chapter  12
16 Pages

Queering Lexicography

Balancing Power Relations in Dictionaries
WithEva Nossem

Although often used as reference works and thus imbued with significant authority, dictionaries are often regarded as objective and purely descriptive reflections of language use. As language use does not take place in a vacuum and cannot be observed in neutral or abstract situations or circumstances, I question this claim of objectivity by focusing on the role of dictionaries and dictionary making in society. The key concept underlying my analysis are the norms that the dictionary and also the processes of dictionary making are subject to, on the one hand, and those that dictionaries, in turn, produce as instruments of power, on the other.

I analyze the norms influencing lexicographical decision making in order to expose the underlying linguistic and socio-cultural power structures that the lexicographer is subject to and that the lexicographer reproduces and thus reinforces. I consider the lexicographer a discursive function in the Foucauldian sense, who, just like the translator, has an active role in the process of knowledge production. The anti-normative approach advocated in this chapter lays the foundations for queer lexicography and for critical research on the heteronormativity of traditional lexicography.