A bleg

What’s your favourite dictionary and why?

I have several favourites:

  • The Russian dictionary I used when I was studying Russian.  It was easy to use, it had all the words I needed, and the information I needed was easy to find too. It has quite a few examples too.
  • The Gamilaraay-Yuwaalaray-Yuwaaliyay dictionary, because it’s an excellent model for a dictionary/learner’s guide that walks the line between something that linguists can use and something that is still fairly friendly to non-linguists.
  • The OED. Nuff said.
  • The Bardi dictionary, because of the amount of fun I’ve had working on it

Over to you – I’d like ideas for models for the Yan-nhangu dictionary, apart from anything else.


14 responses to “A bleg

  1. As for online dictionaries, the interface used for the Kriol Dikshenri is second to none.
    I’m a cryptic crossword buff, so my bag always contains a dictionary. I’ve now got several copies of the Pocket Oxford that are small enough for this purpose, but for years I had a nice, pruple-covered Everyman dictionary that was very thin and adequately good. It cost me about four dollars from a second-hand bookshop. This has since deteriorated and I no longer use it, but I just can’t bring myself to throw it away.
    I also have a least-favoured dictionary. It’s an English-Tibetan dictionary I bought off eBay a while ago. It is monodirectional (English to Tibetan) and contains no information apart from the English word and the Tibetan (script) translation.

  2. I like the Rembarrnga dictionary made by Maningrida Arts and Culture. The Rembarrnga guy I work with sits for hours with it… he started by just looking at the pictures, but over time is getting better and better and reading what’s there and using it.

    But I’m not much of a connossieur. I have a love/hate relationship with grammars and dictionaries – I only refer to them if I have to. They bring me no joy unless I have a good reason to use them.

  3. That sounds like simply a ‘hate’ relationship, Gagu.

  4. No not at all. I love it when a grammar or dictionary reveals something to me and that little light goes off in my head, but I only use them if I need to for work – the thought of spending leisure time perusing dictionaries and grammars is a little perverse to me.

  5. The Klamath dictionary — written by M.A.R. Barker — but it’s the kind of love a parent has for a problem child. The dictionary is organized by the posited underlying forms, which makes it nearly impossible to look up a word as it’s transcribed in the book of Klamath texts without already knowing the majority of the [many & opaque] phonological processes at work in the language. I cringe to think of the Klamath revitalization folks trying to use this dictionary. However, it does have absurdly detailed information on each and every morpheme, and paired with the Klamath grammar it provides decent documentation for a language whose last native speakers passed away a number of years ago.

  6. Märi, thanks for the link to the Kriol dictionary! I have an Armenian dictionary that is just like your Tibetan one. We used it a bit in field methods last year, but mostly for laughs. It was frighteningly inaccurate.

    Wäwa, who should I contact to get a copy of the Rembarrnga dictionary? (Is it generally available?)

    Wendell, I sympathise. Same deal on a smaller scale for Bardi (just with the verb roots). The published version lists them by inflected forms, so all verbs in the dictionary start with i. I think for Bardi what I eventually want to do is have an electronic dictionary and a parser for all the verb forms, so someone could enter the inflected form and find the root (or just gloss). It’s doable for Bardi – there are 250*7*4 forms if you ignore the suffixes, and 250*7*4*5*8*7 forms or so for all inflected roots (there are 250 inflecting verb roots). But only about 100 are used, and only about 50 are very common, and the morphophonology is regular enough that most of it could be generated by a script.

  7. The Rembarrnga Dictionary is available commercially through Maningrida Arts & Culture. They have a gallery in Darwin. I can get contact info if you can’t find anything yourself. It’s $50. They also produced a Learner’s Guide which is good too, but it’s also $50 but much smaller… a bit pricey if you ask me.

    I’m pretty sure Maningrida Arts & Culture used the same format for their Dalabon dictionary, so both dictionaries are probably equally as good.

    But I think producing a dictionary for a language like Rembarrnga is made easier by the fact that there aren’t many phonological processes going on, but then again it’s a polysynthetic language that has some huge verb complexes and the dictionary handles this pretty well.

  8. Collins Cobuild Dictionary – brilliant definitions, and lots of information organised in interesting ways

  9. I really like the Japanese (monolingual) Meikyou Kokugo Jiten: it’s perfect for a student of Japanese. It’s a reasonable size, lists senses in order of common use, not in chronological order of attestation (like the most commonly used dictionary does), gives very useful notes on orthographical variation, and has definitions that mostly use easy-to-understand vocabulary.

    As for English dictionaries, the OED is, obviously, good for research; for everyday purposes (which, for me, actually means “doing synchronic lexicographic research”) Webster’s Unabridged works pretty well.

  10. Niall Ó Dónaill’s unabridged Irish-English dictionary. Complete with dialectal forms, cross-references and lots of examples of native usage.

  11. I’m going to go with a pedestrian favourite. My simple little Webster’s New World Collegiate 3rd edition is like an old friend. The organisation is clear. The entries are simple. It does a very nice job of cross-referencing itself and hilighting relevant related forms. My favourite quality — the etymology is direct and ambitious. When there is a question about the etymology it often gives suggestions. And it usually follows the ancestry back to the IE root. As well as showing cognates and other reflexes of common roots.

    It’s not a specialist’s dictionary — but it’s the one book that lured me into the field.

  12. My favourite has to be this dictionary of Australian Italian, it’s priceless.
    Leoni, F., (1981). Vocabolario Australitaliano, CIS Educational/Harcourt Education, Melbourne, ISBN 094991990X.

  13. My favorite would have to be Jidaibetsu kokugo daijiten: Jodai-hen, a very complete dictionary of Old Japanese (to Modern Standard Japanese). Sadly, it’s out of print and copies are expensive when you can find them. It’s a wonderful dictionary, however, with numerous examples and it specifies the vowel that are different from modern Japanese (something most Old Japanese and Classical Japanese dictionaries fail to do).

  14. I love playing with Jack Halpern’s New Japanese-English Character Dictionary. I don’t know Japanese, and this dictionary actually enabled me to translate short passages from randomly-chosen written text. Zillions of indices and cross-reference tables.

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