2004

AM -- Dictionaries


Mediae latinitatis lexicon minus = Lexique latin médiéval = Mittellateinisches Wörterbuch [Dictionary of Middle Latin]. Original eds. J. F. Niermeyer & C. van de Kieft.; 2d rev. ed. J. W. J. Burgers. 2 vols. Leiden [et al.]: Brill, 2002. xxii, 1,480, xx, 83 p. 25 cm. ISBN 90-04-11279-0 (set): EUR 210 [04-1-022]

Twenty-six years after the original version of Niermeyer’s indispensable dictionary of Middle Latin, Brill has published revised and expanded edition. At present there are few complete dictionaries of Middle Latin, although large multi-volume projects are underway (see RREA 8:29-32), and so this expanded dictionary is very welcome. Niermeyer’s work was based on Latin texts of the Early and High Middle Ages (roughly 550-1150) that came essentially from the northern continental reaches of the Carolingian Empire, i.e., France, Germany, and the Netherlands, while the expanded edition now includes source texts from England as well, and from the second half of the 12th century. The original entries were left untouched in most cases, though this means that more recent critical editions were generally not consulted for those entries. The particular value of this dictionary lies in its extraction of lemmata from text passages that illustrate language usage at a specific time and in a specific region. As a result, articles that touch on important concepts can be very comprehensive and richly informative: one example is the entry for benificium (pp. 121-127), with no fewer than 41 semantic variants. The Index fontium at the end of the work provides a searchable overview of the medieval texts and text editions from which the dictionary entries were taken. Historians, medievalists, and above all students, before reaching for the more extensive multi-volume dictionaries of Medieval Latin that remain mostly incomplete, are now fortunately and profitably able to refer to this more compact dictionary. [ch/rdh]

Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis Volumen I et II [Lexicon of Recent Latin, Volume I and II]. Opus Fundatum “Latinitas.” Urbe Vaticana: Libraria Editoria Vaticana, 2003, reprinted 2004. 728 p. 25 cm. ISBN 88-209-7454-1: EUR 100

An RREA Original Review by Marta Deyrup (Seton Hall University)

This Italian-Latin dictionary is a revised version in one volume of a two-volume work, originally published in 1982 (A-L) and 1997 (M-Z). The project organizer, the late Carl Egger, a senior Latinist at the Vatican, conceived of this dictionary as a successor to Antonio Bacci’s 1963 out-of-print, Lexicon Vocabulorum Quae Difficilius Latine Redduntur (Lexicon of Words Difficult to Render in Latin). Egger was the author of many Latin language commentaries and dictionaries, among them Lexicon Nominum Virorum et Mulierum, Lexicon Nominum Locorum, Neues Latein Lexikon, and Latine Discere Iuvat. In the Latin introduction (“Prooemium”) he describes the overarching schema that a panel of international scholars used to produce the over 15,000 neologisms included in the work. “In creating new words,” Egger writes, “ we made an effort to thoroughly investigate the entire Latin language up to the beginning of the seventh century. We used many more words from later Latin than from classical Latin. Whenever that was not possible, we took words from the Latin of the Middle Ages, from ecclesiastical Latin, and from the Greek language. Whenever it was not possible to make use of these sources, new words were created according to the rules of philology” (p. 7).

The work is printed on good quality, acid-free paper and is hardbound. The reference sources used in the preparation of the book are impressive, both for their scholarly value and breadth of interest. While the major work used was the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, the authors also consulted Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, the previously mentioned dictionary by Bacci, Lexique des Termes de Botanique en Latin, Thesaurus Linguarum Latinae ac Germanicae, Dizionario italiano-latino integrativo antico e moderna, the Vulgate Bible, Lexicon Latinitatis Medii Aevi Iugoslaviae, Glossarium Mediae et Infimae Latinitatis Regni Hungariae, Lexicon Latini Italique Sermonis in Usum Scholarum and the Vitae Sanctorum Selectae. Neologisms have been drawn from key Latin literary works. For example, forfondatore” we find the following citation given as a source of the Latin translation “fundator,” VERG., Aen., 7,678: “nec Praenestinae fundator defuit urbis” (317). Other sources as noted in the eight-page index include Cicero, Pliny, Cato, Plautus, Lucretius, Boethius and the Venerable Bede.

The scope of this project, which seeks to render into colloquial “living Latin” newer words that have entered the Italian language, is fascinating. Among the score of words of international derivation are “radioattivita” rendered in Latin as “irradians vis”; “unisex” = “ad ambo sexus perintens;” “transistor” = “instrumentum transistorianum;” and “ hockey sul ghiaccio” [ice hockey] = “pilamalleus super glaciem.”

