TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. September 2010

Sektion 1.3. Re-writing linguistic history – (post)colonial reality on the fringes of linguistic theories
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: Eric A. Anchimbe (University of Bayreuth, Germany)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

An analysis of post-colonial continuities in Danish monolingual dictionaries –
An empirical contribution to a critical postcolonial linguistics

Antje Hornscheidt (Humboldt University Berlin, Germany)



A claim for critical postcolonial linguistics

Since the mid 1980s, “Postcolonial Studies” has been institutionalized in Western academics, and since the 1990s, postcolonial perspectives have, especially in literary and cultural studies, become fundamental (Said 1978, Hall 2002). Postcolonial criticism mainly refers to detailed analyses of various discursive manifestations of colonial and imperial ideologies. As a part of this, the construction of self and other/s within a colonial frame has become a central object of research. Here, language as a tool and a medium for constructing ideological meanings plays a central role; it has become a primary focus of postcolonial analyses. A number of linguistic studies focusing on the interrelationship of linguistics and colonialism, especially in colonial situations and with regard to language planning, have been completed (see e.g. Fabian 1986, Irvine 1995, Calvet 1998, Blommaert 1999), but they have not yet found their way into Scandinavian or German language studies.(1) Even aspects of the way languages are represented and described by linguists have not been elaborately investigated from a postcolonial linguistic perspective. The strong tradition of describing non-European languages in an often evaluative way finds its unreflected roots in colonialism. The perspective in most of these studies is still an imperial one that doesn’t reflect the power relations inherent in this kind of research, its presuppositions or its classifications. Critical investigations of these practices like Irvine (1995) and DeGraff (2001, 2005) are still simply ignored in wide parts of linguistic research.

This is even more interesting, when we look into the processes of discipline building in the 19th and 20th century, where we see that European colonialism plays a vital role in the development of knowledge building (e.g. Pollock 2002). This is particularly true for disciplinary classifications that have a strong impact on many parts of linguistic theory building including categorizations of, and within, languages through or during grammar writing, or the close connection between the construction of race and linguistic differences.(2) Above all, comparative historical linguistics is centrally connected to – if not profoundly based on – the process of European colonialism from the 18th century onwards: The transfer of oral into written cultures and the written agendas of earlier ‘unknown’ languages from a Western perspective into grammar books and dictionaries are key sources and documents for historical linguistics. Both of these, in many cases based on the huge engagement of Christian missionaries, could have developed due to colonial politics. Moreover, questions of typology, the relationship between assumed cultural development and the ‘type’ of language spoken in a certain community, the idea of pidgin and creole languages, all developed in the process of Western colonialism. The development of pidgin and creole languages as a result of colonization processes has been reflected by DeGraff (2001, 2005, etc.) and Mühleisen (2002) to name only a few linguists. They have among other things shown how the concept of creoles has evolved in historical contexts and with regard to the political impetus these languages and their form of categorization have. Typological categorizations of languages are not neutral or objective scientific processes but they reflect power relations and ideas about more and less important elements in languages evolving from communicative contact situations. If we have a look into how linguistics categorizes creole languages in Africa or the Caribbean, we observe that they are terminologically, categorized according to the respective European languages which are part of the respective Creole, e.g. English-based, French-based, Portuguese-based Creoles – and not according to the respective African or Caribbean languages, e.g. Yoruba-based Creole (see also Mühleisen 2002). The European languages are thus taken as more central, as the norm for the traditional categorization of Creoles.(3)

A critical linguistic perspective has only recently begun to develop for some of these topics as the references above illustrate. Within this field of interest, aspects of language politics in former colonized countries is perhaps the main issue currently discussed in linguistics (see e.g. Fabian 1986, Irvine 1995, Calvet 1998, Blommaert 1999). Most of all, the different language policies, in particular of England and France, are discussed with regard to their still ongoing effects in different parts of the world.(4) Brathwaite (1984), for example, shows that in Caribbean English it is derogatory to speak of English dialects as it underlines the idea of an English standard identical to British English, and a standardized deviation, U.S. American English. Instead, Brathwaite (1984) uses the term ‘nation language’ to avoid the evaluative and hierarchical dichotomy of standard and dialect, which is not true for the postcolonial situation of, for example, The Caribbean.(5)

I think, however, that language does really have a role to play here – certainly in the Caribbean. But it is an English which is not the standard, imported, educated English, but that of the submerged, surrealist experience and sensibility, which has always been there and which is now increasingly coming to the surface and influencing the perception of contemporary Caribbean people. It is what I call, as I say, nation language. I use the term in contrast to dialect. The word ‘dialect’ has been bandies about for a long time, and it carries very pejorative overtones. Dialect is thought of as ‘ bad English’. Dialect is ‘inferior English’. Dialect is the language used when you want to make fun of someone. Caricature speaks in dialect. Dialect has a long history coming from the plantation where people’s dignity is distorted through their language and the descriptions, which the dialect gave to them. Nation language, on the other hand, is the submerged area of that dialect which is much more closely allied to the African aspect of experience in the Caribbean. It may be in English: but often is in an English which is like a howl, or a shout or a machine-gun or the wind or a wave. (Brathwaite 1984: 36)

Initiated mainly by literary scholars, the question of an ‘authentic’ language is continuously asked in this context. Today, language as nation language in former colonized regions is mainly discussed as being a medium of identity for independent societies. But these societies are at the same time in need of a global communication language. Arguments for or against European languages as official languages in African, Asian or Caribbean countries oscillate roughly speaking between these poles. Zabus (1991: 74) has reformulated the ‘crossing’ of English vocabulary in West African usage with syntactic structures of different West African language as relexification (see also DeGraff 2002 on this issue):

I shall thus here redefine relexification as the making of a new register of communication out of an alien lexicon. The adjectives ‘new’ and ‘alien’ are particularly relevant in a post-colonial context in which the European language remains alien or irreducibly ‘other’ to a large majority of the West African population [...] and a ‘new’ language is being forged as a result of the particular language-contact situation in West Africa and the artist’s imaginative use of that situation.(6)

These studies show that a critical postcolonial perspective in linguistics implies a basic questioning of some linguistic categorizations and norms introduced by European linguistics, which, until today, have been taken as universal and therefore not questioned further. These investigations build part of the so called ‘postcolonial linguistics’. ‘Critical creolistics’, as it has been defined by DeGraff (2005) builds an important part of this branch of linguistic research. “[P]ostcolonial linguistics – with its scientific results and its reflexive meditations about, and criticisms of, certain (mis)practices in Creole studies – draws attention to the sociohistorical determinants and sociological consequences of metalinguistic attitudes in, and outside, linguistic research” (DeGraff 2005: 579-580). Mühleisen (2002), Anchimbe (2007), and others have emphasized the role linguistic classifications play with regard to the so called standard languages, Creole and Pidgin languages and the effects these classifications have (see also Mufwene 1994, 2001 for a critique of the term “new Englishes”). Linguistics has a central role in this process of naturalization and scientific reasoning for race differences (see Römer 1985 and Mühleisen 2002 on this aspect).

In linguistic investigations of colonialism, it has primarily been treated as a key factor for colonised societies. It is however, also essential to thoroughly consider the influence of colonial activities on the colonizers and their languages as well. It is thus stated here that postcolonial linguistics also has to take into account, how the position and self-understanding of the colonizers has been formed and constituted and whether there are any linguistic continuities of colonialism today to be found. By incorporating Critical Whiteness Studies(7) into this kind of historiographic linguistic research, hegemonic norms within European linguistics could be questioned. Thus, the claim for a critical postcolonial linguistics is understood as crucial to research in, and for, postcolonial linguistics (see also Anchimbe 2007).

