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Scottish Lexicography Symposium: ScotLex-1

Ruth O'Donovan

SLD was delighted to host the first Scottish Lexicography Symposium (ScotLex-1) at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 8th April 2016. Our plan was for a collaborative and forward-looking event, focused on lexicographical methodology and practice. With a nod to the disproportionate contribution that Scotland has made to lexicography historically, we looked to celebrate current achievements while providing an opportunity for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of experience and best practice in Scotland and beyond. We are happy to report that the day more than lived up to our expectations.

The symposium itself was preceded by a workshop and dinner the day before, organized in conjunction with IDM, one of our sponsors and developers of the widely used Dictionary Publishing System (DPS) software. The hands-on workshop was hosted in Edinburgh University with the kind support of the Department of Linguistics and English Language and attended by over 20 enthusiastic delegates. This was followed by a thoroughly enjoyable and delicious symposium dinner held at the Balmoral Hotel where we had over 40 attendees.

On the morning of the 8th, ScotLex-1 was opened by SLD Convener, Professor Jeremy Smith who welcomed the 70 delegates. He was followed by Iseabail Macleod whose opening remarks gave historical context to the current state of lexicography in Scotland, setting a fine tone for the day. Patrick Hanks, the renowned lexicographer, corpus linguist, and onomastician, delivered the keynote address which was a fascinating take on how lexicographers look at linguistic evidence and represent meaning in dictionaries. This provoked a lively and enthusiastic response from the audience.

The first session of invited papers was chaired by Susan Rennie and focused on current work in Scottish lexicography with a good mix of commercial, academic and national dictionary projects. William Gillies' paper Faclair na Gàidhlig: retrospect and prospects described the background to the Faclair na Gàidhlig project as well as outlining the challenges ahead as the foundational phase of this exciting new project draws to a close. Our own Ann Ferguson's talk on the Dictionary of the Scots Language provided an update on many recent milestones met and provided an insight into future plans for the digital edition of this great Scottish resource. Mary O'Neill from Collins spoke about their innovative approach to the crowdsourcing of neologisms, examining both the challenges and opportunities it presents. Finally, Marc Alexander, director of the Historical Thesaurus of English, shook everybody up before lunch by suggesting that in this digital age, lexicographers should reject alphabetical ordering in place of a conceptual system based on the principles of Professors Michael Samuels and Christian Kay.

In contrast to the morning, the first session after lunch, chaired by Vivian Marr from OUP, had a distinctly international feel. Jill Wolvaardt from the Dictionary Unit for South African English opened the session with a paper on the future of the Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles and its adaptation for dynamic electronic presentation. Next up were Carolin Müller-Spitzer and Sascha Wolfer from the Institute for the German Language in Mannheim. Their talk looked at various techniques to support understanding of how dictionary users engage and interact with online dictionaries. Andrew Ball outlined the extensive revision process ongoing at the OED, highlighting the digital tools, electronic corpus resources and quantitative methods which make this possible. Last up was Iztok Kosem from the University of Ljubljana who described the lexicographical process developed by his team for the compilation from scratch of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slovene Language, incorporating crowdsourcing and semi-automatic data extraction techniques.

The day finished with a demo session where Susan Rennie introduced the Historical Thesaurus of Scots, Thierry Declerck presented an approach to the formal representation of dictionary data for computational applications, and Vivian Marr discussed the new Oxford Global Languages initiative. We were delighted also to have Thomas Widmann present the new Online Orkney Dictionary for the first time on behalf of himself and Simon Hall. Before winding up for the day, we also launched ScotLex, a Scottish lexicographic network set up with the aim of encouraging debate and collaboration between those working in any area of lexicography in Scotland. It will provide the ideal forum to further the enthusiastic discussions and collaborative opportunities which originated at ScotLex-1.

We are grateful for the generous sponsorship we received from IDM, Edinburgh University Press, Oxford University Press and Collins, as well as the ongoing support of the Scottish Government. If you are interested in knowing more about ScotLex-1 or viewing any of the slide decks, please visit the symposium website.