The project team has followed traditional patterns used in Latin word formation. Where there is a direct correspondence between an Italian and Latin word, the translation is straightforward, for example, “controdecreto” has been rendered as “ contrarium decretum”. When a word is formed from a Greek derivation, the Greek spelling is kept. For example, the Italian word “telefono”, which most likely would have been translated as “telefona” in Latin has retained the Greek “ph” and been rendered as “telephonium.” And where a new word needs to be created, a listing of citations consulted is included so that the reader can get a sense of the word in a literary context. Under such entries as “declassamento” one can see the careful scholarship present throughout the work.

In a similar vein, Egger has carefully considered the pronunciation of his neologisms (Latin, after all is an official language of the Vatican) and outlines his rules for syllable stress: “as to what pertains to accents, only in those Latin words, in which stress is placed at the beginning are the short syllables marked; otherwise the accents are considered to be on the next to last syllable” (p. 7).

In all respects this lexicon is a tour-de-force. Although clearly meant as a working dictionary for translators at the Vatican (Egger conceived the dictionary as an up-to-date reference source that filled a gap left by traditional Latin dictionaries) and as such perhaps best fitted for religious academic institutions and seminaries, this dictionary has value for academic libraries with strong classical studies or linguistics departments. Founded in 1976 by Pope Paul VI, the Latinitas Foundation, which also publishes the journal Latinitas and whose mission is to “promote the increased use of the Latin language by publishing texts in Latin and other suitable means,” has done a splendid job in making available to the lay scholar this major work of scholarship.

Dictionnaire des onomatopées [Dictionary of Onomatopoeias] Pierre Enckell and Pierre Rézeau. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2003. 579 p. 23 cm. ISBN 2-13-053318-3: EUR 32

An RREA Original Review by Heather Moulaison (Southwest Missouri State University)

Since the 1980s, Enckell and Rézeau have both been prodigious writers and editors of dictionaries, each with well over 15 to his credit. In their introduction, the authors state their intention to take this work beyond the simplistic approach to onomatopoeias used in standard dictionaries of the French language. The resulting dictionary’s content is comprehensive indeed, and the work that went into creating it exacting and thorough.

There are two main divisions to the work: a thematic section and a dictionary segment that organizes the onomatopoeias alphabetically. The thematic segment classes the onomatopoeias according to how they are made or the type of sound they are. Examples include body noises, noises made by barnyard animals, and noises made by musical instruments. However, the organization of this thematic section is unintuitive to the point of being perplexing, with no index and no explanation of the order of the themes. Users will have to persevere in order to find the classing for the entry they seek. This is unfortunate, because in principle it is easier to search a known element in order to arrive at an unknown graphical representation of a sound. A further shortfall is that some onomatopoeias appear in simple list format in the thematic section but are not treated at all in the dictionary section; we have confirmation that these onomatopoeias exist, but there is no gloss in the dictionary section to reinforce the scholarship.

Over two-thirds of the work is composed of the alphabetical dictionary entries. Variant spellings are listed along with the headword; this practice is helpful to the scholar who wants to understand the breadth of the usage despite minimal differences in orthography. A very brief definition follows. The bulk of each entry comprises examples of the word in various citations. An historical tracing of the word’s first use and an assessment of its appearance in standard language dictionaries constitute the final part of each entry.

The glosses in the dictionary section carry minimal information about the headwords. Pronunciation is not indicated, potentially giving rise to questions about voicing of final consonants or general confusion about the sound-spelling correlation chosen for this dictionary. The introductory section indicates that all entries are treated as masculine nouns, but the glosses do not generally bear this information. Glosses can include verb derivatives; many do not. Register is only mentioned in the gloss if the word is used by children or is old-fashioned.

Within the dictionary section, there are no “see” references to guide the user to the variant chosen as a headword. Searching by sounds, especially ones that are not often written, is not a user-friendly search method. For purposes other than scholarly, the two sections of the dictionary really need to be used in tandem; it is unfortunate that there is no index linking the thematic section to the alphabetical dictionary section, and that entries do not necessarily appear in both sections.

One of the interesting points about this work is that it cites current authors, many of whom wrote in the 20th century. As one may expect, non-literary sources such as graphic novels are often included as well. Works by francophone authors from Frenchspeaking Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada figure among those cited. However, the nationality of the author is not indicated with the citation, only in the text of the introductory section. Unless the user is familiar with the francophone authors, he may not understand that the word comes from a source outside of the Hexagon.

Rounding out the work is an anthology of examples from literature and popular culture containing onomatopoeias. Bibliographies for the citations as well as a bibliography for works on onomatopoeias are included. Also present is an index of onomatopoeias. No relationship is established between the bold and standard font variant entries in this index and, page numbers are not included rendering this section somewhat difficult to use. A final one-page index lists the verbal forms of selected headwords but it is difficult to imagine how it pertains to the rest of the work.

In the introductory section, Enckell and Rézeau justify the inclusion of interjections such as “miam-miam” (“yummy”) and “hop” (sound made to accompany quick movement) along with the standard onomatopoeias. It is up to the reader to understand that words normally considered interjections in traditional dictionaries of the language are treated as onomatopoeias by the authors, and that these words will not necessarily be considered onomatopoeias universally.

