Kernerman Dictionary News • Number 15 • July 2007

Shin'ichiro Ishikawa, Kosei Minamide, Minoru Murata, Yukio Tono (eds.)

English Lexicography in Japan
 
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Tokyo: Taishukan, 2006

326 pp.

ISBN 4-469-24522-4

 


This book is a collection of twenty five papers by scholars of lexicography who are in the JACET (Japan Association of College English Teachers) Society of English Lexicography. The papers, two invited and twenty three refereed, reflect the high level of analytical skills among Japanese researchers in lexicography. The first section includes two invited papers, one by Ikegami Yoshihiko, who addressed the history of twentieth century lexicography in Japan, and the other by Tono Yukio, who has written an engaging paper on the many advances in Japanese-English (J-E) lexicography and the challenges for Japanese lexicographers. Among them, he sees three major challenges: first, the use of corpora to design lower level dictionaries targeted toward elementary and middle school audiences and also to produce word sketches (as in Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners); second, a mistaken notion of user friendliness, why academics have a false notion of it and why teachers misunderstand it; third, technology and how to improve the varying interfaces, such as a dictionary on a CD, a web-based dictionary, or a handheld electronic dictionary. Just like English-Japanese (E-J) paper dictionaries, that are “unnecessarily big and fat” according to Tono, electronic dictionaries have huge amounts of data; Casio’s EX-Word “contains a hundred different titles.” Tono argues that these quantitative strengths do not improve the quality or the user-friendliness of the product.

 

The first chapter has six papers that consider elements in the entries. Three of the six are on neologisms. In Akasu’s paper, he examines neologisms that appeared as new words in the addenda to the 1942 Idiomatic and Syntactic English Dictionary and the first Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary in 1948, finding many military terms in this narrow area. Ishikawa’s paper, a data based analysis of neologisms, illustrates the use of a large corpus to substantiate the staying power of the word. He uses Metcalf’s FUDGE factors to establish the neologism and adds one more factor, longitudinal changes in frequency of the word’s appearances in the corpus. This factor recommends that no sharp decline should occur from year to year for at least three consecutive years. To illustrate this, he takes ten words from the mid to late 1990’s, of which only two are still current, blog and hazmat, and looks at Lexis Nexis and WWW over a ten year period to demonstrate the declines of the other eight words, among them cybrarian and steganography. In Nakane’s paper on non-lexemic entries, he looks at bound morphemes, prefixes like hyper-, non-, and auto-, and suffixes, like -aholic, -crat, and -gate that are entries in E-J dictionaries. In a well founded and professional comparison/contrast analysis, he examines eight modern English dictionaries and about a dozen modern E-J dictionaries on their varying treatments.

 

I found the next paper by Gally to be of personal interest for me as a lifelong learner of the Japanese language. He looks at the entries with ‘Japanesey words’ (culturally bound items) in J-E dictionaries, which is one of only four papers devoted to J-E in this collection. He addresses culturally bound words, among them native plants, like kudzu, native fish, like yaritanago, a small carp, traditional clothing, like kimono, which has become a loan word, and more complex items, like ronin, a high school graduate studying on his own to try a second time to pass the college entrance exam, and moe, infatuation with an attractive female anime cartoon character. I enjoyed reading this critical account that is mainly descriptive rather than analytical. This is one lexicographical issue that applies to Japanese who want to translate from their language into English and to non-Japanese studying the language. This problem of missing or confusing information in J-E entries is an important lexicographical issue for dictionary publishers in Japan. Gally highlights some of the weaknesses in J-E defining style, but has no recommendations or clear solutions, other than the creation of long encyclopedic entries for gaijin (non-native) learners of Japanese.

 

The second chapter has five papers that are analyses of elements in the microstructure of bilingual E-J and monolingual English dictionaries. The first two topics are frequency markers and the need to highlight bound morphemes in headwords. We learn from Aizawa that frequency markers for entries in E-J learners’ dictionaries may be occasionally unreliable, and that experts on vocabulary acquisition recommend that lexicographers focus on an upper limit of four to five thousand words as a core vocabulary in learners’ dictionaries. This recommendation is not heeded, of course, by publishers who often boast of 80,000 to 100,000 entries. In the second paper, Iyanaga promotes the inclusion of morphological information in English entries to enhance students’ vocabulary building skills, and in the third paper by Hasegawa, we find a quantitative analysis of the Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. The fourth paper by Dohi focuses on a comparison of two early 20th century English dictionaries, the Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1924) and the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1911). This section, veering away from E-J bilingual lexicography, highlights the anglophile tendencies of this society of academic lexicographers of English.

