Kernerman Dictionary News • Number 15 • July 2007


The Asian Association for Lexicography (ASIALEX) was founded as the highlight of the Dictionaries in Asia Conference held at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST, 1997). The organizers, Gregory James and Amy Chi, set up a preparatory committee in 1996 to make all of the necessary arrangements, assisted by scholars from Hong Kong and China and representatives of the sister associations AFRILEX, AUSTRALEX, and EURALEX. Over seventy participants took part in the inauguration of ASIALEX and the election of its first Executive Committee that took place on March 29, 1997.


As described by Amy Chi, “[i]t was hoped that ASIALEX would act as a focus for lexicographic development in Asia,” and foster further research, cooperation, and grant funding (Dictionaries in Asia and ASIALEX, 1997. KDN5: 6-7, Much has indeed been accomplished, especially in the form of the first regional symposium in neighbouring Guangzhou (1999,, leading to the biennial conferences in Seoul (2001,, Tokyo (2003,, and Singapore (2005,


For anyone attending these events it was clear how vital ASIALEX can be for the fulfillment of local, regional, and global needs and aspirations. In ten years of existence it has produced and enjoyed astounding moments, but “there are certainly a lot of pearls buried under the hay”, as goes the Chinese saying quoted at the time by Chi. It still has to build itself as a lively, dynamic, democratic society run collectively and routinely by the large body of its membership, in order to be able to realize its full potential and goals. Meanwhile its operation is substantially subject to individual good will and efforts, usually from above without enough grassroots involved – having no paid membership, regular elections, an active board, or interactive networking.


Now ASIALEX, as an Asia-wide organization, exists mainly virtually. It comes alive once every two years for an excellent meeting, a glittering torch handed over from one conference convener to the next, though little flame in between. Can it be inspired to more?


By all means. The Asian Association for Lexicography is young, its spirit of heritage and progress is infinite. Entering adolescence, its future maturity does not depend on each local institute at its turn but on all of us all the time. As observed by Amy Chi in summing up the founding role of the HKUST Language Centre ten years ago, “[i]n the long run, however, it will be the responsibility of ASIALEX to remedy the situation.”


Ilan J. Kernerman