The adjective ‘critical’ emphasizes the continual need to critically reflect on all naming practices and norms taken over in the process of research. By calling it critical postcolonial linguistics, research is regarded here as an ideological and powerful discursive practice. The notion of criticism in critical postcolonial linguistics is hence identical to that in Critical Discourse Analysis. In this article, it is argued that discursive formations of colonialism are an important research need within postcolonial linguistics as well.

The interrelationship between the colonial and the so-called postcolonial period(8) could be examined with respect to their (verbal and discursive) continuities and discontinuities, argumentation structures and power positions. To give only a short example, there are numerous rhetorical figures from colonial times in colonial discourses, which can still be found today in many different discourses, for example, in journalism and travel writing. Rhetorical strategies applied by colonizers to depict the colonized in different genres like science, media and literature, like surveillance, appropriation, aestheticization, idealization and naturalization, are still used today in depictions of non-Western cultures from a Western perspective. Rhetorical continuities are astonishingly recurrent; they can even show (post)colonial continuities in thinking and conceptualization (see Spurr 1993 for a detailed rhetorical analysis of English colonial discourses from the 19th century until today. See also Hornscheidt and Göttel (2004) for a text analysis of a recent media text on Africa and the colonial images still to be found here).

As a more general consequence, I would like to propose a stronger integration of a critical postcolonial linguistics into a trans-disciplinary postcolonial studies project. Linguistics in the aforementioned sense could give important and interesting insights into processes of verbal constructions of colonial identities – of the colonised as well as of the colonisers – during and after colonialism. I would like to emphasize that this process is twofold: not only are the colonized constructed as others in hegemonic colonial discourses but the colonizers are constructed in those discourses in their ‘normalized’ and universalized positions (see, for example, Dietrich 2007 for a discourse analysis of the construction of a white female position in European colonial discourses). I take this observation as a starting point for the empirical part of my article, in which I would like to show that a research perspective investigating the effects of colonialism on the colonizers and the role language plays should be a central issue in a critical postcolonial linguistics.


2.   Targets of the analyses and sources of data

I have investigated 14 monolingual Danish dictionaries published between 1859 and 2004. They range from large dictionaries with a documentary purpose to smaller ones for a more general public daily usage. Two of the dictionaries focus on the collection of ‘new’ words in Danish between the 1940s and the 1990s; one is a dictionary of synonyms. A wide range of different monolingual dictionaries is thus represented. Danish is a small language so that this collection of resources can be regarded as representative of monolingual dictionary production in Denmark during the last 150 years: all general monolingual Danish dictionaries published in the 20th century have been taken into account here, but not those, which are very specialized (see Hjorth 1989. The largest, and until today most highly regarded Danish dictionary, ODS (see appendix for abbreviation code), was published between 1859 and 1952 in 28 volumes (see Danlexgruppen 1987, Hjorth 1990, 1989, 1983). Only recently a partly state-funded and comparably large dictionary project has been initiated to replace it. The first two volumes of this new dictionary, DDO, were published in 2003 and 2004. Although it is in itself an interesting topic, for reasons of space, I cannot give more details on the ideological sites of the different dictionaries and their production. Nevertheless, ODS and DDO are central citation sources for Danish today and enjoy highest publicity and broadest usage. These two dictionaries take a central role in the analysis done in this paper. Far more than 50 different words and word groups have been analysed in this study. They are presented here together with the dictionaries where they are found as word entries.(9)


 Danish word entry  Translation  Dictionary sources (year: page)
antropofag man eater  
barbar barbar DOF 1907 1: 37
DSO 1957 1957: 25
GF 1974: 45
DDO 2003: 290
DDO 2003: 290
ODS 1918 1: 1181,
NDO 1969 1: 67
GF 1974: 45
PNO 2001, 1: 119
barbarisk barbarian DO 1859 1: 123
ODS 1918 1: 1181  
NDO 1969 1: 67 
ODS-S 1: 1007      
DDO 2003: 290
DOF 1907 1: 37
DSO 1957 1957: 25
GF 1974: 45
PNO 2001, 1: 119
barbarisme barbarism DOF 1907 1: 37
NDO 1969 1: 67
DDO 2003: 290
ODS 1918 1: 1181
GF 1974: 45
barbariske folk barbarian people  
blåmand “blue man”: black person  
cassaren marriage between female Africans and male Danes in the colonies  
civilisation civilization DO 1859 1: 303,
ODS 1921 3: 367
NDO 1969 1: 151
DDO 2003: 584
DOF 1907 1: 108
DSO 1957: 45
GF 1974: 78
civiliseret civilized DSO 1957: 45 DDO 2003: 584
uciviliseret uncivilized DOF 1907 1: 108
NDO 1969 2: 1061
DSO 1957: 45
crevellen small elephant-teeth  exchanged against slaves  
den hvide race the white race DOF 1907 1: 373 NDO 1969 1: 409f.
eksotisk exotic OSD 1922 4: 252 DDO 2004: 32
eksotisme exotism  
ekspansionspolitik politics of expansion OSD-S 3: 345 DDO 2004: 32
ekspanisonshistorie history of expansion  
etnisk ethnic OSD-S 1997 3: 571 DDO 2004: 97
folk people, folk DO 1859 1: 526
OSD-S 3: 1054ff.
PNO 2001, 1: 406
DOF 1907 1: 195
NDO 1969 1: 263
DDO 2004: 242
folkestam(merne), folk, stem DOF 1907 1: 195
folkestyre(tid) time where the people reigned  
fremmede strange people, others DO 1859 1: 655
OSD 1923 5: 1261ff. 
DSO 1957: 86
PNO 2001, 1: 461
DOF 1907 1: 238
OSD-S 3: 137
NDO 1969 1: 298
DDO 2004: 382
hedning/er/ne heathen(s) DO 1859 1: 894
NDO 1969 1: 375
DDO 2004: 672
DOF 1907 1: 330
PNO 2001, 1: 565
herrefolk leaders, dominant DOF 1907 1: 339 DDO 2004: 700
høvding chief

