English Dictionaries in Global and Historical Context

full name / name of organization: 
Queen's University Department of English and Strathy Language Unit
contact email: 

Proposals for papers and panels 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?

The conference will include papers, panels 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.

Submit proposals by e-mail to Janice McAlpine, Director, Strathy Language Unit, Queen's University jm27@queensu.ca

or mail them to

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

Inquiries are welcome. Note the extended deadline for abstract submissions: August 31, 2009.