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

1.2. Which words will be included?

In their prises de position few of the lexicographers discuss the nature of the words they will include. Some are open in identifying their base sources, literary or lexicographic, others are more secretive. Some identify the nature and source of their additions; only Higgins in his revision of Huloet mentions deletions. In the second half of the century, the question of 'hard words' is discussed openly for the first time, but the term has different meanings for different lexicographers.

1.2.1. Base vocabulary

The ultimate source for most of the vocabulary included in these dictionaries is Latin literature, history, philosophy, and natural history. This bald fact has many repercussions, social as well as lexicographic, but let us focus here on the lexicographic trail. One of the primary goals of Latin lexicography in the Renaissance was the purification of the word stock, that is, in good Humanist tradition, the purging of medieval Latin words, examples and usage. This was Stephanus' motivation for his dictionaries, from which Veron's and Hollyband's dictionaries are derived, and Baret's reason for reworking Thomas Elyot's Bibliotheca (which itself is largely drawn from Calepino). Higgins corrects Huloet (who himself drew on both Elyot and Calepino), and insists on the fact that he went directly to authority, although these authorities were sometimes contemporaries (including Stephanus).

For Palsgrave and the other grammarian-lexicographers (Du Wes, Hollyband 1573 and 1576), the Latin sources are more removed. In these cases the ultimate sources for the 'practical' vocabulary are probably the medieval nominalia. To this small base Palsgrave adds a large corpus of literary examples from English and French literature, although some of these too are based on Latin sources, as we see from this example from the Aeneid via Jean Lemaire des Belges provided in the table of pronouns to illustrate the use of lequel:

However, we must not confuse the source of examples with the source of the word-list. Palsgrave was, after all, trying to teach correct usage of French, something demonstrated by French, not English examples. Even if the examples are most often drawn from French authors, the ultimate base must have been English, as proven by the English words for which no French equivalent is presented. That English source, or those English sources, are still uncertain. Baret mentions that if anyone wants to correct or add to his book, that person should take examples from 'good Authors' (all classical), such as Cicero, Terence, Cæsar and Livy.

1.2.2. Additions

Higgins is particularly forthcoming about the nature of his additions to Huloet's dictionary:

This is important not only for the list of sources, but also for the list of subject areas considered essential knowledge, incompletely covered in earlier dictionaries, and/or sufficiently changed in the course of the 16th century to merit special attention: botany, zoology, war, architecture, geography, philology. To create a computer database that can provide the data necessary to interpret these changes, we need to tag words within these categories from the sources noted, and words that seem semantically related but which have not been so identified (e.g., new Italian architectural terms which entered French over the course of the 16th century). This would clarify how Higgins used his sources (in this particular instance) and help us to understand Higgins' lexicographic goals and the society that shaped these goals. The dictionary provides word meaning and equivalence, and an index to the sum of knowledge expected of an educated man (for the development of the index and its importance see Rouse & Rouse, 1982a).

1.2.3. Hard Words

A further element in the determination of which words the dictionary must include is the 'hard word' principle. In these dictionaries it is not so much a case of including hard words as it is of excluding 'easy' words or features of 'easy' words. The 'hard word' principle is first mentioned in English-French lexicography by John Baret (1573). Baret talks of omitting the 'easy' words, by which he means the most common pronouns, conjunctions and the forms that can be derived automatically (e.g., participles from verbs):

Of those words which Baret considered too easy for inclusion, Palsgrave includes all except the participles. ('Participles' and 'articles' are the only parts of speech for which Palsgrave does not provide a 'table'.) He does however, omit examples for and / et because of the regularity of the equivalence:

For the rarer equivalents Palsgrave does provide copious examples. Hollyband also explicitly recognizes the difference between 'hard' and 'easy' words, but the distinction is made on other, morphological, grounds. He announces in the introduction that he will provide the principal parts of the difficult verbs.

The source of the word-list is a major link between the dictionaries of the period, but we must not let the fact that most of the words have been taken from a specific source blind us to the analysis of the words that the lexicographer has added, subtracted, or altered. To understand the choices made by any one lexicographer, we must be able to retrieve these lists of added and subtracted headwords, and just as crucially, added and subtracted materials within entries. We cannot assume that it is by chance or incompetence that the authors made these changes. To judge the author's purposes, the database must be constructed so that we can recover, for example, all French words from Estienne 1539 that Hollyband omitted in the text of his 1580 dictionary, as well as all French words he included that Estienne omitted; all words drawn from a specific subject authority, as well as words semantically related but not so designated, etc. The analysis of those patterns will enable us better to determine what the lexicographer was doing by making his dictionary.

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