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The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary
January 24, 1997

This is an ambitious, thorough-going and markedly successful work. It has been a long time in the making and has clearly benefited greatly from the growth in its extent and the improvement in its quality during its compilation over a period of 20 years. The Welsh Academy can justifiably take pride in this, the mightiest of its publications to date.

The brunt of the work was borne stoically and doggedly by the two editors, Bruce Griffiths and Dafydd Glyn Jones, although they carefully acknowledge the help they received from a host of other individuals. The dictionary reflects the special combination of scholarly qualifications possessed by the editors. Their ability and enthusiasm were of crucial importance for the completion of a work that will, in my opinion, attract increasing acclaim the more it will be tested by those who have a care for good usage in contemporary Welsh.

This dictionary is based on the English-French half of Harrap's Shorter English and French Dictionary, but with an immense increase in the range of the vocabulary. The editors have described in detail the format and conventions of entries. This reveals the great care taken over providing as full and reliable information as possible in each entry, with reference to matters such as compounds, dialect and colloquial usage, genders, feminine derivatives, plurals, abbreviations and field or specialised category markers. A 60-page section is devoted in the introductory part to a survey of the morphology of the Welsh language, together with discussion of orthography, pronunciation and consonantal mutations. This is a laudable and reliable, but quite limited, aid. The bibliography of dictionaries, grammars and manuals is helpful, but may be overly selective.

What strikes me most of all is the marvellously comprehensive and highly efficient nature of this dictionary in comparison with the very limited, often quite paltry, range of other English-Welsh listings published during the 20th century. The only other remotely comparable English-Welsh dictionaries prior to the one reviewed here appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries, in the works of John Walters (1770-94) and D Silvan Evans (1852-58).

The Welsh Academy Dictionary is splendidly copious. It has benefited from both the gathering in of a host of terms and usages in English and the enriching of the Welsh part by the inclusion of so many forms and renderings. Many of the Welsh forms derive from relatively new specialist glossaries. Many are brand-new coinages. Not infrequently Welsh forms previously proposed in technical lists are laudably rejected and replaced by other, usually better ones. For example, I was glad to see that ffwythiannydd had been rejected for "functionary". The covering of technical vocabulary is impressive throughout. A clear indication of the detailed range of special fields included is to be found in the list of abbreviations in the introductory section. On the other hand English slang should probably have been covered more extensively.

The amazing richness and variety of the vocabulary and idioms of Welsh, not least in locally coloured dialects, are exploited throughout. The comprehensive nature of the dictionary is truly surprising. This reflects the editors' patience and care. There are bound to be a fair number of omissions, but they are not at all easy to find. I spotted that "determinism" was missing, for example. Some Welsh colloquial or dialect forms and patterns have inevitably been missed. The English language is chock-full of words adopted from other languages, not least in the area of technical terms, often with little or no change. Welsh equivalents given in this dictionary are often mere conversions into Welsh orthography, for example iorcer for "yorker", morffalacsis for "morphallaxis", sbadics for "spadix", sbam for "spam", sbif for "spiv". Occasionally one is surprised that the "English" headword is not carried over at all into Welsh as, for example, with spado and "syncope". Now and then the "English" form is retained for the "Welsh" entry, but printed in italics for both, as with the wine hock and culinary ratatouille (also rendered in Welsh as cawl llysiau). The verb decoke is simply digocio; this is in no way surprising for a native speaker of Welsh. Most importantly the dictionary is particularly strong in its detailed coverage of idioms, similes, proverbs, oaths and the like for both English and Welsh.

Griffiths and Glyn Jones have declared, in essays published following the appearance of this dictionary, not only their remarkable sense of mission and of laudable linguistic and cultural loyalty but also their keen awareness of some of the great problems connected with linguistic exchange and translation overall. They have every right to be very well pleased at the completion of an exceedingly important and difficult task.

D. Ellis Evans is emeritus professor of Celtic, University of Oxford.

The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary

Author - Bruce Griffiths and Dafydd Glyn Jones
ISBN - 0 7083 1186 5
Publisher - University of Wales Press
Price - £40.00
Pages - 1,710

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