Lexicography with Ideological Bias

It is a truly painstaking task to compile a dictionary. This work requires inspiration, diligence, vast knowledge, and so on. For many years, I have used Rizzoli Larousse Mini Dictionary Italian English/English Italian, 2006. With over 40,000 translations, nice layout, and pronunciation of Italian entries the book is a handy tool for a student of the Romance language. The lexicographers marketed the dictionary, proclaiming on its back cover: “All the words you need on your travels”. But, like any product of lexicography, it has some shortcomings.

For example, they included rather rare Italian noun bioterrorismo (“bioterrorism”). I don’t think, this is a word to be employed by a casual tourist. On the other hand, they, for instance, omitted quite useful Italian verb conficcare (“to hammer into, dig into”). So, the lexicographers actually supported a politicos’ hysteria, concerning terrorism, which is mostly a pretext to wage wars against Middle Eastern nations. The bias is also felt, when it comes to geography. They arbitrarily chose, what countries to mention. Thus, the lexicographers included an Italian entry about Estonia – one of the smallest countries in the world. But, at the same time they omitted Mongolia – one of the biggest countries in the world.

Such ideological bias has been also characteristic to other lexicographers. For example, Spanish-Russian Dictionary (1988), published in the USSR, translated a Spanish noun moro (“an Arab, Muslim”) as магометанин (“a Muhammadan”), which is both obsolete and offensive translation. Things change, but ideologized scholars stay the same. Even the seemingly apolitical field of lexicography has had partisan affiliations from time to time.

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