'Parasitic dictionaries and spam books' by Sarah Ogilvie

Sarah Ogilvie
Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A few years ago, Peter Austin and David Nathan, two Australian linguists working at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, discovered that their dictionary of Kamilaroi, an Aboriginal language of New South Wales, was for sale on Amazon. The only problem was that they had not put it there and it had someone else’s name on it. Philip M. Parker, having found their Kamilaroi/Ga ...

Every day for the past few months, the Sydney linguist Michael Walsh has been sitting in the Mitchell Library poring over old manuscripts. He is extracting old wordlists of Aboriginal languages from the library’s rich collection of early British settler diaries, missionary field notes, and unpublished historical documents for a project funded by the State Library of New South Wales and Rio Ti ...

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 illus ...

Henry Hitchings: The Language Wars

Bruce Moore
Friday, 21 October 2011

Becoffined words

Bruce Moore


The Language Wars: A History of Proper English
by Henry Hitchings
Hodder & Stoughton, $39.99 hb, 408 pp, 9781848542082


Henry Hitchings has written a number of well-received books on aspects of the English language, ...

Jonathon Green: Green's Dictionary of Slang

Bruce Moore
Wednesday, 29 June 2011

No boondoggle

Bruce Moore


Green’s Dictionary of Slang
by Jonathon Green
Chambers, $580 hb, 3 volumes, 6085 pp, 9780550104403


Dictionaries of slang have a history as long as that of dictionaries of Standard English, and both kinds of dictionary ar ...

Barry J. Blake: Secret Language

Bruce Moore
Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ludic language

Bruce Moore


Secret Language
by Barry J. Blake
Oxford University Press, $24.95 hb, 339 pp, 9780199579280


The ‘secret language’ of the title of this book covers many kinds and levels of secrecy (things hidden and concealed), and a ...

This is a book about the role of English speech in the creation and spread of British colonialism in Australia, about the eventual disintegration of this imperial speech and its values in the colony now transformed into a nation, and about the emergence of the ‘colonial voices’ of the title ...

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