Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The online American Heritage Dictionary

is gone! (Due to "financial and usage considerations".) This includes their list of Indo-European and Semitic roots. The most accessible resource for extreme etymology, gone! Fortunately, the pages are still available in archived form (but the search form doesn't work). And Google Books has parts of the print edition available.

26 comments :

Drew said...

I saw this. Major bummer. And, oddly, I haven't seen much muttering about it online. Give a heads up if you hear anything about why.

Jonathon said...

Tragic. I wonder why they took it down.

goofy said...

"NOTE: Due to financial and usage considerations the reference works licensed from Columbia University Press and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have been removed as of June 2009."

Ms G said...

Good golly! You would think they would have come up with a pay-per-search or annual fee before pulling the plug.

Glen Gordon said...

I feel strangely ambivalent about it. I loved the accessibility but didn't love the outdated reconstructions by Julius Pokorny.

goofy said...

The reconstructions aren't Pokorny's reconstructions. They're AHD reconstructions with laryngeals. The laryngeals and palatals aren't listed in the headword, but they're given in the entry itself.

Glen Gordon said...

Alright, technicalities, technicalities. They're heavily based on Pokorny's work then, as explicitly marked in the published book by Watkins. Ignoring palatal/plain contrasts and sticking in a bunch of ugly schwas with subscripts hardly improves things. The etymologies need some updating for sure. That being said, it was still a handy online resource but it's no match for our budding global, out-of-control capitalist system that only appreciates things with monetary value. And that's my in-depth societal commentary for today, lol.

goofy said...

But they don't ignore the plain/palatal contrast. And why is being based on Pokorny's work a problem? Is that what you mean when you say that the etymologies need updating? Could you provide an example?

Glen Gordon said...

An example? Are you kidding me? Start by looking at page 3 of The American Heritage Dictionary published in 2000 and every page afterwards!

The section on page 3 is claimed to be "Indo-European roots". The first entry is a suffix -ā- for what is widely and consistently written in the modernday (since at least the 1970s) as -eh2. Only after this bolded main header is it stated as an afterthought, "Oldest form *-eə2-", yet this is utterly meaningless since the only legitimate Indo-European form is the one with this laryngeal, the so-called "oldest form". Oldest form to what? Laryngeals lasted long after the dissolution of PIE so obviously the author bastardizes chronology completely. The use of a schwa sign for what is incontrovertibly a consonant is misinformed in the modernday too. Afterwards it says that it was "coloured to *-aə2-" which is pointless to mention for two reasons: 1) e-colouring on the phonetic-level is being confused with the phonemic level where phoneme *e must be reconstructed (by the same token, one may as well further write **(ə1)etsti instead of *(ə1)edti 'he eats' since here too phonetics and phonemics diverge!); and 2) the colouring occured before PIE anyway! Again, more errors regarding chronology.

The second entry is one of the most dubious roots around: ab(e)l- 'apple'. It's an example of a disdainfully lazy "parenthetic reconstruction" I hate so much and all for an unclear root with questionable evidence for its existence. Certainly regardless of its existence, it could never have existed in this form without a laryngeal in front of it. Using only Germanic evidence to warrant an Indo-European root is putting the cart before the horse.

It goes on and on. I can't be any clearer: The American Heritage Dictionary is using information outdated by half a century and screams out to be updated.

goofy said...

I agree that it's misleading to call forms with laryngeals and palatals the "oldest forms". This is meant to be a book for popular consumption, and they felt some simplification was required. The fact remains that I can easily see what the modern notations are by looking at the entries, because the entry for the form gives the modern notation - all you have to do is replace ə with h. So I don't see how that makes it out of date.

*abel- is in Fortson's European language and culture as well.

goofy said...

See, where you see imprecision based on outdated information, I just see simplifications in an effort to make things easier to understand for laymen.

Glen Gordon said...

Yes, it's true that it's not so severely outdated that it's of no use. However, to say "This is meant to be a book for popular consumption" implies that the masses don't deserve updated information.

