Introduction to the Australian National Dictionary Second Edition: Part Two

9780195550269Editor Bruce Moore, in his Introduction to the dictionary, describes the history and methodology of this significant work of Australian lexicography. We reproduce the first part of the Introduction here.

Read Part One of the Introduction to the Australian National Dictionary second edition.

History of the Editing

In the early period of research for the new edition, the Centre followed the traditional methods of historical lexicography, established by the OED project, and refined for Australian circumstances in the editing of the first edition of the AND. For example, material that might prove useful for new words and senses, and for citations, was identified via the acquisition records of the National Library of Australia.

Soon after the establishment of the ANDC, Ramson set up an electronic database of citations, running parallel to the ‘physical’ file of citations on index cards, the first step in the computerisation of the editing process.

By the mid-1990s, however, the World Wide Web had radically changed the way researchers went about the business of lexicography. For example, in the editing of our Australian general dictionaries, it became possible to test and to establish Australian usage on the Web, especially by using domain delimiters. Gradually, searchable monographs and newspapers became available, with online projects such as the Australian literary and historical texts on the Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service site (SETIS) giving an indication of what was possible for searchable electronic texts from the earlier period. As research for the new edition of the AND proceeded, more and more material became available on the Web, of a kind unimaginable in amount and scope to the editors of the first edition, and to the editors of the second edition for much of their preparatory research.

By 2009 the new words and meanings had been largely chosen, the citations for them had been entered into the electronic database, and draft entries had been written. Revision, restructuring, and reformatting of the material in the first edition were well under way, although this took much longer than envisaged. Ironically, it was this longer than expected editing process that enabled the project to take advantage of an exciting new source of research material. This is the National Library of Australia’s Newspaper Digitisation Program (part of the Trove site), which by the end of 2015 had some 1000 Australian newspapers available online, in searchable form, from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century (the cut-off point usually determined by copyright considerations). This has transformed the way Australian historical lexicographers can search for evidence of Australian words, and we have been able to take advantage of this new resource in the final years of editing.

Electronic Material

The early Australian newspapers, available through the National Library of Australia, have been a major source of citations. The newspapers are presented in digitised form, along with a searchable text generated by optical character recognition. Digitised and searchable printed books, available from various websites, including Project Gutenberg and Google Books, have also proved valuable. In all these cases, we have had access to a digitised version of the hard copy of published newspapers or books, and this satisfies a basic principle of citation evidence in a historical dictionary: a historical dictionary should provide sufficient bibliographical information about the source of a citation for a user to be able to check the accuracy of the citation.

The wealth of new material on the Web is a great resource for the lexicographer, but the material available cannot always be used in a historical dictionary because much of it is, by its very nature, unstable. Even with careful and detailed information about the URL, including the date of access and the like, the lexicographer cannot be certain that the information will be able to be checked by a dictionary user at a later date. Perhaps this problem will be resolved in the future, but it has not been resolved at the present, and for this reason we have decided not to cite such material from the Web. Similarly, many books are being published in electronic form as well as in hard copy, and of course many books are being published solely in electronic form. The problem of stability again arises with e-books: we cannot be certain that the electronic books available now will be accessible in the future, or that they will retain the precise form in which they are now available. For this reason we have decided to adhere to the principle that we will only cite evidence where we are certain that it can be readily checked in the future.

There are digitised and searchable forms of the hard copy of some newspapers available on the Web, but these are often restricted in availability to the previous twelve months or so. Electronic forms of newspapers are widely available on the Web, but their content changes in real time, and so for the bibliographer they pose problems of a lack of recoverability and a lack of stability. The content of the hard copy of a large range of contemporary Australian newspapers, sometimes extending back in time to the mid-1980s, is available in electronic (but not digitised) form via websites such as Factiva. In most cases, however, these electronic versions of newspapers present problems for the historical lexicographer: all the material that is in the electronic version is not necessarily in the hard copy and vice versa (for example, last-minute cuts might be made to the hard copy to fit on to a page, while the complete version is submitted to the electronic repository); the page numbers given for the electronic version do not always match the hard copy; the electronic version does not carry over features such as italics and some entities from the hard copy; with country newspapers that are published only a few times a week, the date given for the electronic version is sometimes out by a day or two. For such reasons, all citations located by searching such electronic newspapers have been verified against the hard copy. This practice has also enabled us to give the column number of a newspaper citation as well as the page number, and this is in keeping with the bibliographical practice of the first edition.


