AM -- Dictionaries

Lexikon der lateinischen Zitate: 3500 Originale mit Übersetzungen und Belegstellen [Dictionary of Latin Quotations: 3,500 Originals with Translations and Examples]. Ed. Hubertus Kudla. München: Beck, 1999. 603 p. 19 cm. (Beck'sche Reihe, 1324). ISBN 3-406-42124-5: DM 38.00 [00-1/4-046]

There is currently something of a boom in Latin quotation dictionaries, including new titles on CD-ROM. Recent examples include Nota bene!: das lateinische Zitatenlexikon [Düsseldorf; Zürich, 1999); Reclams lateinisches Zitaten-Lexikon (Stuttgart, 1997); and Expressis verbis: lateinische Zitate für alle Lebenslagen (Düsseldorf; Zürich, 1998), as well as Variatio delectat: das Vademecum der lateinischen Sprichwörter, Redensarten (Bamberg, 1998), and In medias res: Lexikon lateinischer Zitate und Wendungen (Berlin, 1999).

Hubert Kudla, a retired headmaster, presents 3,524 quotations, significantly more than in Karl Beyer's Nota Bene! or in Muriel Kasper's Reclam dictionary. Kudla intends that his dictionary of Latin concepts, maxims, proverbs, and quotations "should help the reader quickly find the wording of both familiar and unfamiliar Latin quotations, determine their source, and understand their meaning."

The material is organized by about 600 alphabetically listed subject headings, with an index of the quotations and with cross-references given to different subjects within a quotation. This generally allows the reader to find the specifically desired quotation, but does not readily provide access to different versions of the same Latin quotation. The typographical layout--different font sizes, boldface, and italic type for various elements, with minimal punctuation--makes the work seem somewhat poorly arranged, but it does save on space in this thick paperback volume.

The commentary on each quotation is satisfactorily informative and reliable, although the documentation of the sources, critical for this type of publication, at times leaves something to be desired. Some 10 percent of the quotations have no source listed, and frequently other quotation collections (especially for post-antiquity quotations) are cited as sources. Some secondary literature sources are difficult to identify from the obscure abbreviations used for them.

Kudla draws his material from medieval collections, the great Classical writers and poets, and from the Bible. Bible quotations comprise the better part of those items that are found in his work and not in Kasper's or Bayer's. Scripture passages are frequently and widely cited today, but rarely in Latin, hence their usefulness here is limited. There is no source index, but there is a rudimentary dictionary of Latin and Greek writers from antiquity. In addition to citing many more quotations than do Kasper or Bayer, almost half of Kudla's quotations are not found in either Kasper or Bayer, and this group contains a number of lucky finds.

Kudla does not always make clear whose translation he is citing: his guidelines are inconsistent and sporadic, and the index of his translation sources contains many gaps. This is not always a hindrance, however, because he has personally translated the majority of the quotations in this dictionary, both poetry and prose. His translations are reliable and without error, and they follow the phrasing and the context of the quotation.

Kudla's work occupies a useful place beside other collections of Latin quotations, although it neither rises above nor replaces them. It is recommended for all libraries that need and collect this kind of resource. [bb/ga]

Diccionario general de la lengua española: ilustrado [General Dictionary of the Spanish Language: Illustrated]. Ed. Manuel Alvar Ezquerra. Barcelona: VOX, 1997. 1,177 p. ill. 31 cm. ISBN 8471539713: Ptas 13,500

Diccionario de uso del español [Dictionary of Spanish Usage]. María Moliner. 2d ed. Madrid: Gredos, 1998. 2 vols. 1,520, 1,593 p. 26 cm. ISBN 8424919734 (set): Ptas 17,770

Diccionario de uso del español (edición abreviada por la Editorial Gredos) [Dictionary of Spanish Usage, Edition abbreviated by the Publisher Gredos]. María Moliner. Madrid: Gredos, 2000. xxiii, 1,503 p. 25 cm. ISBN 8424922646: Ptas 5,500

