Friday, October 23, 2009

Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

If you've got a big enough stocking to hang up, and Santa can afford the £250 price tag (it's a bit less if he uses Amazon), you might want to put in a Christmas request for the new Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary.

It's the largest thesaurus in the world and the first historical thesaurus for any of the world's languages. It provides a "complete sense inventory for English from Old English to the present day, based on the Oxford English Dictionary".

In The Telegraph, Henry Hitchings pays tribute to "a monumental feat of scholarship":
The work enables microscopic study of almost all our recorded vocabulary. We see words not in isolation, but through their relationships. To quote the linguist David Crystal: "The OED gave us individual trees, but never a sight of the whole forest or helpful pathways through it. The Thesaurus does precisely that."
On BBC News, Professor Christian Kay, 69, one of four co-editors, explains that she began working on the book in the late 1960s when she was 27.
"We include obsolete words which are no longer in use or are only found in very special contexts.

"Words have different survival rates, so there are maybe 7,000 words which have been in English since the very early days and there are other words that maybe only lasted for a few years."

...Broadcaster and novelist, Melvyn Bragg said: "The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary will be outstanding and indispensable and so much fun.

"Who would have thought that 'Smacker' - one who gives loud kisses- came in 1611 at the same time as the first King James Bible."

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