The first edition of the AND used subject labels (such as Mining) to indicate that a word is restricted to a particular field of activity, but did not use labels to indicate register. It is argued in the Introduction:

There is a danger that using labels to indicate register can be overinterpretative and over-restrictive. This seems particularly true of Australian English, which allows easy movement between formal and informal usage. It should be clear from the citations if a word belongs mainly in colloquial use or to the slang of a particular group, and equally clear if it is for some reason taboo in some contexts. Labels like coarse, colloq., derog., slang, and vulgar, which tend unnecessarily to categorize, have therefore been omitted. Inclusion of words that many will find offensive does not mean that the editors endorse the sentiments they frequently express: our responsibility has been to record the language as it has been used and to supply the evidence of this use in citations which enable users of the dictionary to form their own judgements about both the words and their users.

Increased sensitivity about the presence of offensive terms in dictionaries, especially racist terms, has been addressed by the use of the label Offens. in this edition. Derogatory terms are sometimes self-evident from their definitions, but if we have felt that further guidance about register for such terms would be useful, we have added the label Derog. The comments about the fluidity of the range between formal and informal in Australian English remain valid, and we do not use labels such as Colloq. And Slang, since their imposition would often misrepresent the nature of Australian English.

In the first edition there was some use of regional labels, but such labels were used with caution because of a lack of firm empirical evidence for many items. Research by the ANDC and by other scholars has increased our understanding of regional variation in the Australian lexicon, and many more items are marked with regional labels in this edition. Although regional designation based on States (and Territories) is not always entirely satisfactory, since patterns of regional distribution often cross State boundaries, we have used the State-based designation since it is the most readily understood by the user.

Flora and Fauna

As with the first edition, entries recording the popular names of flora and fauna make up a significant component of the dictionary, and in the Introduction to the first edition it was noted that ‘it has often been difficult to determine whether or not to include a word’ and that ‘in general we have erred on the side of inclusiveness’. The predecessor to the AND was E.E. Morris’s Austral English (1898), a work that received immediate and continuing criticism for the amount of flora and fauna it contained. The primary objection was not to names derived from Aboriginal languages (kangaroo, quandong, etc.) or to vernacular names (laughing jackass, Jacky Winter, etc.), but mainly to the numerous names in the form of descriptive compounds (such as native carrot and red-bellied black snake).

These descriptive compounds, however, are a significant element in the history of the naming of the Australian landscape by the colonisers and their descendants. When the Europeans came across Australian flora and fauna they had a number of ways of giving common (as distinct from scientific) names to them. They could take the Indigenous name, and in some cases they did. One other common procedure was for newly discovered flora and fauna to be named after fancied resemblances to known flora and fauna, especially British and European. The term ash, for example, was applied to trees that produced timber resembling the European ash, even though the trees are in no way related. In order to distinguish the Australian plant or animal from the European plant or animal with which it was compared, the Australian usage was often preceded by a term that indicates a difference, and two commonly used modifiers were wild and native. Another way of distinguishing particular species was to use a description that included a colour term such as red or black.

While the AND is not a dictionary of Australian natural history, it includes compounds for flora and fauna that are common in everyday usage, and it includes sufficient other compounds to illustrate the nature and extent of various kinds of compounding strategies (as with native-, wild-, red-, and so on). Such processes of naming can offer important insights into Australian history, and one of the functions of a dictionary based on historical principles is to provide the evidence for such history.

Compound Entries

This edition follows the structure of the first edition, with one major exception. In the first edition, Compounds, or Special Compounds and their definitions, were listed in one section, followed by a second section with all the illustrative citations for all the compounds. In the citation section, the shift from one compound to the next was signalled by the highlighting of the compound term in bold on its first appearance. Especially in very long entries (as at bush where the compounds extended over six pages) this made the compound entries very difficult and cumbersome to decipher. This structure was also at odds with the bulk of entries, where the citation block was tied to its headword or sense number. This different structure made some sense for compound sections of particular kinds, especially those made up largely of flora and fauna, where the import of the compound block consists as much in its whole (for example, the widespread use of compounding elements such as native and wild, or colours such as red and black) as in the individual compounds (such as native apple, native apricot, native artichoke, native bear, etc.).

Even so, for many entries made up of Special Compounds, where the senses were various and important, this structure was frustrating, and a need for some kind of reorganisation of the compound sections was strongly felt. The result is the partial denesting of each compound section in the present edition: each compound, its definition, and its illustrative quotations are brought together in one ‘mini-section’ within the larger compound block.

Share this post:

One thought on “Introduction to the Australian National Dictionary Second Edition: Part Two

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *