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

1.3.3. Meanings and entries

A similar problem occurs when a single headword has a number of different equivalents in different contexts. The choice is to present all the equivalents as if the object referred to were the same, or to list each meaning separately. Veron chooses the former, listing all the various equivalents of clavus in a single entry:

Given a similar choice, Palsgrave lists each word separately, even if the English word is morphologically and derivationally one:

The construction of databases that handle multiple dictionaries from this period presents a special problem: because of the variation in the language of the headword, we need to be able to match alternate sides of the a = b equation. What is a headword in one dictionary will be an equivalent in another, but we must be able to pair them up while excluding (for this purpose) words found in the examples. That is, the simple index of words in the dictionary is not enough; the words have to be tagged as headwords or equivalents. This becomes especially complicated when synonyms are provided both for the headword and for the equivalents in the target language. How does one match up the headwords and the equivalents in examples like the following?

Similar match-up problems will occur when the equivalent is a phrase or explanation, not a translational equivalent:

For the purposes of comparing entries in which the order of languages is reversed, is it sufficient to mark the English word here as to burne (for fleurdeliser) or, clearly unacceptable, he (for cepier)? The variety of equivalents poses a serious problem for the computerized matching of the contents of different dictionaries.

The lexicographers had a number of choices in organization and presentation: alphabetization or classification; supplementary means of access to words in the target language; disposition of words within a single word family (source or target language); disposition of different meanings/equivalents for a single word (of the source language). The selection, in each case, and variation within individual works, depends on the goals of the lexicographer, and not just narrowly lexicographical goals. Unless we mark the absence as well as the presence of important features we cannot recover that level of intention. Furthermore, modern access is hampered by the different types of equivalency proposed, making it difficult to perform the flip-flop necessary to compare the contents of dictionaries with different language orders. Given the complexity of the indexing task, one understands better Baret's solution, taking the word-lists from Estienne's dictionaries and using them as indexes.

[Return to Table of Contents] [Continue]