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Oxford English Dictionary halts print, experts not surprised

Monday, 28 April 2014 - 5:46pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

The world’s favourite dictionary might no longer see a print run, because it may be too huge to print. 

Speaking to a UK magazine last week, Oxford English Dictionary (OED) editor Michael Proffitt said that owing to its gargantuan size, the third edition of the dictionary will double up from its last edition to 40 volumes. Keeping in mind its feasibility and affordability, publishers Oxford University Press will print it only if there is enough demand for it. 

The last edition of the dictionary, that was published in 1989 came up to 20 volumes. The first edition, that was published in 1928, took 70 years to make. The current edition, that has been in progress since 1994, has more than 8,00,000 entries to look through and might be in production till 2034. A team of 70 linguists, lexicographers and pronunciation experts have been working on it. 

Proffitt also blamed the internet and the ensuing “information overload” for the delay. “Although the internet has made access easier, it’s also created the dilemma of information overload,” Proffitt was quoted as saying. 

Language experts, however, feel that the move to the online space will be a democratic decision. “Moving the dictionary onlinle, most of which is already available currently, will make it more accessible at the same time to more people. Concise dictionaries will still be around, and hence there must not be any problem,” says GJV Prasad, professor at the Centre of English Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. 

Publisher and author Anita Roy is not at all surprised at the move. “I am neither surprised, nor particularly sad for this move. People say that paperbacks will die because of e-books and the internet. But, I’ve always felt that the first ones to die out will be dictionaries and reference books,” says Roy.  

In March 2012, the Encyclopedia Britannica, too, stopped its print version for good after a publication history of 244 years.

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