DO 1859 1: 1046
ODS 1926 8: 1299f.
DSO 1957: 112
PNO 2001, 1: 621

DOF 1907 1: 392
ODS-S 2001 4: 714
NDO 1969 1: 423
DDO 2004: 838
infødte native/s DO 1859 1: 1084
ODS 1927 9: 205
DOF 1907 1 : 405
kannibal cannibal DOF 1907 1: 444
DSO 1957: 124
OSD 1927 9: 1203
kannibalisme cannibalism DOF 1907 1: 444 OSD 1927 9: 1203
klan clan DOF 1907 1: 465
NDO 1969 1: 493
PNO 2001, 1: 715
DSO 1957: 126
GF 1974: 267
koloni colony DO 1859 1: 305
OSD 1928 10: 1054ff.
NDO 1969 1: 507f.
GF 1974: 273
DOF 1907 1: 491
DSO 1957: 129
NDO 1969 1: 507f.
PNO 2001, 1: 738
kolonialhandel colonial trade DOF 1907 1: 491 PNO 2001, 1: 738
kolonialhandler colonial trader DOF 1907 1: 491 DSO 1957: 129
kolonialvare, colonial goods DOF 1907 1: 491
PNO 2001, 1: 738
NDO 1969 1: 507f.
koloniembedsmand colonial officer  
kolonihistorie colonial history  
kolonimagt colonial power OSD-S 4: 1126f.
kolonisatorisk colonial OSD-S 4: 1126f.
kolonisere to build colonies DOF 1907 1: 491
GF 1974: 273
NDO 1969 1: 507f.
PNO 2001, 1: 738
kolonisering to colonize DOF 1907 1: 491
kolonialisme colonization OSD-S 4: 1126f.
GF 1974: 273
NDO 1969 1: 507f.
PNO 2001, 1: 738
kolonismør colonial butter OSD-S 4: 1126f.
kolonist/er/ne colonizers DOF 1907 1: 491
GF 1974: 273
NDO 1969 1: 507f.
PNO 2001, 1: 738
kolonisted colonial town OSD-S 4: 1126f.
kompagni company NDO 1: 510
PNO 2001, 1: 742
DSO 1957: 131
kronkolonie(tid) a crown colony (colonial time)  
manillas pieces of metal, put around the arms of slaves to show their value  
maron/s areas inaccessible for the colonizers, where slaves organized their fights against colonizers  
maurer maurer ODS 1933 14: 341
GF 1974: 337
NDO 1969 2 : 647
PNO 2001, 2: 881
maurisk adj. to maurer ODS 1933 14: 341 GF 1974: 337
menneskeæder cannibal  
missionere missionary  
mission mission  
mor moor DO 1859 2: 119
ODS 1933 14: 341
GF 1974: 337
DOF 1914 2: 38
NDO 1969 2 : 647
PNO 2001, 2: 917
morenkop   DOF 1914 2: 38 GF 1974: 337
morian moor DO 1859 2: 124
ODS 1933 14: 341
GF 1974: 337
DOF 1914 2: 38
DSO 1957: 156
mulatter mulatto  
naturfolkene natural folk DOF 1907: 528
ODS 1933 14: 974
PNO 2001, 2: 944
DOF 1914 2: 59
NDO 1969 2: 668
naturreligion natural religion DOF 1914 2: 60
neger/negrene negro/es DO 1859 2: 196
DSO 1957: 161
GF 1974: 369
DOF 1914: 64
NDO 1969 2: 672
PNO 2001, 2: 952
negerslave negro-slave DO 1859 2: 196
ODS 1933 14: 1155ff.
DOF 1914: 64
negerslavedebat debate on negro-slaves  
negresse female negro GF 1974: 369
negrid adj. of negro GF 1974: 369 PNO 2001, 2: 952
negritude negritude GF 1974: 369
negroid adj. of negro GF 1974: 369
PNO 2001, 2: 952
nigger nigger ODS 1933 14: 1155ff.
GF 1974: 369
NDO 1969 2: 672
palaver negotiation between colonizers and Africans on matters of trade OSD 1936 16: 402
NDO 1969 2: 727
PNO 2001, 2: 1032
DSO 1957: 181
GF 1974: 399
plantageejer owner of plantation DOF 1914: 134
NDO 1969 2: 749
GF 1974: 428
plantagearbejder(ne) plantation-worker  
planteraristokrati plantation-aristocracy  
primitiv primitive OSD 1936 16: 1294
NDO 1969 2: 763
PNO 2001, 2: 1084
DSO 1957: 189
GF 1974: 443
primitivisme primitivism NDO 1969 2: 763
protektorat protectorate OSD 1936 16: 1394
NDO 1969: 769
GF 1974: 450
PNO 2001 2: 1093
race race DO 1859 2 : 524
DSO 1957: 195
GF 1974: 4635
PNO 2001, 2: 1113
DOF 1914 2: 157
NDO 1969 2: 783
NO 1999: 69
racehygiejne race-hygiene NDO 1969 2: 783
racisme racism NDO 1969 2: 783
NO 1999: 695
GF 1974: 463
PNO 2001, 2: 1113
remidoren African society  
slave slave DO 1859 2: 844
DSO 1957: 215
GF 1974: 518
DOF 1914 2: 279
NDO 1969 2: 898
PNO 2001, 2: 1254f.
slaveri slavery DO 1859 2: 844
DSO 1957: 215
PNO 2001, 2: 1254f.
DOF 1914 2: 279
NDO 1969 2: 898
slaveskibe(ne) slave-ship DOF 1914 2: 279
slaveemancipationen slave emancipation DOF 1914 2: 279
slaveoprør slave-revolution  
stamme stem DO 1859 2: 964f.
NDO 1969 2: 937
DSO 1957: 224
PNO 2001, 2: 1306
træl slave DSO 1957: 245 DO 1859 2: 1267
vild wild DSO 1957: 270
vildmand wild man DSO 1957: 270


The words investigated here were chosen from historical sources like travellers’ journals, diaries, and letters. Other historical documents such as official certificatesandtrade registerswere also consultedfor the type of vocabulary used. A third source that was considered were historical studies that mention some of the concepts and vocabulary of Danish colonialism (Hoxcer Jensen et al., 1983; Brøndsted, 1966/67; Feldbæk et al., 1980). By analysing the words and the explanations provided for them in the dictionaries, a number of additional words, which have been used frequently to explain them, were added to the list. Single words, compounds, derivations and antonyms were all taken into account.(10)

The analysis demonstrates to what extent monolingual dictionaries can serve as resources for investigating attitudes towards colonialism within a European country. Dictionaries are not understood here as lexicographic documents ‘simply’ presenting (objective) meanings of words but as powerful sites for ideological discourse formations.

However, if the information in a dictionary is considered as pure objective information about the world, the cultural character of dictionaries is dismissed. In a very typical movement of Western culture, language is conceived only as a material support, as a simple label, of “things as they are”, turning dictionaries into what we could call “ontological catalogues of things.” (Lara 1995: 42)

Instead, it is assumed that, due to their authoritative and generally unquestioned position with regard to meaning formation, dictionaries contribute to conceptualizations that are more general. “Lexicography is not a disembodied activity taking place in a vacuum; it is an act of communication in a real-world context, and both aspects are essential to lexicographical decisions to be made.” (Zgusta 1989b: 291) Hence, as one result, this analysis is going to show to what degree dictionaries can convey how a society reflects and constructs its own history, and presents its involvement in processes of colonialism. The analysis therefore, gives insights into whether monolingual dictionaries can serve as interesting linguistic material for an investigation of political involvement in processes of colonialism and its public conceptualization.

With respect to the resource material chosen, this study is part of a rather younger tradition of critical lexicography (esp. Fishman 1995) as part of metalexicography. Metalexicography, as a sub-discipline of linguistics, has always been concerned with the social and/or stately interests, which are reflected in dictionaries. In particular, the aspect of semantic comments, which is central to a theoretical conceptualization of monolingual dictionaries, is of importance for an analysis of norms and values reflected in dictionaries.

Thus, we must interpret dictionaries in context and see them as both resultant of and constructive of their contexts. Indeed, this is what we do with other cultural artifacts. We recognize them as reflections of their contexts but as more than reflections we recognize them as constituents of those contexts, contexts which we must try to know by means of as many other artifacts and cultural behaviors as possible. (Fishman 1995: 34)

Dictionaries are thus results of, as well as constitutive of, certain world views and ideologies. Dictionaries do at least reflect more general conventionalisations of meaning. Moreover, they have an authoritative function within a society and are generally and widely referred to. As such they have a central role as normatizing discourses and are thus, extremely interesting for a discourse analysis. Hence, the analyses presented here are a contribution to a critical metalexicographical analysis as part of linguistics (see Wiegand 1998).(11) Monolingual dictionaries are therefore not primarily regarded as linguistic sources and references, but as discourses, which are extremely authoritative within Western societies and which thus have a strong impact on public perceptions and negotiations of concepts. Monolingual dictionaries are used by almost everyone in Western societies to clarify a specific meaning and/or to determine whether a term should been seen as derogatory or not(12). Often, individual language usages are authorized by referring to definitions given in dictionaries.