The authors’ years of experience are evident in the content of this scholarly tome. Power users will delight in the comprehensiveness of the work and the fine, modern examples offered in the entries. Librarians, however, will likely be frustrated by the lack of useful indexing. The student of French will also have a more difficult time using the dictionary to its fullest.

Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental [Dictionary of the Gaulish Language: A Linguistic Approach to Old Continental Celtic]. Xavier Delamarre. Preface by Pierre-Yves Lambert. 2d rev. and expanded ed. Paris: Éditions Errance, 2003. 440 p. 24 cm. (Collection des Hespérides, ISSN 0982-2720). ISBN 2-87772-237-6: EUR 36

An RREA Original Review by William Sayers (Cornell University)

In recent decades, a small group of highly qualified researchers, fewer than a score by one count, has made enormous strides in extending our insight into one of the least well-documented and least well-known of the Celtic languages to be committed to writing: Gaulish, or the former language(s) of what is modern-day France. Despite token appreciation of the Gaulish past, fortified by Astérix, the French have been curiously slow to recognize the many achievements of pre-Roman Gaul and its decentralized society.

Pierre-Yves Lambert, one of the foremost of this hardy band, evokes some of the problems of Gaulish lexicography in his preface, a topic further developed in the compiler’s “Introduction.” As the brief review of sources indicates, materials to work with are scant and laconic: the stylized texts of inscriptions in a variety of alphabets (Etruscan, Greek, Roman); personal, divine, and place names; loans into classical languages and sub-stratum elements in French; and early and medieval glosses on works in other languages. Bilingual texts are few.

Delamarre situates Gaulish with reference to insular Celtic (Brythonic, Goidelic) and to Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit, as a distinct member of the Indo-European (IE) family, one not to be confused with the language of medieval and modern Brittany, which derives from early British Celtic. The focus is squarely on the lexeme and for the wider context of preservation the reader is referred to primary sources, with published inscriptions occupying primary place here.

A helpful preface to this revised edition leads to a list of abbreviations, 14 pages in all. The abbreviations will nonetheless be fairly rapidly mastered, relying common-sensically on well-known author names, acronyms for collections, or both. The dictionary proper consists of 950 entries (although the outdated blurb on the back cover refers to 800), certainly within a score or so of all that is known of Gaulish for the time being. Thus, the detailed discussion of individual entries, spread over almost exactly 300 pages, is quite ample. Head words are generally shorn of the diacritics used in linguistic reconstruction and represent the transliteration of attested forms or, where the scholarly ground is sound, hypothetical roots. The “linguistic approach” announced in the book’s subtitle is revealed as the pursuit of etymologies and cognates.

The remaining 110 pages open with a list of principal passages in Gaulish, with likely dates, identification of the material on which the inscription was made, etc. Here brief snippets of continuous Gaulish will be found with interpretation/translation. A succinct overview of what we can recover of Gaulish morphology is given. Then follows a comparison of Gaulish and Latin personal names and homonyms, a concept better known in English as cognates. A fascinating couple of pages are devoted to antonymical compound personal names, where the initial elements have a positive or negative charge. As in many classics in Indo-European studies to which this volume harks back, the work of comparativists is facilitated by indexes of personal and place names, etc., plus terms cited from other IE languages, ranging from neighboring Latin to distant Tokharian. Select words are singled out toward the end of the volume when they have equivalents in British, Irish or, inversely, are unrepresented there. Then follows a part of the book that will be most accessible to the non-specialist: Gaulish vocabulary ranged in semantic groups such as animals, buildings and roads, kinship, religion, and law. Martial activity bulks large here and, given the very nature of epigraphical prose, verbs are relatively few. Indicative of the current dynamic in Gaulish studies, several pages of corrections and additions complete the volume, these too indexed.

The entries are discursive, idiosyncratic, far-reaching, unlike the laconic, similarly structured entries in conventional single-language dictionaries, partaking more of the word history approach now favored through the addition of historical vignettes to selected words in some contemporary reference works. Two notation systems are employed, that of neogrammarians, and that in favor since the vogue of the laryngeal theory. In one sense the lexicographer is called on to recreate an entire culture, often with only partial success.

We may look for future re-editions of this fine work, with corrections, additions, and new entries, now that the Recueil des Inscriptions Gauloises (CNRS, 1985-2003) is fully published. Already it proves a worthy successor to the old standards, Holder’s Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz (1896-1913) and Dottin’s La langue gauloise (1920).

Ed. note: Two separate original reviews were inadvertently requested for the following title. Both reviews are printed here, as each articulates valuable insights and different emphases with respect to the title.

