Last changed 18 October 1999


AUSTRALEX one-day conference at the Common Room, University House, Australian National University, Canberra
Saturday 30th October, 1999


Laurie Bauer
Reader, Victoria University of Wellington
Fax: +64 4 463 5604 Phone: +64 4 463 5619
Address: Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, NZ

Whither the Thesaurus?

The number of thesauruses on the market has increased considerably in the last thirty years, and there have been a number of changes made in the presentation of material in many of these. The changes include an improved typographical layout, the use of an alphabetical listing, and the focus on or inclusion of new types of material. Interestingly, these changes seem to have had the effect of reducing the vocabulary in the thesaurus, but they also seem to be changing the aims of thesauruses. In the current technological climate, a format for a new improved thesaurus can be readily envisaged.

Trevor Johnston & Adam Schembri
(TJ) Senior Research Fellow (Newcastle University; (AS) Research Assistant (Newcastle University)
Address for correspondence: Private Bag 29, Parramatta, NSW, 2124
Phone: 02 9872 0204 Fax: 02 p873 1614
Email: &

Lexeme in sign language lexicography

This paper defines the notion of the lexeme in relation to signed languages. The signs of a signed language are first defined as a distinct kind of visual-gestural communicative act, different from other communicative uses of gesture. This is followed by a discussion of the close relationship between the formational aspects of signs and their meaning. Criteria for recognising lexemes as a subtype of sign are then examined, as are criteria for distinguishing true lexemes from simple variant and modified forms. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of this definition of lexeme in our understanding signed language lexicography and the notion of the lexicon in signed and spoken languages generally.

James Lambert <>

The Interests and Dis-Interests of Lexicographers

This paper will look at two distinct subsets of the English language, i.e. sexual vocabulary and the vocabulary of science fiction, and discuss how they are represented by lexicographers in general. Just how well have these two areas of language been treated by dictionary-makers? Are there biases in the way these, and by implication other specialist vocabularies, are treated? And, if so, what influences these biases, are they inherited, and do they need to be overcome?

Dr. Patrick McConvell
Lecturer, Griffith University
Address for correspondence: AES/ENS, Griffith University, Nathan Qld 4111
Phone: 07-38757457 Fax: 07-38757459

The Semantics/Pragmatics Interface and The Manageable Dictionary: Some Aboriginal Examples

Dictionary makers usually try to avoid being encyclopaedic for principled and practical reasons. One principle that can be applied is to include semantics and exclude pragmatics, although the result can sometimes be less than helpful and tends to exclude important information on variation and change affecting the lexicon. Examples of kinship, land-spirit connection and spatial metaphor from NT and Kimberleys Aboriginal languages are examined to determine how a line can be drawn and how pragmatics can be captured if not in the lexicon.

Xiangdong Pu
University of Sydney and Central China Normal University, Wuhan

On functional equivalence of idiom translation in bilingual Chinese-English dictionaries

The aim of this article is to discuss the feasibility of functional equivalence in idiom translations in bilingual Chinese-English dictionaries, trying to find efficient ways to avoid both under-translation and over-translation. The more functions are reproduced, the better the version will be at achieving correspondence between meaning and function.

Translation is an important part of compiling a bilingual dictionary, and equivalence between the source language and the target language is what lexicographers strive to arrive at. However, due to linguistic and cultural diversity, exact equivalence is very hard to ahiever, especially in the translation of idioms, since they areare heavily culture-laden. For example, the Chinese idiom (ba zi mei yi pier) in word-by word- translation is "eight character not a stroke". The literal meaning is "Not even the first stroke of the character for 'eight' is in sight." The idiomatic meaning of this idiom is "There's not the slightest sign of anything happening yet". If translated literally, the version will be meaningless, if tranlsated liberally, the version will lose the original flavour. Likewise, the English idiom "skeleton in the cupboard" will seem obscure if translated literally.

But the form of an idiom also carries meaning, and lexicographers should not abandon form every time they come across an image. For example, the English idiom "kill two birds with one stone" is similar in meaning to the Chinese idiom "shoot two hawks with one arrow". They both mean "achieve two things at one stroke." The image in an idiom is also a sign, carrying informative or expressive or aesthetic function which should not be ignored. Therefore, translating "kill two birds with one stone" as "shoot two hawks with one arrow" is desirable in that it keeps much of the original flavour without causing obscurity, or losing the vivid imagery. But in "Not even the first stroke of the character for 'eight' is in sight" the literal translation does not reveal the pragmatic meaning, to say nothing of the vividness, and so should be replaced by a liberal version.

Margaret Sharpe <>
UNE, Armidale NSW 2351

The Alawa Triglot Dictionary: an unnecessary trial or a triumph?

In the Alawa dictionary (now in final draft), I opted for an Alawa-Kriol-English triglot dictionary with the following goals:

1. To make it more accessible to Alawa people;
2. to sidestep further possible bias in translating Kriol descriptions to English;
3. to give recognition to Kriol as a distinct language.

Perhaps the second goal has been fully realised in the dictionary. No dictionary of any size is at present 'accessible' to most Alawa, because of undeveloped literacy skills and preference for oral rather than written sources. Some expressions are as much at home in idiomatic English as in Kriol, and the triglot format can force an unnecessary choice here.

Tonya Stebbins
University of Melbourne

Tsimshian contributions to the design of the Sm'algy x Learners Dictionary

In many places indigenous communities are becoming increasingly interested in being actively involved in works concerning their languages and cultures, and in benefiting from the results. The Sm'algy x Dictionary Project began in late 1997 with the goal of producing a Sm'algy x Learners Dictionary intended for use in the Tsimshian community (Northwest British Columbia). Members of the Dictionary Committee (made up of elders from the Tsimshian Nation) contributed to the design of the dictionary through discussing: strategies for dealing with dialect differences; the appearance of the pronunciation guides; the ordering of entries; the inclusion of plain language usage notes and cultural information.

Andrew Taylor, Alice Chan and Henry Wong
City University of Hong Kong
<> <>

Evaluating learner dictionaries: the view from reviews

Much effort has been put into the design of learner dictionaries and an increasing number of studies are being made of how these dictionaries are used. However, less has been done in regard to their evaluation. Yet before a dictionary is selected for use, learners and teachers need information concerning its suitability for their situation and the quality of its content and structure. A common form of written evaluation is the review. In order to assess the contribution of reviews to dictionary evaluation, we have studied reviews of English learner dictionaries from a wide range of authors and publications, paying particular attention to their target audience, purpose, the features evaluated and the method of evaluation, and the conclusions reached. This paper will present our findings.

Jan Tent
Honorary Associate, Division of Humanities, Macquarie University

The Vocabulary of Fiji English: A Profile and Analysis

As with any other regional variety of English, the vocabulary of Fiji English is one of its most distinguishing features. English has a profound influence upon the life of all Fiji Islanders _ it is the language of government, education and commerce. In this paper I shall examine some of the sources and features of the Fiji English vocabulary, the most common of which include: lexical borrowings and reborrowings, calques, neologisms, standard English lexemes that have undergone semantic change, archaisms, hybrid compounds, and hybrid reduplications. Finally, I shall examine some of the practical issues of Fiji English lexicography.

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1999 Maintained by David Nash.