Diccionario del español actual [Dictionary of Contemporary Spanish]. Manuel Seco, Olimpia Andrés, and Gabino Ramos. Madrid: Aguilar, 1999. 2 vols. xxvii, 4,838 p. 26 cm. ISBN 8429464727 (set): Ptas 14,000

An RREO Original Review 

Diccionario general de la lengua española: ilustrado (VOXi) has been a long-standing stalwart of Spanish-language dictionaries and had Menéndez Pidal and, since 1945, Gili Gaya behind its name. Its most recent edition is edited by Manuel Alvar Ezquerra and claims to be "the most complete dictionary of the Spanish language" (publisher's book-band: 92,000 entries with over 170,000 acceptations). The VOXi is an old-fashioned dictionary, with the positive and negative connotations which that definition carries, in spite of a valiant effort by its editor to bring its contents up to date. With all due respect to don Ramón Menéndez Pidal and don Samuel Gili Gaya, it is time to move the ch and the ll out of their territorial claim to separate places in the alphabet, a claim based more on convoluted explanations about theoretical phonetic idiosyncrasies than on applied, practical considerations. Its larger format (31 cm), the good paper which allows for easy flipping of the pages (a compensation for the lack of a thumb index), and the general layout make it an easy-to-use reference tool. The typeface of the text, with the exception of the headwords themselves, is, however, too fine for comfortable reading.

The publisher's claim to its completeness is somewhat paradoxical in relation to the insistence on the "selective nature" of the dictionary made in the prefatory matter (p. xxxviii). As the brief comparison below shows, the VOXi does very well in providing the user with solid, inclusive, and well-written entries that include a brief etymological note and a clear and concise explanation of the term. In at least two instances--in the small word sample selected for comparison--the VOXi provides more complete information and useful new acceptations than either Diccionario de uso del español (DUE2) or Diccionario del español actual (DEA), a tall order indeed! The noticeable weakness of the VOXi lies in the currency of its entries, a failure to incorporate added acceptations in the existing ones, as in the case of the entry disco shown below (it has however done better at including technology-related new terms such as hardware and software). In this same flaw should be included the gaps left in the updating of the illustrations, which with the technical facilities of digital reproduction available today, should be a matter of course at every printing possible. A glance at the subjects automóvil or fotografía, for instance, is like taking a peek into a retrospective time machine.

Gabriel García Márquez said, referring to the first edition of María Moliner's dictionary (DUE1), that it was "twice as long as the DRAE [Diccionario de la Real Academia Española] and twice as good" (quoted in DUE2, p. xiii). The DUE1 soon became, as was the intention of its author, the main alternative to the DRAE, with its emphasis on guidance rather than on prescription, and on the organization of the entries in a logical, conceptual manner. Moliner took an honest approach to resolving the vicious circles created by many dictionaries and refused to compromise through the use of synonyms or related words to fill out the entries.

For the last 32 years the María Moliner has been the dictionary of choice by most people who have a serious working relationship with the Spanish language. The DUE1 was also one of the most infuriating dictionaries to use, precisely because the grouping of the words was so "logical" that it defied human tendencies, inclinations, and preferences. This state of affairs was compounded by a labyrinthine system of indentations and type sizes that would have fooled Theseus. This system resulted in a collocation of words that was totally impractical, however conceptually logical (e.g., the word abandono appeared one full page after the word abanico).