Dictionnaire des noms de familles et noms de lieux du midi de la France [Dictionary of Family and Place Names of Southern France]. Jacques Astor. Millau: Editions du Beffroi, 2002. 1,293 p. 27 cm. ISBN 2-908123-59-2: EUR 76

An RREA Original Review by Denis Lacroix (University of Alberta)

Jacques Astor’s novel approach to the onomastics of Southern France diachronically synthesizes past and current knowledge of the origin of family names into an intricate encyclopedic dictionary of 17,000 names. Thanks to the quality of its content and structure, the Dictionnaire des noms de familles et noms de lieux du midi de la France (hereinafter Dictionnaire), takes its place alongside the noteworthy works of Charles Camproux, Albert Dauzat, Charles Rostaing, Paul Fabre, and Marie-Thérèse Morlet. However, Astor distinguishes himself from his predecessors by fully integrating the study of family names with that of place names, which is subsumed under the term onomastics. Albert Dauzat, in Les Noms de personnes: origine et évolution (Paris, 1925, often reprinted), recognized the interdependence of family and place names, which show a similar linguistic evolution. Nevertheless, Dauzat did not attempt Astor’s daring scholarly enterprise of taking on, within the same work, both anthroponomy and toponymy, preferring to treat them separately. The Dictionnaire, the result of thirty years of work and research, adopts a holistic perspective, which may please the modern reader.

Astor not only corrects and supplements the work of his predecessors and contemporaries, but applies an alphabetic, thematic, and encyclopedic organizational method within a hypertextual context that makes his onomastic endeavor possible. The Dictionnaire organizes family and place names alphabetically within the dictionary portion of the work and the index. Although most of Astor’s work is encyclopedic in nature, there are two sections which stand out as such. The first establishes a sound historical linguistic base upon the morpho-phonetic and syntactic evolution of Latin into Occitan and French. Readers can use this linguistic study to better comprehend the principles of onomastic evolution and deepen their understanding of specific cases that are cross-referenced within the dictionary. The overtly encyclopedic portion of Astor’s work continues with the study of the linguistic contributions of the peoples of the Midi region of France, which Astor delineates within the 39 departments that comprise Aquitaine, Auvergne, Côte d’Azur, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Midi-Pyrénées, Provence-Alpes du Sud, and Rhône-Alpes. The morphemic analysis of oronyms (names of topographical elevations) and hydronyms (names of bodies of water) reveals a pre-Celtic linguistic substrate which is absent from anthroponyms. Astor then proceeds to describe the various contributions of the other Indo-European peoples who populated or inhabited southern France: Ligurians, Iberians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, and Germans. The contributions of Gaulish, Latin, and German are treated extensively. Finally, a comprehensive section deals with hagionymy, that is, the Christian roots of family and place names, which are organized chronologically according to the subject of honor: martyrs, bishops, hermits, priests, and biblical figures. The names are organized thematically and alphabetically in two separate indexes. It is the second that references the names to the dictionary and becomes the main point of entry into this resource.

Both Pierre-Henri Billy, in the preface, and information in Electre, a database of forthcoming, in-print, and out-of-print books published in all languages in France and of books published in the French language world-wide (www.mementolivres.com), indicate that the Dictionnaire is intended for the general public; however, certain modifications could increase this resource’s usability. Although Astor is to be applauded for using clear and concise language, and for providing a three-page glossary of linguistic terms, the general public will find the morpho-phonetic and syntactic section challenging to understand because of the linguistic terminology and symbols used. It would have been beneficial for Astor to have included an International Phonetic Alphabet table with corresponding French phonemes. Furthermore, a greater number of cross-references to the morpho-phonetic section and the thematic index would increase their usefulness. A hypertextual electronic version of this resource would facilitate referencing between sections and searching for instances of a name, relationships between names, and linguistic particularities. The electronic medium would permit a greater coverage of names, which, according to the preface by Pierre-Henri Billy, a paper format cannot do without becoming unwieldy. web sites, like Laurent Fordant’s La France de votre nom de famille (http://www.geopatronyme.com/) and Jean Tosti’s Le Dictionnaire des noms de famille de France et d’ailleurs (http://jeantosti.com/indexnoms.htm), already exist for the general public to find the French geographical origins of a patronym, as well as its meaning and linguistic evolution respectively. Although Astor’s dictionary is much more complex and erudite than either of these web sites, the Dictionnaire would be well supplemented by maps, like those of the Institut géographique national (IGN), which provides an online onomastic tool called Toponymie et noms de lieux .

Astor’s publication successfully addresses public demand for genealogical information and offers a resource that complements recent dictionaries on Southern French etymology and toponymy by Michel Grosclaude, Pierre-Gabriel Gonzalez, and Marie-Odile Mergnac. Astor’s work, however, is the only one that combines toponymy, anthroponomy, and hagionomy on a sound base of historical linguistics. The unique methodology and extensive content of this reference tool are a welcome addition to French onomastics collections of large academic libraries.

Dictionnaire des noms de familles et noms de lieux du midi de la France [Dictionary of Family and Place Names of Southern France]. Jacques Astor. Millau: Editions du Beffroi, 2002. 1,293 p. 27 cm. ISBN 2908123592: EUR 76

An RREAOriginal Review by Sarah Sussman (Stanford University).

