adding anything valuable to [Roland] McHugh’s annotations;2 if not there’s no point.
These guidelines have quickly become the cornerstone of the JWD, although they have been slightly modified and expanded; for instance, even if a word is already in another dictionary, we have decided to include it in the JWD if we are generating new meaning. Furthermore, if we include subject matter already discussed in other dictionaries/books/articles, we will explicitly cite those sources (for instance, “See the...