O lexicógrafo James A.H. Murray e a teoria dos protótipos

9 Julho 2014

Lynch, Jack (2009). The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of “Proper” English, from Shakespeare to South Park.  Walker Books, p. 157-158 [Kindle Edition]:

… the English language as a set of circles, some concentric, some overlapping. But these were no ordinary circles. “The English language”, he [James A.H. Murray] explained to the Philological Society in 1880,

is not a square with definite sides containing its area; it is a circle, but a circle such as Euclid never contemplated, having as its centre a point which hath many parts, and nowhere bounded by any line called a circumference. It is a spot of colour on a damp surface, which shades away imperceptibly into the surrounding colourlessness; it is an illuminated area in a midnight landscape, whose beams practically end somewhere, though no eye hath beheld the vanishing line.17

At the center, he explained in the preface, is “a nucleus or central mass of many thousand words whose ‘Anglicity’ is unquestioned.” 18 The “Common Words of the language” include both formal and informal words, but all of them are universally recognized as essential parts of the language. It’s hard to say exactly how large this “central mass” is. […]

But while it’s possible to count the most popular words in English, there’s no way to reckon the least popular words, and as you go further from the “nucleus,” their Anglicity becomes less obvious: “there is absolutely no defining line in any direction,” Murray explained; “the circle of the English language has a well-defined centre but no discernible circumference.” Still he knew that the theoretical question would require a pragmatic answer, and that “the lexicographer must . . . ‘draw the line somewhere.’

17. James A.H. Murray, “Ninth Annual Address,” p. 131.

18. James A.H. Murray et al., “General Explanations,” in OED1, 1:XXVII”


Foto: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James-Murray.jpg#mediaviewer/File:James-Murray.jpg

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