This work examines the historic and linguistic foundations of 17,000 family and place names of southern France. Jacques Astor builds on earlier efforts of French toponymy and onomastics, particularly by Albert Dauzat, Marie-Thérèse Morlot, and Charles Rostaing, but focuses solely on the region of the langue d’oc. Arguing that place and family names are closely tied, with people being named after places and geographic phenomena such as mountains and waterways, and vice versa, Astor chooses to include both.

Offering more of an encyclopedic coverage than its title suggests, the dictionary is divided into several sections. Because the information is spread throughout the work, it benefits from a very complete alphabetical index. That said, a researcher could also find much of interest by browsing through the different sections, which are described below.

The work begins with an alphabetically-arranged name dictionary which aims to describe the original meaning or meanings of the word. In this section, entries for place names and family names include etymology, with information about different linguistic roots, as well as a history of pronunciation and spelling. If there are several common spellings for a name, these are included at the beginning of the entry. Towns and villages associated with the name or place are also cited. This is helpful, because many villages have identical, similar, or modified names, and also because names with the same root have frequently morphed into very different words, particularly in a region where various languages and local dialects commingled. Astor also describes other factors in the creation of diverse names from a single root. These include the effects of different accents, suffixes, genders, the use of compound terms, and specific cases where property owners’ names have been incorporated into place names. References to names with similar meanings (“du même domaine de sens”) are made, with “see also” notes and other internal indexing if applicable.

The second part of this work is the synthetic, or encyclopedic part (both terms are used, creating some confusion). It is divided into eight sections: toponyms with pre-Celtic, Ligurian, and Iberian roots; followed by Greek, Celtic, Latin, Germanic, and Christian influences. The explorations of Ligurian, Iberian, and Greek roots are minimal. In the other sections, though, Astor breaks down the names into their roots, and explains the meanings and their derivations. Many terms in the natural history of the region (rivers, mountains, etc.) and the family names that derive from them come from pre-Celtic or Gallic names or descriptive words. Likewise, Latin suffixes identify gallo-roman settlements and names. We learn that names with Germanic roots often derive from the invasions of Germanic tribes, while the section on Christian influences examines names originating in local and biblical saints, bishops, hermits, and abbeys.

The thematic index comes next. In a certain sense, it continues the focus of the previous section, but brings it up to the Middle Ages and beyond. Major themes include geographical and natural phenomena, such as mountains and woods and animals and plants; parts of the built environment, such as farms, chateaux, and villages; and terms associated with people, such as those related to the family, occupations, or physical aspects. This section is organized into broad categories, inviting browsing rather than alphabetical searching.

For this, one must use the alphabetical index. The index includes all names listed throughout the alphabetical name dictionary and the encyclopedic/synthetic section, even when they are just alternate spellings or examples. In fact, many of the terms in the index only appear in the “partie encyclopédique.”

While the index is the essential entry point to Astor’s dictionary, several other helpful tools are included as well. The short glossary of terms used in onomastic and toponymic research, found at the very end of the volume, is more of an index then a glossary. At the beginning of the volume are a user guide, a guide to abbreviations used in the text, a selective bibliography of scholarly works, and a rather detailed explanation of the linguistic specificities of southern France. Throughout the work, Astor places his research into the larger scholarship on the subject, and cites other scholars’ arguments when appropriate.

Astor’s Dictionnaire des noms de familles et noms de lieux du midi de la France is a worthy complement to other works on French onomastics. It is more encyclopedic than its name implies, and offers the added benefit of being written in an engaging style. That said, it is not clear who the intended audience is for this work, which seems to be aimed both at the specialist and at the amateur interested in learning more about a family name.

For this reason, it is suggested for libraries serving a broad French-speaking public and for non-French institutions that serve specialists on the French Midi.

Dictionnaire des prénoms [Dictionary of First Names]. Chantal Tanet and Tristan Hordé. Paris: Larousse, 2000. 480p. 24 cm. ISBN 2035320097: EUR 21

An RREA Original Review by Denis Lacroix (University of Alberta)

Chantal Tanet and Tristan Hordé’s Dictionnaire des prénoms (hereinafter Dictionnaire is grounded on the onomastic knowledge-base of Albert Dauzat, Marie-Thérèse Morlet, and Marianne Mulon and covers painting, music, dance, cinema, and literature from the Middle Ages to the end of the 20th century. Through its historical discussion of the evolution of French names in France, the Dictionnaire builds on other onomastic works published by Larousse, such as Dauzat’s Dictionnaire etymologique des noms de famille et prénoms de France and Pierrard’s Dictionnaire des prénoms et des saints. Unlike Dauzat, who examines family names along with first names, Tanet and Hordé study only first names as they currently exist or have existed in France. While this encyclopedic dictionary indexes only a small quantity of names—3,000 as opposed to 10,000 in L’Officiel des prénoms, de A à Z (Paris, 2004)the quality of its historical information is impressive. It examines the cross-cultural permanency of a core of first names, in order to give witness to the diversity of social and religious perspectives in France. Tanet and Hordé, however, predict neither the future popularity of names nor their probable frequency, unlike the popular annual publication La Cote des prénoms (Paris, 1994-).

