When the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was published between 1884 and 1928, it soon became acknowledged among the pillars of national scholarship, its main strengths being, among others, its descriptive (rather than prescriptive) aim and its historical character. However, just like any other dictionary, it was far from partial in its representation of the English language and of contemporary society: scholars have already commented upon its typical Victorian prudish coverage of swear and coarse words or on its treatment of gender and sexuality. Women, in particular, seem to have been misrepresented: the first edition of the OED was compiled and then published during a time of major critical shifts in social thinking and changes concerning women’s place in society; this corresponded to the so-called woman question, extensively debated in newspapers, but largely ignored in lexicographical representation. The present study aims to investigate definitions concerning not only women, but also other ‘outcasts’ of Victorian and Edwardian society, such as the poor or the working class, people from the Commonwealth or other regions of the UK, the gypsies, the insane and the disabled: anyone who, according to contemporary ideology, was labelled as ‘other’ and confined to an isolated domain of society. The isolation of these ‘undesirables’ seemed to be legitimated also in the dictionary, which was commonly regarded as an authoritative reference book. Moreover, after checking these definitions in OED1, a diachronic analysis will be carried out, to see if and to what extent the biased views of the first edition have undergone any changes in the revisions of OED2 and OED3 and whether such revisions can be linked to a change in ideological views.

Women and other 'undesirables' in the Oxford English Dictionary / M. Guzzetti. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Isole e Ponti. Per una topografia linguistica e letteraria dell'isolamento tenutosi a Napoli nel 2021.

Women and other 'undesirables' in the Oxford English Dictionary

M. Guzzetti
2021

Abstract

When the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was published between 1884 and 1928, it soon became acknowledged among the pillars of national scholarship, its main strengths being, among others, its descriptive (rather than prescriptive) aim and its historical character. However, just like any other dictionary, it was far from partial in its representation of the English language and of contemporary society: scholars have already commented upon its typical Victorian prudish coverage of swear and coarse words or on its treatment of gender and sexuality. Women, in particular, seem to have been misrepresented: the first edition of the OED was compiled and then published during a time of major critical shifts in social thinking and changes concerning women’s place in society; this corresponded to the so-called woman question, extensively debated in newspapers, but largely ignored in lexicographical representation. The present study aims to investigate definitions concerning not only women, but also other ‘outcasts’ of Victorian and Edwardian society, such as the poor or the working class, people from the Commonwealth or other regions of the UK, the gypsies, the insane and the disabled: anyone who, according to contemporary ideology, was labelled as ‘other’ and confined to an isolated domain of society. The isolation of these ‘undesirables’ seemed to be legitimated also in the dictionary, which was commonly regarded as an authoritative reference book. Moreover, after checking these definitions in OED1, a diachronic analysis will be carried out, to see if and to what extent the biased views of the first edition have undergone any changes in the revisions of OED2 and OED3 and whether such revisions can be linked to a change in ideological views.
woman question; isolation; ideology; Oxford English Dictionary; lexicography
Settore L-LIN/12 - Lingua e Traduzione - Lingua Inglese
Women and other 'undesirables' in the Oxford English Dictionary / M. Guzzetti. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Isole e Ponti. Per una topografia linguistica e letteraria dell'isolamento tenutosi a Napoli nel 2021.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/875836
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