Whither Chinese–English lexicography? – From a historical perspective
Keywords:bilingual lexicography, Chinese–English lexicography, neologisms, dictionary apps, corpora
2020 marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of the second part of Robert Morrison’s A Dictionary of the Chinese Language which has been widely recognized as the first Chinese–English (hereinafter abbreviated to C–E) dictionary and signaled the beginning of C–E lexicography. From the late Qing Dynasty to the present, literally several hundred C–E dictionaries, small or large, have been compiled, though the number of noteworthy ones is rather limited. Nevertheless, research into C–E lexicography has gradually developed into a distinct field of study as witnessed by thousands of academic papers and over a dozen books devoted to its research. A search of (Chinese–English dictionary) as the keyword in CNKI, a database of journal articles, theses, and dissertations written in the Chinese language, came up with 8,365 results. Most of the discussions center round topics such as dictionary criticism, history of dictionary-making, theoretical construction, and case studies. The history of bilingual lexicography in China, for instance, was under-researched in the past as a result of the lack of original copies of early dictionaries, which, however, has been improved thanks to the reprinting and wide availability of such dictionaries since the beginning of the 21st century. Chinese Lexicography: A History from 1046 BC to AD 1911 (Heming Yong et al., 2008), for instance, devoted only a few pages to the earliest history of C–E lexicography which spans more than 70 years. But now dozens of academic papers and even several books (e.g. Yang, 2012; Gao, 2014) have been written about the early bilingual dictionary-makers and their lexicographical works, presenting a clear picture of the evolution of C–E lexicography. Today more than two decades into the 21st century, the C–E lexicography scene is not as crowded as its English–Chinese counterpart as there are only a few major players. The paper aims to present a brief history of C–E lexicography with a focus on lexicographical tradition and creativity, elaborate on the deficiencies or problems found within the major C–E dictionaries, and finally discuss the future directions of C–E lexicography.
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