The encyclopedic nature of this work goes beyond the linguistic aspects of first names: it establishes their historical, cultural, sociological, and international significance. Each entry begins in bold print and indicates the gender of the name, its linguistic origin and evolution, as well as a number of pertinent cross-references to other first names; unfortunately, phonetic transcriptions of names are not included. Depending on the informational richness of the name, each entry has up to four sections that are identified with a distinctive symbol clearly explained at the beginning of the dictionary. The first section contains orthographic variants of the name, whether gender-specific or ancient, relations to family names, as well as foreign borrowings, and countries of origin. Next, there may be historical information on a relevant plant, patron saint, or biblical, mythological, or literary character. The last two sections situate the first name within past or present society and culture, be it films , songs, or literary or musical works. Past usage and popularity are also mentioned. A calendar of the feast days of saints annexed at the end of the book only includes the patron saints whose names are recognized by the dictionary; therefore, certain saints are absent, while others appear twice, in order to fill the gaps left by their missing companions. The annex also includes a bibliography and an index, which references the orthographic, regional, or international variants of first names to their official dictionary listing.

Despite its low name count, the Dictionnaire should not be underestimated as a useful reference tool. It is helpful in identifying the literary or musical works that feature a particular first name, as well as historical and linguistic references. An index to the dictionary’s aforementioned encyclopedic topics, however, would have enhanced access to this wealth of information. Readers may also value a list of supplementary biographical readings on some of the main historical figures that have come to represent a name.

Although some trendy first names, like Zidane or Jospin, are not included, because the authors do not yet esteem them as having permanent value, English names, such as Edwin, Elvis, Emmy, Warren, and Wendy, which the authors ironically recognize as not being popular in France, are included. Understandably, the Dictionnaire’s cultural sensitivity extends to Arab first names, like Aziz and Mohammed, in order to acknowledge France’s large Arabic population. However, that is the extent of this dictionary’s multiculturalism; it does not even include first names from francophone regions outside of France. In fact, the authors have completely overlooked the Dom-Toms, even though they contribute much to French anthroponomy through names such as Loane (Martinique), Dolaine (Réunion), and Pétélo (Wallis and Futuna). Following the Dictionnaire’s format, entries for such names would necessarily include historical figures and cultural works from those regions, which would add richness and comprehensiveness to the volume. There are, however, a few parsimonious listings with a Canadian connection: the name Marie-Pier, and an erroneous reference, indexed under Pélagie, which attributes the authorship of Pélagie-la- Charette to Anne Hébert instead of Antonine Maillet.

The Dictionnaire des prénoms has been created to be within the reach of the general public. The language is clear, concise, and free of jargon. The articles are entertaining and read like stories; therefore, one should not be misled by the apparent dryness of the title. Both public and academic libraries will find this reference resource capable of satisfying their patrons’ basic onomastic needs and providing the inspiration for further research.

Gran diccionario de uso del Español actual [Comprehensive Dictionary of Contemporary Spanish Usage]. Ed. Aquilino Sánchez. Madrid: Sociedad General Española de Librería (SGEL), 2001. 2,133 p. 25 cm. ISBN 8471438720: EUR 60; also available in an edition with a CD-ROM, ISBN 8497782240: EUR 48 (according to the publisher’s web site)

Diccionario de uso del español de América y España [Dictionary of Spanish Usage in America and Spain]. Barcelona: SPES Editorial, 2002. xxiii, 2,022 p. 27 cm. ISBN 8483323494: $50; 25 free look-ups available at http://www.diccionarios.com/

Nuevo diccionario de voces de uso actual [New Dictionary of Contemprary Spoken Usage]. Manual Alvar Ezquerra. Madrid: Arco Libros, 2003. xiv, 1,371 p. 25 cm. ISBN 8476355602 (hardbound): EUR 57.20

An RREA Original Review by Anne Barnhart (University of California-Santa Barbara)

As human beings constantly modify language and invent new terms, new dictionaries are published to bridge the gap between the official version and the versions used on a daily basis by speakers of that language. Recently three such usage dictionaries have been published in Spain. They are similar in that they all treat contemporary usage; however, their content and purposes differ. The first two are the most similar in their structure but their focuses vary.

