Three hefty lexica

In recent months three large Australian bilingual dictionaries have been published, after decades of preparation. Some of their attributes are compared in the table below.

First, consider what the three works have in common. All were begun more than half a century ago, by trained linguists in collaboration with many named native speakers of the particular language. There are many cross-references between entries, and there is extensive use of example sentences to illustrate senses.

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languagePintupi-Luritja Dictionary. Fourth edition.Warlpiri Encyclopaedic DictionaryA New Grammar of Dyirbal. Supplements.
begun1966 by Ken & Lesley Hansen1959 by †Ken Hale1963 by Bob Dixon
arrangementalphabetical, with English alphabetical finderalphabetical, with English alphabetical finder, and scientific name indexthesaurus of nominals (b) and verbals (c), with Dyirbal alphabetical finder (d)
entries“over 10,000” [back cover]
10,970 entries (no subentries)
11,152 entries and subentries, and a further 1362 senses(b), (c): too complex to count
(d): over 4000
scopeOld and Young language;
includes pronouns, demonstratives. many suffixes, some placenames
4 varieties;
includes bound pronouns, nominal suffixes, about 450 placenames
10 dialects;
not included are pronouns, noun markers, verb markers, demonstratives, etc.; proper nouns
pages2273 = 8 front matter + 2121 main body + 144 English finder
(in two volumes A-P and R-Y)
1447 total =
xv + 1416 + 16
(1188 main body, 133 finder)
927 total
(b): xv + 413
(c): xii + 227 + [10]
(d): 238 + 12
aspectportraitportraitlandscape body
portrait finder & prefaces
font size
approx 12 pt headword
approx 10 pt body
10.25 pt headword
9.75 pt body
10.46 pt
page sizeA4 210 x 297 mm213 x 273 mmNA (A4 PDF)
graphicsnoneline drawings through main body; 16 pages of colour images; 3 kinship diagramsnone
mass6.6 kg = 3.4 + 3.22.8 kgNA
retail price$135$59.95 hardcover;
ePDF and epub TBA
free download
sample page
(including ‘road’ entry)
page 2025page 1162(b) page 196
Comparison of three recent dictionaries

A couple of other sizeable bilingual dictionaries also appeared in the last months of 2022. after many decades work:

  • 430 pages Gija Dictionary, begun in the 1970s by Frances Kofod
  • 1321 pages in two volumes: Words of Waya: a Dictionary of the Wayan Dialect of the Western Fijian Language by Andrew Pawley and Timoci Sayaba; begun in 1967; the 6th and final version

We can expect it will be a long time before any of these dictionaries are ‘refreshed’, to use Nick Thieberger’s term. Even so, we note Nick’s appeal for ‘dictionary creators to archive their primary files’.

5 thoughts on “Three hefty lexica”

  1. The work on the Warlpiri bilingual dictionary by Dr Mary Laughren, Dr David Nash and Dr Jane Simpson is an excellent contribution. We are sure that Warlpiri people, groups of Pintupi-Luritja people and many others will be very grateful that this dictionary is now available.

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