Kernerman Dictionary News • Number 5 • July 1997


Ilan Kernerman

I was thrilled to take part in the Dictionaries in Asia Conference and the inauguration of ASIALEX. The need for a forum of this kind has long been felt, and the event lived up to expectations.

It might seem strange no such framework existed so far, since Asia was the cradle for language and dictionary-making thousands of years ago, and its lexicographic tradition flourished through the ages to modern times. The 20th century's prominent milestones in pedagogical lexicography stem from the work of M West in India and AS Hornby in Japan. Some of the world's finest dictionaries are made in Japan and its neighbors, as well as valuable research, but they are little known of elsewhere.

In addition to economic-political factors, this lack may be mainly due to Asia's inherent diversity, not being a homogeneous entity of any sort. Linguistically, unlike most European tongues which pertain to the Indo-European family - Asian languages share no common background, apart from being human.

That natural human link is true just as well for the entire world. Asia can project a microcosmos of it and, thus, establishing ASIALEX is a significant step toward forming a global lexicographical association.

A future Unilex (or Globalex, in the words of Tom McArthur) concerns globalization and co-existence in multilingual societies, English as the international lingua franca, localized Englishes, effects on the mother tongues, etc, as well as repercussions from hi-tech and telecom, on-line interactivity and automatic translation, 'Dictionizers' and 'Quicktionaries', and so on.

This forthcoming forum should not replace national or regional LEXes, but accommodate the varied issues. As such, geography is no sound base for its foundation, nor for the soon-to-come dictionaries that will hardly be what we imagine now.

Beyond countries and behind computers there are people. First of all, and after all. People are the most common denominator for lexicography all over the world.

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