 

The fifth paper, by Snowden, ‘Reverse Authenticity in J-E Dictionary Entries with English Originals’, investigates J-E entries with examples of English origin, rather than Japanese. Since some of them sound quite quaint to the native ear, Snowden searched them using Google, which is a very simple but effective tool now. In a Kenkyusha J-E large collegiate desk 4th edition (Kenkyusha’s New English-Japanese Dictionary, 1974), he found that one example, “violence recoils upon the violent”, under mukuiru (return, repay), was lifted from a Sherlock Holmes novel from 1893. The author claims that many of these English examples are back-translated into Japanese, which is then used to extract various Japanese words to be used as headwords in the J-E dictionaries. Thus, he calls this practice “reverse authenticity”, since the Japanese word or phrase to be encoded is not from a Japanese source, but the English example is from an often literary English source. The second example for mukuiru gives us this beauty: “affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meets no return.” Snowden turned this line up via Google from a work by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Scientists. This phrase, “meets no return”, was then back translated to Japanese and used for mukuiru (return). The fact that this quote sounds unnatural to some native English speakers is beside the point for the Japanese editors. This practice eliminates the need to glean original natural Japanese from native speakers or invent original examples. This shortcut is what I have suspected for a long time, so this topic is of great personal interest. Snowden states: “The problem of back translation…remains a big one for J-E dictionaries.” (p. 154) These poorly translated entries lead to stilted, awkward English, often marked by an inappropriate register or style, not only for colloquial English conversation, but also for standard written English in the 21st century. Snowden also notes that there has been a tendency, over the last part of the 20th century, toward very frequent use of quotes from famous literature with no attribution in J-E dictionaries. Snowden notes that the editors “adjust the wording just enough to avoid accusations of wholesale plagiarism.” (p. 150)

 

The third chapter on E-J dictionaries and pragmatics contains four papers. These range from an analysis of three discourse markers―after all, however, and so―to a paper on pragmatic considerations for relative clauses, and a fine paper on expressions of apology and gratitude. The fascinating paper by Otani on the treatment of thank you (arigato) and I’m sorry (sumimasen) delves into the underlying cultural constructs and felicity conditions that create “the emotional gulf behind the apology expressions between the two languages.” (p. 212) She then compares five E-J and three J-E dictionaries and finds that the Genius E-J and J-E (Taishukan) and the Luminous E-J (Kenkyusha) treat the pragmatics of ‘I’m sorry’ more completely and accurately. As for ‘thank you,’ all three J-E dictionaries gloss it as arigato without any culturally appropriate information. In this well thought out paper, Otani demonstrates certain strengths in the E-J treatments of apology and gratitude, as well as clear weaknesses in some of the J-E treatments and in two E-J dictionaries.

 

The fourth chapter with two papers is on dictionaries and gender. The first paper by Uchida on gender variation is a corpus survey on ‘actually’, the intensifier ‘so’ plus an adjective, such as ‘so pretty’ and ‘lovely’, which are more frequently used by women. The second paper, by Ishikawa, is on non-sexist language, such as chair person for chairman and fire fighter for fireman. Actually, Uchida has composed a very lovely paper that nicely illustrates how corpus survey research can strengthen the ‘word sketches’ that Tono recommends in his opening chapter.

 

The fifth chapter on ‘Dictionary [sic] and Education,’ pedagogical applications of lexicography, has six papers. These topics vary quite a bit and cover a lot of ground: first, incidental learning that concludes that silent reading is better than note-taking; second, the acquisition of prepositions, noting the complexity and the partial overlapping of the English ‘at’, ‘in’, and ‘on’ with the Japanese ni and de in various contexts; third, the acquisition of metaphors in verb and particle combinations that are spatial, such as ‘turn over’, ‘turn up’ and ‘give away’ or ‘give up.’ The next three papers are also varied: guessing meanings of unknown words in monolingual English dictionaries; the frequency of unknown words and its effect on reading comprehension; and evaluating electronic dictionaries used at the college level compared to paper dictionaries. This last paper by Yamada Shigeru on student evaluations of monolingual English learners’ dictionaries by university students is more thoughtful than the typical survey on attitudes. The students used three web-based dictionaries by Cambridge, Longman, and Oxford during a well thought out dictionary skills task. Then they took an opinion survey that brought to light several advantages that Cambridge and Longman have over Oxford in their page layout and user-friendly web design.

 

Overall, we can see how far Japanese bilingual lexicography has come in forty years since the mid-1960’s. The frustrating situation with J-E dictionaries that I encountered in 1975 included poorly translated examples, and vague, polysemous entries, with little attention paid to natural conversational English. The result was my odd eigo kusai nihongo, ‘Japanese that smells like English,’ and strained attempts at stilted conversations. Editorial practices of 30 or 40 years ago included much copying of other poorly constructed dictionaries, little sense of frequency of expressions or high frequency collocations, and a focus on wide ranging vocabulary coverage at the expense of better treatment of culturally relevant words that would enlighten users of Japanese bilingual dictionaries.

 

Happily, the newest generation of lexicography research from Japan highlights advances in several bilingual English-Japanese best sellers. Among these are the Taishukan Genius series, the Shogakukan Progressive series, and the Kenkyusha Lighthouse series, which, according to Ikegami, have been superseded by the recent Longman Eiwa Jiten (2006), a modern day melding of LDOCE principles of entry selection, microstructure, modern examples, and layout, strengthened by corpus based modern Japanese. This collection is a pleasure for me to read, not only for its easy to read typeface, very high quality paper, and its very sturdy binding, but also for the probing analyses and high quality of its papers.

 

 

Don R. McCreary

University of Georgia

mccreary@uga.edu