It has to be emphasized that this analysis is not at all meant to show personal responsibilities of dictionary makers or to imply intentional acts of racism. To the contrary: the analysis is situated within a social-constructivist frame and hence, does not ask for intentional authorship and conscious strategies applied in the production process. Rather, it is interested in the concrete discourses and even in the single texts and the possible role they play in the readers’ conceptualisations of history, race, and gender in this case(13). This implies as well that the possibility for description – as it is widely maintained by lexicographers – is strongly questioned. From the position taken here, dictionaries do not simply ‘describe’ anything, but construct something as neutral or objective by naming it ‘description’ as many dictionaries say in their prefaces.

I would like to show how social ideologies can be investigated with regard to monolingual dictionaries. Taking colonialism as a strongly ideological political activity, the dictionary entries under investigation here can be classified as political vocabulary (Karpova/Manik, 2002). Political vocabularyis normally characterized by its dynamic character: Because ideological-political words are so that important different social groups normally fight for the ‘right’ meaning. Their meaning is explained by using synonyms, hyperonyms, and a traditional semantic component analysis.(14) Two main influences in the making of a dictionary can be mentioned here as ideologically influenced: What words are taken up as entries into dictionariesand secondly, how they are ‘described’, defined and/or explained.


3. Traces of colonialism in Danish monolingual dictionaries

3.1 The historical frame: Danish colonialism

From the middle of the 17th century, Denmark owned colonies in the West Indies and in West Africa as well as in South-India. Between the 17th and early 20th century Denmark shipped at least 97,000 people as slaves from West Africa, mainly to work on the Danish plantation colonies in the West-Indies. Only some of the African people were shipped to Denmark and sold as slaves there (Hoxcer Jensen et al. 1983, Brøndsted 1966/67, Feldbæk et al. 1980).  When Denmark sold the West Indian islands in 1917, the Danish colonial period outside Europe had officially ended. So, Denmark no longer had any colonies outside Europe.(15) The Danish colonial involvement in Africa, the Caribbean and India is rarely mentioned in the context of a historical investigation into European colonialism. Instead, Spain, England and France have been singled out in Europe as the colonial powers.(16) Taking these observations as starting points, it might be interesting to see how Danish monolingual dictionaries construct colonialism. Entries in the monolingual dictionaries analysed here include: word entries, the explanations of meaning, the concrete examples given, and the meta-linguistic and evaluative remarks provided for each of them. As shown below, these aspects are relevant to understand the various conceptualizations of colonialism in monolingual Danish dictionaries.

3.2 The construction of self and other in dictionaries as a postcolonial topic

For the sake of consistency, I have confined myself to how the ‘own’ position is constructed in the dictionaries with respect to colonialism. Taking postcolonial theory as a starting point, the constructions of self and other/s are central topics under negotiation in colonial discourses (Loomba 1998, McClintock 1995, Said 1978, and Fanon 1952). Colonialism as an ideology is strongly built upon the construction of the self as ‘normal’ and/or superior and the other/s as deviant and inferior. Both concepts always depend on each other and imply each other even if they are not always contrasted to each other in an explicit way. The implication of a simultaneously evaluated differenceworks much stronger in many cases than its explicit formulation.

Monolingual dictionaries are based on a basic notion of alterity in their intention to clarify the meaning of words, as for example Hausmann (1989: 5) has formulated: “The most direct need for information springs from contactwith the difficult, especially the strange [...]. The problem with strangeness (alterity) shows in the first line up in reception, only secondarily in usage.”(17) Taking a perspective-pragmatic frame, one has to add that dictionaries are not only important for the individual handling of alterity, but that they are important resources for the construction of alterity as well. This becomes even more crucial when the dictionaries’ high degree of everyday authority is taken into account.

3.3       Levels of analysis for monolingual dictionaries and concrete results

3.3.1    Gapson the level of word entries in the monolingual dictionary

Two different observations are to be mentioned: On the one hand, there are words used in colonial discourses that have never found their way into monolingual Danish dictionaries. Maron for example, describes a certain landscape formation that seemed to be typical for the colonizers coming to West Africa. Cassaren means the marriage between a male Dane and a female African. Both words are frequently used in travel journals, official reports and letters but not mentioned in any of the dictionaries under investigation here. This could be interpreted as a sign of their infrequent usage and so are not important for Danish speakers(18). But on the other hand, the non-existence of contemporary verbalized concepts of the Danish colonial situation in the respective monolingual dictionaries makes this simultaneously less visible and less publicly recognizable. Even if it is impossible to judge the reasons for the absence of some word entries in dictionaries, the effects of this lack on public perceptions is nonetheless maintainable. In comparing different contemporary discourses it is interesting to see that some words are not given the status of dictionary entries, and consequently the chance for the perception of concepts connected to them by a broader public is minimized.(19) By way of this, the invisibility of certain (perspectives on) realities is reproduced in dictionaries and thus confirmed.

Moreover, some words are frequently used in the dictionaries’ word explanations and also frequently found in other discourses although they are not entered in any of the dictionaries as independent entries. One central example is the word in(d)fødte (native). Only the early dictionaries, that is, the three dictionaries published before 1927, have entries for native:

ODS 1927 9: 205
[…]2) born and bred up in a special (closely defined) place, esp.: in a country (in contrast to, immigrant, stranger (1 and 2), compare  “born at home” 2);now esp. [...] with reference to original, not-civilized inhabitants of non-European countries; wild.(20)

In this early dictionary entry we can already see a meaning specification. In the last line, reference is made to “original, not-civilized inhabitants of non-European countries; wild.” By the double negation, a divergence from a simultaneously implicitly constructed normality is clearly marked. In all later dictionaries, native as a word is frequently used only in explaining other words but not as entry.(21) In addition to that, we can observe a further meaning specification when native is solely used with regard to colonial or former colonial contexts(22). This continues to be the case today, with regard to the usage of the term on Danish internet sites(23). Due to that, a conceptualization of lacking civilization and wildness is powerfully installed and manifested as a prototypical imagination connected to the concept. It seems that this is not restricted to Danish use but is a more general European tendency:

The root sense of the term as those who were ‘born to the land’ was, in colonialist contexts, overtaken by a pejorative usage in which the term ‘native’ was employed to categorize those who were regarded as inferior to the colonial settlers or the colonial administrators who ruled the colonies. ‘Native’ quickly became associated with such pejorative concepts as savage, uncivilized or child-like in class nouns such as ‘the natives’. (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 2000: 158)

We can see here in the dictionaries an utmost strong and complex form of reproduction of certain racist presuppositions. This is further underlined by the fact that the concept is regarded as so unimportant that it has no entry on its own.

3.3.2    Comparison of compounds

A comparison of compounds is a second way to investigate lexical gapsin the dictionary and the supposed semantic changes as well as metaphorical processes manifested in dictionaries as part of semantic change in a historical perspective. This can be seen for example, if the compound entries with sklave (slave) as a first component are compared in a historical perspective in different dictionaries. In the 1859 dictionary (DO), there are 25 different compounds with the word sklave.(24)All of them refer to different colonial situations, specific living conditions of slavesin different ways. The only concrete examples given, however, refer to an African context, which is only one of many historical situations of slavery.(25) In contrast to that, in the dictionaries from the 1950s onwards, compounds formed with the word  sklave only use the concept slavein a metaphorical sense, transferring a concept of hard work to a supposedly European context. Thus, for word entries with sklave as first part of a compound, colonial history is not mentioned and hence ignored.     

