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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


Laography and lexicography, or finding folklore in the dictionaries

Location Ülikooli 16, 102
Date and Start Time 03 July, 2013 at 10:30


Jonathan Roper (University of Tartu) email
William Pooley (University of Bristol) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Many details of folklore and folklife are buried within the pages of dialect and national dictionaries. This panel examines examples of this phenomenon, and how we might use this data.

Long Abstract

One of the many consequences of the interaction of philology and the study of folklore especially in the long nineteenth century is that dictionaries are often are repositories of folkloric data. Examples range from Feilberg in Jutland and Dahl in Russia, to Wright in England and Halbertsma in Friesland, not forgetting the Brothers Grimm themselves. And the data they contain ranges from minor verbal genres, such as phrases, riddles and

charms, to descriptions of ritual, folk life and ethnographic objects. But the overlap between laography and lexicography, between folklore and dictionaries, is not exclusively located in such 'classical' dictionaries, many humble regional glossaries also are freighted with local knowledge, at the same time as they walk the interesting ideological line between region and nation in this age of nationalism. Similarly, judicious use of historical dictionaries, such as the Middle English Dictionary or the Grimms' own Deutsches Wörterbuch, can also add to our understanding, or provide antedatings. This panel is meant for the discussion of the phenomenon of dictionaries as a source of folkloric data as a whole in a comparative light and to assess the usefulness of the data to be found in dictionaries. It will include discussion of how the composite, cannibalized nature of many such dictionaries affects the data they contain, and how we might identify the individuals (or types of individuals) the data was known to, and to suggest routes for future research.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Folkloric data in the Historic Dictionary of Modern Greek Language and its dialects

Author: Maria Vrachionidou (Academy of Athens)  email

Short Abstract

The “Historic Dictionary of Modern Greek Language and its dialects”, which is a dictionary in progress, consists, apart from a language repository, a treasury of Greek folk life data. This paper provides some examples of this phenomenon and examines the ways this data could be used

Long Abstract

The 'Historic Dictionary of Modern Greek Language and its dialects' (HDMG) is a dictionary of modern Greek language, both in its standard form and its dialectal varieties, whose lexical data come mainly by spoken language and its publication has been in progress for about a century. Therefore, the HDMG by its nature includes, apart from language, plenty of folklore and ethnographic information. This information usually is given: a) By the vocabulary entries themselves or by their semantic and phraseological data (riddles, songs, proverbs etc.) that might depict some aspects of the traditional material and spiritual life of Greeks or even subvert some stereotypes about that life (a showcase is the folk Greek names of mushrooms). b) By the quantitative data. For instance, a vocabulary entry, a phrase or a meaning of a word which is rare or unknown today but is found in abundance in HDGM, proves the former spread of the described phenomenon. Such an example is the disproportionately large number of synonyms and derivatives of the word 'agrios' (= 'wild'). C) By geographic data: i.e. the frequency of mother names in a concrete area of Greece leads to contemplations about the social perceptions of gender there. Also, a critical appraisal of the criteria by which the linguistic data of HDMG have been classified could offer valuable anthropological insights. Thus, HDMG constitutes a good example of the interaction between language and folklore information and of the need for interdisciplinary use of the linguistic data found in dictionaries.

Dinneen's dictionary as repository of Gaelic traditional culture

Author: Diarmuid Ó Giolláin (University of Notre Dame)  email

Short Abstract

The Irish-English dictionary of Fr Patrick Dinneen (1860-1934) first appeared in 1904. The 1927 edition covers the classic literary language but, more than that, it is a repository of Gaelic traditional culture, the reason for its continued popularity.

