The future of dictionaries in the digital age

‘A new garment throughout’

by Sarah Ogilvie

 

We are on the verge of another revolution in dictionary-making. Since the seventeenth century there have been three major revolutions in lexicographic practice. In 1604 Robert Cawdrey produced the first monolingual English dictionary, which was – radically – arranged alphabetically. In the middle of the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson employed literary citations to illustrate the meaning of the words in his dictionary. And in the nineteenth century, James Murray began to produce the first great historical dictionary, tracking the use of a word over time, and extended the making of dictionaries beyond his Scriptorium of lexicographers working in Oxford by calling on contributions from around the globe. This was an enormous undertaking, and the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), begun in 1859, was not completed until 1928 (the second edition followed in 1989, and the third edition, published quarterly online, was begun in 2000).

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Published in February 2012 no. 338
Sarah Ogilvie

Sarah Ogilvie

Sarah Ogilvie is Director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and Reader in Linguistics at the Australian National University. She is Chief Editor of Oxford Dictionaries, Australia. She has worked as a lexicographer for twenty years, initially in Australia as Senior Editor on Macquarie and Oxford Dictionaries, and more recently in Britain on the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Shorter Oxford Dictionary. She has written dictionaries of all genres, including historical dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, and children’s dictionaries. She writes and lectures on metalexicography and lexicology, especially relating to the history of the OED. Her book on the global history of the OEDWords of the World, will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2012.

 

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