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Known as ‘the definitive record of the English language‘, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the largest dictionary of English in the world. This chapter traces its creation from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day - through the publication of the first edition, supplement volumes, second edition, and the current third edition and OED Online website. The lexicograhic policies and practices of the various editors are also discussed, e.g. from Herbert Coleridge, Frederick Furnivall, and James Murray to Henry Bradley, Charles Onions, William Craigie, Robet Burchfield, John Simpson, Ed Weiner, and Michael Proffitt. This chapter also discusses the OED‘s current efforts to move from seeing the dictionary as a discrete text to seeing the dictionary as data which can be used in machine learning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence.
This chapter introduces the reader to the volume and outlines the book’s structure: first, an overview of essential issues pertaining to dictionary style and content; secondly, a fresh narrative of the development of English dictionaries throughout the centuries right up to current-day applications of technology, corpus linguistics, natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence; and thirdly, essays on the regional and global nature of English lexicography and its power to help standardise varieties of English and to define nations seeking independence from the British Empire.
How did a single genre of text have the power to standardise the English language across time and region, rival the Bible in notions of authority, and challenge our understanding of objectivity, prescription, and description? Since the first monolingual dictionary appeared in 1604, the genre has sparked evolution, innovation, devotion, plagiarism, and controversy. This comprehensive volume presents an overview of essential issues pertaining to dictionary style and content and a fresh narrative of the development of English dictionaries throughout the centuries. Essays on the regional and global nature of English lexicography (dictionary making) explore its power in standardising varieties of English and defining nations seeking independence from the British Empire: from Canada to the Caribbean. Leading scholars and lexicographers historically contextualise an array of dictionaries and pose urgent theoretical and methodological questions relating to their role as tools of standardisation, prestige, power, education, literacy, and national identity.