Long Abstract

Patrick Dinneen (1860-1934) was a Jesuit priest who devoted himself to scholarship. Witty and good company, he was also a combative and uncooperative personality, to the fore in the various debates that characterized the Irish language revival movement. He wrote fiction and drama, but is best known for his editions of 17th and 18th century literary texts and for his Irish-English dictionary. The dictionary's first edition appeared in 1904, commissioned by the Irish Texts Society to fill a glaring need. The plates were destroyed in the fires following the bombardment of Dublin city centre during the 1916 Rising and a second and much enlarged edition appeared in 1927. Dinneen used historical dictionaries and early modern and modern literary texts in compiling the work, but at a time when the spoken dialects were gradually becoming the basis for a new literary standard, he felt compelled to ensure that the dialects were adequately represented. The result is a work that is an extraordinary rich resource for traditional Gaelic culture. Notwithstanding its use of the historical spelling and Gaelic script, neither in use today, it continues to be popular and is constantly reprinted by the Society. The book's references to traditional culture and its lexicographical method (e.g. 'Sagairtín, m., a little priest; a small inedible periwinkle') have been the butt of homorous comments, most notably by the comic writer Flann O'Brien (Myles na gCopaleen/Brian Ó Nualláin), but are also part of its continued appeal.

"Let the patois die their beautiful death": the purification of folk culture in Félix Arnaudin's writings, 1870-1920

Author: William Pooley (University of Bristol)  email

Short Abstract

Félix Arnaudin's (1844-1921) belief that the old patois folk culture was at war with the new culture of the modern state obscures the complexity of mixing cultures his informants engaged in. His dictionary notes provide ethnographic context for the most stylized folk genres: songs and tales.

Long Abstract

Félix Arnaudin was a native witness to the language and folkways of the Landes de Gascogne in southwestern France between the 1870s and 1921. Like many of his contemporaries, he tended to see local languages and folk culture as vestiges being swept away by the victory of standardized French. But this interpretative stance is - at least partially - analytically distinct from the extensive work he did to record folklore and dialect forms. Arnaudin bitterly lamented the efforts of revivalists to "defigure [the] traits [of the patois] in their hour of agony." He himself was more of a nostalgist, demanding that the patois should be allowed to "die their beautiful death."

The advantage of the manuscript collection of his fieldwork is that it presents a view from behind the scenes of this process of purification. This is clearest from his doomed attempts to create a definitive dictionary of the local dialect of Gascon. Being so strongly convinced of the battle between French and Gascon, Arnaudin struggled to deal with the ways that people around him mixed cultures and languages. If his surviving writings had been confined to the highly-elaborated and undoubtedly relatively rare Märchen, or the equally stylized, albeit more widely-known folksongs, there would be no way to replace these remarkable texts in a dynamic ethnographic context. His notes for a Gascon dictionary, shot through as they are with the contradictions of adaptation from below to social and linguistic change, provide the best way to reconstruct this ethnographic context.

Folklore in the publications of the English Dialect Society (1873-1896)

Author: Jonathan Roper (University of Tartu)  email

Short Abstract

More than fifty glossarists were published by the English Dialect Society during its brief existence (1873-1896), all of which feature folkloric data to a greater or lesser extent. This paper examines the folklore in these works, in terms of sources, genres and reliability.

Long Abstract

The English Dialect Society published a series of local dialect glossaries during the course of its existence (1873 - 1896), as well as two national glossaries, one of bird-names, the other of plant-names. The interest in folklore of some of these fifty-odd glossarists (including figures such Addy, Chope, Elworthy, Friend, and Parker) is apparent from their membership of The Folklore Society, or their authorship of works on folklore, but for most of these glossarists there are no such outward signs of interest in folklore. Nevertheless, though not explicitly concerned with folklore, all of the glossaries of the English Dialect Society include folklore data to a greater or lesser extent, sometimes snippets (whether in definitions or in illustrative quotations), sometimes extended texts (these often in appendices). This paper looks at this extensive, yet uneven corpus of folklore data, with a particular interest in its sources, its geographic and genre coverage, and its fit with the general ethnographic record.

Between and betwixt the folklorist and the lexicographer: the case of some Greek regional/dialect dictionary compilers

Author: Haralampos Passalis (Intercultural School of Evosmos)  email

Short Abstract

The paper examines Greek regional or dialect dictionaries whose entries include various types of folkloric data that might be used by researchers of traditional cultures.