This is not "simplification", but rather "complication" because it's outdated and for no particular reason. It simplifies nothing.

Surely regular people understand what kind of consonant an "h" is and subscripts next to it aren't terribly confusing either. However using a vowel sign as a consonant is terribly confusing.

What this really is is a lingering vestige of Saussure's coefficients. It would be like making a chemistry book for "popular consumption" consisting largely of alchemy. It can be updated but it requires the motivation of the author.

goofy said...

I'm just not convinced that their presentation of the material is outdated. Yes it's misleading and possibly confusing if you start to think about how the "older form" relates to the "new form" etc, but that doesn't mean they're relying on outdated information. Aside from using ə instead of h, I don't see how it's outdated. Anyway, the particular symbols used aren't important as long as it's made clear what the symbols represent.

Glen Gordon said...

Goofy: "I'm just not convinced that their presentation of the material is outdated."

Since the notable Indo-Europeanist Winfred Lehmann also considers schwas with subscripts a lingering "Saussurism" outdated by several decades, reality will continue on, regardless of your ignorance.

Read Lehmann, Theoretical Bases of Indo-European linguistics (1996), on page 108: "As had Saussure in 1879, the two notable treatments in 1935 by Kurylowicz and Benveniste take them as abstract elements, symbolized with schwa and subscript numerals; those confining themselves to assuming abstractions today use h with subscript numerals."

Glen Gordon said...

Also read page 65 of Barentsen/Arij/Groen/Sprenger, Studies in West Slavic and Baltic Linguistics, published in Studies in Slavic and general linguistics, 16 (1991): "According to the traditional view, the PIE laryngeals were lost in Balto-Slavic shortly after the dissolution of the proto-language. This view does not agree with the facts. There are several indications that at least at a certain stage of the Balto-Slavic period the laryngeals were segmental phonemes."

Hence, every time AHD makes a distinction between "oldest form" and a supposedly laryngeal-less "newest form" of PIE, it exposes the fact that those in charge of the American Heritage Dictionary are either ignorant of even this "traditional" view which had crystallized generations ago, or are simply blazé about updating this dictionary. As educated consumers, we should likewise feel blazé about buying it.

goofy said...

OK, you seem to be saying that their use of schwa is evidence of an outdated mindset concerning laryngeals. I don't see this at all. They're simply using one symbol instead of another. As I said, the actual symbols themselves don't matter, as long as it's clear what the symbols represent. Anyway, the AHD says, in the introduction, that equivalent notations are h₁, h₂, h₃, or H₁, H₂, H₃.

You also seem to be saying that their use of the term "oldest form" is evidence of outdated views concerning laryngeals. This is more convincing, but I don't think it's necessarily proof that they've based their reconstructions on some older school of thought. They say they've simplified the notations "for convenience's sake" and I take that to mean that, rightly or wrongly, they tried to make things simpler by leaving laryngeals out of the headwords. Maybe they thought the book would have more appeal if the headwords looked like pronounceable words, rather than having weird characters with subscripts, I don't know. Maybe you should ask Watkins. :) I still think this is a great resource for non-specialists.

Glen Gordon said...

Goofy: "You also seem to be saying that their use of the term 'oldest form' is evidence of outdated views concerning laryngeals."

??? No. The term is tolerable.

My emphasis is on the simple fact that AHD's 'newest form' lacks laryngeals. This is not just outdated but conclusively wrong.

I repeat: There is simply *NO* stage of what we may term "Proto-Indo-European in which it lacked laryngeals. Laryngeals were still alive and well in Indo-European languages a good millenium after PIE was spoken.

What the AHD seems to call 'newest form PIE' is a purely fictional chimera of PIE and Latin. In this respect, it doesn't just 'simplify' for these cognitively challenged readers you speak of but it misinforms them as well. :o)

What recognized Indo-Europeanist is currently insisting that later Proto-Balto-Slavic lacked laryngeals despite residual tonal effects that prove outright that it *STILL* retained them?

