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Thursday, 31 January 2013
Home arrow Role of quotations arrow World and Book arrow Counterview
A useful counterview was put by two feminist writers on language in 1985:
A Dictionary is a word-book which collects somebody's words into somebody's book. Whose words are collected, how they are collected, and who collects them all influence what kind of book a given dictionary turns out to be and, in turn, whose purpose it can best serve.[1]
The choice of which sources to read for quotations, the methods of collection and of analysis, and the choice of which quotations to reproduce in the final version of the Dictionary, are all matters on which policy and practice have varied considerably over the decades of compiling the OED. They are also matters on which the lexicographers have expended significant amounts of energy, erudition, and thought.

Examining OED's selection and use of quotations enables, we hope, a fuller understanding of the ways in which this great work 'documents the continuing development of our society', and reflects the English lexicon.

The sections immediately after this one review the role of quotations in two dictionaries which significantly influenced OED lexicographers: that of Samuel Johnson (1755) and of Charles Richardson (1836-7).

[1] Kramarae and Treichler 1985: 119. They go on to observe (p. 120) that 'Women's invisibility as language-producers is closely bound to the scholarly practices of dictionary producers'.

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