What Principles and Criteria Should Be Used to Compile a Spelling Dictionary?

The Working Group started discussions on how to compile a practical spelling dictionary. Below is the short transcript of the meeting: 

The Editing Group consists of: Afag Masud, Director, Translation Centre under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Azerbaijan Republic; Ismail Temiroghlu, Linguist, Associate Professor at Baku State University, Doctor of Philosophy; Professor Gulu Meherremli, a member of the Institute of Linguistics, Doctor of Philological Sciences; Nariman Seyidaliyev,  a member of the Institute of Linguistics, Doctor of Philological Sciences; Matanat Abdullayeva, Associate Professor, the Department of Azerbaijani Language and Literature; Yashar Aliyev, Writer-Translator, head of the Administration at AzTC, Bahlul Abbasov and Ilgar Gasimov, Language Specialists at AzTC.
A. Masud: Our opinion on the 6th edition of the Practical Spelling Dictionary of the Azerbaijani Language coincides with that of the Institute of Linguistics. It is indeed, the dictionary gives many unnecessary, uncommon, archaic, difficult Arabic and Persian words, colloquial and dialectal words, misspellings of phrases, as well as terms used to describe various fields of activity. We have already embarked on the project of compiling a newer edition of the dictionary, called “The Practical Spelling Dictionary”. The core work in the first stage is to remove unnecessary, uncommon words from the dictionary. In parallel, the text will be compiled using works by a number of authors in order to enrich the active vocabulary bank of the dictionary. Our plan is to revive the use of, and enter this dictionary, hundreds of lost Azerbaijani words that have long since been out of use. The aim of our today's meeting is to discuss first the issues of how to team up for the principles and criteria while making this spelling dictionary. We need to find out how to differentiate this dictionary from the previous edition and other specialized dictionaries.

I. Mammadov: First of all, a spelling dictionary should give authoritative guidance on correct spellings of words. It is impossible to add dialectical, slang words, or any terms. However, there are some dialectal words that are already naturalized in our standard language.  We sure can lexicalize them.

A. Masud: I agree with you in a sense but the dictionary gives thousands of dialectal words and word combinations that cannot be considered dialectical. I mean, their meanings are unknown. Consider, “cordanabənzər”, “ağzıheyvərə”,“adheziya”, “badgir”, “badış”, “bası”, “bayqu”, “bazı”, “cacıq”, “gəllahı”, “gəbr”, “gəncəfə”, “giran”, “giriban” “qoduş”, etc.

I. Mammadov: All of these words should be removed from the dictionary.

A. Masud: Plus, the dictionary gives negative and affirmative forms and cases of these odd words. Is it acceptable to specify different forms of one word in spelling dictionaries? For example, “dəftərli”, “dəftərsiz”, “abajurlu”, “abajursuz”. Or is it necessary to define a word with innumerable additions, as in the case of, say, the definition of “abad” “abad”, “abadan”, “abadanlıq”, “abadanlanma”, “abadanlanmaq”, “abadanlaşma”, “abadanlaşmaq”, “abadanlaşdırma”, “abadanlaşdırmaq”, “abadanlaşdırılma”, “abadanlaşdırılmaq”, “abadlanma”, “abadlanmaq”, “abadlaşma”, “abadlaşdırma”, “abadlaşdırmaq”, “abadca”, “abadedən”, “abadetmə”, “abadıstan” and so on. Regretfully, that's not the half of the story. What’s the use of adding innumerable redundant additions to the word's definitions, especially invented ones? Moreover, if there is the word “abad”, what was the use of adding its ineffective synonyms?  These words are likely used in some regions throughout Azerbaijan, but our studies show that they are unknown to writers and even linguists. Or, “ağzıheyvərə”. Is it really a dialectal word? We come across such strange expressions in the dictionary.

