CHWP B.5 Merrilees, Edwards, Megginson, "The Dictionarius of Firmin Le Ver (1440)"

1. Introduction (B. Merrilees)

The Dictionarius of Firmin Le Ver (DLV) is a very large Latin-French dictionary compiled at the Carthusian house of St. Honoré at Thuison, near Abbeville in Northern France, in the first half of the fifteenth century. The text is preserved in Paris, Bibl.Nat. 1120 where it takes up 467 of the manuscript's 478 folios, and contains a total of 12,800 headwords, plus 37,700 sub-headwords, in all a text of 540,000 words, giving an electronic file of 4.5 Mb.

In 1986 William Edwards and I set out to produce a critical edition of the DLV, a project now virtually complete, and although we have always intended to use the text base of the dictionary for a variety of purposes, the production of the edition has remained paramount; we might have proceeded differently if we had had to consider the DLV as only a textbase for analysis and exploitation. Certainly we might have marked the text more than we did, but at the beginning we were unaware of many features of the text that would later capture our attention.

The text was entered in WordPerfect (initially 4.0 and 4.1, later 4.2, now converted to 5.1) and set out in a manner that aimed at representing, as best we could, the layout of the dictionary entries on the manuscript page. The entries in the DLV are better termed macro-entries: most are made up of a headword, marked in the manuscript by a coloured initial capital and followed by one or more sub-headwords, set at the left margin and beginning with a capital in the ordinary brown ink of the text. The definitions, which are in Latin and French are also in ordinary ink, though for the first few folios a hand, not Le Ver's, has underlined the French. This practice is found elsewhere in bilingual dictionaries. We entered the text respecting the line length of the manuscript column and used the WordPerfect codes on a colour screen to emulate some features of the layout. Bold capitals were used for the headwords, bolding with a single initial capital for the sub-heads and underlining, now italics, were used to set off the French. The Latin of the rest of the definitional and attributional material, by far the bulk of the text, was in regular type. The printed text looks like this:[1]

    ABISSUS  ab *a, quod est sine, et *bissus componitur
    Abissus .ssi  abisme profunditas aquarum                f
        impenetrabilis vel spelunca aquarum latitantium
        unde fontes et flumina procedunt, scilicet pelagus
    Abissus  eciam dicitur profunditas scripturarum

    ABITIO .tionis  .i. recessio  In ¶Abeo, abis dicitur

    ABIUGO .gas  ex *ab et *iugo .gas componitur            act
    Abiugo .gas  media correpta  .i. a iugo separare,
        dissociare, abgregare desjoindre, separer
    Abiugatus .a .um  desjoins, separés, divisés            o

    ABIUNGO  ex *ab et *iungo componitur                    act
    Abiungo .gis .xi .ctum  desjoindre longe
        iungere, separare, segregare, dividere
    Abiunctus .a .um  desjoint separatus, semotus
    Abiunctim  adverbium  separeement, desjointement

    ABIURO .ras  ex *ab et *iuro .ras componitur
    Abiuro .ras .ratum  .i. periurio negare                 act
        .i. deneer, nier par mentir, par parjuremens
    Abiuratus .ta .tum  niés par mentir
    Abiuratio .tionis  .i. rei credite abne-                f
        gatio, periuratio, inficiatio deniemens
    Abiurtio .tionis  idem, per sincopam                    f

    ABLACTO .ctas componitur de *ab et *lacto .ctas         act
    Ablacto .ctas .ctatum  ensevrer, sicome
        enfant on oste de la mamelle .i. a la-
        cte removere, extrahere et separare
    Ablactatus .a .um  .i. ensevrés a lacte ex-             o
        tractus, semotus, separatus a mamilla
    Ablactatio .tionis  ensevremens                         f

    ABLATUS .ta .tum  osteis remotus,                       o
        separatus, semotus  ab *aufero .fers dicitur
    Ablativus .a .um  qui aufert qui oste, ostans           o
    Ablativus .tivi  quidam casus ablatis                   m
    Ablatio .tionis  ostemens semotio                       f

During the period it took to enter the text and beyond we continued to work on various ancillary studies, questions of sources and transmission, the status of French in the dictionary, the nature and function of metalanguage (Merrilees, 1988, 1990, 1991; Merrilees & Edwards, 1989). This last has led to further work on the structure of the dictionary entry, an extension of the visual aspect noted above (Merrilees, 1992). The main components of a dictionary entry are the lemma (headword or sub-headword) and the definition, but around these two poles there can be various markers and much additional information about the lemma, its attributes and function. In the DLV this additional information is distributed in three locations and we have found that each position appears to privilege certain kinds of information.

The three positions are post-lemmatic, post-definitional, and marginal (the right margin); their functions are:

1. The post-lemmatic position in the DLV is mostly reserved for definitional connectors, parts of speech other than noun or verb (e.g. adverbium, prepositio), phonetic information expressed absolutely (e.g. media correpta, penultima producta), 'accidents' other than gender or voice (e.g. pluraliter, diminutivum), etymologies, compounds and derivations (e.g. ABISSUS ab *a, quod est sine, et *bissus componitur,), indications of the language, usually Greek (e.g. ACCIDIA accin grece, latine dicitur cura).

2. The post-definitional position is used for derivation, especially inde and unde but also longer expressions (e.g. ABLATUS [...] ab *aufero .fers dicitur), 'accidents' (e.g. et comparatur), phonetic and orthographical information in full expressions (corripitur, producitur), external and internal references (e.g. ABITIO .tionis [...] In ¶Abeo, abis dicitur, Pastoralia [...] Amos primo capitulo dicitur), remarks concerning usage (e.g. Calvo [...] sed non est in usu), including the so-called versus memoriales. Our present definition of post-definitional includes information appearing after any part of a definition, which sometimes means after the definition in Latin but before the definition in French. There are several possible patterns.

3. The marginal position privileges 'accidents' of gender and voice which appear in the right margin in abbreviated form (m, f, n, act, etc.), but also allows reference to authorities, a feature deriving from manuscripts of Papias' Elementarium, or an indication that exemplary verses are present, marked by V or Versus. The last two can even be outside the drawn margin of the column, technically extra-marginal.

Concording programs, such as WordCruncher, can easily pick up the metalinguistic vocabulary under analysis, but they are not well suited for dealing with component elements of a dictionary article as these stand in relation to one another. Nonetheless we have had useful output from WordCruncher, which William Edwards describes here, and with an indexing and concording program that David Megginson reports on later in this paper.

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[1] Editorial note. Web formatting and display limitations lead us to prefer non-proportional characters in place of the original article's proportional characters.