AM -- Dicrtionaries

Special Report: Survey of the Status of Dictionaries of Medieval Latin

The use of Latin for all kinds of written communication and documentation in the Middle Ages left a large body of source material for the study of medieval European culture that remains only partly explored. Making it accessible and comprehensible is the task of editors and lexicographers. The most complete dictionary of Medieval Latin (hereinafter = ML) remains that of Du Cange, the Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis [Glossary of Medieval and Late Latin], first printed in 1678 and last revised in the 18th century. The need for such a comprehensive work is underscored by the fact that the Du Cange dictionary has been reprinted as recently as 2000 (Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlags-Anstalt; ISBN 3-201-00147-3: EUR 980.00).

Henri Pirenne initiated a project in 1920 under the auspices of the Union Académique Internationale to produce a successor to Du Cange, of which the first fascicle (covering the letter L) appeared in 1957 as the Novum glossarium mediae latinitatis: ab anno 800 usque ad annum 1200 [New Glossary of ML: from CE 800–1200] (Hafniae [Copenhagen], 1957– ). Unlike its predecessor, it covers only the period 800–1200, and does not include the extraordinarily fruitful and multifaceted Late Middle Ages, but this is understandable in view of the plenitude of mostly still unedited sources.

Because of the enormous number of texts to be reviewed, this pan-European dictionary simultaneously inspired preliminary data-gathering projects that were only national in scope. The first were based in Germany, Poland, and Italy. Only the last of these resulted in publication before World War II: Latinitatis Italicae medii aevi inde ab a. 476 ad a. 1022 lexicon imperfectum [An Incomplete Dictionary of ML from Italian Sources: CE 476–1022] (Bruxelles, 1939, vol. 1 (A–Medicamentum); completed by vol. 2 in 1964).

Since the 1950s, the following national dictionaries have appeared. Where known, coverage and current extent are given:

Catalonia. Glossarium mediae latinitatis Cataloniae ab anno 800 usque ad annum 1100 [Glossary of ML from Catalonian Sources, 800–1100]. Ed. J. Bastardas. Barcelona: Univ. de Barcelona, 1960–1985. A–D. Publication ceased with the letter D.

Czech Republic. Latinitatis medii aevi lexicon Bohemorum = Slovník stredoveké latiny v ceských zemích. [Dictionary of ML from Czech Sources]. Ed. Ladislav Varcl. Pragae: Academia, 1977– . Coverage from 1000–1500. To date: A–Iris. Definitions in Latin and Czech.

Denmark. Ordbog over dansk middelalderlatin = Lexicon mediae latinitatis danicae [Dictionary of ML from Danish Sources]. Ed. Franz Blatt, Peter Terkelsen. Aarhus: Universitetetsforlag, 1987– . Coverage through the mid-16th century. To date: A–Monachium. Definitions in Danish.

Finland. Glossarium latinitatis medii aevi Finlandicae [Glossary of ML from Finnish Sources]. Ed. Reino Hakamies. Helsinki, 1958. (Suomalaisen Tiedeakatemian julkaisemia pohjoismaiden historiaa valaisevia asiakirjoja, 10).

Germany. Mittellateinisches Wörterbuch bis zum ausgehenden 13. Jahrhundert [ML Dictionary to the End of the 13th Century]. Ed. Peter Dinter for the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften and Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. München: Beck, 1959– . Coverage 800–1280. To date: A–Densesco. Based on texts from all areas of the German Empire. Definitions in Latin and German.

Great Britain. Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources. Ed. R.E. Latham and D.R. Howlett. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1975– . Coverage 6th–16th centuries. To date: A–Mytulus. English definitions.

Hungary. Lexicon latinitatis medii aevi Hungariae [Dictionary of ML from Hungarian Sources]. Ed. János Harmatta. Budapest: Akademia Kiadó, 1987– . Coverage of the whole of the former kingdom of Hungary (including Croatia, Slovakia, and Transylvania) to 1526. To date: A–Ivagio. Definitions in Latin and Hungarian.

Italy. Latinitatis Italicae medii aevi lexicon [Dictionary of ML from Italian Sources]. Ed. Francesco Arnaldi, Pasquale Smiraglia. See the following review.