Gran diccionario de uso del Español actual (GDUEA)— The GDUEA’s main source is the CUMBRE database, described by Prof. Aquilino Sánchez of the Universdiad de Murcia in Cumbre: corpus lingüístico del español contemporáneo (SGEL, 1995). In the introduction to the dictionary, Sánchez promotes the GDUEA as a tool for all speakers of Spanish both native and non-native. Entries are separated to indicate hyphenation. There are also phonetic spellings to assist the user with pronunciation. The suggested pronunciation, however, reflects the accent of the Iberian Peninsula. He draws on literary as well as non-literary, written and oral sources noting that “it has been and will be always the speakers who end up fixing uses and sanctioning the practical differences that can coexist. The so-called linguistic authorities do no more than recognize—and in general with notable delay—these uses” (p. 7, emphasis in the original).

The GDUEA covers terms from all Spanish-speaking countries, and foreign terms if they are used often enough. There is a strong bias toward Iberian Spanish. The default region in the definitions is Spain; regional markers are added to definitions only if they are Latin Americanisms. For example, the term “tía” has one definition as a colloquial way youth treat each other. The fact that this is only used this way in Spain is not noted. “Chamo/a” is a similar example, but its definition notes that this is a form of address used in Venezuela. Some other Americanisms are not included or are not as precisely defined. While the term “chamba” is listed as “AMER for job,” the definition for “pega” does not mention this meaning and the term “laburo” is missing. The definition for “chomba” notes that the term is used similarly in Argentina and Chile. Another notable absence is the usage of “lana” (wool) to mean “money.” The term “password,” however, is included. Entries for Americanisms are given peninsular synonyms, but peninsularisms do not point to their Americanist counterparts.

To create the GDUEA, the editors added new terms to the Cumbre corpus and then used computers to analyze the usage frequency of all the terms in the dictionary. The computers reviewed the twenty million examples of word usage, then ranked the terms by their frequency according to the following degrees:

  1. low frequency (up to 3 uses per million);

  2. moderate frequency (3-10 uses/million);

  3. notable frequency (11-25 uses/million);

  4. high frequency (26-75 uses/million);

  5. very high frequency (more than 75 uses/million).

If an entry does not have one of these numbers, then its usage frequency was determined to be insignificant.

Diccionario de uso del Español de América y España (DUEAE) —The DUEAE is a panhispanic effort to “reflect today’s Spanish language in its general and anonymous use” (p. vii). Its compilers used literary as well as non-literary sources and oral as well as written. The preface notes that the entries were selected based on the frequency of their use and the “necessity in society” of the terms. And the scope represents “all of the geographically important varieties of the Spanish language” (p. viii). The entries include register or “intention” notes such as formal, colloquial, vulgar (“malsonante”), pejorative, euphemism, and infantile. There are also regional markers ranging from the specific to the very broad (“River Plate” “Argentina” “Southern Cone” “ South America”) depending on how widespread the usage of a particular term is. Unfortunately, the DUEAE has few etymological notes. Of 53,000 entries and 112,000 definitions, only 4,000 include etymological references.

The DUEAE does not favor one regional Spanish over another; each definition is written as a standard entry with synonyms listed at the end. Often usage dictionaries will favor one term over another, instead of repeating the definitions. In the DUEAE, for example, the definitions for “palta” and “aguacate” [avocado] are the same except the latter has “SIN [synonym] palta” and the former has “SIN aguacate” as well as a regional note “ASUR” [South America]. The editors could have written “ palta: ASUR for aguacate”; however, they made the conscious and political decision to give each regionalism the same value. This is a significant decision, but it is one that drives up the cost of the dictionary, as it required the editor to use more pages.

The DUEAE’s coverage is fairly comprehensive, including slang terms and even the names of regional foods (“kuchen,” a pastry from Chile is included). Some regional markers may not be the most current (“malaleche,” for example is labeled as Spain; but the term is used so commonly in Chile that it was the title of a 2004 feature film from that country). It is also weak on Anglicisms—for example the term “password” was not included. These weaknesses are minor in comparison with its strength of attention to detail: the entry for “chamba” states that it is used as “job” in Mexico and Peru; “pega” is “job” in Chile, Colombia, and Peru; and “laburo” is “job” in Argentina and Uruguay. The DUEAE also notes that in Argentina “ chomba” is a short-sleeved shirt, whereas in Chile, Bolivia, and Peru it is a long-sleeved one. And “lana” is defined as a popular term for money.

The DUEAE also includes tables and text boxes explaining certain concepts (accents, numerals, punctuation marks) in greater detail. Unlike other dictionaries in which stumbling across these helpful inserts is left to serendipity, the DUEAE provides an index to these tables and sections.

Nuevo diccionario de voces de uso actual (NDVUA)—The NDVUA has a different purpose behind its production. It is designed to be a complement to the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (DRAE), presenting “a catalog of new lexical creations and incorporations to the language” (viii). The introduction states that of the 23,604 entries, 13,563 of these are not found in the DRAE.

