The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York has awarded a $500,000 (U.S.) Challenge Grant to the Dictionary of Old English (DOE) at the University of Toronto. The grant will be used to support the research and writing of dictionary entries for the earliest words in the English language.
A “challenge grant” means the funds will be released when matching amounts are obtained from other sources, says the dictionary’s editor, Professor Antonette diPaolo Healey of the Centre for Medieval Studies. “Of course, we hope that we can match all the Mellon money as soon as possible,” she adds.
The DOE defines the vocabulary of the first six centuries of English (600-1150 AD) using the technology of the 21st century. It complements both the University of Michigan’s Middle English Dictionary, which covers the period 1100-1500, and the Oxford English Dictionary, which brings the story of English up to the present.
Because of its comprehensive database of Old English, the DOE is one of the few dictionaries of any language to be based on a full examination of the surviving evidence – including parchment writings, stone carvings and jewelry inscriptions. The total size of the DOE database is about six times the collected works of Shakespeare.
More than half the DOE is already written, and the first eight letters out of 22 will be available on the web in 2006, says Prof. Healey. Last year, the project issued a new release of the Dictionary of Old English Corpus on the World Wide Web, which enables scholars to search all surviving texts in Old English electronically. The project’s website, at www.doe.utoronto.ca, includes a “word of the week,” which invites general readers to see new entries before publication.
The DOE is also supported by the Salamander Foundation in Toronto, the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington D.C., and the British Academy in London, England.