Monday, September 3, 2012


Compiling Dictionaries: by Crowdsourcing or by Subject Matter Experts


Image copyrighted by SailorJohn at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1090781 In an ongoing battle between which words are appropriate to enter into a lexicon, Deborah Cameron, who teaches linguistics and grammar at Oxford University, wades in with an op-ed on Berfrois.

Citing that the original edition of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was likewise crowdsourced, the Collins Dictionary seeks to have ordinary citizens contribute words, word usages, and meanings for its next edition. The aim to describe current usage of words. The reason Collins is doing so is an attempt to try to stay on top of the rapidly evolving English language as well as free online sources, such as Wiktionary, YourDictionary, and even UrbanDictionary.

Do you think this populist venture undermine the credibility of the dictionary or will it add currency and give it a more modern feel?

Image copyrighted by topfer at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/993325 Casual users find the OED conservative, elitist, and out-of-touch with ordinary language. Not only are everyday words not entering the lexicon in real time, those words may not even make it into the lexicon, because by the time the dictionary gets overhauled, the words are no longer in popular memory. History is lost.

However, scholars, journalists, and writers find the OED's focus on the full etymology, history, of the words invaluable as they do the OED's cultivation of a reputation for impeccable scholarship.

In the end, what it comes down to is curation. The editors of the OED have always been meticulous about editing and fact-checking the entries sent in by their legion of volunteers. Will the Collins be likewise vigilant? Otherwise, it's a case of fallen standards: seeking populism while losing its traditional market.


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