Back to Top
Close Menu

Faculty of Humanities and Education

Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature


Dictionaries and Language Contact

This research aims to demonstrate the relationship of language contact to dictionaries. Language contact includes all situations in which people speak more than one language or interact with different languages. This can result in various degrees of bilingualism, extremely rare outcomes like Creole languages, or commonplace occurrences such as borrowing or switching between languages. A speaker in one of these communities may freely use words from their different languages in speech and writing. A lexicographer writing a dictionary of a language must figure out whether a word encountered in a text is indeed a word in the language of that text, or whether it is deployed as a foreign element. As one major part of this research, I examine how dictionaries deal with the notion of (potentially) foreign words, in terms of practical concerns as well as the social ramifications, particularly when speakers of the different communities interact in a way that is hostile or privileging one community over others. But beyond the words in the dictionary, we can also consider the larger choices of dictionary-makers, such as the choice of languages present in a dictionary, and their function. For instance, most dictionaries of Creole languages give translations into another language, rather than define words using the language itself, as a dictionary of English would. This research, while aiming for global coverage, uses the Caribbean as its main source.


Siegel, Jason F. (in prep.) “Dictionaries and Language Contact”. In Ed Finegan & Michael Adams (eds.). Cambridge Handbook of the Dictionary. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 

Go Back
Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature
Telephone: (246) 417-4402/4/5 Fax:(246) 424-0634 Email: