CHWP B.7 Kibbee, "16th-Century Bilingual Dictionaries (French-English)"

1. Lexicographic Practices

In this first part, I shall present an inventory of features, both common and distinctive, found in these dictionaries. Some authors address the lexicographic issues directly, either in the preface or elsewhere in the body of the text, but the answers provided within the dictionary are usually more telling than those furnished in the prefaces. As we present such features, we must constantly ask ourselves why the authors have chosen to do what they have done. Without such inquiry, we will find only isolated nuggets (however shiny!) and miss the rich seam of words.

1.1. Which languages will be included?

None of the lexicographers studied here justifies the choice of languages, although Baret laments the exclusion of many Greek equivalents in the 1573 edition, a failing which he blames on his printer. The order of languages is one way of showing the direction of translation (others are the nature of the equivalencies, the language of examples, and supplemental means of access).

By this evidence, Palsgrave, Baret, and Huloet-Higgins are the ones primarily interested in helping English speakers write in French. Why? Palsgrave specifically mentions the clerks, and foreign trade. Baret seems to have had close connections with the legal profession, for he recruited help for his dictionary among his former students who had moved on to the Inns of Court. 500 years after the Conquest French was the language of the law, and the ability to translate into French therefore remained an important skill. The Hollyband dictionaries are the only ones to go in the opposite direction (French -> English). Why? Hollyband was not a product of English legal training, but rather a religious refugee. For him the study of French was a matter of cultural edification, to encourage young Englishmen, like the son of his patron, to read, in their spare time at university, the great works he proposed to them. Should we study in the same framework those texts that start with Latin, or include Latin? Certainly, in the case of Baret, for he notes that the purpose of the French index is to help translation in the direction French to English, and we can assume that the addition of French to his original source (Thomas Elyot) was meant to facilitate translation in the other direction. The same point can be made about Higgins' additions to the dictionaries of Richard Huloet and Hadrianus Junius: French equivalents were added because they were deemed useful to the intended audience of English speakers. The only dictionary in which the relative importance of the French and English equivalencies is in doubt is Veron's, in which both of the modern languages are related to the Latin. Still, the English was created by translating from French to English, rather than by drawing the Latin-English equivalency independently. Even if the work was not intended to facilitate translation between the modern languages, it was the product of such translation. Furthermore, Veron could have simply omitted the French to shorten and simplify the dictionary if he were not interested in relating French to English.

The languages and the direction of the dictionary is one element, like the date and name of author, that should be included in the 'status' window of any computer database. If we switch from an entry taken from Palsgrave to an entry taken from Hollyband, we must be reminded of these crucial facts. Suppose we were comparing lists of vocabulary relating to religion in those two dictionaries. To compare the lists we need to look at all the words of one language. This involves flip-flopping the entries from one of the two dictionaries (already a difficult enough task, see below, 1.3). One dictionary's word-list will not be presented in the original order, and this needs to be clearly drawn to the attention of researchers.

To summarize this section, there was a point to creating dictionaries relating French and English, a point to adding French to previously existing English and Latin dictionaries, and a point to adding English to the one example of a Latin-French dictionary. The creation of these linguistic relations reflects aspects of English society. There was a need, legal, intellectual, and sociocultural, for translation into and out of French. This need can be further specified by a look at the nature of the word lists themselves, and this aspect of the texts must not be lost by the organization of the database.

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