English Dictionaries in Global and Historical Context

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Strathy Language Unit and the Department of English at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada
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Proposals for papers, panels, and research seminars are invited for an interdisciplinary conference on the social, historical and political contexts of English-language dictionaries (unilingual or bilingual; contemporary or historical) as well as other language-reference texts (glossaries, wordlists, grammars, etc.). This conference will be hosted by the Strathy Language Unit and the Department of English at Queen's University, Kingston, Canada, June 3-5, 2010.

At this transhistorical and transnational conference, we will attempt to step back from the pragmatics of producing dictionaries and language reference texts in order to examine the place of this class of book in a range of social, geographical, and historical contexts. What cultural, political, and creative functions have been served by the publication and dissemination of English dictionaries? What is the role of lexical reference and rhetorical guidance in societies across time and place? What is gained or lost by defining, labelling, and translating English words, and how have different cultures and societies understood the function of these activities? What might the material format of English dictionaries (printed, visual, electronic) reveal about their social or political functions? What role have English dictionaries played in the transmission and exchange of cultural knowledge? How is the publication and dissemination of dictionaries implicated in ideology? How do dictionaries intersect with oral cultures? What impact have dictionaries had on the formation and development of literary culture?

Proposals are invited on these and related topics. Research methodologies will be diverse, and may include book history (publication, dissemination, and reception of dictionaries; questions of authorship and intellectual property, historical and material bibliography, etc.), cultural studies (patterns of inclusion and exclusion; ideology of language and language movements; changing demographics of English speakers, geographies of reading and dissemination, etc.), historical lexicography, globalization theory, textual studies.

The conference will include papers, panels, research seminars, and roundtable discussions. Mark Abley, author of The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English, will be the keynote speaker.

Submitting proposals:

1) Papers (20 minutes plus 10 minutes discussion)—include your name and academic or professional affiliation, a working title and an abstract of 250-500 words.

2) Panel sessions (three papers of 20 minutes plus discussion)—include an explanation of the theme of the panel, three abstracts and a note on proposed panel members.

3) Research seminars—include a working title, a description of the topic and goals of the proposed seminar, and a brief academic biography of the leader(s). Seminars will be limited to 15 participants (calls specifically for seminar participants will be made at a later date). Seminars are designed to serve as forums for new research among scholars with specialized interests and shared areas of expertise. Participants will be expected to submit to the group a significant piece of work in progress (usually 10-12 pages) ahead of the meeting. The seminar meeting itself will involve a discussion of participants' work within the context of the seminar's stated objectives. Seminars may welcome auditors.

Submit proposals by e-mail to Janice McAlpine Director, Strathy Language Unit, Queen's University

or mail them to

Professor Marta Straznicky
Head, Department of English
Queen's University
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Inquiries are welcome. The deadline for submissions is April 27, 2009.