Case 8: The Strathy Language Unit and Canadian English: Defining the Canadian English Dictionary

The following volumes featured in the 2010 conference exhibition trace the development of the Canadian English dictionary from the first Indigenous language dictionaries published for European colonists to contemporary editions on regional varieties of Canadian English. Dictionaries in both England and America influenced the form that Canadian English dictionaries would take: Samuel Johnson’s eighteenth-century dictionary boldly endeavoured only to describe, and not prescribe, word meanings; the Oxford English Dictionary (“the OED”), initially titled the New English Dictionary, was the first dictionary compiled according to “historical principles,” i.e., that recorded how word meanings changed over time; and Noah Webster’s “compendious” dictionary of American English was the first to distinguish and define a national variety of the language outside the United Kingdom. When in 1967 the Gage company published the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles to mark the centennial of Confederation, it was not only the first dictionary to be published on Canadian English, but also the first to be printed by a Canadian publishing house. As seen in the Survey of Vancouver English by Janice McAlpine, Director of the Strathy from 2000 to 2010, the Strathy Language Unit continues in this ongoing effort to define the unique features of our language.