A. Masud: The biggest mistake is the first word in the dictionary. We cannot deny that we use many Persian and Arabic words. But adding strange Persian and Arabic words into the book titled “Azerbaijan Language” and even beginning with the unappropriated Persian word “ab” is not only a typographical error, but lack of political foresight. The language is the motto, passport, and everything for a nation. Do we use “ab” in our daily life? What about “aba” coming after “ab”?  Why was this word twisted if it is “əba”? And if there is such a word and found appropriate to write it in this form, where is the definition for this word? If entering such words in the dictionary is a must, then there is a need to explain them. Then it would not be a spelling dictionary, but a defining dictionary.

I. Mammadov: These words do not exist in our language.

B. Abbasov: I came across the word “cordanabenzerler” in the spelling dictionary. But “cordan” was not written there. Is there any word like this in Azerbaijani? What does “cordan” mean?

I. Mammadov: It’s the first time I have heard of it.

G. Maharramli: Th dictionary gives thousands of such words. Their aim was to enlarge the book. It is impossible that 40.000 new words should have naturalized in our language. All the neologisms entering our dictionaries have a distinctively technological flavor.

A. Masud: Another fault is the distortion of the meanings of words. All of the suffix “vari” was written in the dictionary as “varı”, for example, “qövsvari” as “qövsvarı”, “zəncirvari” as “zəncirvarı” or what is the use of writing joined these words - “ağciyər”, “qaraciyər”, “ağyarpaq”, “ağliman”, “ağyun”? We say “qara ciyər”, not “qaraciyər”.

N. Seyidaliyev: I lean to your opinion. May be in 20 or 30 years, these words would be written joined, but now we shouldn’t falsify them.

I. Mammadov: There are certain words that can be written joined. For example, “agyovsan” used as a name for a plant must be solid, while generally comprehensible expressions, such as "qara ciyər", "ağ yaylıq", "ağ liman" must be written separated.

A. Masud: One of the main issues is the stress. It is very important to put the word stress in all dictionaries. The stress makes it easier to understand and correctly pronounce terms.

M. Abdullayeva: Yes, in lexicography all over the world the stress is used. It is an important factor for a lexicography. The abovementioned words are expressions and should be written apart.

A. Masud: There are some phrases that I can hardly recognize them as words, for example, : “ciring”, “ciring-ciring”, “ciringhaciring”, “taqq”, “taqqataq”, “taqqataraq”, “çırt”, “çırt-pırt”, “çırt-pırtlı”,“çırtlı-pırtlı”, etc.

N. Seyidaliyev: These words are derived from voice imitation. There is no need to enter them in the spelling dictionary.

A. Masud: There is more to come. The names of cities and proper nouns in the dictionary are de-capitalized. Their definitions are very strange. For example, Aghstafa District has been given in small letters and defined as “wine”. Was there any need to add this word to the spelling dictionary?

I. Mammadov: I think the names of cities and proper nouns should be removed from the dictionary. Even this work is incomplete: for example, it gives “Agakhan”, but not “Agacəlil”.

Matanat Abdullayeva: The dictionary should give simple and compound words only, but not any expressions. Under the rules, the spelling dictionary should only give basic parts of speech.

G. Maharramli: There are some differences between the spelling and pronunciation of some words in Azerbaijani, for example, we pronounce the word “anbar” as “ambar”, or omit “ı” while pronouncing “tısbağa”. Our language has certain rules we should follow. In some words there is “y” between “ı” and “a”, but others are written without “y”. We should follow the same principles while compiling dictionaries.

I. Mammadov: The fact that AZTC has taken these responsibilities is worthy of great praise. All your comments are correct and respectable. It is a difficult and long-lasting process. The spelling dictionary as the constitution of a language should correctly give the spellings of words.

Y. Aliyev: The spelling dictionary is the passport of a language, and should be designed for ease of public access.

A. Masud: We are planning to involve notable linguists and glossarists in this project. We will approach as literary language speaker, while linguists will contribute to this work. Work is already underway to get the pith out of the 30s, 40, 50s, 60s’ literature. We can collect words from Jafar Jabbarli, Suleyman Rahimov, Ali Valiyev, Ismayil Shikhli, and other authors’ books to form individual author dictionaries. We believe this process enriches our language and make it purer. The same could be said about our school textbooks: these books full of lots of mistakes cripple our language and literature we teach children. It is a tragedy.