Do you use dictionary? Do you own a dictionary? I own the three in the picture, and am still using them on occasions. To me, the future of the dictionary industry doesn’t look much brighter than the future of music record industry. To be sure, dictionaries will be indispensable to people learning a language. Specialized dictionaries will continue to be useful and demanded. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, lays out the entire history of English before one’s eyes, it’s a cultural treasure. But when I look up the dictionary, I am concerned more with the actual meaning and whether a word exists. On rare occasions, I rely on the dictionary to clear up obscure points and usage about certain words. I don’t mean to trivialize lexicographers’ effort, but it seems to me that they invest a lot of hard work in things users don’t need or want.
While internet users can find for themselves much of what they want to know (for free), dictionaries’ days may be numbered. That said, even if internet has upended the publishing model, Merriam-Webster is revising its most authoritative tome for the digital age. It’s pushing into the future by making an audacious past—to revise the Unabridged International Dictionary. It’s a move to secure Merriam-Webster’s dominance in the tenuous business of commercial lexicography if not ensure its future of survival. The point is to present the fullest explication of words and hence the opportunity to say what it is that ought to be said—and the answer shifts from generation to generation, meaning, the definitions might shift. In other words, it’s lexicographers’ duty to keep up with language’s fluidity.