The Development of The Dickens Lexicon Digital and its Practical Use for the Study of Late Modern English

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Masahiro Hori

    Kumamoto Gakuen University

  2. 2. Osamu Imahayashi

    Hiroshima University

  3. 3. Tomoji Tabata

    University of Osaka

  4. 4. Keisuke Koguchi

    Yasuda Women's University

  5. 5. Miyuki Nishio

    Kinki University

  6. 6. Kiyonori Nagasaki

    International Institute for Digital Humanities, Yamaguchi Prefectural University

Work text
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Our project to create The Dickens Lexicon Digital is based on the index cards which the late Dr. Tadao Yamamoto (1904-91) compiled. Dr. Yamamoto first conceived a plan for the compilation of the Dickens Lexicon, and published Growth and System of the Language of Dickens: An Introduction to A Dickens Lexicon in 1950, as an introduction to the Dickens Lexicon. In 1953 he was awarded the Japan Academy Prize for this work. In order to compile the Dickens Lexicon he collected the materials not only from all of Dickens’s works but also from his letters and speeches. Unfortunately, in 1991 he died without seeing his vision accomplished.

The project for the Dickens Lexicon was organized in 1998 by a research group of 20 (presently 22) scholars. Our ultimate aim has been to compile the Dickens Lexicon from approximately 60,000 cards, which Dr. Yamamoto elaborately drew up and left to us, believing that even if the work was not issued in his lifetime, his pupils and successors would be able to publish it at some future date.

Our Dickens Lexicon is neither book-based nor document-based, but is rather designed as a web-based reference resource. Users will be able to search and retrieve lexical data (an idiom, definition, source, quotation, and notes), stored in the original card-database of approximately 60,000 indexed entries, without the need to install extra software (apart from a web browser) on their computer. Some of the types of information on Dickensian idioms should prove quite valuable for non-native researchers of English in particular, as certain idiomatic expressions in English which are common to native-speakers of English may be not noticed as idioms, or not understood as ironical or collapsed idioms.

Fig. 1 shows a result of the retrieval of idioms beginning with the verb “do” in a test version of The Dickens Lexicon Digital. The 199 examples in Fig. 1 are ordered alphabetically but can also be listed in the chronological or alphabetical order of the titles. Moreover, as Fig. 1 illustrates, if you want to know more information about the idiom “do the honours of the house,” clicking on the idiom will return a definition drawn from the Oxford English Dictionary or any other dictionary, the text and the context where the idiom is used, comments by Dr. Yamamoto and relevant notes from reference materials referring to the idiom.

Fig. 1: A test version of The Dickens Lexicon Digital

The lexicon will also be implemented with a multifunctional information retrieval system. In addition to the indexed entries, the lexicon will make it possible to retrieve frequency information on lexical items (from single words to phrases, including multi-word units) drawing upon the full corpus of Dickens’ texts, and an additional set of almost comprehensive 18th- and 19th-centuryfictional texts. A range of functions including concordance display, sort capability, distribution charts, and statistical data with t-score and MI-score and log-likelihood ratios will be available in a user-friendly interface. Therefore, a close scrutiny of idioms appearing in the Dickens Lexicon, incorporating this multifunctional information retrieval system, will not only make us more aware of the ways idioms represent an important facet of Dickens’ usage of English (compared with those in almost comprehensive 18th- and 19th-century fictional texts), but will also provide greater insight into the characteristic structure of idiomaticity in the English language.

The Dickens Lexicon is expected to be released as The Dickens Lexicon Digital, an Internet website with a multifunctional search engine. It will be able to contribute a range of research topics including the following:

(1)A study of the language and style of Charles Dickens.
(2)A comparative study of idiomatic expressions between Dickens and other writers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
(3)A chronological research of idioms.
research into the language and style of 18th- and 19th-century fictional texts.
(5)A research into the history of the English language.
(6)An interdisciplinary research between information science and language study.
The Dickens Lexicon Digital is scheduled to be available on the web by March 2017, although it will be partially functional and available on the web in May 2014.

Imahayashi, Osamu, Masahiro Hori, Akiyuki Jimura, and Tomoji Tabata (2008) "The Dickens Lexicon Project."ERA, Vol.25, The English Research Association of Hiroshima, 43-53.

Yamamoto, Tadao (1950 [2003]). Growth and System of the Language of Dickens: An Introduction to A Dickens Lexicon. Hiroshima, Japan: Keisuisha.

Yamamoto, Tadao (1954) "A Memoir of the Joint Research for the Compilation of the Dickens Lexicon," Anglica, Vol. 1, No. 5, 438-51.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

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Conference website:

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO