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English Unbound: Dictionaries, Dialects, and Boundaries

  • Michael AdamsEmail author
Reference work entry

Abstract

Much modern lexicography conceives vocabulary on spatial terms. In many cases, lexicographical space is constrained by boundaries, and it does not go too far to say that the concept boundary is both a significant and a problematic concern for dictionaries and dictionary making. For instance, the Middle English Dictionary struggled to describe regional dialect in English 1100–1500, when there was no standard variety of English that transcended regional variation. When it came to dialect, then, should the dictionary draw the line? There are many “regional” dictionaries of English – the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, the Dictionary of Jamaican English, etc. – but classifying what belongs within a region and what belongs outside of it is difficult, to say the least, and thinking in terms of boundaries is often misleading about language history and regional lexis. Significantly, the Dictionary of American Regional English reconceives notions of region and boundary, not only for lexicography but under the influence of lexicography, language, and cultural history more generally. Until recently, every dictionary was bound. Nowadays, we think beyond boundaries into an infinite cyberspace of information, including lexical information. Old notions of boundaries and limits are overturned in the digital age, yet every port of entry assumes a border and if a hyperlink is a stopping point as well as a point of departure, we imagine the boundary from which it opens to a new space.

Keywords

Dictionary Dialect Region Boundary Space Map Middle English Dictionary Dictionary of American Regional English 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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