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

1.5. Information within the articles themselves

The information within the article is a cornucopia, or a Pandora's box, depending on the mood of the day. I have divided the information into seven categories, but it could easily be more:

1.5.1. Pronunciation and Orthography

Unlike their modern counterparts, 16th-century dictionaries rarely indicate pronunciation or orthographic variation. Pronunciation is mentioned only when there is some potential for confusion. For instance, if the word includes vowels in hiatus, the number of syllables might be marked:

On very rare occasions Hollyband also notes letters which are not pronounced, particularly when they would normally be pronounced according to the rules he presents in his De pronuntiatione (1580):

In the short word list of the French Littleton (1576) Hollyband regularly marks silent letters by placing a small cross underneath consonants and vowels that are to be left silent. At the same time, he devotes a significant portion of his introduction defending traditional orthography, however badly it corresponds to pronunciation. In the dictionaries of 1580 and 1593 Hollyband also notes special aspects of vowels, either length or quality:

As for orthography, Palsgrave notes examples in which French orthography varies, usually to condemn one spelling in favour of another:

Veron repeats Estienne's observations concerning variation in Latin orthography:

The rarity of comments on pronunciation and orthography reflects the separation of functions within the teaching curriculum. Those questions were normally dealt with in other volumes, such as Palsgrave's first book, or Hollyband's treatise on pronunciation. The use of special indications for silent letters in Hollyband's instructional books was a way of defending non-phonetic orthography in the face of orthographic reform movements both in France (Meigret, Ramus, Rambaud) and in England (Hart). For Palsgrave, the regular references back to the 'rules' of his first book are part of his campaign to bring French under the control of rules, something his chief rival at the court, Gilles Du Wes, proclaimed impossible. To understand why attention was drawn to these particular phonetic and orthographic problems, and not to others which might have been so noted, we need to be able to separate out all instances in which such comments are made, and to check these sources against reference works such as Fouché's Phonétique historique du français.

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