Back to top

On ‘linguistic colonialism’ in the dictionary

Dictionary work is, in a sense, like a river with linguistics standing on one bank and the user on the other. The dictionary has been trying to keep hold of both, sometimes at the expense of one, sometimes of the other. My earlier discussions of the relations between lexicography and linguistics (Langemets 2002, 2010) have mainly been focused on linguistics. Although the present article also has its impetus in linguistics, its focus lies elsewhere, notably, on lexicography as a highly applied area, as well as on the user. According to Aarhus School such a turnaround means quite a revolution in lexicography, bringing an essential change to dictionary work. Their enmity to linguistics and to theoretical lexicography as a strongly linguistically-based discipline is reflected in their neologism ‘linguistic colonialism’ to be opposed by their own ‘function theory of lexicography’ (Fuertes-Oliveira, Bergenholtz 2011). Aarhus School’s approach to the dictionary is practical (applicational, instrumentalistic) to the bone and it is targeted, first and foremost, to new channels and to the users’ new habits. They remind us that the first dictionaries were also very practical handbooks (like, e.g., the language aids that German missionary pastors used in Estonia). The theory relies on the potential user and the using situation and is focused on real e-lexicography, not on electronic versions of paper dictionaries. 
     The article presents a few key points characteristic of a functional dictionary model and compares them with the current situation at our Institute of the Estonian Language. Several of the options described have, somehow or other, been in the dreams of the author.