The Lexikon zur byzantinischen Gräzität is complete

By: | Post date: 2017-11-02 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Mediaeval Greek

The Lexikon zur byzantinischen Gräzität published its first fascicle in 1994 as a joint project of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Bonn, under the direction of Erich Trapp, and after a decade of preparatory work. The Lexikon started out as the Dictionary of Byzantine Greek focussing on the 9th to 12th centuries—but, in practice, it ended up covering all the neglected words between Plutarch and the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The latest fascicle appeared in 2011, and was reported on this blog.

And this year, its final fascicle has been published, ταριχευτικῶς – ὤχρωμα.

I’m reproducing the English blurb from the Academy’s print brochure, since only the German version is online:

The present 8th and last fascicle of the Lexikon zur byzantinischen Gräzität (LBG) includes the words from ταριχευτικῶς “through embalment” to ὤχρωμα “growing pale”. In between them you will find many compounds with parallels in the language of science up to modern times (cf. The Oxford English Dictionary), especially beginning with: τετρα-, τρι-, ὑδρο-, ὑπερ-, ὑπο-, φιλο-, χειρο-, χριστο-, χρονο-, χρυσο-, ψευδο-, ψυχο-. Since the publication of the 7th fascicle, the number of editions which had to be newly excerpted or by which former editions had to be replaced has been steadily increasing. They can be found in the final accumulated list of abbreviations. And once again, it has been the electronic media which brought about further extension, first of all the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG), the most recent online version of which has once more been used for comparison after the processing of the manuscript in order to provide the highest possible actuality. Additionally, papyri have continuously been taken into account (The Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing/Institute for the Study of the Ancient World: www.papyri.info) and occasionally inscriptions (The Packard Humanities Institute: Searchable Greek Inscriptions, http://epigraphy.packhum.org). On the whole, in comparison to fascicle 7, there has been an increase of considerably more than ten percent. And finally, the problem that Emmanuel Kriaras’ Lexicon [of Mediaeval Vernacular Greek Writing], now directed by Ioannis Kazazis, is still engaged in the preparation of the lemmata beginning with sigma, has once again been solved for the user by the constant upgrading of an index created from already existing word registers of vernacular (and also post-Byzantine) texts, the most important works of which are named along with other lexica at the end of each entry.

The accidental anticipation of modern Hellenic coinages in Byzantium is indeed a recurring delight of Mediaeval Greek lexicography; I’ve mentioned here the instance of utopia being anticipated in the 14th century (with the meaning “absurdity”).

Readers may be aware that there is a searchable online edition of the LBG at the TLG. I was involved with getting the first 6 fascicles online, and fascicle 7 was recently added. There is am embargo of a couple of years between the Austrian Academy of Sciences publishing it, and the TLG publishing it.

I won’t be able to use this fascicle to find accounts of unrecognised words in the TLG, as I had done for previous fascicles. I am nonetheless looking forward to perusing this volume with some eagerness: for years after the appearance of Fascicle 7, I sent the Lexikon material I gathered from the TLG, both words defined in editions and in dictionaries outside the main lexicographic canon, and words not accounted for at all. I’m hoping that they’ve made some use of it.

Trapp and his team deserve to take a break, but somehow, I suspect they won’t. As the blurb says, there has been an explosion of new material since the Lexikon started—although then again, there is always is an explosion of new material, whenever you start a dictionary. Other dictionaries have acknowledged the new material by publishing addenda with every volume: Kriaras’ dictionary did so until it ground to a halt in 1997 at παραθήκη. (When it resumed publication under new management in 2006, the addenda stopped.) The Diccionario Griego–Español, perversely, stopped at Vol. 6 and redid Vol. 1, before resuming at Vol. 7. Trapp has not looked backwards in his publishing schedule—which means his team now has two decades’ worth of addenda that will be looking for publication.

That’s not the only area open for further work in Middle Greek lexicography. The dictionaries on either side of LBG–LSJ, DGE, Lampe on the one side, Kriaras, Babiniotis and Triantafyllidis on the other—are all semantic dictionaries, with some detail about the shades and ranges of meanings of words in each period. Like E.A. Sophocles before it, LBG decided to focus only on novel words, and has kept its definitions curt, rather than expanding on the meaning of words already recorded in previous lexica. That has made it possible for the Lexikon to finish; but as Trapp has acknowledged to me, it means that someone still needs to write a semantic dictionary for the period.

But there’s time enough for that. In the meantime, it’s wonderful to know that even dictionary projects do eventually reach their conclusion, and it’s all the more wonderful that this project reached its conclusion well within the lifetime of the lexicographers involved. To Erich Trapp, Elisabeth Schiffer, my TLG colleague Andreas Rhoby (who I only overlapped with for two months in 2001), and all the collaborators who have worked on the Lexikon in Vienna: the Greek language, and those who cherish it, owe you a debt. Thank you for seeing the work through.

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