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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2005

E 379S • Senior Seminar

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32520 MWF
10:00 AM-11:00 AM
PAR 306

Course Description

E 396L (Topic: Lexicography) may also be counted

Did you know that the first English dictionary, A Table of Alphabeticall of Hard Usual English Words, was published by Robert Cawdrey in 1604? The history of dictionary making has been a complex—and sometimes controversial—process involving attempts to provide guidance to the general public about standard word meanings, etymology, and usage. After a short overview of the history of English dictionaries, which have evolved from short glossaries of “hard words” (technical terms and difficult vocabulary items) to works that attempt to capture most of the vocabulary of English, we will look in detail at how dictionaries are constructed. Topics we will cover include how words are defined, how etymologies (or word histories) are constructed, and how dictionary editors attempt to meet the needs of various audiences, while simultaneously trying to construct dictionaries as records of the English language as it is used. We will also look at how dictionaries are related to other reference works, such as encyclopedias, and at how dictionaires are changing in the evolving world of computer technology. I hope to provide a guest speaker who can talk about career opportunities in lexicography and reference publishing and to take the class on a virtual “field trip” in which we will explore various dictionaries on the World Wide Web.

Grading Policy

Dictionary-type definitions of several English words with 3-4-page commentary on lexicographical methods and choices in writing the definitions. A draft will be required. 30%
End-of-semester 15-20-page paper. A draft will be required. 50%
Short oral presentation 15%
Class participation 5%


Sidney I. Landau, Dictionaries: the Art and Craft of Lexicography, Cambridge University Press (re-print of March, 1989 edition)
Course packet with short readings from popular and somewhat more scholarly works (e.g., a selection from Elisabeth Murray’s Caught in the Web of Words, a book about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and short articles on how to define words)


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