Netherlands. Lexicon latinitatis Nederlandicae medii aevi = Woordenboek van het middeleeuws Latijn van de doordelijke Nederlanden [Dictionary of ML from Sources in the Netherlands]. Ed. Olga Weijers. Leiden: Brill, 1977– . Coverage to 1500. To date: A–Refluo. Definitions in Dutch and Latin.

Poland. Slownik laciny sredniowiecznej w Polske = Lexicon mediae et infimae latinitatis Polonorum [Dictionary of Medieval and Late Latin from Polish Sources]. Ed. Polska Akademia Nauk. Wroclaw: Zaklad Narodowy im. Ossoliskich, 1953– . Coverage to 1506. To date: A–Quaero. Definitions in Polish and Latin.

Sweden. Glossarium till medeltidslatinet i Sverige = Glossarium mediae latinitatis Sueciae [Glossary of ML from Swedish Sources]. Ed. Ulla Westerbergh. Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell, 1980– . To date: A–Rutenus. Definitions in Swedish and German.

Yugoslavia. Lexicon latinitatis medii aevi Iugoslaviae [Dictionary of ML from Yugoslavian Sources]. Ed. Marko Kostrenicic. Zagrebiae: Ed. Institutum historicum Academiae Scientiarum et Artium Slavorum Meridonalium, 1969–1978. Complete.

These dictionaries differ not only in temporal span, but in the language used for definitions; all focus on the differences between classical and ML. Following the model of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, they offer detailed textual evidence for the range of attested meanings. Owing to their generally high quality, it is understandable that they proceed at a slow tempo, but it is highly desirable that, despite the expense in time and money, they be completed at the same high scholarly level.

Only four modern scholarly dictionaries of ML have been completed to date. The one for Yugoslavia; the indispensable (especially for historians) dictionary of Jan Frederik Niermeyer, which concentrates on the 6th to the 12th centuries (Mediae latinitatis lexicon minus = Lexique latin médiévale [Compact Dictionary of ML] (4th ed., Leiden, 2001, ISBN 9004071083); the Lexicon latinitatis medii aevi: praesertim ad res ecclesiasticas investigandas pertinens = Dictionnaire latin-français des auteurs du Moyen-Age [Dictionary of ML Especially for Church History] by Albert Blaise, which covers predominantly patristic Latin and the language of the medieval church (reprinted Turnholti, 1975); and the next book under review (which prompted this survey), Latinitatis Italicae medii aevi lexicon. [ch/dss]

Latinitatis Italicae medii aevi lexicon: saec. V ex.–saec XI in. [Lexicon of Medieval Latin from Italian Sources: Late 5th C. to Early 11th C.]. Ed. Arnaldi and Pasquale Smiraglia. 2d enlarged ed., with addenda by L. Colentano. Tavarnuzze: SISMEL-Edizioni del Galuzzo, 1939–1997, 2001. viii, 23, 1,463 p. 25 cm. (Millennio medievale, 29; Strumenti, 1). ISBN 88-8450-020-6: EUR 170.43 (SISMEL-Edizioni del Galluzzo, Via di Colleramole 11, I-50029 Tavarnuzze, Italy; fax [39 55] 237 34-54) [02-1-007]

This dictionary based on Italian sources covers the period from the fall of Rome (CE 476) to 1022. It originally appeared in three volumes between 1939 and 1964, and from 1967 to 1997 was enlarged by 12 fascicles of addenda. All are conveniently available for users in this one-volume reprint. Pasquale Smiraglia justifiably points out that the resulting comprehensiveness allows the word imperfectum [incomplete] to be dropped from the title, where it had been retained as late as 1997.

The dictionary is based on 735 texts, from which 900,000 passages were excerpted over the decades. It is composed entirely in Latin, and therefore will prove useful only to a relatively small audience. Special emphasis is given to documenting neologisms and peculiarities of spelling, grammar, and syntax with verifiable citations. Often the meaning of a passage remains unclear for the time being, or must be divined from a single attestation.

