The present paper discusses some methodological issues related to histories of dictionary genres which emerged during the author's work on a dictionary of metalexicography. The author's part in this collaborative project was to describe genre terms in line with the established lexicographical typologies, but this task turned out to be more difficult than expected. The first problem is whether the histories of particular genres are worthy of mention at all, since a diachronic component in a primarily synchronic dictionary may be seen as largely irrelevant by the target users. Moreover, the decision whether to include historical information is bound to affect the overall framework of description. If historical facts are admitted into a few dictionary articles, particularly those describing major genres, e.g., the monolingual or bilingual dictionary, the structure of the remaining articles should be modified accordingly. The second issue is that little is in fact known about the developmental trends of some minor lexicographical genres. Some types, such as the reverse or pronouncing dictionary, have had an acknowledged history in English dictionary-making tradition, but are not described adequately in the specialist literature. Sometimes no information is available on the development of some genres, e.g., the hybrid or semi-bilingual dictionary, so it is unclear whether one can search successfully for their roots. Other genres, including the active or passive dictionary, are too new to have a decent history, which is another dilemma that needs to be dealt with consistently. Finally, limited evidence makes the very existence of a handful of genres, such as the alternative or combinatorial dictionary, somewhat controversial.
Selected Proceedings of the 2008 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis (HEL-LEX 2)
edited by R. W. McConchie, Alpo Honkapohja, and Jukka Tyrkkö
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