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Glossary or no glossary

To those of my colleagues interested.

Glossary or no glossary

I am reading A. Szirmai's wonderful book  'Archeology of Medieval
Bookbinding' cover to cover. In the preface on p. xii  he talks about the
importance of terminological clarity:=20
"The absence of a glossary in this highly technical text is deliberate:
glossaries are bound to remain, despite   brave intentions and much effort,
subjective lists of a given author's preferences=85 .  What is really needed
is a systematic vocabulary, which can only be worked out and agreed upon by
a team of specialists."=20

My point is we need both.=20
Language is a living entity and there are times of increased activity in a
given field. Changes occur which necessitate new words and evaluation of
existing meanings.

An author may make a deliberate attempt at using a word differently or at
creating a new term deemed more appropriate.
The description of a term in a provided glossary gives me, the reader, a
point of reference. Most important for me is, to understand what the author
tries to say, although i may not agree with his/her choice of words. Thus i
strongly support the use of glossaries.

At the same time i agree with Szirmai's statement asking for a systematic
Glossaries could  p r o v i d e  a basis for assessing shifts of meanings.
With the help of computer technology, it ought to be possible to combine
existing glossaries and assess, what different meanings have been given to
same words, what differing words are used to express the same meaning, what
new words appeared.

Another challenge will be to decide, who gets to decide to decide.
What sparked these thoughts was the note reference number 3 (in Chapter
2.2, p.18) in Szirmai's book.=20
Note 3, at the end of the chapter on page 31, would be in my opinion a
perfect candidate to be listed in a glossary:
"In the past the term 'spine' and 'back' were often used indiscriminately
as synonyms to designate various parts of a binding. In analogy to the
vertebrate anatomy, where the spine is inside and the back outside the
body, the term 'spine' is used in this book to refer to the surface of the
bookblock and anything closely related to it (spine pattern, spine lining,
etc.); the term 'back' refers to the exterior of the binding, notably the
The distinction he makes between spine and back can be very useful for
descriptive terminology and is worth considering. Unfortunately the two
words and his expressed use of them is hidden in endnotes, which i boldly
state, will at best be read only selectively.=20

Gudrun Aurand

Gudrun Aurand
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-5610
e-mail: aurandg@wsu.edu

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