Luanne von Schneidemesser lvonschn at FACSTAFF.WISC.EDU
Sat May 18 23:45:44 UTC 2002

DateFri, 17 May 2002 200824 -0400
FromFrank Abate <abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET>
SubjectFWword part dictionary?
Content-typetext/plain; charset=iso-8859-1

Urdang (for the record, it's "Laurence") edited two different books, both
published by Gale in the 1980s (and long since out of print, I believe, but
in many good libraries, and perhaps available used), one called Prefixes
and the other called Suffixes.  These are quite comprehensive and good, in
that they cover all manner of "word-initial" and "word-final" elements in
English, running into 1000+ entries (Prefixes is much longer) in each.  For
each entry, the affix is ID'd, given a def (or defs), and shown in several
example words.

Interestingly, the Suffixes title is organized in right-to-left alpha
order, making it somewhat confusing to anyone who doesn't check the front
matter. However, it also has a conventional left-to-right alpha index of
all the suffixes covered, keyed to the entries in the text, which are
numbered sequentially.  The reason for this was Urdang's insightful
observation that, unlike with prefixes, one can never be sure (without
linguistic expertise) where a suffix begins.  But we all can see where a
suffix ends.

The guy who compiled these was Alexander Humez, a quondam IE philologist,
who did a very careful and very exacting job.  (Where are you Alex?)

Also for the record, these were among the first dictionaries ever to be
compiled on a personal computer.  Humez used an Urdang-supplied Osborne
computer, which (for those who may not know) was a pre-IBM PC, vintage
1981. It weighed about 22 pounds, and had an 8-inch monochrome (green on
black) screen.  The operating system was (pre-Microsoft) CPM (which
required 2 KB or so -- yes, 2 KB!), which was loaded into RAM from a
5.25-inch floppy. Osbornes had twin floppy drives (no hard drive), one for
loading in application software, the other for writing data produced.  The
word-processing software was Wordstar.  Urdang wrote a bunch of macros to
code in the necessary typographic detail, and a user's manual for Humez to
use to learn the system, the macros, and how to apply them.
The Osborne was one of the first  personal computers.  It was termed
portable; you could hook the part with the screen to the rest and I believe
it had a handle.  My husband bought one; what I remember most vividly is
that the tiny screen would not display the whole line -- you had to scroll
back and forth to read each line and continue on with the document.  Drove
me nuts.

Humez never printed out any of his work at his end.  He mailed floppies (no
e-mail then), which were printed out, edited, and corrected to floppies at
Urdang's offices.  Then corrected floppies were sent to the typesetter for
what was then called "automated typesetting".  Bottom line -- the system
worked, and saved hundreds of hours of drudgery.

Not many people know about this pioneering work.

Frank Abate

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