Australasian Association for Lexicography

AUSTRALEX 2005 Report

By Yasmin Funk (Research Assistant, Dictionary Research Centre, Macquarie University)




Australex 2005 was held on September 27 at Trinity College, University of Melbourne. The keynote address was given by Ghil'ad Zuckermann, who presented a critical analysis of the politics, policies and processes of the Academy of the Hebrew Language. Zuckermann described the Academy's mission, "'to direct the development of Hebrew in light of its nature", as "Realistic Prescriptivism".

The theme "Dictionaries and the Community" linked the twelve presentations, which ranged from innovative, conceptual and theoretical to practical and humorous in their approaches to lexicography, despite - or perhaps because of - several presenters' claims that they were neither lexicographer nor linguist.

Sharon Armstrong presented work on Te Matapuna - the first monolingual Maori Dictionary, and discussed the ethical and theoretical questions faced by the group as they sought to arrange the lexicon by semantic categories inherent in Maori. Thematic organisation was also a feature of the Vernacular Picture Dictionaries developed to enhance literacy in Central Australia. In the creation of the dictionaries, Robert Hoogenraad and Jenny Green worked collaboratively with members of the speech communities in the selection of appropriate visual representations for each concept, eg. capturing the essence of rock-hole-ness.

The lexical accommodation, innovation and conceptual challenges of translation resulting from Aboriginal contact with Christianity were the subject of Michael Walsh's presentation. Continuing with terminology from a historical perspective, Verna Rieschild gave us a glimpse into the culture-specific lexical inventory of subordinates and dependents in Medieval Arabic society.

The thread of words and history was followed by Bernadette Hince, author of The Antarctic dictionary: a complete guide to Antarctic English, to the other end of the world in her creation of a dictionary of polar English: English at the ends of the earth, jokingly titled A Bi-Polar Disordered Dictionary.

Despite its humorous title, there was a more serious side to the presentation by June Factor, chronicling the creation of Kidspeak: A Dictionary of Australian Children's Words, Expressions and Games. It gathers together sayings, chants and jokes, expressions of children's verbal humour taken from the playground and not all savoury to potential publishers.

Taking the technical terminology of food to a more serious level, Jirapa Vitayapirak is preparing for a dictionary of food engineering terminology in English for Thai-speaking students, "bringing Thailand into the world's kitchen". On a similar practical level is Julia Miller's study (at Flinders University) of the effectiveness of English Learners Dictionaries for international students, specifically in teaching the use of English articles.

Jan Tent introduced his forthcoming Macquarie Dictionary of English for the Fiji Islands, a new entry among the growing ranks of diverse world English dictionaries. The concentration of the language community in Fiji contrasts with the interspersion of the (minority) deaf community amongst the (majority) hearing population in Australia. Trevor Johnston's presentation: "Language planning, sign language dictionaries and the deaf community" discussed the challenges posed for Auslan lexicography by this demographic, and referred to social change and technological innovations which are improving the communication possibilities of the deaf community, by such means as the Auslan Signbank, an internet-based community dictionary which allows members of a virtual linguistic community to access, contribute to and update their own lexicon.

At the end of the day we moved from the intimate former chapel of Trinity College to join the teeming throngs at Michael Clyne's joint ALAA/ALS plenary, where we were encouraged to take on social responsibility, escape the monolingual mindset and work together as linguists, putting differences aside in the face of greater threats - and to celebrate together at his book launch.

Australex 2005

Australex home page

Last changed 2 December 2005

© 2005 Australex