BC - Philology; Languages and Linguistics

Dictionnaire des langues [Dictionary of Languages]. Ed. Emilio Bonvini, Joëlle Busuttil, and Alain Peyraube. Paris: PUF, 2011. xxv, 1705 p. 20 cm. (Quadrige; Dicos poche). ISBN 9782130569145: EUR 49.90

An RREA Original Review by David Bade (University of Chicago)

The editors of this dictionary of languages begin by explaining that it is the latest volume of an encyclopedic project initiated in 1995 by Sylvain Auroux. Thus it is a dictionary not of short definitions like many of those already available in English, but of encyclopedic descriptions of languages. The descriptions are based on a standard format: an introductory section on the historical and cultural context, followed by sections on writing system, phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicology, and concluding with a short bibliography. In this respect it is quite different from other standard dictionaries of language such as the Ethnologue (Dallas, 1951-) and David Crystal’s An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Language & Languages (Oxford, 1992), which include only classificatory and geographical definitions without any grammatical description. Another key distinctive feature that this volume offers the reader are the largely French perspectives of the authors of the individual articles. Claude Hagège on Arabic and Marie-Lise Beffa on Mongolian will certainly interest specialists in those languages, to mention only two of the 151 contributors.

Perhaps as a consequence of its depth of detail, the editors have limited the scope of the dictionary. In the face of 6,909 languages in the world today (figure from the 16th edition of Ethnologue, viewed online 26 September 2012) and the disparity of status among them, the editors have chosen to include only those languages that have either the status of a national language or languages that are used by important groups of human communities for communication purposes, including liturgical languages otherwise long “dead.” The foreword states that nearly 200 languages and language families are described in the dictionary, while the introduction states that systematic descriptions are provided for about 130 languages. Thus, for example, in the section on Bantu languages, one finds entries only for Bafia, Swahili, Kikongo, and Tswana, while in the section on modern Germanic languages, one finds English, German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Alsatian dialects, and Yiddish—but not Afrikaans, Frisian, Faroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, or Pennsylvania Dutch. Of the languages of Indonesia and Malaysia, we find entries for Malay and Indonesian, the national languages, but not Javanese—spoken by 85 million people, according to the 2000 census of Indonesia—nor Balinese. Languages of Africa and the Americas are covered primarily by a handful of entries for individual languages and a few entries for larger groupings of language families.

The result is dissatisfying. As an encyclopedic dictionary, one would expect it to be of service precisely to those interested in finding out something about Frisian and Faroese (for example) who have no expectation of detailed grammatical descriptions. Instead, we find not only brief descriptions of details of the major languages, too short to be of any use to a working linguist, but also a lack of any discussion or description of the other 6,700 or more languages in the world. Of course, it is not the only dictionary of languages to offer such a frustrating set of constraints; there is no shortage of dictionaries of languages that offer much less than one would hope for. Andrew Dalby’s Dictionary of Languages (New York, 1998) boasts of more than 400 languages, but at only a little over 700 pages it simply offers half as much information for twice as many languages. Crystal’s dictionary (cited above) covers not only languages but the whole world of linguistic terminology in 428 pages. The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, edited by Keith Brown (2d ed. Oxford, 2005), includes entries for only 400 languages in spite of being issued in 14 large volumes. Similar problems also plague such standardized monographs as are published in the Routledge Language Family Series. This dictionary unfortunately combines the brief boiler-plate descriptions of the Routledge series with the restricted scope of an encyclopedia for the layperson. The question that needs to be asked is, “Who are these linguists writing for?” If for the non-linguist, then the lack of detail is irrelevant, but the absence of most of the world’s languages is troubling; Ethnologue is more comprehensive and easier to use, both in print and online. On the other hand, if the dictionary is meant for linguists, not only are the omissions problematic, but the poverty of description and limited bibliographies are also inexplicable. Perhaps a different title describing this work as “an encyclopedia of national languages” would not have invited the above criticisms.

In short, this Dictionnaire des langues is neither better nor worse than any other dictionary of languages. In scope, in detailed description, and in bibliographical references, it barely scratches the surface of the world’s languages and research on them. With its illustrious contributors and French perspective, this book would be important for readers and library collections concerned with French or European contributions to linguistics. On the other hand, if all that is desired is a usable dictionary or encyclopedia of languages, then there is no need to acquire this volume when other dictionaries such as those mentioned earlier in this review are already available.

