Professor shares linguistic knowledge

first_imgWith the intention of advising lexicographers on the best way to do their jobs, a USC professor of linguistics said he incorporates his experience as part of the Dictionary Society of North America into his classes.Wonder of words · Ed Finegan serves as the American Council of Learned Societies Delegate for the Dictionary Society of North America. – Photo courtesy of Ed Finegan Ed Finegan joined the DSNA in 1998, and has served on its executive board since 2007. Currently, he serves as the American Council of Learned Societies Delegate, representing the DSNA at the national conference for the next four years.“Academics have all these societies reflecting their personal interests,” Finegan said. “From when I was a graduate student I was very interested in certain aspects of dictionaries, in particular how they discuss what’s right and wrong, what you should and shouldn’t do.”Finegan wants to make sure the DSNA is well represented despite its size. The DSNA is a smaller academic society with 400 members, small when compared with many academic societies that have a few thousand members.The DSNA is a forum for scholars and practicing lexicographers to come together to talk about what dictionaries should be doing, such as how best to present their information or how to handle electronic dictionaries, Finegan said. Like other societies, it publishes a journal and holds conferences.Finegan said that ACLS helps him learn better ways to fundraise, hold membership drives and distribute information about the range of scholarship that’s going on in all of the other societies.“It’s affected my teaching,” Finegan said. “In my Language, Society, and Culture class, I added a module on how to make a dictionary entry from scratch by giving citations from a database and working through the mechanisms of creating an entry.”Finegan has also begun incorporating dictionary-making tips into the textbooks he writes.He said joining the society has him reading a wider range of books about dictionary making and about the history of lexicography, such as a book about the Oxford English Dictionary’s first editor James Murray and the help he received from a retired army officer in a mental institution.The relationship between his teaching and his work in the DSNA is intertwined, Finegan said.The society, founded in 1975, has also reflected a change in lexicography, with linguists becoming more impactful, partially because words have come to play a more central role in linguistics within the past couple of decades, Finegan said.“As linguistics has focused more and more on the structural implication on a particular word, that has had some very important implications on what lexicographers pay attention to. Not just meaning, but what kind of subjects and objects and direct objects can go with verbs,” Finegan said.His first book, Attitudes Toward English Usage: A History of the War of Words, was required reading for Merriam-Webster lexicographers for several years, Finegan said.The creation of dictionaries has also been influenced by the Internet, because lexicographers can use it to find examples of new word usages, Finegan said. It has also allowed linguists to see how lexicographers modify entries in real time.“With online dictionaries, not only can you get some very fresh material, but in the Oxford English Dictionary, every once in a while they put up the ongoing revisions. That’s very exciting because not only can you see the language changing, but you can also see lexicographers doing their work,” Finegan said.This semester, Finegan is teaching in the Legal Writing, Research and Advocacy Program in the Gould School of Law.last_img

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