The cultural aspect of dictionaries is a popular subject, a particular favourite with students and young scholars writing their dissertations in the field of lexicography or translation. The vast bibliography of Giovanni Tallarico’s (henceforth GT’s) monograph suggests that, in francophone metalexicography, the topic features even more prominently than in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Starting from the assumption that bilingual dictionaries (BDs) are cultural works par excellence, GT sets out to examine the language-culture nexus as reflected in contemporary dictionaries with French and Italian. Given that the two languages are closely related, one expects the intercultural differences surfacing in the lexicon to be subtle rather than striking, an expectation that is largely corroborated by the study’s findings. The book falls into two parts, each consisting of a single chapter; Part II additionally features a 6-page Conclusion. The main body of the work is preceded by Acknowledgements, a Preface (by John Humbley), and an Introduction; it is followed by two large Appendices (180 pages in total), a 40-page Bibliography, and an Index of names. The 5-page Introduction outlines the subjects covered in the book and maps out the contents of the individual sections. Part I prepares the theoretical ground for the empirical investigation that follows. The goal of the study is specified as the analysis of lexical gaps, examples of use, cultural notes, and false borrowings in a corpus of four French-Italian and Italian-French dictionaries. First, however, the reader is offered an extended discussion of some fundamental linguistic and metalexicographic issues. A variety of topics are touched upon, including the influence of language on worldview, anisomorphism, the dictionary-encyclopaedia distinction, the origins of bilingual lexicography, degrees of interlingual equivalence, etc. It is noted (p. 49) that in France, due to the importance of lexicology as a field of study, the division between lexicography and linguistics is not as sharp as Tarp (2008) would have it. It should perhaps be added that things are similar in German-speaking countries as well as in Central and Eastern Europe. Even in the Anglo-Saxon world, where lexicology has fared markedly worse, a strict separation of lexicography and linguistics has hardly ever been postulated, let alone observed. In this respect as in others, GT opts for the majority view. Having discussed linguistic relativity, he settles for the weak version of the hypothesis. He stipulates that semantics should include the study of culture, which chimes in with the claims of cognitive linguists, for whom language is inseparable from the rest of cognition, and who therefore view linguistic and extra-linguistic knowledge as forming a continuum. He considers a BD as first and foremost a tool for solving practical problems, but one that can also play a role in lexicological and semantic research.1 Bilingual dictionary making, unlike the compilation of monolingual dictionaries, is for him more craft than science, mainly because ‘la constitution d’un corpus bilingue est a notre avis infaisable’ (p. 97). It is perhaps worth noting that things are changing fast in this department, so that pessimism regarding both the feasibility of bilingual corpora and their role in dictionary-making may soon become unwarranted (see Kovář et al. 2016). On the whole, the discussion in Part I is well-informed and discerning, though a bit slow to take off. GT tends to labour a point and say he will return to it later, without saying when and where precisely. A great deal of time is spent on issues which are no longer a priority in 21st-century linguistics. One wonders, for instance, whether Saussure’s approach to meaning really needs so much arguing against after decades of research which has addressed – often successfully – all the limitations of classical structuralist semantics that GT identifies. One theoretical framework invoked repeatedly is Wierzbicka’s Natural Semantic Metalanguage. GT declares the importance of Wierzbicka’s work for his own (e.g. pp. 14, 99), but it is difficult to see concrete evidence of that, either in the theoretical or in the practical part of the monograph.2 In general, while Part I is a clear and readable introduction to the issues of language-culture interaction and their impact on bilingual lexicography, some of the recurrent motifs appear somewhat redundant. Another arguably superfluous feature of the book, visible especially in Part I, is the liberal use of quotations (non-French ones are additionally accompanied by their translations). The possible upside to this could be that a reader unfamiliar with metalexicographic literature in French might, if interested, follow them up. On the downside, the quotes tend to follow one another in close succession, often saying the same thing in slightly different words (e.g., p. 69f.). Some state things which are either obvious or common-sense (Szende, p. 257); at least one is used more than once (Lerat on pp. 58 and 256). The most frequently quoted works come from the 1990s and 2000s, though many of the issues they pertain to had been addressed by metalexicographers (e.g. Zgusta) much earlier. It is occasionally difficult to decide what the author himself thinks as he quotes both moderate as well as extreme views. Part II starts with a presentation of the corpus of data: the CD-ROM versions of four large biscopal dictionaries between French and Italian (Boch, Garzanti, Hachette-Paravia, and Sansoni Larousse), all addressed primarily to italophones (only one sells in both countries), and all now roughly a decade old. For GT, the main linguistic symptom of a difference between two cultures is a lexical gap in one of the languages, potentially signalling the non-importance of the underlying concept for the community speaking that language (p. 85). It is therefore the identification of lexical gaps on the basis of the examined dictionaries that constitutes his major objective.3 A gap is defined (pp. 69, 127) as a situation when a headword or sense is translated by more than one sign. It should be immediately clear why this superficially elegant criterion cannot serve as a reliable diagnostic of the non-existence of a target language (TL) equivalent. After all, rather than being a free combination that paraphrases the source language (SL) meaning, a multipart sign may well be a lexicalized unit of the target language. GT is fully aware of this, as later in the book (p. 151) he invokes Martinet’s notion of a syntheme, defined as a segment of discourse which, while composed of two or more signifying units, behaves as if it were a moneme (e.g. pomme de terre or bonne d’enfants). Accordingly, he does not treat synthemes as gaps, but that means the criterion does not really work. Perhaps the revelation that the simple ‘equivalence de > 1 signes’ formula is not, in fact, simple – multiword units constituting a hugely important and formally unidentifiable exception – should not have been withheld until the analytical section of the book. Still later (p. 161), we learn that there is yet another chink in the system, namely connotational gaps, where the meaning differences are, by definition, qualitative rather than quantitative. While all this is not meant to imply that a foolproof diagnostic of lexical gaps is easy to come by, it does suggest that it might be a mistake to phrase the equivalence problem as a yes-no question: is there or is there not a TL equivalent of a SL item? Such an approach necessarily results in oversimplification, no matter what criteria are adopted. As argued, for instance, in Adamska-Sałaciak (2016), dictionary equivalents come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Additionally, there is a degree of subjectivity involved in their identification: a case in point from GT’s own data might be whether the very rare French absteme counts as an equivalent of Italian astemio (p. 131) or whether this is a case of a lexical gap in French. By contrast, one problem that could easily have been avoided is the unrepresentativeness of the analyzed sample. For reasons which are never divulged, the search for gaps has been performed on the letter A sections of the dictionaries. It is common lexicographic knowledge that the early parts of a dictionary are not the most reliable gauge of the features of the work as a whole. Besides, in this particular instance, choosing A may have affected some more specific findings. Among the gaps identified, there is a preponderance of lexical items connected with high culture. GT tries to explain this by the fact (but is it even a fact?) that the four dictionaries are targeted at students and translators (p. 222). A simpler and more convincing explanation might be that this particular result is an artefact of the choice of sample: a balanced selection of entries (see, e.g., Bukowska 2010), distributed across the entire alphabet, may well have produced a different picture, since words beginning with A are likely to include a higher than average proportion of learned, Greco-Latin vocabulary. Lexical gaps are further subdivided (p. 128f.) into dictionary gaps (écarts dictionnairiques), semantic, morphological, terminological, and referential gaps. The first class covers cases when at least one of the four dictionaries manages to offer a monolexemic translation of a given SL word. That this should be considered a gap at all suggests GT is interested not so much in the lexico-cultural differences between French and Italian as in establishing how successful each of his dictionaries is in terms of equivalent provision. In any case, the question whether écarts dictionnairiques deserve to be treated as gaps loses much of its immediacy when we are told a few sections on (p. 150ff.) that as many as eight types of cases need to be distinguished which do not fall into any of the five categories.4 That being said, the individual case studies, though largely anecdotal, make for highly engaging reading. GT then goes on to examine the cultural implications of examples of usage, again extracted from entries beginning with A. Most of the illustrative sentences and phrases have been made up by the lexicographers; the only dictionary claiming to have used a corpus (Hachette-Paravia) offers examples that are fewer in number and, in GT’s view, banal (p. 223). This section, too, reads rather well, though it does not seem to lead to many generalizable conclusions. One interesting suggestion is that, in order to add more cultural depth, BDs should admit literary citations into their CD-ROM versions (pp. 100, 223). With optical media being on their way out, the talk here should perhaps be of online versions of dictionaries, but otherwise it is a good point. By contrast, detailed deliberations about which particular example is outdated or factually inaccurate (e.g., as regards the speed of trains or the capacity of sport stadiums) seem surplus to requirements, especially that GT’s corrections of alleged errors are not always themselves correct – to wit the puzzling statement that Tosca (the opera) has only one aria.5 The next major section of Part II deals with cultural notes. This time, the whole texts of three dictionaries have been subjected to scrutiny,6 as evidenced by Appendix II, where we find a list of all the entries equipped with cultural notes. In the main text, some cases are discussed in detail, and the predominantly encyclopaedic, referential content of the notes is commented upon. Notes being the most explicit means of signalling cultural differences, they are perhaps not as interesting for the researcher as the other phenomenon looked at in this section, namely so-called false borrowings (faux emprunts). GT defines the term (p. 