Elektronische Informationsressourcen für Germanisten [Electronic Resources for Germanists]. Klaus Gantert. Berlin [et al.]: de Gruyter Saur, 2010. 323 p. ill. 24 cm. (Bibliothekspraxis, 40). ISBN 978-3-598-21169-0: EUR 59.95 [11-2]

In the ever-expanding realm of internet access, and in the light of increased study and growth in Germanistik [the study of Germanic languages and literatures] in higher education, this work gathers together the most important electronic resources in the study of the Germanic languages and literatures. It is by no means complete, but it identifies a large number of electronic resources—databases, library catalogs, bibliographies, journal literature, quality websites, the Virtuelle Fachbibliothek Germanistik [The Germanistic Virtual Special Library], and many other resources. And it is also available as an e-book (http://www.degruyter.com/view/product/41979?format=EBOK).

Klaus Gantert, a professor of librarianship at the Fachhochschule für Öffentliche Verwaltung und Rechtspflege [School of Public Administration and Law] in Munich writes clearly and precisely about these resources, emphasizing key competencies in database research and critical evaluation of these resources and their possibilities. Very helpful are his descriptions of the national bibliographies, including the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke [Union Catalog of Incunabula], sections VD 16 through VD 18, and subject databases like the MLA, BDS Online, Germanistik, Linguistic Bibliography Online and the BREPOLIS Medieval Bibliographies Online. Special attention is given to databases like the Weimarer Goethe-Bibliographie online, the almost indispensable Quellenlexikon zur deutschen Literaturgeschichte [Encyclopedia of Sources in German Literary History], as well as regional bibliographies and bibliographies of translations (e.g., Index translationum]. In the same detailed way the author introduces journal indexes, full-text databases, and journal archives.

Through the thicket of perplexities of internet searching, such as gathering too many results, or not the right results, or being unable to distinguish types of resources retrieved (he describes them as extremely heterogeneous), Gantert emphasizes the need to understand the principles of relevance-ranking of results and the further construction of more complex search queries in order to retrieve a manageable set of search results. It is also important to recognize the character of databases and to distinguish among the databases on the basis of scholarly-vs-general databases, as many scholars tend to gravitate toward the more general-content databases.

In this regard, then, Gantert outlines these kinds of specialized databases on the basis of their respective chief characteristics: medieval studies; information about persons; information about corporate bodies; electronic texts and digital libraries; encyclopedias; dictionaries; reviews; literature in newspapers; scholarly communication; and literary life. Here he describes with noteworthy clarity resources such as Wikipedia (the German version), Johann Heinrich Zedler’s 18th-century Großes Universal-Lexikon [Comprehensive Universal Encyclopedia], Heinz Ludwig Arnold’s Kritisches Lexikon zur deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur [Critical Dictionary of Contemporary German- Language Literature], Georg Friedrich Benecke, Wilhelm Müller, and Friedrich Zarncke’s 19th-century Mittelhochdeutsches Wörterbuch [Dictionary of Middle High German, commonly referred to as the BMZ], and Johann Christoph Adelung’s 18th-century Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der hochdeutschen Mundart [Grammitical-Critical Dictionary of the High German Vernacular]. An appendix contains a brief bibliography, a combined name, place, and subject index, and an index of the resources covered in this volume.

All these features are indeed most praiseworthy, but the book also contains a list of 43 errata of “technical errors,” which for a publisher of this rank seems excessive, especially for the price. This objection aside, seldom has a publication on resources for Germanistic studies been as convincing as this one. [hjb/ga]

Deutsche Sprichwörter mit Erläuterungen [German Proverbs, with Annotations]. Johann Christian Siebenkees. Reprint of the 1790 Nürnberg Edition. Hiildesheim: Olms, 2011. 69, 135, [17] p. ill. 20 cm. (Volkskundliche Quellen, 7: Sprichwort). ISBN 978-3-487-14496-2: EUR 47.80 [12-1]

Within the series Volkskundliche Quellen, the sub-series Sprichwort specializes in reprints from private and public ethnographic libraries. In spite of all the available Google snippets, the internet has yet to produce such skillfully and meticulously edited sources.

In his lengthy foreword to this volume, Wolfgang Mieder provides a glimpse into the life and work of Johann Christian Siebenkees (1753-1841), as well as an overview of the relevant literature, proverbs of the 18th century, and insight into proverb research of the period.

Originally published anonymously, this volume assembles, categorizes, and annotates 300 idioms, but excludes proverb-like phrases, aphorisms, and moral sayings, because in Siebenkees’ view, although they are interesting for cultural history they do not contain any “general truths.” He notes the difficulty of distinguishing among these genres, which is not very important as they are still “instructive.” Siebenkees utilized earlier collections, with Joachim Christian Blum’s Deutsches Sprichwörterbuch (Leipzig, 1780-1782) being particularly influential on this text. In fact, there are 77 overlapping entries. Siebenkees’ commentaries include what Mieder calls “variations.” These “variations” illustrate similar situations but in different ways and using different images, and provide both positive and negative interpretations of the proverbs. Siebenkees’ work also supported later dictionaries, such as Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Wanter’s Deutsches Sprichwörterlexikon (see RREA 8:207 for a review of the Directmedia 2001 CD-ROM version).

