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Dictionary Lovers Get Inundated with Old English

by Elizabeth Ryan 


Tags: Great Writing, dictionaries, words, Dictionary of Old English, Ammon Shea, Humanities, Elizabeth Ryan,

humanitiesCOVIf you’re the type that digs dictionary talk, then listen up. Ammon Shea reports in Humanities that researchers are currently at work on a comprehensive collection of Anglo-Saxon text, the Dictionary of Old English (DOE). Shea is a dictionary expert of sorts, having read the Oxford English Dictionary in its entirety (in only one year), and he dissects the evolution of the project with all the unabashed awe you might expect.

Although, as Shea explains, “a typical user of the DOE is usually a scholar of Middle or Old English, someone who is terribly interested in whether there have been any new nuances found in the subcategories of beon (to be) in the last eighty years, or if there is an additional text in which a form of this word has been found,” it is still important to the rest of us. After all, it is the precursor to our present day English. He adds:

We are all expert speakers of our own language, and whether we recognize it or not, the words and meanings laid out so carefully in the Dictionary of Old English are far more innately familiar to us than are the fossilized tibia or femur of some long extinct life-form. These words are the bone structure of the language that we speak and breathe today.  

Source: Humanities