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Typology of specialized dictionaries

Subject-field or specialized dictionaries are categorized into single-, multi-, and subfield reference works (Bergenholtz and Tarp 1995). Depending on the perspective of the typology, the same subject field might be considered a single, homogenous field or a heterogeneous collection of various subfields. There is no clear guideline on the delimitation of the subject field, as this always depends on the level of granularity with which it is viewed and the intended function of a resource.

Like general dictionaries, specialized ones can be classified by the number of languages covered into mono-, bi-, and multilingual resources. The amount of information included in a given language depends on whether first language speakers are addressed or not. While a competent native speaker might be able to select a language equivalent from a list without further details, a non-native user might not know which correspondents in the target language to choose. Thus, addressing the latter requires more information, such as connotations or regional variations. Bi- or multilingual specialized dictionaries often omit linguistic information. Furthermore, with the addition of further languages, more and more encyclopedic and defining information seems to be omitted.

The function of a dictionary also depends on the source and target languages. For instance, an English-to-Spanish dictionary constitutes a reception dictionary for the Spanish user but a production dictionary for the English user. If the direction from Spanish to English is not provided, the resource is considered mono-directional, while otherwise it represents a bi-directional resource (Hannay 2003:149).

Mono-directional resources that only list equivalents in the target language fully ignore cross-cultural differences. The cultural component is central to subject-fields, such as business and economics, which are dependent on local traditions and legislation. Dictionary makers need to consider whether to emphasize local traditions or to address a more international audience. The second approach demands an abstraction away from culture-dependent aspects, which is not always sensible. Of course, some subject fields are less dependent on cultural factors, such as technological processes or mathematical theories.

When talking about dictionary typology, most publications include the representation mode and differentiate printed or paper-based resources from electronic ones. Electronic resources can be subdivided into online or Web-based products accessible on the Internet and offline resources available either as a desktop application or in another electronic format. Substantial advantages of Web-based resources are hyperlinked cross-references and the capacity for their entries to be shared on social networks, as exemplified by the Facebook and Google Plus buttons in the Merriam- Webster.com example on the right of Figure 23.1.

With the technological shift since the beginning of the century, a general notion spread within the field of lexicography that the electronic dictionary would increasingly replace its printed counterpart (Lew 2012: 344). Rundell even states that “the

Web-based dictionary [...] looks like the only serious contender” (2012: 15) on the dictionary market. Buyers of paper editions are frequently provided with access to an online version of the same resource; in fact, several major publishers have stopped producing paper-based dictionaries altogether. However, there is little benefit to users from electronic dictionaries which are merely digitalized versions of paper-based editions uploaded to the Web. It requires a genuine e-dictionary designed from scratch for an electronic platform to take advantage of the electronic format (Fuertes-Olivera and Tarp 2014:17).

When a user community contributes to a reference work, the work is commonly referred to as collaboratively developed resource (Fuertes-Olivera 2009a: 130). For instance, the encyclopedia Wikipedia allows users to add content in any language. At the same time, it places great emphasis on gaining a reputation by implementing peer review processes and similar measures (Fuertes-Olivera 2009a: 122). If such quality requirements and processes are not in place, using a collaboratively developed resource may be counter-productive for language learners and novices to a field. If in doubt, it is always better to use an institutionalized resource where a major publisher or organization has tight control over the content. Using institutionalized dictionaries does not necessarily involve a cost as several major institutions offer their products free of charge, e.g., Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Furthermore, the line between institutional and collaboratively developed resources is increasingly blurred, with major publishers actively encouraging users to contribute, as in the case of the Macmillan Open Dictionary.

Resources based on a prescriptive approach to language cannot be generated collaboratively. Instead, they have to be produced by major organizations or publishers in such a way that they reduce synonyms and equivalents to a minimum in order to avoid ambiguity and standardize the use of words. For this purpose, standardization bodies frequently publish controlled vocabularies such as that of agricultural language issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations called AGROVOC. Any kind of language-planning endeavor would take a prescriptive approach to specialized language. Prescriptive approaches are also by definition synchronic, that is, they omit any consideration of shifts in meaning. The opposite strategy is to adopt a descriptive perspective on lexicography that describes natural language as it is used and thus needs to consider variations of a linguistic, cultural, regional, or other nature. Descriptive approaches may be synchronic but can also be diachronic, that is, they can consider the evolution of words and phrases over time.

 
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