The Esperanto Duden is Out!!! (But, you ask, what the dingdong is a Duden? Read on!)
Students of German sooner or later come upon a remarkable picture dictionary called Das Bildwörterbuch der Deutschen Sprache, (which is actually volume 3 of a huge German dictionary called Der Grosse Duden). It is perhaps the biggest picture dictionary in the world, with hundreds of pages of drawings of everything from abbey and aorta to zither and ziggurat, all illustrated and numbered. If you need to know what to call the whatchamacallit that connects to the thingamebob that makes the whozits go around, the Duden is the place to look. It’s good for browsing too: Ever wonder what to call the ropes used to haul sunken ships from the floor of the sea? Or how to name the board on which the driver of a horse-drawn cab puts his feet? Or how to refer to the parts of a pocket watch? It is no wonder the picture Duden was so popular in Germany.
The picture Duden exists in several other languages too, with the same pictures and the same numbers. Once you find the picture you want in one edition, you can look at the correspondingly numbered picture in the translations and find the right expression. And all of them are indexed, so you can start with a word and move to the picture. (My English volume tells me that “May-bug” is item 1 of picture 82. My French Duden tells me that in French a May-bug is called a hanneton.)
Sometime back in the early 1960’s, Rüdiger Eichholz of Esperanto Press decided that there ought to be an Esperanto Duden, precisely matching the format of the other languages, so that we would all be able to find “May-bug” in Esperanto too. (It’s melolonto, it develops.) With the permission of the German publisher, Eichholz set forth on the ambitious project of translating the Duden. The first few pages of the “presprovaĵa eldono” began to appear in 1964. The trouble was, of course, that many of the things shown in the Duden had no names in Esperanto. Nobody had as yet standardized terms for workings of hydroelectric plants, parts of typewriters, sizes of organ pipes, or styles of igloos.
It was obvious from the beginning that production of the Esperanto Duden was going to require a full-blown project to establish and regularize scientific and technical terminology in Esperanto. This involved reviewing all of the specialized dictionaries published so far, but it also involved a lot of “policy decisions.” Eichholz began publishing a technical dictionary on little slips of paper—the slipara vortaro, later computerized—and sending these and the proposed pages of the picture dictionary to experts all over the world for discussion.
Now, nearly a quarter-century later, the Esperanta Bildvortaro—the Esperanto Duden—is out! We have just lost our excuse for not being able to say May-bug, post-hole-digger, suspenders, tweezers, vice-grip, or igloo. It contains terms for twenty-five thousand “things,” all numbered on 368 pictures (plus 6 color plates). It involved the collaboration of 143 specialists in 25 countries. And it includes a 194-page index.
How much did all the years of collaboration help? A great deal. First, many of the translations in the preliminary editions of early pages are in fact different. (I flipped both die old proof edition and the new published version open to a random page and found about 40% of the entries had changed as a result of the international consultations.) Second, we are richer by the creation of a network of international collaborators. (Eichholz is now the director of the Terminology Center of the International Esperanto Science Association and director of the Section on Technical Dictionaries of the Esperanto Academy.) Third, general principles for the addition of technical terminology have emerged, so that the selection of a new family of terms for one or another innovative bit of technology is no longer a random business, but can proceed on known models for other areas.
Unlike other Duden volumes, the Esperanto volume includes extra information about the status of each item. The relationship to the Plena Vortaro and the Plena Ilustrita Vortaro is shown, and new roots (or ones differently used) are marked. Triple stars even show recommendations for technical slang, too abbreviated to make sense out of context, but short enough not to be clumsy in technical discussions. Root boundaries are shown so that compounds are easily spotted. Popular as against scientific nemes (of animals for example) are distinguished, and biological affiliations are given. Thus a May-bug is a melolonto, but may also be called a maj-skarabo. It is a member of the geotrupedoj (where ge- is part of the root), which in turn is a subdivision of koleopteroj (p. 158). That is a lot of information for a picture dictionary!
The binding could be stronger, the typeface could be prettier; the pictures are too German; some of the machines are out of date; the price is roughly twice that of the German edition; the occasional blank page needs to be watched for; and much of the terminology is too technical for me to use even in English. Nevertheless, the book is clearly a substantial advance.
Esperanto Press will give you a third off for three copies sent to the same address; that’s three books for the price of two. If you know two other people who want it, you can all get it cheaper. If you know one other person who wants it, you can both pay the full price and send the third copy to an Esperantist in a third- world country. Not all publishers are that generous.
Eichholz, Rüdiger: Esperanta Bildvortaro. Bailieboro, Ontario: Esperanto Press, 1988. 880p. Paper over boards. US$48.00 + US$4.00 shipping (or CW$59.00+C$1.50 shipping).