Answer: AHD is outdated.

For you to continue shielding it from criticism alludes to some unnatural lust for a languishing lexicon.

"This is more convincing, but I don't think it's necessarily proof that they've based their reconstructions on some older school of thought."

The AHD's first edition was published long ago in 1969 afterall when its information was still au courrant. I was -7 years old at the time. I'm now 33. Calculate and ponder.

goofy said...

I agree with you that it's wrong to say that the newest form lacks laryngeals. If this makes it outdated, then it's outdated. Fine. But did this happen as a result of the choice they made to simplify the entries in full knowledge that it wasn't completely accurate, or did it happen because they based their work on information that is outdated? That's the distinction I'm making.

"The AHD's first edition was published long ago in 1969 afterall when its information was still au courrant."

But were the IE roots included? I don't know. As far as I can tell, the AHD of Indo-European Roots was published in 2000.

Glen Gordon said...

Goofy: "But did this happen as a result of the choice they made to simplify the entries in full knowledge that it wasn't completely accurate, or did it happen because they based their work on information that is outdated?"

Your on-the-fly distinctions avoid the inevitable conclusion, methinks. I can't imagine how improbable it must be to "simplify" PIE in just such a way that it, by all known criteria, looks exactly as if it were a direct derivative of the groundbreaking but now-ancient works of Saussure and his immediate successors, instead of daring to be innovative and modern. (Not that dictionaries tend to be daring anyways.)

"As far as I can tell, the AHD of Indo-European Roots was published in 2000."

The *second* edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots was published in 2000 but its first edition was in 1985, years before the Berlin Wall fell down.

We can easily look up the various editions of any book, including this one in the online WorldCat catalogue for ourselves, lest confusion arise in the future. There's also a list of previous editions of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as well, showing that it was indeed first published in 1969 (go to last page of listing).

"But were the IE roots included? I don't know."

Evidently so.

Karen Carter said...

Wow, you guys know your stuff. At least you sound like you do! Thanks for the post on the online version of AHD, my long-time favorite dictionary. Time to go dust off the old print copy in my closet!

Yuk-lin said...

I've found two online sources, with the same content. It is AHD4. Verified by looking for the term "gray".

http://go.grolier.com/page?tn=%2Fdictionary%2Flookup.html&dictionary=AHD4CAPI

http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/

Thank you for having this post. I last used AHD online at bartleby.com/61 mid-Feb, so had got a shock about not finding it there anymore today. Appreciate your post, which clued me in on what has happened.

Mikke said...

Add me to the bummed and miffed.

Thank nobody that I have three copies of this thing on my shelves.

As for the minutiae of the Pokorny, I valued the AHD not for any expert technical precision but for a sense of the oral and rhetorical poetics that form the terrane of language. This often has helped me hone my thoughts, even more than my expression.

Eyeball-grabbing for mass-demographic profit is the future of Web publishing and reference. Bartleby should be done with it and simply publish the classic works of Hugh Hefner and Bob Guccione, illustrated with clickable mammaries and ichthyphalloi.

goofy said...

Karen Carter wrote: "Wow, you guys know your stuff. At least you sound like you do!"

Rumbled!

Chris Garvey said...
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Chris Garvey said...
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Chris Garvey said...

I bought a DOS version of American Heritage Electronic Dictionary years ago. I liked having it in DOS.
I have the DOS or Win 98 [I forget its history] version of AHED installed on my XP computer. It's annoying in XP because it asks for sound files that I never loaded, and I have to tell it not to load them before I can search something.
I just downloaded a free 7 day trial of the current version from Houghton Mifflin's website:
http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/eref/buy.jsp

Then I guess I'll pay thirty-something dollars for a license for one [Windows 7] computer. It seems to work as intended. Copy & Paste are hidden in Options. Control-C keys don't seem to work.
The link was hard to locate among the confusingly similar that Google presented. Traditional publishers are so unconscious of tech opportunities or trademark rights.