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

1.3. The organization of the text: means of access

The organizational principle depends on the textual tradition and the intended use. Variation occurs in the degree of alphabetization, the disposition of words in a single word family, and the separation of lemmata into distinct entries based on differences in meaning. The choices for the textual tradition are (1) the medieval nominalia, in which case the order is by subject matter; (2) a growing medieval tradition for reference dictionaries, organized, at least partially, in alphabetical order;[4] (3) a grammatical tradition in which the words are listed alphabetically according to parts of speech (Palsgrave, and, in part, Du Wes).

1.3.1. Alphabetization

By the end of the century the principle of simple alphabetization was dominant. The word lists were too long, the indexing task too complicated, and the semantic classes too arbitrary to accommodate classified vocabulary. As for the combination of grammatical and alphabetic ordering, the connections between related words in different parts of speech were and are too involved to access easily the words one might search. Alphabetization is generally preferred, although the skill at alphabetizing varies greatly. Higgins mentions the many corrections he had to make in the order of words in Huloet; generally alphabetization is getting better by the end of the century, and this is important for the use of dictionaries as reference tools.

One special problem in alphabetizing is determining which is the head word in an expression. In the table of substantives, Palsgrave must have confused some by listing the following nouns under O for the adjective modifying them:

Particularly puzzling is the fact that courte should follow audyence alphabetically, and both have the same equivalent (court planiere), yet they are separated by seme. Equally disconcerting for the modern reader is the long list of expressions "I am + adjective/participle", among which are interspersed verbs starting with am- (amass, amaze, amble, amend, etc.). Whatever our modern reaction, we cannot assume incompetence on the part of the Renaissance lexicographer. Palsgrave's organizational pattern for verbs indicates a different perception of the combination "to be + adj." This may be the result of equivalence to a single verb, either in the French word proposed as equivalent, or in a Latin word that served as the equivalent in some source dictionary. Another explanation could be a different grammatical analysis of the copula. To recover his intention, we need to tag both the instances in which he treated these forms as single units, and instances in which he didn't, but might have (the 'negative tokens'). Then we can relate these lists to the table of adjectives he provides, to combinations of "to be + adj." translated by a single Latin or French word in other dictionaries of the period, etc.

The alphabetical index of the target language words marks an important step towards reversible bilingual lexicography, one which Baret explicitly recognizes on his title page (see above). The limitation of Baret's indexes is that he has drawn those word lists from Estienne's French-Latin, Latin-French works, but the basic word-list (in English) comes from Elyot. Therefore some words appear in the index which do not appear in the dictionary, and many words appear in the dictionary that do not appear in the index. Junius-Higgins offers an index only of the Latin words, making it useless for finding French-English equivalents.

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[4] Rouse & Rouse (1982a) point out the cultural break inherent in alphabetization. No longer could one assume a common approach to the subject matter. Therefore a philosophically neutral indexing technique was required. Alphabetization also presented some practical problems, related to the scarcity of paper, which improvements in the production of paper helped alleviate (Daly, 1967: 85-90).