James Joyce and Lexicography: “I must look that word up. Upon my word I must"

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English (Scripps)

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Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature


James Joyce's fascination with the resources of the English language took many forms — from the use of specific local words which situate the short stories of Dubliners precisely in the Irish metropolis all the way through to the linguistic experimentation of Finnegans Wakewhich prompts the questions "are we speachin d'anglas landage" (Joyce 1975, 485) or is this "nat language at any sinse of the world" (Joyce 1975: 83)? In this article, however, I want to take as my focus Joyce's interest in lexicography as a way of thinking about the cultural and political significance which has been attached to what Stephen Dedalus, in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, refers to somewhat ironically as one "little word": tundish (Joyce 1992, 204). In order to do so it will be necessary to begin with the logomachy — a word first attested in 1569 to mean "contention about words" and created on the basis of the Greek logomachia(from λόγος 'word', μαχία 'fighting') between the young Irishman Stephen Dedalus and the English dean of studies which constitutes one of the central passages in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.


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