Arnaldi’s and Smiraglia’s dictionary provides an essential reference tool, especially given the incomplete status of almost all other scholarly dictionaries of Medieval Latin, and will take its place next to Niermeyer’s Mediae latinitatis lexicon minus (see conclusion to survey above) as among the most useful tools for scholars in this field. It belongs on the ready reference shelf in every library used by medievalists. [ch/dss]

Dictionnaire de l’argot français et de ses origines [Dictionary of French Slang and Its Origins]. Jean-Paul Colin, Jean-Pierre Mével, and Christian Leclère. New ed. Paris: Larousse, 2001. 903 p. 24 cm. ISBN 2-03-532046-1: FF 135.00

An RREO Original Review

The authors have published a revised and enlarged edition [DAFO] of their Dictionnaire de l’argot, which first appeared in 1990. All three are respected scholars in their fields, with numerous publications on various aspects of the French language (linguistics, grammar, slang, syntax, and meaning) to their credit. As well, all have published numerous articles in scholarly journals and significant French-language encyclopedias.

The forematter of this new enlarged edition of the dictionary (an increase of 130 pages) contains a preface by Alphonse Boudard, a noted expert on the subject of French slang; an overview of the entire work; a list of the types of slang covered; and a glossary of technical terms. In appendix are an article by Henri Bonnard, an expert on French syntax (an extract from Le Grand Larousse de la langue française, 1971); an introduction to the first edition of DAFO by Denise Francois-Geiger, a noted scholar in the field of French linguistics; and a bibliography of approximately 500 sources.

The new edition of this dictionary contains more than 8,000 terms of French slang, beginning with 19th-century gangster slang and continuing up to the 1990s, with a variety of current types of slang. Each entry in the dictionary provides a history for the term, including the date when the word first appeared in use in French, as well as variations or derivatives of the term. Each term is then used in one or more sourced quotations. The well-documented sources are wide-ranging, including such diverse materials as technical studies and reports, literary works, songs, criminal confessions, popular fiction including detective novels, and historical dictionaries of the French language.

DAFO would be most useful for a scholar or translator in the fields of French language and culture who is at the neophyte to intermediate level. The skillful use of various type fonts and the balance between white space and text renders this work easy to use, and a joy to peruse. (The physical size of the monograph lends itself to being held in one’s hands, as it is not awkward in size or massive in its construction.) Once picked up, it is indeed difficult to put it down, as one would always like to keep on looking at ever more interesting entries!

Since the great majority of sources used in the bibliography date from the mid-1800s to 1990, this work falls in effect into the category of a period dictionary. Sources dated post-1990 are infrequent, and the most recent item is from 1998, with French slang for the last decade poorly represented. This is not a serious flaw so long as one is aware of the time-frame being covered.

However, the serious researcher of 20th-century French slang would do well to supplement the DAFO with a few other specialized dictionaries in order to bring the terminology more up to date. DAFO provides very good coverage of erotic slang and the specialized codes built of phonetic transpositions, such as largonji (where initial consonants are placed in final position, “largonji” being the coded form of “jargon”), louchébem or loucherbem (an elaboration of largonji formerly used by butchers, “loucherbem” being the coded form of “boucher”), or verlan (consisting of the inversion of syllables, “verlan” = “[à] l’envers” [wrong side out, upside down], wherein adolescents would tell their parents not to be so joibour—though that term is not DAFO). It is less extensive, however, in its coverage of the slang of French urban youth (tchatches), slang from the realms of the media, high technology, women’s rights, business, and advertising. To fill these gaps, the use of a few additional French slang dictionaries, such as the following, is recommended:

Comment tu tchatches: Dictionnaire français contemporain des cités. Jean-Pierre Goudaillier (Paris, 2001); EUR 19.82. This monolingual (or rather slang/French) work is an extensive source for the slang of urban teens, especially of Asian, African, gypsy, and creole origins. The author also includes graffiti, posters, and cartoons as sources of slang;

Dictionary of French Slang and Colloquial Expressions. Henry Strutz. (Hauppauge, NY, 1999); $11.95. This source provides an English-language translation of each term, and draws slang from the fields of sport and entertainment, as well as from the professional, computer, and criminal arenas;

Insider’s French: Beyond the Dictionary. Eleanor Levieux and Michel Levieux. (Chicago, 1999); $30.00. An interesting combination of texts and glossaries of terms, this work provides brief background essays on French language, culture and social trends, as well as numerous slang terms from the fields of EU terminology, space programs, high technology industries, women’s rights, advertising, and health care. It also contains political cartoons from the French press and a gallery of gestures.