While later collections are arranged alphabetically by keyword, this collection of 300 proverbs is arranged loosely by theme. Systematization of the entire collection is a task that Siebenkees was unable to complete. An alphabetical index assists in solving this problem. Siebenkees’ work provides researchers the original meanings of proverbs and provides examples via stories and anecdotes, with sources from oral lore to newspaper articles. Subsequent collections, including one that promised a bibliography of proverbs, were never realized. The bibliography contains 109 entries, categorized thematically: (1) Writings about Johann Christian Siebenkees [10 documents]; (2) A selection of Siebenkees’ writings [30 documents]; (3) Bibliographies of materials about 18th-century proverbs; (4) Important 18th-century collections of proverbs; (5) Materials about the proverb in the 18th century; and (6) Proverbs in 18th-century German literature, including works by Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, and Lichtenberg.

This volume also includes two portraits of the author. The extensive preface, authored by Wolfgang Mieder, provides a reliable overview of 18th-century paremiology. [wh/jmw]

Lexiko syno¯nymo¯n-anto¯nymo¯n te¯s neas he¯llenike¯s glo¯ssas: lexilogikos the¯sauros [Lexicon of Synonyms-Antonyms of the Modern Greek Language: A Lexicological Thesaurus]. Geo¯rgios D. Bampinio¯te¯s. Athe¯na: Kentro Lexikologias, 2011. 1240 p. 25 cm. ISBN 9789608975194: EUR 54

An RREA Original Review by Anthony J. Oddo (Yale University)

This very large volume is a comprehensive alphabetically arranged lexicon of Modern Greek synonyms and antonyms. The introduction provides compact information on how best to use this resource. Of particular importance, the introduction lists and defines the many abbreviations used in the entries. These abbreviations may indicate usage in a particular field of research (e.g., biology) or profession (such as law). All entries are derived from current Modern Greek language usage. Under each entry, both synonyms and antonyms are typically listed. For example, for thalassinos [of the sea (adjective) or seaman (noun)], the synonyms pontios [of the sea (adjective) or seaman (noun)] and enalios [of the sea (adjective only)] are cited, as well as the antonyms stepianos [firm ground (noun)] and chersaios [of the land (adjective)]. If an appropriate antonym does not exist, only a synonym is given, such as paidaki [small chop] under kotoleta [cutlet]. When necessary, the compiler has supplied examples of phrases demonstrating word use. There are numerous cross-references to the proper form of an entry. The lexicon closes with a highly selected bibliography of the major Greek and non-Greek resources on synonyms and antonyms.

Lexiko syno¯nymo¯n-anto¯nymo¯n te¯s neas he¯llenike¯s glo¯ssas is designed to support research in Modern Greek linguistics for Greek-language speakers. In North America, this dictionary would be an important addition to a reference collection of an academic or major research library supporting research in these areas.

Dictionnaire bambara-français: suivi d’un index abrégé français-bambara [Bambara-French Dictionary: Followed by a French-Bambara Index]. Gérard Dumestre. Paris: Karthala, 2011. 1187 p. 24 cm. (Dictionnaires et langues). ISBN 9782811105426: EUR 54 (paper) EUR 43 (e-book)

An RREA Original Review by David Bade (University of Chicago)

Bambara (also known as Bamana or Bamanankan) is the most widely spoken language of Mali, with 3,000,000 speakers when Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast], Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania, and Senegal are included. It has often been considered to be a dialect of Maninkakan (e.g., by Maurice Delafosse in his La langue mandingue et ses dialects (malinké, bambara, dioula) [The Mandingo Language and its Dialects (Malinke, Bambara, Dyula)], (Paris, 1955), and indeed many varieties of Maninkakan are similar and largely mutually intelligible with Bambara.

Although nowhere indicated in the present dictionary, it is clearly a revision of the author’s earlier dictionary of the same title published in nine volumes (Paris, 1981- 1992), with the addition of a French-Bambara index. It is indeed a major revision, involving far more than merely making a few corrections or updates and combining the contents into a single volume. There are many more entries in this volume than in all nine volumes of the earlier set put together—50,000+ entries as a rough estimate (Dumestre gives no number). This number is also considerably more than the 11,000 entries in the other major Bambara dictionary published recently, Charles Bailleul’s Dictionnaire bambara-français [Bambara-French Dictionary] (Bamako, 2007). For example, in its first three pages alone, this 2011 dictionary contains the following entries not included in the first edition: á [interjection expressing disapproval; also, pronounced very short and high, an interjection expressing surprise], ákara [bean fritters], áladeli [prayer to God], áladeliseben [amulet], álafarankan [divine aid], álahadi [Sunday, little used], and álakira [Muhammad, the Prophet]. Yet in spite of the increase in the number of entries, some of the words included in the 1981 dictionary, such as ábuka (Persea gratissima, avocatier [avocado tree], avocat [avocado]) and áderesi [address], are not in this 2011 one. Other differences between the 1981 dictionary and the present one include tone marking (there are more and different tone markings in the entry forms of the latter than the former), fuller definitions, more examples, a French index, a list of 329 sources (270 more than in the 1981 publication), and a much better, more readable physical format and layout.