NDO 1969 2: 898
Slave-institution: discriminatory (jargon) school or work-place. – Slave-work [...] transposed for hard, monotonous work. –– Slave-trade; white s. trade with white women as prostitutes. – Slave-life transposed for: existence full of hard work made for others.(26)

References to oppressive situations and hard work in the current dictionary become core meanings and are transferred from historical, also colonial situations, to a Danish contemporary context. Colonial conceptualizations are translated into class differences in Denmark in the 20th century. Here, the discrimination associated with a slaveas a colonial reality is only indirectly referred to and used metaphorically. The discriminatory reality of European colonialism becomes thus a presupposition, which no longer has any relevance. The dictionary entries show a negotiation of a cultural history that has to be criticized from a critical postcolonial point of view. A similar criticism has been formulated by Hermanns (1982) with regard to German dictionaries and their handling of Nazi-vocabulary: Hermanns evaluates this as a wrong attitude towards synchrony called “present past”.(27) As can be seen here, this criticism is true for Danish dictionaries with regard to colonialism as well. In contrast to that, the meaning explanations for the word entry slave from the 1950s onwards do not solely refer to the present situation but give a historical context for the term. However, this one is exclusively connected to the Roman slave trade or the American situation:

PNO 2001, 2: 1254f.
slave 1. a person without any rights, who does not have his personal freedom any longer because she or  he is owned by another person and is forced to do hard work […] slaves in ancient Rome; slaves in America(28)

To summarize, a historical analysis of monolingual dictionaries with regard to the concept of slavereveals three different aspects:

The analysis of compounds reveals one additionally interesting aspect in the case of sklave: We can see the construction of a complex parallelism between race and gender in the phrase hvid slavehandel (white slave trade).

PNO 2001, 2: 1254f.
slave trade 1. Trade with slaves [...] white slave trade organized trade with young women sold to another country for prostitution(30)

Although there are many other forms of domination as far as the concept slave is concerned, there is not a single entry in the dictionaries under investigation, which has made explicit that sklave is a racist concept, referring to a power-relationship, which is here implicitly reduced to one between Whites and Blacks. This knowledge is presupposed as becomes obvious in the frequent mentioning of the phrase white slave trade in the dictionaries from 1914 onwards. The entry functions as an exception to the simultaneously constructed ‘normal’ conceptualization, which is reconfirmed or even naturalized in this way by not making it explicit in any case. In addition to that, the entry demonstrates the implicit construction of the colonial other as prototypically male. A parallelism between White women and the colonial other becomes obvious.

In the language of colonialism, non-Europeans occupy the same symbolic space as women(31). Both are seen as part of nature, not culture, and with the same ambivalence: either they are ripe for government, passive, child-like, unsophisticated needing leadership and guidance, described always in terms of lack – no initiative, no intellectual powers, no perseverance; or on the other hand, they are outside society, dangerous, treacherous, emotional, inconstant, wild, threatening, fickle, sexually aberrant, irrational, near animal, lascivious, disruptive, evil, unpredictable. (Carr 1985: 50)

The conceptual parallelism established between the colonized others and European women, re-effects each of both perceptions. But, moreover, this leads to a double exclusion of Black women even in critical postcolonial studies as has been continuously criticized by Black feminist (see Bell Hooks 1984, Minh-ha 1989, Loomba 1998 for the very broad range of different black feminist approaches). A critical postcolonial linguistics needs to take this criticism seriously. As the short analysis has shown, it can even support a critical view on the gendering of colonial processes. However, race, gender, and sexuality are not just additive to one another as identity categories nor do they simply provide metaphors for each other. Instead, they work together in a complex way which needs to be taken into account in a critical postcolonial linguistic analysis.

3.3.3    Predication of characteristics

Colonial othering is not only manifested in collective person appellation, as has been demonstrated above, but also by way of predicating characteristics with, for example, adjectives. The example chosen to demonstrate this from the two most renowned and biggest Danish monolingual dictionaries is the adjective eksotisk (exotic).(32)

OSD 1922 4: 252
exotic [...] coming from another country (1800). [...] living in or coming from warmer regions of the world(33)

This early entry already shows a change in meaning from a dynamic relational concept to a static one. Stemming from Greek “coming from a different country/region”, the meaning has been ‘stabilized’ by loosing its dynamic character. This is a powerful strategy to normalize a certain perspective as neutral, one which, up til today can be observed in the use of the adjective exotic. The European point of view is thus manifested as a universal and neutral one.

By loosing its relative character, the adjective simultaneously takes over an evaluation, as becomes obvious if we look in the 2004 dictionary:

DDO 2004: 32               
exotic [...] coming from a far away and strange, esp. tropical region □ exotic fruits, exotic surroundings .. atmosphere [...] • (figurative sense) seeming to be exotic (and strange)(34)

The  “strange” has in this case been concretized to a certain geographical region. A parallel to the conventionalization of the meaning of the English term exotic can be observed here:

When the English language and the concepts it signified in the imperial culture were carried to colonized sites, through, for instance, English education, the attribution of exoticism as it applied to those places, peoples or natural phenomena usually remained unchanged. Thus schoolchildren in, for instance, the Caribbean and North Queensland could regard and describe their own vegetation as ‘exotic’ rather than trees like the oak or yew that were ‘naturalized’ for them as domestic by the English texts they read. (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 2000: 95)

3.3.4    Broadening of meaning in dictionary entries

The examples given so far have shown acts of specification of conventionalized meanings in monolingual dictionaries over time. In addition to that, a broadening of meaning can be found as well. This strategy implies a dynamic adaptation to different needs in the construction of alterity.

DO 1859 2: 119
Moor [...] 1. Inhabitant of Northern parts of Africa or Mauritania. They are now generally called maurer. 2. a negro(35)

In the first meaning given above, the person appellation form mor (moor) refers to a geographically defined region. In the second explanation with negro presented as a synonym the regional differentiation of the word is neglected and its meaning is generalized on a racial and thus racist conception. The differentiation of various meanings of the form on the microstructure of the dictionary article can be interpreted within a concept of ideological polysemy, frequently used to characterize political vocabulary (see e.g. Dieckmann 1989 for an overview). Diverse meanings are, on the surface, clearly differentiated in this kind of presentation although the individual capability to perceive such a differentiation could be questioned from a usage focused perspective. Instead, I suppose that the different meanings are conceptually blended (Fauconnier 1997) so that a racist usage becomes the norm. Seventy years later in the 1933 dictionary, an equation between moor and maure takes place. At the same time however, maure is defined on the basis of a religious categorization.

ODS 1933 14: 341
Maure [...] 1) originally an inhabitant of the Northwestern parts of Africa (Mauritania). [...] especially for the mohammedan folk of Berber Arabic race, which in the middle ages occupied Spain coming from Nothern Africa. [...] 2) (today only rarely) for Mohammedans or Arabs more in general.(36)

Moor [...] 1) (obsolete) inhabitants of North Africa with a dark skin colour, esp.: Maurer, in a wider meaning, folk of this race: negro. The maurers broke into Spain and occupied almost the whole country.(37)

If we compare these entries to the earlier ones and those in later dictionaries, we can see an extension of the meaning for moor to  “persons of the black race”. On the other side, there is a blending of moor and maure together with a blending of religious and racist concepts. With regard to British English, Loomba (1998: 106) makes a similar observation:

Religious difference thus became (often rather confusedly) an index of and metaphor for racial, cultural and ethnic differences. [...] Religious and cultural prejudice against both blackness and Islam, each of which was seen to be the handiwork of the Devil, intensified the connection between them.(38)

3.3.5    Perspective in meaning explanations

All dictionary entries for maure show an identical perspective, as is illustrated one more time with an example from a more recent dictionary from 2001:

PNO 2001, 2: 881
maure 1. a person from the Western parts of North Africa who belongs to the Berber or Arabian race; esp. Arabs who occupied Spain in the middle ages = moor(39)

The perspective is restricted here to Europe. The other is conceptualized as dangerous and invasive. This example shows how the other in a colonial perspective takes over conceptualizations of being dangerous. Instead of, at least, also referring to the relevance of the concepts of mor and maure within the colonial situation, the act of colonization is transferred and restricted to a European context, making Europeans the victims of brutal acts of colonization. The dictionary entry could instead emphasize the cultural wealth brought to Spain by the maurers. Still another possibility would have been to mention the brutal slaughter and expulsion of maurers in the context of Spanish Christianisation. These not realized entries are meant to show here that only one possible perspective is realized in the dictionary entry and that other aspects and perspectives have been ignored.