With the qualifications indicated above, this work is an essential purchase for the reference departments of academic libraries that support post-secondary institutions teaching French language, literature, and culture. Although dictionaries of French slang are currently abundant, and dozens have been published in the past two decades, this Larousse publication definitely stands out due to the caliber and depth of the authors’ knowledge and research. The authors and publisher are to be congratulated.

Diccionario del castellano tradicional [Dictionary of Traditional Castilian]. Ed. César Hernández Alonso, Carmen Hoyos Hoyos, Nieves Mendizábal de la Cruz, Beatriz Sanz Alonso, and María Angeles Sastre Ruano. Valladolid: Ambito, 2001. 1,374 p. 25 cm. ISBN 84-8183-108-5: EUR 44.50

An RREO Original Review

The Diccionario del castellano tradicional [DCT] is a scholarly dictionary of terms actively employed by rural residents in the region of Castilla and León. Its purpose is to document rural Castilian terminology that differs from standard Spanish, and is used in specific yet customary activities of country life.

Hernández Alonso, chief editor, considers it a “depository of the historical memory of a people.” As a reference resource it does indeed transcend the purpose of similar dictionaries of provincialisms—it is a work of preservation. The editorial team set out to capture and ultimately preserve the local native vernacular that modernization, technology, and new migration patterns are gradually making obsolete. Their work reveals evidence of a dialect inherent to Castilian rural life that survives to this day but is inevitably heading toward extinction. This imminent loss of vocabulary is emphasized by a selection of archaic terms that are still fresh in the local memory, but only exist as relics of the past.

In his introductory note, Hernández Alonso emphasizes the way the surveys were conducted and the subsequent information analyzed. Second- and third-generation residents—the majority male—were interviewed. No explanation is given for this preference in gender. The questions focused mostly on predetermined tasks and themes that are characteristic of country life. Terms and definitions obtained on site were compared to existing primary and secondary resources in the field. While there is no immediate way to prove the authenticity of this preliminary research, a 21-page bibliography is included as documentary evidence.

The entries, totaling almost 17,500, are classified in 51 themes and subthemes. The themes pertain to the land, weights and measures, weather, wine, animals, trades, housing, social and family relations, and miscellaneous—an ill-defined heading that may trouble bibliophiles and librarians.

The editors provide each entry with their own brief definition and the equivalent acceptation (or absence thereof ) in both the 21st edition of the Diccionario de la Real Academia [DRAE] (Madrid, 1992) and María Moliner’s Diccionario de uso del español [DUE] (Madrid, 1983). Variant acceptations from the DRAE and DUE are excluded but acknowledged. The number of definitions from all three sources reaches nearly 22,000. Cross-references were added to signal correlation between synonyms, alternate spellings (which often translate into phonetic idiosyncrasies), and related terms. An alphabetical index of entries is included.

The selection of entries is not as obscure as those unfamiliar with Castilla and León may expect. In a random search, the term mochuelo [small owl] is listed and yet is considered a common word throughout the Peninsula. It is given practically the same acceptation in various Spanish dictionaries. Users may also question how the local usage of terms such as trigo [wheat], garbanzo [chickpea], and carpintero [carpenter] differs from common Spanish.

The research value of this dictionary lies in its methodology. The editorial team sought to compile rural Castilian terms by practicing variant principles of sociolinguistic fieldwork. Though the editors’ research techniques do not adhere firmly to the fundamentals of sociolinguistics, scholars in that field could very well benefit from the content of this resource.

The entries do not include geographic provenance; Hernández Alonso claims this would have inordinately expanded the work and rendered its reading cumbersome. Furthermore, the objective was to create a dictionary of rural dialect as opposed to a linguistic atlas. Manuel Alvar’s Atlas lingüistico de Castilla y Léon (Valladolid, 1999) targets this precisely.

