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

1.5.6. Examples

Another lexicographical choice for these dictionary writers involves the type and purpose of examples provided. Again, the first aspect to be addressed is the language of examples. Palsgrave mentions Chaucer twice and Lydgate several hundred times, but in none of these instances does he supply more than the base word. Lydgate is most often used to illustrate incorrect usage, either for dialectal words, archaisms or neologisms. For French words, on the other hand, Palsgrave supplies full sentence examples for most of the verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. Literary pedigree is not enough for acceptance. Most examples from the Roman de la Rose are inserted to show outdated usage. Examples from Jean Lemaire des Belges often denote orthographic inconsistencies. Hollyband furnishes French examples from literary, everyday, and proverbial sources. The literary examples, from Marot, Rabelais, and Amadis, are often to help explicate a difficult passage, such as a pun:

The practical examples appear to be drawn from everyday life, and may tie in to his dialogues for learning French.

It could be that some of Baret's examples are taken from the dialogues that were used to teach Latin in the 16th century (see Massebieau, 1878):

Palsgrave's non-literary examples are equally colloquial, sometimes even crude.

Proverbial examples hold a special place in the hearts of 16th-century lexicographers, for proverbs were thought to embody the 'genius' of the language, the naïve puissance as Meigret put it. Palsgrave, who notes that French is especially rich in such expressions, includes proverbs going in both directions, English-French and French-English:

Hollyband also includes a number of French adages. In the Frenche Schoolemaister (1573) he had compiled a list of proverbial expressions in which the French and English matched, something he repeats in the Frenche Littelton (1576) to which he adds "Golden Sayings". All the grammarians including Latin provide proverbial examples from that language. These expressions not only show the 'genius' of the language, but also served as the backbone of the instructional program. Higgins and Nicholas Udall collected and published the "Flowers or Eloquent Phrases of the Latine Speache" from the comedies of Terence. All of the lexicographers were teachers of Latin, or French, or both, and the use of proverbial wisdom was a way of integrating moral with linguistic education.

Examples can illustrate syntax, morphology or orthography (either correct or incorrect), provide practical expressions for everyday life, reveal similarities and differences in the 'genius' of the languages discussed, and introduce the students to the pearls of literature. The choice of function and the choice of language are one more piece of the puzzle in determining what the lexicographers were doing in writing what they wrote, one more element that must be clearly tagged in a computerized database of such texts.

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