A second edition of this dictionary was already in progress in 1972, but the death of María Moliner in 1981 must have delayed the work. It finally appeared in 1998, again in two volumes, and over 3,000 pages in length. The DUE2 has abandoned the former grouping scheme in favor of a more practical alphabetical ordering of the entries, while maintaining separate places, though adjacent, for homonyms of different origin. Hence canto (from the Latin cantus) meaning song, has a different entry from canto (from the Latin canthus) meaning border, edge, but is placed right after it, while in the DUE1 it appeared two full pages later. The confusing internal organization of the entries in DUE1 has been replaced by one that is easier to read and much more practically structured in DUE2. Entries are organized thus: the term is followed by a parenthetical section which may include, depending on the level of complexity of the term, etymology, variants, pronunciation and other such annotations. The next section of the entry contains the main and secondary acceptations, if pertinent, with annotations of morphosyntactic, orthographic or related character. Next comes the catálogo section, which gathers adverbial phrases, grammatical points, and other materials related to the entry term, thus making the whole much more manageable for the user. There are still some cases where Moliner's old ordering logic remains--ever pervasive--, as in the case of the collocation of the adverbial phrases in the entry. Under the entry for punto, for instance, why does the expression punto de nieve appear before hacer punto? Also disconcerting is the placing of scientific terms for plants and animals in an appendix at the back. They made perfect sense interfiled with the main entries in the old edition. These shortcomings notwithstanding, the DUE2 is a much improved tool and remains, as the editor of its "competitor," Manuel Seco, puts it in DUE2's introduction, "new and original then and now" (p. xii).

Like Moliner's, the Diccionario del español actual by Manuel Seco, Olimpia Andrés, and Gabino Ramos (DEA) is also a labor of love. It has been 30 years in the making and, though effort need not be in direct relationship with success, it is an impressive achievement with a pedigree that can be traced to the Royal Academy's 18th-century Diccionario de autoridades [Dictionary of Authorities]. The preliminary matter contains much information relevant to the raison d'être of this dictionary and to its organization and structure. Much emphasis is placed on providing, for the first time in over 100 years, the Spanish language with a "lexical inventory" based on a "rigorous methodology" and supported by a "documentary base," starting from scratch, a "new dictionary which will offer a faithful description of the Spanish language of today" (p. xi-xii; NB: the "Indice" has errors in the pagination of the preliminary matter). The term "today" in this context is explained by the authors as being roughly the second half of the 20th century, specifically the years between 1955 and 1993.

Also like Moliner, the DEA sees itself as a departure from the DRAE in its descriptive rather than prescriptive nature, more interested in actual usage today, than in which terms should be used and how. The documentary evidence is restricted entirely to written sources and it constitutes the determining factor for the inclusion or exclusion of a term. It is "not a dictionary of the spoken language," state the authors, and "terms are only included that have reached a level of stability by making it to the written sources" (p. xiii-xiv). It is therefore, again in the words of the authors, aimed "chiefly at readers whose professional activity is centered on language (e.g., writers, translators, teachers and students of the Spanish language" (p. xiii). In the same breath, the authors defend the exclusion of those words which are short-lived and faddish, and which do not manage to "form part of the communication system of the collectivity and therefore remain in the limited circumstance of a colloquy between two or three persons" (p. xv-xvi). The documentary base includes literary works as well as more "practical" printed sources such as catalogs, guides, pamphlets, etc., with about 70% of it being "the written media, mainly national newspapers and magazines" (p. xiii-xiv). The dictionary does include a "rating system" in the form of qualifiers (e.g., col., lit., vulg.) which give the reader a sense of the word's propriety of use even before consulting the source texts.

Much thought has also gone into the grouping of words and the organization of the entries. Like the Moliner, there are two types of entries: artículos and remisiones, in which the former constitute the entry proper and the latter the references. Adverbial expressions and related matter based on the entry word are handled as in Moliner, as are homonyms with grammatical, semantic or etymological differences, while the differences of syntactical order do not qualify for a separate entry. Unfortunately the DEA falls occasionally into the same trap as the old DUE1, either through planned strategy or oversight. For example, actriz (n. fem.) is included in the entry for actor (n. masc.) based on the shared etymology; but there is no see reference from the word actriz--a strange occurrence since there is a reference from abadesa [abbess] to abad [abbot].

As regards the physical format, the DEA comes in two volumes adding up to almost 5,000 pages. Although the typeface of the head word itself is bold and clear, the typeface of the main text is too thin for comfortable reading, and the thin paper is not opaque enough to prevent the verso printing from interfering with the reading of the recto. The publisher has obviously tried hard to fit the bulk of this work into a format that would be "market wise," with the consequent effects. The DEA is, nonetheless, a magnificent work true to its stated goal, and akin to the Oxford English Dictionary in providing a contextual base for its entries.