An important consideration and potential source of dissatisfaction may be the absence of etymological notes. The DCT sets out to accomplish very specific tasks and sticks to a limited scope. It is a dictionary of active Castilian provincialisms that is descriptive in nature, though its cross-references, whenever available, render it useful as a dictionary of synonyms. Its organization, structure, and purpose seek to provide a quick glance at Castilian rural dialect as it is still used, or continues to be remembered. Its content complements the DRAE and DUE. Those hoping for a diachronic view should supplement this work with Spanish etymological dictionaries such as Joan Corominas’ Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico (Madrid, 1980–1991), or the available volumes of the Diccionario histórico del español from the Spanish Royal Academy—an ongoing monumental project that will take a few more decades to be accomplished. Other reference tools include two ongoing corpus projects from the Spanish Royal Academy—the Corpus diacrónico del español [CORDE] and the Corpus de referencia del español actual [CREA]—both available online at www.rae.es. Their collection of recorded utterances puts current and archaic terms in context.

The DCT is published in one hardbound volume. While the typeface of the head terms is bold and clear, that of the definitions is small and thin. This is nonetheless a criticism that could be made of most dictionaries, and one that should not have much influence on potential buyers and users.

A reference tool with a very specific scope, the DCT should occupy a useful place in academic libraries, particularly ones that serve graduate programs in Spanish language and literature.

Diccionario de usos y dudas del español actual [Dictionary of Usage and Doubts of Contemporary Spanish]. José Martínez de Sousa. 3d ed. Barcelona: Bibliograf S.A; SPES., 2001 [repr. 2003]. 587 p. 24 cm. ISBN 84-8332-210-2: Ptas 2,950

An RREO Original Review

José Martínez de Sousa is an established expert in the area of Spanish language usage, orthography, and history of the book, who has produced more than fifteen dictionaries and style manuals. The present work appeared as the third edition, completely revised, of the original dictionary published in 1996 (with its second edition in 1998). It is based on the study of the changes in the Spanish language over the last 50 years, as recorded by a variety of normative works from Spain and Latin America. However, there are also many references to sources from the first half of the 20th century.

Martínez de Sousa’s work was conceived in reaction to an accelerating “invasion” of foreign languages, particularly English, into the lexical, semantic, and syntactic aspects of Spanish, and overwhelming evidence of poor use of language in all means of communication. It also constitutes a response to the 21st (1992) and 22d (2001) editions of Diccionario de la lengua española of the Real Academia Española, the institution in charge of the well-being of the Spanish language. Martínez de Sousa finds the Academy not only slow in acting upon new linguistic phenomena, but also inconsistent and even contradictory in its decisions to accept new words of foreign origin into the Spanish vocabulary. Thus, throughout his dictionary, he promotes whenever possible the use of Spanish terms instead of uncritical adoption of foreign words, and favors phonetic spelling to encourage correct pronunciation. Many new terms and phrases not discussed yet by the Academy are included as well.

Diccionario de usos y dudas del español actual (DUDEA) is a work of solid scholarship. The introduction clearly delineates the adopted methodology and definitions of linguistic phenomena, the structure of entries, and variants of terms included. Entries provide etymological information, a brief definition of the word or phrase, derivative forms, and a commentary on the recommended usage and forms. Cross-references are added when appropriate. An extensive bibliography of a wide range of dictionaries, style manuals, and related publications from many European and Latin American countries closes the work.

Inclusion of terms, whether correct or not, is based on their actual usage as defined by the users, rather than the norm. The dictionary addresses problematic toponyms and adjectives denoting nationality, proper names, neologisms, vulgarisms, spelling variants of different kinds, solecisms, incorrectly used phrases, and above all foreign words and expressions. It also includes conjugation tables for irregular verbs and derivative forms not often featured in a dictionary, such as regular adverbs, diminutives, augmentatives, compounds formed with prefixes, and regular superlatives, as well as number and gender variants.

The dictionary is not intended to be all-inclusive, nor are there plans to achieve comprehensiveness in its subsequent editions. So far, editorial efforts have been focused on the correction of errors, improving the clarity of definitions, adding information on the newest developments in the use of a term, and incorporating a limited number of new terms based on frequency of their usage. The author has resisted too big an expansion of the dictionary in favor of preservation of the gathered evidence of evolution of terms.

A closer look at the present edition reveals, however, certain weaknesses. Cross-references are not as rigorously applied as is claimed. Moreover, the coverage of some terms leaves room for improvement. For example, if you look up the word disco, you will find it only as an abbreviation of discoteca, and as in disco compacto. There is no mention of any relation to floppy disc (disco flexible) or hard disc (disco duro), even though these terms seem to be as widely used as the former ones.