There are a number of significant differences between Dumestre’s dictionary and Bailleul’s beyond simply the number of entries. Dumestre bases his dictionary on the standard urban language and that of the Ségou Region of Mali, whereas Bailleul included material from many dialects as well as archaic and rural terms not found in urban speech. Most importantly, Dumestre utilizes material from far more published sources, and he provides an abundance of examples of usage, keying each example to the printed sources from which it is taken. This practice, in conjunction with his use of the official orthography (the transcriptions of linguist-lexicographers and the spelling found in the published texts in African languages often being at variance), makes this volume one of the most easy-to-use dictionaries of African languages for reading.

Dumestre’s 2011 Dictionnaire bambara-français is almost everything that one could ever hope to find in a dictionary. No other dictionary of Bambara comes close to it in size, scope, or usability. An exquisite volume that is also available as an e-book, a copy belongs in every linguistics or African studies collection; it would also be an excellent addition to collections covering West African migration and diaspora.

Dictionnaire berbère-français [Berber-French Dictionary]. Driss Azdoud. Paris: Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2011. 596 p. 21 cm. (Méditerranée-Sud). ISBN 9782735111633: EUR 49

An RREA Original Review by David Bade (University of Chicago)

This bilingual Berber-French dictionary records the dialect of Tamazight spoken by the Aït Brahim, one group of the Aït Hadiddou, a Berber tribe of the High Atlas in Central Morocco. Since the dictionary is intended to reflect local speech, not an official standard, the entries are in romanized transcription rather than in the tifinagh Berber script officially adopted in Morocco in 2003. It was written to function not only as a linguistic description of the dialect, but also as a pedagogical dictionary for learners and as an encyclopedia of cultural information about the Aït Hadiddou. Based on research conducted in 1984 and 1994, only terms then currently in common use are included; archaic and specialized terms of flora, fauna, and medicine are not covered, but words of popular sexual and scatological slang are. It includes grammatical information in each entry as well as notes on etymology and examples of usage, in addition to the French equivalent or equivalents.

While Azdoud’s dictionary is one of a number of bilingual Tamazight dictionaries that have appeared during the past couple of decades, with 1,869 entries and 2,834 derivations it appears to be the largest one devoted to a single dialect—certainly the largest one involving a European language rather than Arabic—and the only one devoted solely to the dialect of Aït Hadiddou; his 1985 thesis Lexique et textes des Ait Hadiddou (Maroc central) [Vocabulary and Texts of the Aït Hadiddou (Central Morocco)] at the École pratique des hautes e´tudes [Institute of Advanced Studies], Paris, included a more limited vocabulary. Brahim Ben Taleb’s recent Dictionnaire franc¸ais-tamazigt [French-Tamazigt Dictionary] (Algiers?, 2012?) is much shorter and deals with a different dialect, while Miloud Taïfi’s Dictionnaire tamazight-franc¸ais: parlers du Maroc central [Tamazight-French Dictionary: The Speech of Central Morocco] (Paris, 1992), although much longer, includes material from several dialects.

The virtues of the volume are its shortcomings, as well. The transcription based on local speech is important for the dialectologist, but it is a phonemic transcription and therefore offers one linguist’s analysis rather than a stricter phonetic transcription that might suggest different analyses. It provides a description of the lexicon current in a particular community but provides no information on how these terms compare to the speech of other communities across time and space. It contains a wealth of cultural information about Aït Hadiddou society in its description of the semantics and usage of the vocabulary of all social classes, genders, and ages but does not indicate whether particular words are associated with a particular group or groups. Variations are noted; however, no information about the circumstances under which the variants were collected is offered to situate the variation (i.e., whether it does or does not correlate with any social, geographical, or generational factors). These omissions are, of course, shortcomings only for those who would like such information included in a dictionary, and few dictionaries attempt to provide such detail.

Despite those limitations, Dictionnaire berbère-français is a well-researched, wellorganized, and well-made dictionary that this reviewer would be happy to have on his shelf, and it makes a good addition to any collection serving those interested in linguistics or Berber society.

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