3.3.6    Asymmetrical antonyms and oppositions

Another way in which the other is constructed in dictionaries is through the usage of asymmetrical antonyms in meaning explication.

NDO 1969 1: 409f.
white II [...]  the white race opposition: the coloured races(40)

The singular construction “white race” is put in opposition to the plural construction “the coloured races” so that an asymmetrical opposition evolves. The prominent position of white is thus re-affirmed, and the symbolic value of white as colourless contrasted to coloured is also underlined. Skin colour as the prime signifier of racial identity is reconfirmed without questioning the generalizing images underlying the concepts of white and coloured (in this case) or the relevance of skin colour at all.(41) In contrast to “white race” in the dictionary entry, “coloured races” serves as a collective term, subsuming different categorizations and giving them the same status towards the “white race” so that the hierarchical duality of a categorization of race is underlined. As can be seen in the following example, another more indirect, and therefore extremely powerful strategy, is the use of implicit asymmetrical oppositions:

ODS-S 4: 1126
coloni-butter, a. butter from the earlier English colonies Australia and New Zealand(42)

“Coloni-butter” as a term has been used in the Danish colonial context for the butter imported from their Denmark’s colonies in the West Indies. In the only dictionary mentioning the term, it is, instead of referring to a Danish historical context, transferred to an English colonial situation. By way of this, the Danish colonial reality is made invisible and a conceptualization of colonialism is in a subtle way transferred to England. Thus, in the dictionaries an opposition of European countries and colonies is constructed for countries other than Denmark, so that Denmark becomes a neutral observer in the context of colonialism. To underline this hypothesis of Danish neutralization towards colonialism, further strategies can be considered.

3.3.7    References to history

An important question to be asked in this context is, whether there are any references to historical events in the monolingual dictionaries. One would most expect to find them in concrete examples, often mentioned after an explanation of meaning. It is the function of meaning examples according to lexicographical theory to give prototypical usage situations for certain words (Harras 1989). In the 14 dictionaries and more than 50 words and word constructions investigated, I have only found three concrete references to Danish colonialism:

DO 1859 1: 305
[...] The Danish colonies in the West Indies(43)      

DOF 1907 1: 491      
[...] – counsel, a, regional, partly laws constituting person, esp. in the West Indies(44)      

DOF 1914: 134      
[...] 2) (esp. in the West  and East Indies)(45)

In all three cases, reference made is to the Caribbean plantation colonies of Denmark so that other colonial occupation forms realized by Denmark, especially those based on slave trade, become invisible. Due to that, we can see here in the rare cases mentioning Denmark in the context of colonialism, a form of prototypicalization of a concept of Danish colonies. Moreover, only in the 1859 dictionary, the relationship between Denmark and its colonies is explicated, in the 1907 and 1914 dictionaries Denmark is implied but never mentioned. After 1914, there is not a single reference to Denmark as colonizing state or about Danish colonies in the monolingual dictionaries.

In addition to that, colonies and the act of colonization are always depicted as belonging to act of discovery, as two of countless examples in the dictionaries show.

GF 1974
colonist = new-builder(46)

DSO 1957: 129
colony – new-build, protectorate, mandate;(47)

By using the affix ‘new’, colonies become void spaces for projections of new spaces and imaginations for the colonizers. The impression is given in the dictionaries that the colonies are uninhabited. A reference to the colonial situation as the, very often, brutal meeting between different groups in the process of occupation is made invisible in the dictionary entries. Loomba (1998: 1) makes a similar observation with regard to the Oxford English Dictionary and its definition of colonialism:

This definition, quite remarkably, avoids any reference to people other than the colonisers, people who might already have been living in those places where colonies were established. Hence it evacuates the word ‘colonialism’ of any implication of an encounter between peoples, or of conquest and domination. There is no hint that the ‘new locality’ may not be so ‘new’ and that the process of ‘forming a community’ might be somewhat unfair.

By using certain encyclopedic information in the examples of usage in the dictionaries, the impression of neutral information given here is enhanced. Beside this strategy of transfer of historical references, another strategy can be isolated in this context: Some word entries, which could be explained with reference to colonialism, are instead explained with reference to more recent history and focused on Germany. We can find examples like “Germany’s barbarism in the period of Hitler” or “The Polish people belonged to an inferior race according to the Nazi-people. They were meant to work as slave-workers for the German herrenvolk.(48) Both examples are historically correct, but at the same time, they show a partial transfer from a concept of Danish history to German history when negative connotations are involved.

Hermanns’ (1982) hypothesis of a lack of “present past” in monolingual dictionaries can thus be differentiated here even further: There is a “present past” to be found in Danish monolingual dictionaries, but it is transposed from Denmark and inscribed ontoother countries. This is the case, when we have to deal with concepts, which are today evaluated as questionable and problematic. This hypothesis is further underlined by the following observation: In the dictionaries under investigation,

there is only one piece of evidence indicating Denmark’s involvement – a usage example – in slave trade.

ODS 1933 14: 1155ff.
negro [...] –trade [...]  beginning in the year 1803 the negro-trade for the royal subordinates had to come to an end. [...] The Danish king was exemplary with regard to the abolition of negro-trade.(49)

The only evidence of involvement illustrates a positively evaluated activity – the role of Denmark in abolishing slave trade as a more general phenomenon. We can consequently see that not only are the colonized specified and differentiated as others, as has been shown especially with respect to English discourses (see Hulme 1986, Loomba 1998), but the colonizers themselves are differentiated, too. This is interpreted as a powerful but subtle strategy of self-legitimation in a postcolonial period. It however, simultaneously shows the continuation of colonial processes and ideologies.

3.3.8    Metalinguistic comments

Metalinguistic comments reveal how colonialism and racism are constructed in monolingual dictionaries. A special emphasis is placed here on evaluative comments as a subgroup of metalinguistic comments. Evaluative comments present the attitudes ‘normally’ linked to a certain word or phrase. They are used to explain possible connotations of a word (Malkiel, 1989). As a prominent example, the metalinguistic comments connected to the word neger (negro) are investigated against the background of an intensive public discussion on the derogatory content of the word in Denmark in the 1970s and 1980s (Frost, 1997). The analysis shows that not a single dictionary after the 1970s and 1980s reacts in its metalinguistic comments to the public negotiation of the usage of the term.

PNO 2001, 2: 952ff.
negro 1. a person with negroid descent
nigger [...] 1. (discriminatory): = negro(50)

Instead, the derogation is subscribed to the form nigger. By way of this, the assumed neutrality of the form neger is reproduced. Nigger on the other hand is no longer in usage in spoken and written Danish today so that the ‘problem’ of racist appellation is constructed as non-problematic for Denmark in a subtle way. Furthermore, the example demonstrates a missing reflexivity and reaction of dictionaries to other discourses. The status of dictionaries as resources for actual language usage can be questioned from here. The postulated functions of monolingual dictionaries either to inform or/and to document current language usage are not fulfilled.

