Dictionary of HL

Larry Trask larryt at cogs.susx.ac.uk
Sat Jan 30 15:49:57 UTC 1999

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Right.  Apart from tidying up the cross-references, I have now finished
writing my dictionary of historical and comparative linguistics.  All
being well (translation: if our @#$%&* computer system stays up and
running), the book should go off to the publisher before the end of the
first week of February.  It takes 7-8 months to turn a manuscript into a
published book, so I would hope to see the book out by the end of
September, and possibly even by the end of August.  It's being published
by Edinburgh University Press.

The book contains about 2400 entries, including a couple hundred that
are merely cross-references (our terminology could be more unified).  It
is about 130,000 words long, which, inevitably, is 10,000 words over my
contract limit.  If the publisher bridles at this, I may have to do some
cutting.  I hope not.

I have tried to include every significant term, classical and
contemporary, that I have found used in the literature.  I've made a
particular point of including the terms used in textbooks of HL, many of
which are idiosyncratic, such as `retrograde formation' for
`back-formation' in one standard text.  For the most part, I have
refrained from coining new terms, but I have allowed myself to do so in
cases in which I could find no term but thought that one was needed:
hence the `Traugott progression', `Campbell's principle', `pitfalls of
comparison', `Hamp's principles of comparison', the `Nichols
progression', the `Pennsylvania model of IE', and a few others.

Named "laws" are included whenever I could track them down.  IE is easy,
thanks to Oscar Collinge's well-known compilation; the others have taken
more work.  Sadly, I am still lacking in the named laws of Semitic, on
which I could find little information.

It's not possible to list all of the world's 300 or so recognized
language families, but I've entered all of the most prominent ones, plus
the major branches of the biggest ones.  Every proposal of more remote
relations known to me is also entered, apart from the obviously crankish
ones, with summaries of the degree of acceptance currently received by
each.  And there are entries for the best-known isolates, as well as for
most of the extinct languages of Europe.  I don't know about you, but I
can never remember just what `Eteo-Cretan' is, or what the difference
is between North Picene and South Picene, without looking it up, and
even a well-known standard reference book gets the first one wrong.

Apart from hard-core historical linguistics, I've also covered the terms
introduced by the sociolinguists into the study of language change, the
terminology of dialectology and of linguistic geography (including
population typology and the homeland problem), the terminology
associated with pidgins, creoles and non-genetic languages generally,
names for various kinds of word-formation, the specific terminology of
philological work, the named mathematical approaches to HL, and the
various attempts at linking our results with those of anthropologists,
archeologists and geneticists.  And I've also entered all of the
symbols, abbreviations and Latin phrases used in linguistic and
philological work, including a few that are not specific to us (I mean,
none of these young whippersnappers seems to know what <cf.> stands
for). ;-)  More seriously, I doubt that my students know what a dagger
means next to a language name, or what <vel sim.> means, or what a
reconstruction like *t[h]aNu/i is supposed to denote, so all this stuff
is in there.

Under a few entries, such as `comparison' and `comparative method', I've
permitted myself to write lengthy essays about procedure, methodology
and evidence.  As is probably well known by now, I'm a hard-liner in
this area, and I endorse what I regard as maximal rigor on every point.
I hope the result doesn't make some readers chew the tablecloth in
frustration. ;-)  And I've made a particular point of naming, entering
and illustrating everything I can think of that can possibly go wrong in
historical work, ranging from familiar problems like the beech-tree
problem and indeterminacy to outrages like reaching down and using
multiple incompatible comparisons.  Oh, by the way, there is *no* entry
for `phonetic resemblance'.  Anybody think I should add one? ;-)  I do,
though, have entries for `lookalikes' and `Anklaenge'.

I've tried hard to provide at least one genuine example of every term
entered; this is the main reason I'm over my length limit.  If I cut the
examples, I could get under limit at once, but the book would be less
useful.  Everything from `breaking' to `exaptation' is easier for
readers to understand if they can look at an example or two.

So far as possible and reasonable, I've cited the source of all terms
proposed in the comparatively recent literature, and I've done my best
to provide further reading for the more important topics.  The
bibliography contains about 600 items, with a heavy bias toward recent
work which is not as yet well represented in textbooks.

If you were thinking of offering me some advice, but haven't gotten
around to doing so, I can probably just about consider a few further
additions or modifications in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, I'd like to express my gratitude to Dorothy for maintaining
this list, and to all those dozens of people who have responded to my
various queries with advice and information.  As a result of all this
assistance, the book will be *much* more complete and accurate than it
would have been otherwise, and I am deeply grateful.

Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

larryt at cogs.susx.ac.uk

More information about the Histling mailing list