The Spanish-speaking public has seen a considerable number of normative dictionaries and style manuals published in the last two decades. The present title, although by no means a unique publication, has many merits that make it a worthy reference tool. Three editions in five years prove its good reception and popularity among users. The value of the last edition is further enhanced by its physical qualities: good quality paper, solid binding, and sturdy covers.

Diccionario de español urgente [Troubleshooting Dictionary of Spanish]. Ed. Alberto Gómez Font. Madrid: Ediciones SM, 2000. 511 p. 22 cm. (SM diccionarios). ISBN 84-348-6916-0: $14.34

An RREO Original Review

This dictionary consists of over 1,000 entries that address common errors of usage, spelling, and pronunciation in contemporary Spanish as seen (and heard) in today’s mass media. It compiles neologisms, troublesome toponyms and adjectives denoting nationality, proper names with their spelling variants, incorrectly used phrases, and a great number of foreign words, especially English, which recently (and not so recently) have found their way into the everyday Spanish language. An appendix with frequently used acronyms and abbreviations, and a short bibliography of cited dictionaries and style manuals, together with few selected websites, complete the work.

DEU is intended to address the most recent linguistic developments and succeeds in incorporating many new terms that have not been picked up yet by the Real Academia Española [RAE], the main normative authority of the Spanish language. Following the established rules of the Academy, the authors of the dictionary offer solutions for common mistakes and linguistic doubts, and promote the use of Spanish equivalents (lexical and orthographic) for widespread foreign terms. They often reveal a more purist approach to language than that of the Academy itself.

However, limiting a dictionary to only approximately 1,000 entries implies a great deal of selection. And, indeed the present work is based upon selection of a peculiar kind. The Departamento de Español Urgente, part of an established Spanish news agency, Agencia EFE, is the body responsible for the publication of this title. Its daily activities include editing the news submitted to the agency, as well as providing reference service to journalists in matters of proper usage of language. Thus, terms selected for inclusion in the dictionary come from the weekly compilations of the most frequent errors encountered in the news and questions of usage posed to the Department. Selections of these troublesome terms have already been published as Vademecum de español urgente I and II, in 1992 and 1995 respectively. DEU is an augmented version of the previous title, provided with more elaborate articles, additional related terms, transcriptions, and translations. The same agency also publishes Manual de español urgente, which is currently in its 13th edition.

The organization and graphic layout of the dictionary work quite well. The terms, marked in blue, are provided with a clear and concise statement of the problem and recommended usage, printed in black bold type for easy and quick reference. This short paragraph is followed by more detailed explanation of the issues at stake, often complemented with references to definitions given by style manuals and other dictionaries, especially the Diccionario de la lengua española of the RAE. Sometimes the entry is further supplemented by geographic, historic or anecdotal notes that provide memorable context to the purely linguistic discussion of the previous sections. All three components of an entry are clearly marked by different font sizes and colors (blue and black), and delicate blue lines. Entries are separated by a fair amount of space so pages do not look cluttered. One quibble, though: the smallest size of font used seems a touch too small for easy reading.

DEU is undoubtedly a useful and easy-to-use reference tool, not only for journalists, but also for the public at large, and even for more advanced Spanish language learners. An informal style and interesting anecdotal information make the articles a fun read. Potential users should be aware, however, of certain shortcomings of this work. First, the authors prefer to err on the side of tradition rather than to bend to the new internationally adopted standards, e.g., when recommending the use of Ceilán instead of Sri Lanka. Second, although Agencia EFE claims to have undertaken the task of preserving the Spanish language and fostering its unity on both sides of the Atlantic, this dictionary is clearly focused on the language as it is currently used in Spain, and does not do equal justice to the vocabularies in use in the Latin American countries. Furthermore, one could wish there were somewhat more precise description of the methodology and of the criteria applied in the composition of the entries.