Just as automobiles or personal computers are put through comparison tests to analyze their performance, one can transfer such an approach to these philological tools to see how well a dictionary performs. After all, why else would one acquire a dictionary of today's Spanish if not to learn the meaning and usage of unknown or doubtful terms? In this spirit a number of words were selected as tests from the novel La carta esférica by the contemporary Spanish author, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, who is recognized for having, among other skills, a decent vocabulary and a healthy respect for language. A few more words were also included to test the inclusiveness and the currency of the coverage. The words from Pérez-Reverte's novel were related to nautical matters (adujar [to coil], azocar [to tighten], balizar [to mark with buoys], chicote [an end of rope], obenque [a shroud], pantalán [a jetty]). The other words included one of multiple geographical usages, guagua [chiefly either a bus (Cuba, Canary Isl.), a baby (Andean), free/gratis (Spa.), plus 3 other meanings], some of technical currency, disco [disc/disk], ABS [Antilock Brake System], hardware, software, a name for a rare object, despabiladeras [wick cutter scissors, an 18th-century implement], and one expression used in the book trade, ad usum Delphini [bowdlerized or expurgated text] thrown in for good measure. The main three dictionaries, VOXi, DUE2 and DEA, scored well in the nautical area. These were terms with which this reviewer, a landlubber, was not familiar and really needed assistance. All three dictionaries gave definitions adequate to the task, clearly indicating the particular acceptation as a nautical one. Diccionario de uso del español (edición abreviada por la Editorial Gredos)(DUEa), the abbreviated Moliner, missed out totally on two of the words. Treatment of the word guagua varied. The DUE2 and the DUEa covered three meanings of the word; the VOXi provided the best coverage with six acceptations; by contrast, the weakest performer was the DEA with only two, neither of which is related to Latin American usage. On some of the test words of technical currency the score was mixed: both words of English origin relating to computers appeared in all the dictionaries, but the other two terms, disco and ABS showed where the weaknesses are. While DEA and DUE2 have up-to-date subentries for computer hard disk, CD-ROM and CD, the VOXi goes only as far as the sound disc and no farther; the DUEa covered all these acceptations adequately. Only the DEA recorded an entry for ABS, although it is a term commonly used in Spanish for antilock brakes. On the term despabiladeras the three main dictionaries gave good coverage--the VOXi even has an illustration of the implement--, but it was not entered in the DUEa. Finally, the bibliophile term ad usum Delphini was covered only in the DEA, although it is the kind of expression even a well-read Spanish speaker not necessarily familiar with the expurgation of texts or the education of young princes and princesses may need to consult.

The above comparison is certainly not a rigorous one nor does it pretend to be anything else but an indication of how these tools serve the reader in a practical, everyday need. Whereas the DUEa may be more agile and easier to carry than its full version, the DUE2, it is clearly a "light" product and, as is the case with other such products and substances readily available in the market these days, far from the "real thing." On the issue of inclusiveness and currency of language, it may be said that only the DEA wins with flying colors, with the DUE2 coming a close second. It should be pointed out, though, that currency is a very hard goal to achieve in a medium that, by its own nature and characteristics, is already out of date the moment it appears on the shelves (word inclusion in the DEA, which bears the imprint date of 1999, stopped in 1994).

Potential buyers/users of these dictionaries may need to consider the functional coverage of americanismos they provide. The DEA is, by design and purpose, a national dictionary, and the del español in its title should be understood as "of the language of Spain," an important consideration which users of the DEA should be aware of: the terms do not include extra-peninsular sources unless they are currently used in Spain itself, regardless of their origin. The DUE2 and the VOXi are better in the coverage of Latin American Spanish, but they should still be complemented with dictionaries or vocabularies covering the Spanish language of the American continents.

Miguel A. Torrens (University of Toronto)

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