237), after Winter-Froemel (2009), as an innovation in the recipient language which does not exist as such in the donor language but is built of elements thereof, such as the French pseudo-anglicism recordman. Only borrowings into Italian are considered, the analysis relying on several monolingual dictionaries of Italian,7 one of which (Garzanti) explicitly labels such cases as falso francesismo. The twenty-nine items so labelled are then looked up in the remaining monolingual dictionaries and the four bilingual ones. It seems that not all the lexical items considered as false gallicisms by Garzanti and forming the starting point for GT’s analysis fit the definition given above. Some are simply loanwords which have developed a new sense not present in the donor language, e.g., Italian abat-jour, which now has the sense ‘bedside lamp’ in addition to the ‘lampshade’ sense inherited from French. Further semantic development of borrowings is a common enough scenario and, in this reviewer’s opinion, there is nothing ‘false’ or ‘pseudo’ about the loanwords which have undergone such a process. GT divides his twenty-nine items into seven types (p. 248), presumably according to the mechanism by which they are believed to have arisen: graphic adaptation, antonomasia, allogenic construction, derivation, true borrowing, semantic evolution, and truncation (modèle tronqué). The fifth item in this list prompts the rather obvious question how something called ‘true borrowing’ can be a type of false borrowing. The answer is that what GT calls emprunts veritables are actually ‘false false borrowings’ (faux faux emprunts), that is, cases (three in all) incorrectly labelled by Garzanti. Leaving aside both the logic of this and the potential usefulness of the whole categorization, the discussion of the individual cases is, once again, illuminating. GT should be applauded for including the phenomenon in his analysis, as there can be no doubt that borrowing, especially of the false variety, can throw light onto the relations between two cultures. Connotation is rightly viewed here as more important than denotation, and the presence of false borrowings from French in Italian is interpreted – correctly if uncontroversially – as evidence of the enduring prestige of French. More than a third of the 6-page Conclusion is taken up by a summary; the rest relies heavily on quotations (one of which appeared earlier on p. 58). GT acknowledges (p. 258) that his study does not exhaust the subject: it could have been made more comprehensive by including dictionary outer texts and/or addressing specific issues of social relevance, such as the lexicographic representation of gender. This is true, of course, but one can hardly expect a single work to deal with everything at once. The several mini-studies based on material excerpted from dictionaries between French and Italian add up to a readable account of a number of culturally significant issues. The treatment of individual cases shows considerable expertise and high sensitivity to linguistic nuances. The book offers solid evidence – for those who might still need it – that even closely related languages contain unmistakable traces of underlying cultural differences. It is thus the meticulous description and detailed analysis of the data that, in my opinion, constitute the monograph’s main contribution to metalexicographic literature. Notes 1. At the same time quoting with seeming approval the work of Rey-Debove (2008), who insists that a BD establishes a relation between the signs of different languages without taking account of the respective referents; consequently, within this view, BDs do not ‘do’ semantic analysis (p. 51). 2. To mention just one major discrepancy, GT does not believe in the existence of a tertium comparationis for interlingual semantic analysis, whereas this is precisely the role Wierzbicka assigns to her Natural Semantic Metalanguage. 3. Appendix I contains a list of all the gaps found in the A entries in both the French-Italian and Italian-French sections of the dictionaries. 4. In addition to synthemes and connotational gaps, the mixed bag includes the following: realia, encyclopedic glosses (les précisions encyclopédiques), euphemisms, cultural associations, trademarks, and the pragmatic dimension (la dimension pragmatique). 5. ‘…cet opéra n’a qu’un seul air (sinon ce sont des duos)’ (p. 188). 6. The Sansoni Larousse dictionary does not carry cultural notes. 7. Seven of these, abbreviated respectively as DELI, DI, DO, GDU, SC, T, and Z, are missing from the Bibliography, their full titles being given only on p. 238. The remaining two, abbreviated as DeM and GI, feature in both places. References Adamska-Sałaciak A. 2016. ‘Explaining Meaning in Bilingual Dictionaries.’ In Durkin P. The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography . Oxford: Oxford University Press. 144– 160. Bukowska A. A. 2010. ‘Sampling Techniques in Metalexicographic Research.’ In Dykstra A. Schoonheim T. (eds), Proceedings of the XIV Euralex International Congress . Ljouwert: Afûk, 1258– 1269. Kovář V. et al. . 2016. ‘ Sketch Engine for Bilingual Lexicography.’ International Journal of Lexicography 29. 3: 339– 352. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Rey-Debove J. 2008 . ‘Les dictionnaires bilingues.’ In Rey-Debove J. La linguistique du signe. Une approche sémiotique du langage . Paris: Colin. 258– 268. Tarp S. 2008. Lexicography in the Borderland between Knowledge and Non-Knowledge . Tübingen: Niemeyer. Winter-Froemel E. 2009. ‘ Les emprunts linguistiques: enjeux théoriques et perspectives nouvelles.’ Neologica 3: 79– 122. © 2017 Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. 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International Journal of Lexicography – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 17, 2017
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