Fwd: From "The Times" June 10

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Wed Jun 10 1998 - 07:31:35 EDT

I'm taking the liberty of forwarding to the list this item from today Times
of London (I hope Maurice will not deem it a breach); Edgar Krentz did
broach this subject some time within the last couple weeks (it's been a
subject of discussion on the Classics List), and I think it may be of
interest to at least some of our BG subscribers; certainly many students
who do both classical and NT Greek have used the "middle Liddell" over the
years, since it does deliberately include NT vocabulary in its otherwise
fundamentally classical database. A replacement for the "middle Liddell"
would, I think, be of considerable value to students of Greek even if it
DIDN'T include NT entries.

>X-Sender: mauros@gpo.iol.ie
>Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998 11:41:55 +0100
>To: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu>
>From: "Maurice A. O'Sullivan" <mauros@iol.ie>
>Subject: From "The Times" June 10
>Mime-Version: 1.0
>I thought you might be interested in this piece
>John Chadwick says classical scholarship
> needs a new lexicon
> All Greek to us harmless
> drudges
> No one - except a lexicographer - actually
> reads a dictionary. We all have them to
> hand as required, but we use them as tools,
> to solve whatever linguistic problems we
> meet. Consequently, no one gives much
> thought to the process of making them.
> For the most part we are well served, at
> least in English, by our dictionaries. We
> may complain that they are not up-to-date
> with the latest expressions, or we might find
> they omit uses and words now obsolete, so
> that we are confused when we try to read
> Elizabethan literature. But English scholars
> are well provided with the tools they need.
> This is not true of other languages. So long
> as we are dealing with a modern language,
> it is always, at least in theory, possible to
> go to a native speaker and ask him to
> explain how a word is used. Even this may
> not be simple, for the native speaker may
> know what he should say, but cannot explain
> why one form is correct and another not.
> However, no one still speaks ancient
> languages. They may, as Greek does, live on
> in an altered form; but its speakers cannot
> be used as informants on a form of the
> language that has not been spoken for 2,000
> years. So how do we set about making a
> dictionary of such a language?
> Essentially, there are two ways: either you
> must copy what other dictionaries have
> done, selecting and combining their material
> to suit your own purpose; or you must
> collect a large number of examples of the
> word being studied from the ancient texts,
> and from them educe the ways in which the
> word was used. The first method is much
> easier and this is what almost all makers of
> dictionaries do. The second method
> requires far more time and work; but if
> intelligently done, its results are much more
> reliable.
> Classical scholars have for generations
> relied on a long tradition. When I was at
> school we used a Latin dictionary first
> published in 1879, which, according to its
> title page was "founded on Andrew's
> edition of Freund's Latin Dictionary,
> revised, enlarged and in great part rewritten
> by C.T. Lewis and C. Short". In 1946 I was
> invited to join the team that was working
> under the late J.M. Wyllie on a project for a
> completely new dictionary, to be called The
> Oxford Latin Dictionary. This was
> eventually completed under the editorship
> of P. Glare in 1982. We made it a rule
> never to consult earlier dictionaries until
> we had drafted our own account of the
> word. Naturally the book repeated much
> already found in older ones, but in many
> cases a fresh approach cut through the tangle
> of verbiage and clarified the usage of the
> word, and in not a few cases ancient errors
> were corrected. One of Wyllie's dicta was
> "the new dictionary will contain errors, but
> they will be our own, not other people's".
> Likewise my schooldays were dominated by
> the towering figures of Liddell and Scott,
> the authors of the largest Greek Lexicon of
> their time. This too was founded on a
> German original, but had been so much
> enlarged and improved in the course of
> eight editions that it was really a new work
> and is deservedly famous. Such was its
> reputation that it seemed sacrilege to dare to
> improve on it. Yet Greek studies did not
> stand still, and the 20th century saw
> progress in many fields that affected our
> understanding of the vocabulary. A ninth
> edition was prepared by two eminent
> Oxford scholars, who made no attempt to
> rewrite the Lexicon, but were content to add
> new words and meanings. Their work has
> now been continued by new Supplements,
> but the basic framework remains unchanged.
> I have found cases where the structure of an
> article can be shown to reproduce the
> definitions or synonyms offered by an
> ancient lexicographer. Yet there is no good
> reason to prefer to modern scholarship the
> opinions of a scholar writing a millennium
> after the time of Homer.
> When I reached this conclusion I could not
> at first see what might be done, but I
> advocated a revision (and that means in
> places a reworking) of the Intermediate
> Greek Lexicon, the abridged version used
> by all our students. To my surprise, this
> proved popular among teachers of Greek,
> and I was encouraged to see if I could raise
> the funds needed to pay an editor. I should
> have been tempted to offer to do the job
> myself, if my age did not disqualify me. We
> have now received promises of grants
> sufficient to enable the project to start, and
> we have an editor who is well-equipped to
> work on this, having been chief assistant on
> the last Supplement to the main Lexicon.
> More funding will still be needed, but we
> feel confident that this will be forthcoming.
> But what of the major Lexicon? I believe the
> wholesale rewriting that is needed would
> require the services of a large staff and
> perhaps 50 years. The expense would be
> prohibitive. Moreover, the day of the huge
> multivolume dictionary is over. Increasingly
> such books will be published in electronic
> form. This has the enormous advantage that
> the lexicographer no longer needs to
> abbreviate and compress his material to
> make it publishable. An immense text can be
> flagged and indexed so that the user can
> quickly find what he needs. Computers will
> never reduce the need for intelligent
> lexicographers, but they can lessen their
> labour and offer new possibilities for users.
> I have no doubt the next 30 years will see
> major changes in this field; all we can hope
> now is to attempt some small-scale and
> piecemeal improvements. At least classical
> studies are not dead, but moving forwards at
> an increasing pace.
> The author is Emeritus Reader in Classics,
> University of Cambridge.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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