A second aspect of metalinguistic comments closely connected to the first one is the graphic and semantic representation.(51) There is a more general tendency in Danish monolingual dictionaries to refrain from metalinguistic comments. The comments on nigger are a prominent exception. The new Danish dictionary (DDO 2003/2004), which will probably become the future source for Danish linguistic norms, in its first two volumes presents in contrast to the earlier dictionaries a number of different evaluative metalinguistic comments:

DDO 2003/2004
primitive folk (sometimes derogatory)(52)
barbarian (is also used as derogatory term)(53)
heathen (often derogatory or condemning)(54)

By using brackets to mark off the evaluative comments, they are constructed as possible usage options and stylistic comments that are not fundamental to the meaning of the words denoted. Hence, the derogatory practice becomes a tentatively named possibility of usage (see also Tirrell 1999). It is either intangibly modified in its frequency or it becomes a responsibility of the speakers by using a passive construction. The user of a dictionary thus does not get any information on the relevance of the metalinguistic comments: A non-derogatory usage becomes the implicit normality by tentatively mentioning a derogatory usage in an insubstantial way i.e. only in brackets. Furthermore, a differentiation between meaning as static and usage as dynamic option is reproduced here as well.(55)


4.   Conclusions

The different levels of analysis presented here show the complexity of a process of constructing self and other/s in colonial and postcolonial discourse. Monolingual dictionaries as extremely influential discourses in society (Zgusta 1989a, b) have been shown to be an interesting resource for a critical postcolonial linguistic analysis. Moreover, the traditional concept of meaning and the differentiation between core meaning and usage has been confirmed for all dictionaries under investigation. This has been criticized by perspective-pragmatic theory.

As mentioned at the beginning, the words under investigation here have been classified as political vocabulary. Political vocabulary is normally characterized by a strong semantic instability since it is under continuous fight from different political groups. As has been shown in the analyses with regard to the wording of colonialism, a variety of differencet meanings are totally lacking in the dictionaries’ presentations. Instead of being perceived and denoted as ideology, colonialism is solely conceptualized as a historical phase. This makes a critical attitude towards colonialism in a subtle way impossible. It contributes powerfully to a wider ignorance of dictionary users towards the ideological site of colonialism, and can be interpreted as having an impact, up to today, on the perception of racism.(56) As has been shown, a detailed analysis of how colonialism is depicted in a linguistic source like monolingual dictionaries is a useful tool for an analysis within postcolonial studies. Hence, the integration of linguistic knowledge, especially from the field of Critical Discourse Studies and pragmatics, as defined by Verschueren (1999), seems a useful project in the establishment of a critical postcolonial linguistics and in the establishment of a linguistic perspective in Critical Whiteness Studies. Not only is colonialism an extremely interesting topic and ideology for this kind of linguistic analysis, it is also a crucial historical phase for the establishment of linguistics. 


Monolingual Danish dictionaries and their abbreviations

DDO 2003/2004 Den danske ordbok 2003/2004 vol. 1 and 2. Gyldendal, Copenhagen.
DO 1859 Dansk ordbog indeholdende det danske sprogs stammeord tilligemed afledede og sammensatte ord, efter den nuværende sprogbrug forklarede i deres forskiellige betydninger, og ved talemaader og exempler oblyste. C. Molbeck. 1859 2. revised version. 2 vols. Gyldendal, Copenhagen.
DOF 1907/1914 Dansk Ordbog for folket. 1907/1914 B.T. Dahl, H. Hammer und Hans Dahl (Ed.). 2 vols. Gyldendal/Nordisk Forlag, Copenhagen and Kristiania.
DSO 1957

Dansk synonym ordbog, 1957 (4. revised version) Ulla Albeck, Mikal Rode and Erik Timmermann (Ed.). J.H. Schultz Forlag, Copenhagen.

GF 1974 Gyldendals fremmedordbog 1974 (6. revised version) Sven Brüel (Ed.). Gyldendal, Copenhagen.
NDO 1969 Nudansk Ordbog 1969 (4. version), Lis Jacobsen (Ed.). 2 vols. Politikens Forlag, Copenhagen.
NDO 1988 Nudansk Ordbog 1988 (6. version), Lis Jacobsen (Ed.). Politikens Forlag, Copenhagen.
NO 1999 Nye ord. Ordbog over nye ord  i dansk 1955-1998. 1999 Pia Jarvad. Gyldendal, Copenhagen.
NOD1988 Nye ord i dansk 1955-75. 1984 Pia Riber Petersen (Ed.). Dansk Sprognævns skrifter 11, Copenhagen.
ODS 1918-1956 Ordbog over det danske Sprog. 1918-1956 Verner Dahlerup (Ed.). 28 vols. Gyldendal, Copenhagen.
ODS-S 1992-2001 Supplement til Ordbog over det danske Sprog 1992/1994/1997/2001 4 vols(A-Løvtelt). Gyldendal, Copenhagen.
PNO 2001 Politikens Nudansk ordbog med etymologi. 2001 2 vols. Politikens ordbøger, Copenhagen.
PSO 1982 Politikens Slangordbok, 1982Søren Anker-Møller, Hanne Jensen and Peter Stray Jørgensen (Ed.). Politikens Forlag, Copenhagen.
PSO 1993 Politikens Slangordbok, 1993 (4. version)Søren Anker-Møller, Hanne Jensen and Peter Stray Jørgensen (Ed.). Politikens Forlag, Copenhagen.





