Australasian Association for Lexicography

Abstracts for AUSTRALEX 2005




'Realistic Prescriptivism': The Academy of the Hebrew Language and its Campaign of 'Good Grammar' and Lexpionage
Dr Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Research Fellow at the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, La Trobe University

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
'Who will guard the guardians themselves?'
(Iuvenalis, Satirae, vi, 347-8)

During the past century, Israeli - a.k.a. 'Modern Hebrew' - has become the primary mode of communication in all domains of Israel's public and private life. Yet, with the growing diversification of Israeli society (within the Jewish population itself, not to mention Jews vis-à-vis non-Jews), it has come also to highlight the very absence of a unitary civic culture among citizens who seem increasingly to share only their language.

Issues of language are so sensitive in Israel that politicians are often involved. In a session at the Israeli Parliament on 4 January 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rebuked Israelis for using the etymologically Arabo-English hybrid expression yàla báy, lit. 'let's bye', i.e. 'goodbye', instead of 'the most beautiful word' shalóm 'peace, hello, goodbye'. In an article in the daily newspaper Ha'aretz (21 June 2004), left-winger Yossi Sarid attacked the common language of éser shékel ('ten shekels', rather than asar-á shkal-ím 'ten-feminine shekel-masculine.plural', the latter having a polarity-of-gender agreement - with a feminine numeral and a masculine plural noun) as inarticulate and monstrous, and urged civilians to fight it and protect 'Hebrew'. In fact, educators are attempting to impose Hebrew grammar on Israeli speech, ignoring the fact that Israeli has its own grammar, which is very different from that of Hebrew.

Brought into being by legislation in 1953 as the supreme institute for Hebrew, the Academy of the Hebrew Language - based in Jerusalem - prescribes standards for Israeli grammar, lexis, orthography, transliteration and punctuation 'based upon the study of Hebrew's historical development'. The Academy's plenum consists of 23 scholars and an additional 15 academic advisors. Their decisions are binding upon all governmental agencies, including the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

This paper will critically analyse the Academy's mission, as intriguingly defined in its constitution: 'to direct the development of Hebrew in light of its nature'. It will throw light on the dynamics within the committees' meetings, and will expose some U-turn decisions recently made by the Academy. I suggest that the Academy has begun submitting to the 'real world', accommodating its decrees to the parole of native Israeli-speakers, long regarded as 'reckless' and 'lazy'.

Dr Ghil'ad Zuckermann has been a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary, and conducted research at the Academy of the Hebrew Language, as well as other national language institutions such as Kokuritu Kokugo Kenkyuuzyo (Tokyo). His publications include the books Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) and Hebrew as Myth (Am Oved, 2005). His website is

Te Matapuna - the first monolingual Maori Dictionary
Sharon Armstrong
Mäori Language Commission

Our presentation will describe the path the Commission has followed in building the first Maori monolingual dictionary. It will explore the rationale, methodology and lexical processes for completing the dictionary on a purpose-built Information Technology Platform.

The transition from an oral language to a written language form for reo Maori is of mixed blessing. While on the one hand it has contributed significantly to the retention of Maori history and tradition, it has also facilitated a strong move away from monolingualism towards bilingualism and a redefinition of Maori views in another 'estate'. Some argue that the 'mauri' (life essence) of Maori expression was forsaken as a result of the exercise of translation to English. Nowhere is this issue more apparent than in the development of the most comprehensive resource responsible for retaining the main corpus of reo Maori - the Maori dictionary - Te Matapuna.

Over the past five years Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori has been working on a project, Te Matapuna, with a view to providing language for future generations, a repository of knowledge that is Maori in both inception and production. Te Matapuna is a monolingual Maori language dictionary that supports the growth of the Maori language by ensuring that the language is defined in its own cultural paradigm, rather than using the English language, and cultural framework, as a reference. It also demonstrates the ongoing development of the language in terms of contemporary usage. A Maori language dictionary plays a pivotal role in enriching the language, ensuring that diversity and dialect are recorded and maintained.

The Matapuna Dictionary Writing System provides a platform supporting the work of the writers, editors, and managers of Te Matapuna. The system has been very successful in allowing Maori language experts from all over the country to collaborate on this important work. The system is flexible and very easy to use, and was inexpensive to commission. The dictionary writing system has made a huge difference to the monolingual dictionary project, enabling users to easily collect, validate, analyse, share, and report on the data, as well as printing out draft copies of the dictionary.

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori, the Maori Language Commission has developed Te Matapuna to make it available as both a hard copy publication and accessible via the internet. It will be an invaluable learning tool for those learning via Maori medium, and may be an example that will assist other indigenous peoples for whom their own languages are an essential part of education and communication.

Snot sandwich, packing polenta and granny's false teeth
Dr June Factor
Australian Centre, University of Melbourne

The sources tapped in the making of Kidspeak: A Dictionary of Australian Children's Words, Expressions and Games are diverse; the communities from which they come even more so. Then there are the gate-keepers: those who fear to publish, those who try to limit what is said and recorded, and those who endeavour to shield the primary source - the young from 4-18 - from access to a partial record of their own verbal traditions. My talk will consider these matters, and focus in particular on the variety of children's subcultures and their specialist vernaculars within the broader common colloquial usage of the young.