Long Abstract

The typical structure of interpretive dictionaries is usually limited to the citing of explicit information concerning mainly the morphology, phonology, semantics and etymology of the words compiled in them. There are, however, some dictionaries which fail to observe this typical structure and whose entries include additional information, such as ethnographic data. These are mainly dialectical dictionaries and glossaries which initially appear in Greece towards the end of 19th and early 20th century. The entries of these dictionaries often contain information on the extensive performative context of objects, foods, ritual and festivals, and, in some cases even texts of oral folk genres. The compilers of such dictionaries tend to be positioned between lexicographers and ethnographers, although they are neither lexicographers nor folklorists despite the fact that in some cases, they truly constitute excellent examples of both categories. The special importance of these dictionaries from an ethnographic point of view is that they provide original material relating to the folk culture of an era on which we have not sufficient recorded information. A number of questions arise in view of these observations: What kind of ethnographic information has been recorded in these dictionaries? How has this material been collected? Why were the compilers of these glossaries led to quote this type of information? Why is such information to be found mainly in dialect or regional dictionaries? Finally, how could this type of information be constructively used and evaluated by folklorists? These are some of the issues that the paper tries to investigate drawing on specific examples of each case.

Folklore in a Caribbean English Creole dictionary: inclusion and extraction

Author: Lise Winer (McGill University)  email

Short Abstract

The Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago includes “folk culture” by lemmatization (especially phrases) and rich citation. The paper addresses types, sources and limitations of data. Extraction strategies are also addressed.

Long Abstract

The Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago (Winer, 2009) is the first historical scholarly dictionary of the vernacular and local standard language of this twin-island Caribbean nation. It contains about 12,200 entries, including 2500 for flora and 2200 for fauna.

Because of the relative scarcity and inaccessibility of sources of cultural and linguistic information on Trinidad and Tobago, an early decision was to make the dictionary tend towards an encyclopedia rather than a glossary. A deliberate effort was made to include as much "cultural content" as possible, such as customs and areas which do not easily limit themselves to single lexical items. Consideration was also given to often negative attitudes surrounding the vernacular language.

This paper discusses first the process of inclusiveness. A conscious decision was made to try to include as much "folk knowledge and culture" as possible, in two ways: first, by lemmatization - especially phrases (proverbs) - and second by citation. The paper addresses types of folklore data included, types of sources and limitations of data, focusing on entries in the letter M.

The second process addressed is extraction. What retrieval keywords and strategies can folklore-seeking users of the DECTT use to locate relevant entries and citation information? Must this wait until the digitalization of the work? Are there keywords in the definition(revision?) process that could help rationalize and streamline this process?

E-Laography: marking up historic dictionaries for knowledge discovery

Author: Toma Tasovac  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyzes the process of producing digital editions of historic dictionaries as tools for knowledge discovery based on an interplay of production technologies (XML, Text Encoding Initiative), editorial practices (representation, annotation, metadata) and semantic taxonomies.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the theoretical and practical concerns of producing a digital edition of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić's ethnographically rich *Lexicon Serbico-Germanico-Latinum* (1818, 1852). In addition to marking up existing elements of a dictionary entry (such as lemma, part of speech, senses, definitions, translation equivalents, examples etc), our work supplies additional information to enhance the user's interaction with the dictionary, including: a) an extension of the extant cross-reference system through linking synonymous and near-synonymous entries that have been overlooked by previous editors (e.g. жаба and напнигуша; обрљуга and неопера); b) marking up persons, places and dates for easy indexing and analysis; c) standardization of word usage labels (eg. ист. and ист. кр. as East for better statistical analysis and possible further processing and creation of geo-spatial word maps etc.); and d) introduction of semantic domain labels in accordance with Magnini and Cavaglia, 2000; Bentivogli et al., 2004. The domain labels provide valuable information about the clusters of paradigmatically related terms, as well as the extent of domain ambiguity and domain variability. Users will be able to treat semantic domains as thematic entry points into the dictionary, looking up, for instance, all entries that belong to AGRICULTURE, HISTORY or GASTRONOMY; while our logically and semantically consistent markup of Karadžić's own usage notes will make it possible to easily explore regional and dialectological distribution of entries in the *Lexicon*, offering a basis for subsequent work that could involve data visualization, statistical analysis, text mining etc.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.