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  • DSNA 23 Biennial (Virtual) Conference

DSNA 23 Biennial (Virtual) Conference

  • 4 Jun 2021
  • 10:00 AM - 3:30 PM
  • online (conference times are EDT)


  • Registration rate for those who are currently DSNA members in good standing.
  • If you are not a current member of the DSNA, your registration entitles you to a free year of membership in the DSNA (starting after the conclusion of the conference).
  • We have a limited number of press passes available for those who wish to write about the conference. Contact the DSNA Office with your credentials to get a registration code.
  • If you are a current student, the conference is free provided you register using your academic email address and provide us with your expected graduation year.

Registration for DSNA 23 is now closed.

The DSNA is pleased to announce DSNA 23: Fitness of our Dictionaries and Lexicography to 21st-Century Realities

Our 23rd biennial conference is also our first virtual one, and our Conference Committee has put together an exciting program for our one-day biennial.

Our conference will be divided into five parts: a shared plenary with live Q&A; three panels on different aspects of modern lexicography and lexicology with live Q&A; and President Elizabeth Knowles' "A Life In Lexicography." The conference will take place on Zoom, and we will have breakout rooms throughout the conference for conversation, as well as a Zoom social hour afterwards so we can catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Registration includes access to the videos of the conference for a month after the event.

NOTE: We also have a limited number of press passes available for journalists who would like to cover some aspect of the conference. Please contact the DSNA Office with your credentials for more information.


Introduction: Michael Adams (former DSNA President)

Keynote:  Dictionaries as Authorities: Can They Be and Should They?
Kory Stamper and Bryan Garner
Moderator: Lane Greene (The Economist)


1. How global and national events affect modern lexicography
Moderator: Ben Zimmer (Wall Street Journal)

Online dictionaries are able to adapt speedily to rapid changes in vocabulary and usage. As an example, Covid-19 and the pandemic have spawned a range of new words and new applications for existing words, such as contact tracing, community spread, flatten the curve, PPE, social distancing, and Covid-19 itself. Who monitors these and similar developments for dictionaries? Who writes or revises the definitions? How do lexicographers keep up with global and national changes in vocabulary and word meanings? How does the proliferation of new vocabulary affect established lexicographical approaches? 

2. Dictionaries in the public eye
Moderator: Anne Curzan (University of Michigan)

Dictionaries continue to carry significant authority in the professional and personal lives of people in all walks of life and all stations. Courts in the US and Britain increasingly cite dictionaries as evidence for the meaning of even everyday words. Lexicographers and dictionary publishers now use social media in savvy ways to engage more users. Reporters are fascinated with new words and how they get into dictionaries, and they pay a good deal of attention to contests about words (e.g., WOTY, spelling bees, political gaffes). Teachers and students increasingly turn to online resources for authoritative word explanations and definitions – sometimes online dictionaries from established publishers and sometimes not. How do common understandings – or misunderstandings – of dictionaries and their authority manifest in how users approach these issues? What trends can we find in the attention to dictionaries in the public forum? How should dictionaries adapt to each of these audiences and common uses of dictionaries – or should they?

3. The Future of dictionaries and lexicography
Moderator: Sarah Ogilvie (Oxford University)

While a dictionary’s word list (entry list) and definitions have traditionally been the work of humans – lexicographers – they are now increasingly generated semi-automatically from large text datasets (corpora). New working models are emerging in which digital humanities, corpus linguistics, linked data, NLP, and machine learning are applied to the selection of illustrative quotations, disambiguation of word senses, choice of labels, and writing of definitions themselves. How efficient and accurate are these computational methods when compared to those of humans? Will human lexicographers always be needed? Will some computer programs be able to generate definitions on the fly and provide the information users expect? And will the notion of “the dictionary” need redefining as a result?

A Life in Lexicography: Elizabeth Knowles (President, DSNA)

The Dictionary Society of North America DSNAAdmin@gmail.com
University of Illinois, Department of English;  608 S Wright St, Rm 208; Urbana, IL 61801 twitter.com/DictionarySocNA

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