The Invention of the Modern American Dictionary

Noah Webster’s revolutionary 1806 publication A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, the first truly American dictionary, and his subsequent work were showing their age and shortcomings by the mid-nineteenth century, when competition from the excellent dictionary of Joseph Worcester drove the publishers to a moment of truth—and of disruption. The decisions they subsequently made set the course for the company’s editorial and business policies to this day. This change from the idiosyncratic work of an individual to the organized effort of a team was an important and influential moment in the development of modern lexicography, and it is best understood alongside the business strategies that were its motivation. Webster’s work, the details of the “War of the Dictionaries,” and the teamwork resulting in the landmark edition of 1864 will all be discussed. 

Cost: Free for ACES members/$30.00 for nonmembers

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About the presenter:

Peter Sokolowski joined Merriam-Webster in 1994 as the company’s first French-language editor, and he has since defined and edited entries for many of the company's dictionaries. He blogs and appears in the Ask the Editor videos at M-W.com, and was named among TIME's 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013. Active as a lecturer, he leads workshops for the U.S. State Department and serves as pronouncer for spelling bees worldwide. Peter attended the University of Paris and earned his M.A. in French Literature at the University of Massachusetts. He is also a freelance musician and a music host at New England Public Radio.

Course Details

The Invention of the Modern American Dictionary01:00:00
ACES 2020 Online Webcast: The Invention of the Modern American Dictionary 01:00:00
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