This volume represents terms used in Spanish periodicals in the 1990s and through the end of the year 2000, but not included in the latest DRAE. Each entry indicates the periodicals in which the term was found. The NDVUA is not a panhispanic endeavor: while the referenced periodicals include 55 from Spain, there are only 13 from Latin America (representing 12 nations including Mexico and South and Central America, but not the Caribbean). The author notes that the Latin American titles consulted were limited to those with online versions. In the case of Spanish journals, he also consulted their many regional editions when available and accessible (for example, with Diario 16 the Andalucia, Madrid, and Malaga editions, as well as the special editions for the European Cup and the 2000 Olympics).

The NDVUA includes foreign terms ignored by the Vox DUEAE such as “ password” and “pokemon.” The entries indicate whether the word is a foreign borrowing or if the term is used by a specific demographic group (the word “kelo” is defined as a term used by youth meaning “house”). Latin American terms that end up being used in the Spanish press do not have notes tracing their origin. For example, the expression “de puta madre” has been used in Latin America to express something of significance since before the 1990s. However, the Spanish press did not publish the term until the mid 1990s and this is why it is included in this volume.

Of the three dictionaries, the DUEAE is the best for everyday users who wish to find definitions for terms used throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Due to its inclusive structure, the DUEAE is equally useful for Latin Americans as for Iberians. The SGEL GDUEA seems better for linguists than for everyday users, because its main strength is its usage frequency statistics. While these statistics are probably skewed toward Iberian speakers, the statistics could provide interesting data to a linguistic research project. Nor is the NDVUA recommended as a basic reference tool for native speakers. Its audience is primarily linguistic historians and those trying to influence the nature and content of the DRAE.

Diccionario panhispánico de refranes, de autoridades e ideológico, basado en principios históricos que demuestran cuándo se ha utilizado un refrán, cómo se ha empleado y quién lo ha utilizado, con proverbios, adagios, dichos, frases y sentencias de la lengua castellana. Una antología de los refranes documentados en las letras hispánicas [Panhispanic Dictionary of Proverbs, from Authorities and Thematic, Based on Historical Principles that Demonstrate When a Proverb Has Been Used, How It Has Been Employed, and Who Has Used It, with Proverbs, Adages, Sayings, Phrases, and Sentences of the Castilian Language. An Anthology of the Proverbs Documented in Hispanic Letters]. Delfín Carbonell Basset. Barcelona: Herder, 2002. 527 p. 22 cm. ISBN 84-254-2232-9: EUR 34

An RREA Original Review by Patricia Figueroa (Brown University)

Best known as the author and compiler of the Gran diccionario del argot. El Sohez, Delfín Carbonell Basset now introduces the reader to an in-depth study of documented Hispanic proverbs.

The Diccionario panhispánico de refranes (DPR) is a scholarly dictionary of Hispanic proverbs with authorities or quoted sources. According to Carbonell, the proverbs collected are used throughout the Spanish-speaking world, though often in different variants and forms.

In his introduction, the author claims that his work is the first recorded attempt to compile such a reference tool. To Carbonell his DPR is not a mere refranero [a compilation of proverbs], but rather a dictionary of proverbs with quoted authorities based on “purely lexicographical research and rules, supported by documentary evidence.” He provides the meaning of each proverb, as well as documenting how it was used (by providing quotes), when it was used (by providing dates), who employed them (by providing names), where they were used (by providing citations to magazines, journals, newspapers, and television programs), and in what countries.

Through most of his 1,400 entries, Carbonell provides sourced examples by citing and quoting classical through contemporary Spanish and Latin American writers, as well as programs and personalities in the media. Each entry includes a paraphrase, and some have indications of regional use.

The emphasis is historical-cultural as well as linguistic. Carbonell defines the word refrán [proverb] as a “phraseological unit” with a “didactic and moralizing” meaning. Though he includes a number of sayings, these, along with the proverbs, must hold a “pseudo-philosophical truth” that is “edifying” to the individual or culture.

Carbonell questions the general notion of proverbs as “popular wisdom,” often qualifying them as clichés, or phrases full of superstition. He points out that proverbs can often be the result of the ignorance of the people, and that over the ages many have been distorted from their original meaning or intention. He also makes a distinction between the popular and the vulgar.

His selection criteria are based on what he considers documented material. By documented, Carbonell understands proverbs recorded in texts other than dictionaries and refraneros. This criterion may seem vague at times and the author has no qualms in admitting that his work is by no means perfect or most comprehensive, but rather “a drop in the ocean.”

The structure of the DPR is quite simple and clearly presented. The entries are listed alphabetically under keyword headings. The headings are in bold and also follow an alphabetical order. The citations given under an entry are arranged chronologically, if the date is specified. The author also provides a limited number of thematic headings that serve as cross-references to the keyword headings.

The DPR provides a table of contents, a key to symbols and acronyms, citations, crossreferences, and a 28-page bibliography, but no index.

A solid hardcover volume printed in good quality paper and with a legible font, the DPR is a needed reference addition to libraries with research-level collections in Spanish and Latin American language and literature.


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Last update: July 15, 2007 [TB]
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