Dicionário da língua portuguesa contemporânea da Academia das Ciências de Lisboa [Dictionary of Contemporary Portuguese Language of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences]. Ed. João Malaca Casteleiro for the Academia das Ciências de Lisboa and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. 2 vols. Lisboa: Verbo, 2001. 3,880 p. 26 cm. ISBN 972-22-2046-2: $125.00

An RREO Original Review

It has taken the Academia das Ciências de Lisboa 222 years to publish its first complete dictionary of the Portuguese language. Shortly after its foundation in 1779, the Academia began to work on a dictionary intended to set the standard for the national language. The first volume was published in 1793, and covered the letter A in its entirety. It was not until 1976 that a new edition appeared; ironically it, too, never reached beyond the first letter of the alphabet. In 1988 a team of editors was formed in collaboration with the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and the Ministerio da Educação. Under the direction of Dr. João Malaca Casteleiro, President of the Instituto de Lexicologia e Lexicografia of the Academia, the Dicionário da língua portuguesa contemporânea was completed in 2001.

The editorial team researched the vernacular of Portugal, its regions, Brazil, and Luso-Africa and -Asia. The chronological coverage of this reference tool is limited to the 19th and 20th centuries. Given the influence of foreign and regional cultures, its purpose is to create a standard for contemporary terminology in the Portuguese-speaking world. One of its main objectives is precisely to target the complex concept of lusofonia [the community formed by the countries and peoples using Portuguese as their official or first language; the diffusion of the Portuguese language in the world]. Malaca Casteleiro and his team of linguists adhere to detailed criteria for the selection of Lusophone terms outside of Portugal.

The dictionary contains close to 70,000 main entries—resulting in more than 300,000 terms and their variants—and over 167,000 acceptations. As well as regionalisms and Lusophone terms originating in Portugal’s former colonies, commonly used Englishderived terms—such as “marketing” and “franchising”—are included. Entries indicate idioms, synonyms and antonyms, grammatical classification, etymologies, pronunciation, and sample phrases.

Users will find over 33,000 illustrative quotations from authors such as Almeida Garrett, José de Alencar, Manuel Bandeira, Vitorino Nemésio, José Rodrigues Miguéis, Camilo Castelo Branco, António Lobo Antunes, Mia Couto, José dos Santos Ferreira, Aquilino Ribeiro, Jorge Amado, and José Saramago. The majority of the authors, journals and newspapers used come from continental Portugal and Brazil. Journal quotations from Lusophone Africa and Asia include Revista internacional de estudos africanos and Revista de Macau. A list of the works quoted is provided along with a general bibliography.

Five novels and a book of poems were chosen to test the dictionary’s receptiveness to African, Asian, and Brazilian terms—A última tragedia by Abdulai Sila (Guiné-Bissau, 1995), Hamina e outros contos by José Craveirinha (Mozambique, 1997), Mayombe by Pepetela (Angola, 1971), Poemas de longe by Antonio Nunes (Cabo Verde, 1945), Doci papiaçam di Macau by José dos Santos Ferreira (Macao, 1990), and Cangaceiros by José Lins do Rego (Brazil, 1932). From Doci papiaçam di Macau the verb papiar [to speak with someone] was picked from the title. “Papiar” is listed as a creole term from Macao. In his poems Mané Santo and Maninho di nha Noca, Nunes uses the words grogue [alcoholic beverage] and cachupa [recipe from Cabo Verde]—both are given definitions as Cape Verdian terms. From A última tragedia the word mantenha [greeting] is treated as a term from Cabo Verde and Guiné-Bissau. The word kimbo [village] from Pepetela’s Mayombe is omitted. Craveirinha’s terms canimambo [thank you] and tombasana [young woman] are both absent as well. The words caatinga [type of vegetation] and caboclo [person of mixed race; mestizo] from Lins de Rego’s novel of the interior are both defined as Brazilianisms.

Additional random searches based on the vocabulary of the aforementioned works reveal questionable absences. The dictionary of the Academia appears to be a weaker performer for terminology originating from Lusophone Africa and, particularly, Luso-Asia. No test was performed for regionalisms.

The typeface is clear and easy to read. The articles require familiarization with the hierarchy of terms and the use of abbreviations. It is recommended that users read the introduction to get acquainted with the structure and organization of this reference tool.

On balance, the Dicionário da língua portuguesa contemporânea is an important and much-awaited descriptive dictionary that belongs in all academic and research libraries. Large public libraries would also benefit from this acquisition.

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Last update: March 6, 2006 [BG]
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