English at the ends of the earth
Dr Bernadette Hince
Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University

While chronicling the English of Antarctica for The Antarctic dictionary: a complete guide to Antarctic English (CSIRO and Museum Victoria, Melbourne 2000), the world's other polar region - the Arctic - also came clearly into focus. Some of Antarctica's distinctive words - such as growler, mukluk, nunatak and sastrugi - come from the Arctic and the subarctic. The southern explorers, sealers and whalers of the last three centuries were often experienced Arctic hands, with a vocabulary to cope with polar regions. As well as their quotient of animals for humane liberation on remote islands, they carried with them these polar words, weightless passengers across the equator.

Among them were some of the best known Antarctic words of all. In this way the most iconic of all Antarctica's creatures, the penguin, is directly linked to the north. Though today the name generally applies only to birds of the southern hemisphere family Spheniscidae, the first 'penguins' were the now-extinct great auks (Pinguinus impennis) of the north, large black and white flightless birds. The auks sufficiently resembled the southern birds for the name to be transferred to them - an extraordinary thread of words and history reaching from the near-polar north to the polar south.

This paper will explore the north-south links of polar English, briefly describe the scope of the historical dictionary of polar English which I am now researching, and talk briefly about the research itself.

Vernacular Picture Dictionaries, Literacy and the Community in Central Australia
Robert Hoogenraad, NT Department of Employment, Education and Training
Jenny Green, University of Melbourne

There is little day-to-day use of literacy on remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia and no source of relevant reading materials for adults. Children start school never having seen the activity of reading, making the teaching of initial literacy very difficult.

In 2001 the Central Anmatyerr decided to develop a Children's Picture Dictionary to help increase their children's interest in books and as a resource for local Indigenous teachers. The format is modeled on the alphabetically organised Macquarie Children's Dictionary, but organised by themes. There are pictures with the Anmatyerr word and a sentence using the word. This Picture Dictionary became a template for making Children's Picture Dictionaries for all the other Central Australian languages. They form part of a suite of language and literacy resources, including a teachers' guide, large encyclopedic dictionaries, learner's grammars, theme books, readers, etc.

The literacy projects are groundbreaking in giving people in a Language region the opportunity to work collaboratively on literacy materials. A linguist coordinates the projects, working with local Indigenous school staff, literate community members and senior people. The aim is to construct texts that are relevant to the community. This work engenders great enthusiasm.

Workshops are held regularly for school staff and other adults to improve their literacy, and to assist them to use the Picture Dictionary and other resources for teaching local vernacular language and culture programs in the schools.


Language planning, sign language dictionaries and the deaf community
Associate Professor Trevor Johnston
Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University

Intervention by hearing educators and welfare workers into the language of deaf communities has a long and relatively unsuccessful history. Sign language dictionaries were for long little more than attempts to impose the lexicon (and grammar) of majority hearing communities on to minority signing communities. In the past two decades, linguistic research and technological innovations have transformed signed language dictionaries at the very time that signed languages have begun to be used in domains from which they have long been excluded: education, medicine and the law. For example, signed languages have only recently been used by professional interpreters in medical and legal situations.

Auslan interpreters and their clients have consequently experienced problems with the availability of appropriate Auslan vocabulary in these domains, particularly the ability to share (and thus cultivate the acceptance of) suggested sign neologisms to the wider signing deaf community. (Neologisms are often improvised by hearing Auslan interpreters in consultation with their clients but often without contact or consultation with other interpreters or other deaf people.) These factors have increased the importance of signed language dictionaries to signing deaf communities. The possibilities for language planning, for which there is a clear need in signing communities such as the Auslan-using community, have now thus been transformed.

In this presentation I will outline the history of language planning in signing communities, discuss the language needs of today's signing community, and briefly describe Auslan Signbank, an innovative internet-based Œcommunity dictionary first launched in 2004. I will then examine the types of language problems faced by deaf people in accessing medical services when that interaction is mediated by an interpreter. I conclude by suggesting a solution that uses Auslan Signbank to help grow the lexicon in a way that involves the language community, interpreters, medical practitioners and linguists.

An investigation into the effect of English learner's dictionaries on international students' acquisition of the English article, specifically in the area of countability.
Julia Miller
Student Learning Centre, Flinders University

Learners' dictionaries are a resource which is often overlooked by both students and teachers of English as a Second Language. The wealth of grammatical information contained within them, however, can help students to improve their English language skills, and, ipso facto, their academic writing. In this study, four groups of university ESL students participated in a session to improve their use of the English article system. Two of the groups used English learners' dictionaries and two did not. The results of the study indicate that the students who used the dictionaries achieved a higher number of correct answers in the given article exercises, and expressed a higher level of satisfaction with the session, than those who had not used dictionaries. It is therefore suggested that greater use be made of learners' dictionaries in ESL grammar classes.

