New National Dictionary a 'biography' of Australian English

New National Dictionary a 'biography' of Australian English

SBS World News Radio: New National Dictionary a 'biography' of Australian English 

The launch of the first Australian National Dictionary in decades is set to highlight changes in the English language specific to Australia.

The dictionary also explains just how each of the thousands of new words and phrases have found their way into Australian English.

It has been nearly 30 years since the first Australian National Dictionary was released, containing 10,000 words.

More than 6,000 new words and phrases have officially been added with the Australian National University's launch of the dictionary's second edition.

The new edition is being described as the history of Australianisms, and chief editor Bruce Moore says it is a biography of Australian English.

"When I look at the dictionary, as a whole, I see it as a document that tells the history of Australia through the words it has created and through the words that have created it. And perhaps more importantly, I think many of them carry with them a history of distinctively Australian values and attitude."

Dr Moore says words such as "tradie" define who we are as Australians, where we come from and what we value.

The dictionary also includes more than 500 words from 100 Indigenous languages.

Peter van Noorden, managing director of the publisher, Oxford University Press, says Indigenous culture has played a large role in developing and expanding Australian English.

And he says it was important to acknowledge that.

"It's a crucial record of Australian identity and culture. It's vital that these words have been recorded. If language is a definer of nationhood and the character of a people, then this new edition illustrates what it means in words to be an Australian."

Australian National Dictionary Centre director Amanda Laugesen says Aboriginal words have been used to replace names such as those given to animals.

"We've become much more aware of the variety of Aboriginal languages. A lot more research has been done into Indigenous languages over the last 28 years. And we've reflected a lot of work that's been done in that area."

Phrases such as chardonnay socialist or to have a Barry Crocker may puzzle some people.

But Dr Moore says there is an explanation for how each word found its way into Australian English.

"I'm sure most people, some people, would certainly ask, you know, 'Where on earth do these chaps get these definitions from?' This is the dictionary that provides the evidence. And the evidence comes from books, from novels, or from newspapers, from diaries and so on."

Dr Laugesen, with the National Dictionary Centre, says it took 28 years between the two editions because the nature of finding unique Australian words required extensive research.

"It's not like a general-reference dictionary. It's a dictionary just of Australian words and phrases, and it's based on historical citations. So for each entry, we show all the quotations of how it's been used across time. So, in that sense, it's a very big research project, and that's why it's taken so long. So, essentially, this edition will reflect the work and words in our culture that have developed over the last 28 years."

Australian National University deputy vice chancellor Margaret Harding says a broad spectrum of Australian colloquialisms can be found in the dictionary.

She points out it ranges from complimentary to derogatory language, including eight forms of the word "bogan".

"With all of these words, as Peter has just highlighted, comes a unique record, an important record of our social history, of our important role in society and in developing language, and, particularly, in embracing the language of our Indigenous peoples here."




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