August 26, 2007

From Unregistered Words to OED3

Just heard a great lecture / podcast by Simon Winchester on the Oxford English Dictionary. Winchester spoke at TVOntario’s Big Ideas show in May and told fascinating stories about the genesis of monolingual dictionaries, which came later than the multilingual kind, and also spoke about the creation of the first edition of the OED.

Some interesting tidbits from his lecture include
* Samuel Johnson’s weaker definitions, including
** network: “Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections.”
** oats: “A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people”
* the derivation of the word referring to a 4-legged animal that barks & has a tail. These creatures used to be known exclusively as hounds, until the Dutch came by and offered to sell the British a “dogge.”

At the end, Winchester briefly comments on the future OED, known as OED3:
* Work on the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary began in mid-1990s
* It’s expected to have 40 volumes and 980,000 words
It was originally scheduled for release 2010, but is now scheduled for release somewhere around 2037.

In researching this for an upcoming lecture on dictionaries & encyclopedias, I found an article in theTransactions of the Philological Society by John Simpson and colleagues about the OED today. Simpson is Chief Editor, Oxford English Dictionary, and the article is a series of interlinked pieces“ presented at the Philological Society in June 2003 to marked the 75th anniversary of the first edition of the OED. The article includes some new entries (work on OED3 began with M) and a comparison of the “modal auxiliary must” in the first OED and in OED3 as part of the effort to address not only definitions but also historical syntax. Joy for linguists!

For More Information
* Johnson, Samuel. “Some of Johnson’s Dictionary Definitions.” c1775.
* Simpson, John, Edmund Weiner, Philip Durkin. “The Oxford English Dictionary Today.” 102:3 335-381, December 2004 [full-text available via Academic Search Premier]
* Simpson, John. ‘Preface to the Third Edition,’ 2000.
* Winchester, Simon. “Big Ideas [lecture].” TV Ontario, May 27, 2007. [mp3 no longer available].
* ---. home page (sadly outdated).
* ---. The Meaning of Everything : The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press. 2003.
* ---. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, HarperCollins, 1998.

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Thielmann said...

Do you have a link for the Winchester podcast? I recently heard Edmund Weiner speak and I would love to hear more from the OED staff

CogSciLibrarian said...

Looks like the podcast version is no longer available; you can watch the video though at the same link.