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  • Dictionary:” noun, “a malevolent literary device

  • for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic.”

  • Lexicographer:” noun, “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.”

  • While the concept of a dictionary dates back to ancient civilizations,

  • the first English dictionary was published by Robert Cawdrey in 1604.

  • In the centuries that followed,

  • many more dictionaries were written by individual authors

  • who chose what to include or exclude.

  • They not only defined words, they openly showcased their creators' opinions

  • like Ambrose Bierce's definition ofdictionary

  • and Samuel Johnson's definition oflexicographer.”

  • After their authors deaths, many of these dictionaries quickly became outdated.

  • But one 19th century dictionary had a different fate.

  • In 1828, American lawyer and author Noah Webster published

  • An American Dictionary of the English Languagewith a lofty goal:

  • to give the United States its own version of the English language.

  • He believed that as a new nation,

  • the United States needed its own distinct version of English

  • to assert its independence from Britain.

  • In his dictionary, Webster sought to describe and officialize

  • the way Americans spoke.

  • Most dictionaries in Webster's time were prescriptive:

  • they dictated how words should be used,

  • rather than documenting the way people actually used language in daily life.

  • When Webster broke this convention and included slang words in his dictionary,

  • critics accused him of polluting the English language.

  • But he argued that these words captured local variations of language

  • a vital part of what made American English unique.

  • He also believed spelling rules were unnecessarily complex,

  • and that we should write the way we speak as much as possible.

  • Still, Webster's own opinions influenced the words he included

  • and the way he defined them.

  • He excluded slang words from Black communities

  • because he didn't consider them proper.

  • And when he definedwoman,”

  • he added thatwomen are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible.”

  • By the time of his death, Noah Webster was a household name.

  • Seeing a lucrative business opportunity,

  • brothers George and Charles Merriam bought the rights to Webster's Dictionary.

  • Together with Webster's son-in-law, the Merriams made a new, revised edition.

  • It was the beginning of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

  • Today, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary begins to address

  • a contradiction in Webster's goal:

  • he wanted to represent an entire nation,

  • but he based his work on just one person's opinion: his own.

  • Since Webster's death, each new edition of the dictionary has been curated

  • by a group of language experts rather than by a single authority.

  • The current criteria for including a word in the dictionary

  • are that it haswidespread, sustained, and meaningful use.”

  • This clearly includes profanities,

  • which were sometimes excluded from dictionaries in the past.

  • Racial slurs also meet the criteria for inclusion,

  • but some argue that including them might legitimize them.

  • Dictionaries don't just add new words

  • they also redefine old words to reflect changing attitudes and usage.

  • One 1736 dictionary definedwifeas “a married woman whose will,

  • in the judgment of the law, is subject to the will of her husband:

  • for which reason a wife is said to have no will.”

  • Today, “wifeis defined simply as “a female partner in a marriage.”

  • In 2019, Merriam-Webster's word of the year wasthey.”

  • The word has been in regular use for centuries,

  • but has only recently gained a new recognized meaning,

  • as a pronoun for one person whose gender identity is nonbinary.

  • The question of which words belong in the dictionary impacts all of us

  • when our words and definitions are represented, they're affirmed;

  • if not, theyand weare minimized.

  • Today, lexicographers have expanded word sourcing

  • to include the dictionary's users: tracking which words are most searched,

  • and adding them to the dictionary.

  • So, who decides what's in the dictionary?

  • More than ever before the answer is: we do.

  • All of us shape language every day.

  • When we collectively embrace one word or redefine another,

  • eventually, those words and meanings are reflected in our dictionaries.

Dictionary:” noun, “a malevolent literary device

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Who decides what’s in the dictionary? - Ilan Stavans

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    shuting1215 に公開 2021 年 05 月 09 日
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