Culture specific features of Medieval Arabic words for subordinates and dependants
Dr Verna Rieschild
Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University

Ibn Munqidh (d 1188) regularly rode out on family hunts with over 40 retainers: falconers, cheetah keepers, grooms, masters of the hunt, mamluks and personal attendants. Ibn BaTTuTa (d 1369) was served by, and given servants and slaves as tributes, bought and freed Muslim slaves as he passed them with their captors on the road , and marveled at the excesses of the retinues of Persian princesses. These and other medieval Arabic writers provide glimpses into Islamic social order and principles of human relations through many terms like ghulaam, fataa, xadim, maluuk, muwallad and jaariyya. These are all translatable or dictionary-defined with 'slave' or 'servant', but their denotations are more nuanced than these translations allow. This study also examines these terms in relation to terms of economic and political protection, like the dhimmi ( protected local Christians and Jews under Arab political control), in contrast to the Aristotelian notion of natural slavery that rested with the contemporaneous Franks and Rumis. The analysis shows that determining the relevance of dimensions like age, gender, skills, origin and religion is essential for historically and culturally authentic definitions.

The Macquarie Dictionary of English for the Fiji Islands
Dr Jan Tent
Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University

Fiji has three official languages, Fijian, Hindi and English, none of which currently have dictionaries suited to the needs of Fiji's people. The English dictionaries that are generally used are: the Concise OED, the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, or a Webster's, all of which are culturally inappropriate or too difficult for the general user.

In mid-2006, The Macquarie Library will publish the Macquarie Dictionary of English for the Fiji Islands. It will reflect distinctive aspects Fiji's culture and the way English is used in Fiji, while also providing a reference for international English. It will include common words which have been borrowed from Fijian and Fiji Hindi (e.g. bure, mataqali, girmit, or dhania), hybrid loans (e.g. dalo bhaji), and English words which have a special meaning in Fiji (e.g. traditionally 'in a traditional Fijian way', choke 'to cadge'). The dictionary will also include appendices containing information on English usage and grammar, Fiji's fauna and flora, local abbreviations and acronyms, and general geo-political facts on neighbouring Pacific island nations.

My presentation will briefly outline the linguistic situation in Fiji, followed by an account of the development and features of the new dictionary.

Food Engineering Dictionary (English-Thai): Bringing Thailand into 'the World's Kitchen'
Dr Jirapa Vitayapirak
King Monkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang

The human resource development for Thai food industry is essential and in line with the Thai government policy to promote Thailand as "Kitchen of the World". It is generally acknowledged that most new technologies and innovations in food industry are presented in English. Therefore, it is essential to acquire not only knowledge of food technology but also English. This research project thus reflects an increased awareness of the need to improve the flow of information on Food Engineering Technology and the current lack of a bilingual (English-Thai) dictionary in this field. The central aim of this project is to develop a dictionary of Food Engineering (English-Thai) in accordance with sound pedagogical principles. It requires a survey of users' needs as well as the creation of a corpus of Food Engineering English, extracted from textbooks and journals. It comprises more than 2 million words (tokens) of running text. The linguistic data of the corpus provides insights into the language of Food Engineering. The corpus findings in terms of word frequencies, corpus evidence on word combinations and typical usage from the concordance are used to develop entries for the bilingual learners' dictionary of Food Engineering. It offers comprehensive definitions in Thai, pronunciation, grammatical information, examples of usage, and illustrations by Food Engineering experts and linguists. It should support students and personnel in the food industry to develop around that technology broader understanding and competence in English.

The Lexicon of Christianity in Aboriginal Australia
Dr Michael Walsh
Department of Linguistics, University of Sydney

This bombastic title promises much more than I can deliver. However the intention is to present a brief and preliminary overview of the lexical accommodation that has taken place when Christianity has intersected with Aboriginal Australia. Whether Christianity has been actively embraced or merely acknowledged it is clear that this has had an important influence on the lexicon of Aboriginal languages. In this brief and very preliminary survey we examine some of the ways that Aboriginal languages have accommodated to this challenge.

Sometimes it is simply a matter of capturing terms for God, Christ and Mary but at other times large portions of Scripture need to be translated. In the latter case a major effort has to be mounted but even the former situation raises unexpected challenges. In at least one language the terms for Christ and Mary are different species of macropod, and in other languages a decision needs to be made about which subsection a figure like Christ needs to be assigned to.

The lexical accommodation is not restricted to nouns, so that we find somewhat surprising innovations in at least one language. When we say 'Christ sits on the right hand side of the Father ...' we take the terms 'sits' as unproblematic but in at least one Aboriginal language the translation of this term depends on the construal of the scene. If we take this from one perspective the term 'sits' must be treated in the same way as if one were talking about a bird sitting on a branch i.e. typically "aloft" with respect to the speech situation. In the same language the verb for "make" appears in a different verb class just when it is being used in the creation sense: God made the world.

In this and many other ways we will attempt to display some of the richness of the lexicon which can be associated with Christianity.

Australex 2005

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