Dictionary book

Oxford announces ‘African American English’ dictionary, Harvard’s Gates to oversee 3-year project

Oxford University Press has announced that it will produce a new dictionary of “African American English”, which will include slang ranging from “hip” to “diss”.

Black Harvard literary critic Henry Louis Gates Jr. will oversee Oxford Languages’ three-year project to compile the “Oxford Dictionary of African American English,” the publisher said in a press release Thursday.

The new book will include “quotations taken from actual examples of the language used”, alongside the usual Oxford dictionary notations on the meaning, pronunciation, spelling, usage and history of each word.

“This will serve to recognize the contributions of African American writers, thinkers and artists, as well as ordinary African Americans, to the evolution of the English lexicon,” Oxford University Press said in the statement. “Evidence will be collected from sources as diverse as novels, academic research articles, newspapers and magazines, song lyrics, recipes, social media and more.”

Gates, director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, will oversee a team of researchers and writers from Oxford and Harvard.

“Every speaker of American English borrows heavily from words coined by African Americans, whether they know it or not,” Gates said.

He quoted the words “goober”, “gumbo”, “okra”, “cool”, “crib”, “hokum”, “diss”, “hip”, “hep”, “bad” (meaning good) and “dig” (meaning to understand) as examples.

“The edition of the Oxford Dictionary of African American English will fulfill a dream I have nurtured since I first studied the pages of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language: to research and compile fully and systematically the richness of African-American English,” he said. said.

The professor said his team will solicit “crowdsourced dictionary contributions” from Black Americans to provide the most accurate snapshot of African American English and its contributions to the English language. The three-year research project is funded in part by grants from the Mellon and Wagner Foundations.