1 This is especially astonishing with regard to Phillipson 1992, because his research activities are situated in Denmark.
2 See Römer (1985) for a reflection on the connection of race ideologies with language differences. She concentrates, however on the 20th century in her study.
3 See (Bakker 2003) for a summary of Scandinavian pidgins and creoles, which are also in the Caribbean.
4 See also Schlieben-Lange (1992) for a collection of different articles on this issue.
5 See also Phillipson (1992) for a more general critique on the Western differentiation between language and dialect and its implications for postcolonial situations.
6 Another study worthwhile mentioning in this context is Pennycook (1998). He examines the role English and English language teaching has played from the 19th century up until today in former colonialized regions of the world. A comprehensive overview on language studies with regard to colonialism can be found in Harris/Rampton 2003.
7 See Hornscheidt (2005a) for an overview on possible participations of linguistics in Critical Whiteness Studies.
8 See Loomba (1998) for a summary of the pros and cons of a categorization into colonial and postcolonial periods.
9 If no dictionary is mentioned, the words listed occur in my primary source material only. Interestingly enough some of the new build words depicting specifics of the colonial situation from a Danish perspective, like crevellen, manillas and remidoren, are not mentioned in the dictionaries under investigation. The abbreviations of the monolingual dictionaries are explained in the end of this article.
10 This last level could have been analysed in more detail as is done in the concrete case: It is assumed that lines of derivation, the building of antonyms by help of the prefix “u-“ in Danish ( like “un-“ in English) for example, could be of interest.
11 Fishman (1995) differentiates three different aspects in the construction of culture in dictionaries: the producers of dictionaries, the intended users and the society or community using the dictionary. This does not mean that we have to do with conscious and intended decisions taken but that the analytical perspective on dictionaries as discourses in their own right is the important analytical view to be taken here. As Schaeder (1987: 70) formulates: “Dictionaries can contribute to a strong identity feeling of social groups, to a stronger feeling of discrimination towards other groups. „ [German original: „Wörterbücher können dazu beitragen, gesellschaftliche Gruppen in ihrem Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl zu stärken, die Abgrenzung von Gruppen nach außen zu fördern.“]
12 Whereas this aspect seems central to a question of whether derogatory usage of certain words has to be marked in dictionaries, it is also seen as central to for example questions of which words are taken as own dictionary entries in the respective dictionaries.
13 This methodological position means as well that the analysis does not become more relevant, when e.g. a certain meaning explanation for a word entry is found in all dictionaries or when the strategies applied for meaning explanations for terms on colonialism can even be found for other entries as well: these results would be part of another investigation with another methodological background and other research questions than the ones asked here. Starting from a social constructivist position, monolingual dictionaries are assumed to be important discourse formations within a society. The question whether dictionaries correctly reflect language usage of their source materials is a further question consequently not posed in this study. It implies that a differentiation between “right” and “wrong” would be possible, which is not the case from a social constructivist point of view.
14 In many modern monolingual dictionaries, etymological explanations can be found as well. Their status and function has to also be investigated more closely: Their presence very often assumes the possibility to explain actual meanings historically and/or to trace them back in a monolinear way to earlier meanings in maybe other languages. These assumptions have to be questioned more thoroughly. One aspect neglected in the analyses presented here in the context of colonialism is that by tracing the origin of words in other languages the origin of cultures is put into other cultures as well. This could probably serve as a legitimizing strategy for the own position towards colonialism for example.
15 This, however, is not true for the Danish colonies in Europe: Denmark still has had colonies in Iceland, the Faeroese Islands and on Greenland. Whereas Iceland is today politically independent of Denmark, Greenland and the Faroese Islands still have some kind of political dependency on Denmark.
16 Besides Denmark, Sweden also had overseas colonies during this period. Introductory textbooks on colonialism like for example Osterhammel (2003) do not at all mention the Scandinavian countries in the context of European colonialism. But even in the countries themselves, colonialism as a Danish or Swedish phenomenon is hardly ever mentioned. There is only a short, late and very minimal historical investigation into colonialism as a Scandinavian phenomenon.
17 My own translation. Original: „Das unmittelbarste Informationsbedürfnis ergibt sich aus der Begegnung mit dem Schwierigen, insonderheit dem Fremden, das sprachlicher und sachlicher Natur sein kann. Das Problem der Fremdheit (Alterität) zeigt sich in erster Linie in rezeptiven Zusammenhängen, nur in zweiter Linie betrifft es die produktive Verwendung.“ (Hausmann 1989: 5)
18 Cassaren in the Spanish and Portuguese context is, however, a more usual term and could reflect the far greater tolerance of racial intermarriage which characterized Spanish and Portuguese colonial penetration. (My sincere thanks, to one of the anonymous reviewers for this comment.)
19 One reason for this lack of certain words as dictionary entries can be traced back to the sources used for the establishing of dictionaries. Especially up until the 70s, dictionaries mainly relied on canonized literary works, in any case solely written works of high standing persons and have thus had a normatizing effect. A remarkable exception to this is the early monolingual dictionary by Molback (1859). He tried to collect as many different varieties of Danish as possible for his dictionary. See Hjorth 1989. This, however, does not play a major role for my argumentation as the reasons for taking up a term or not cannot be traced back. Moreover, they also do not play a role in the question of how the public perceives certain conceptualizations. Even if I believe that there are small corpuses in some cases that are at least responsible for the lack of word entries, it still has the same effects as if the lack is caused by an intentional act of will.
20 Danish original: Indfødt […] 2) født og opvokset paa et vist (nærmere angivet) sted, især: i et vist land (i modsætn. til indvandret, fremmed (1 og 2); jf. hemmefødt 2); nu især [...] om de oprindelige, ikke-civiliserede beboere i ikke-europæiske lande: vild. Besides this entry there are only further entries in DO 1859 1, p. 1084 and DOF 1907 1, p. 405
21 In addition to that it is interesting to see that other possible terms like opridenligt (befolkning), urfolk, urbefolkning do not at all turn up in the meaning explanations under investigation here. Indfødt(e) thus seems to be the central term to be used in this context.
22 As further examples for monolingual dictionary entries using the term indfødt in their meaning explanations, see the following examples from 1907 up until 2001: DOF 1907 1: 444 kannibal [...] [Forv. af karibal, indfødt paa de karibiske øer] […]; ODS 1933 14: 1155ff. Neger […] nedsæt. (efter eng. nigger) Nigger […] om de indfødte i Afrika af den sorte race. GF 1974: 399 palaver [...] (engl., fra port. palavra ord, tale, af gr. parabole lignelse, se parabel; egl.: forhandling mellem europæer og afrikansk indfødt) […]; NDO 1969 2: 763 primitiv [...] 1. oprindelig, tihørende et tidligt stadium af en udvikling: Australiens indfødte er primitive folk; PNO 2001, 2: 1113 racisme 1. den anskuelse at raceforskelle bør bestemme forskelle i politiske og sociale rettigheder □ debatten drejede sig om hvordan racismen kommer til udtryk; kampen mod racismen; er fremmedhad det samme som rasicsme? tidligere byggede den sydafrikanske politik åbent på racisme; de indfødte beretter om mange tilfæle af skjult racisme.
23 All sites retrieved in in 2005 refer to American (Indians) or African “natives”.
24 These are: slaveaag, slaveand, slavearbeide, slavebaand, slavelænker, slavefanger, slavejagt, slavejæger, slavefoged, slavefængsel, slaveri, slavehandel, slavehandler, slaveherre, slavehold, slaveholderm slavehuus, slavejagt, slavejern, slavekaar, slavefiæde, slaveklæder, slavelænke, slavesind, slaveskib, slavestand, slavetorv, slvaevogter. In DOF 1914 2: 279 a similar list of compounds can be found.
25 See for example the following entry: Slaveskib, et. Skib, hvorpaa Slaver føres fra Afrika.
26 Danish original: slave-anstalt nedsæt. (jargon) om skole ell. arbejdsplads. – slave-arbejde […] overf. om hårdt, ensformigt arbejde. slave-handel; hvid s. om handel med hvide kvinder til bordeller.slave-livoverf. om tilværelse fuld af strengt arbejde, der gøres for andre
27 „Gegenwärtige Vergangenheit“ in the German original.
28 Danish original: slave 1. en retsløs person som er berøvet sin frihed fordi han er ejet af en anden person, og som er tvunget til at udføre hårdt arbejde […] slaverene i oldtidens Rom; slaverne i Amerika; similar entries can be found in NDO 1969 2: 898 and GF 1974: 518.
29 We can see here impressive examples of semantic change due to metaphorical meaning transfer, as postulated by e.g. Sweetser (1990).
30 Danish original: slavehandel 1. handel med slaver […] hvid slavehandel organiseret handel med unge kvinder som sælges til prostitution i et andet land
31 It is interesting to see that even here the form women is used instead of White women which would be more correct and explicit. By way of this, white women are re-stated as universal again.
32 Further examples to be mentioned in this context are the adjectives primitiv (primitive), fremmed (strange), and  uciviliseret (un-civilized).
33 Danish original: eksotisk [...] udenlandsk (1800). [...]  som hører hjemme i ell. stammer fra varmere egne af jordkloden
34 Danish original: eksotisk [...] fra en fjern og fremmed, især tropisk, egn □ eksotiske frugter, eksotiske omgivelser, .. stemning På safariparkens store savanne-område er det muligt at opleve eksotiske dyr på nært hold BerlT91 • (ofø) som virker fremmedartet (og mærkelig). Mærkelig is strongly evaluative in its meaning.
35 My translation. Danish original: Mor […] 1. en Indbygger af det nordlige Afrika eller Mauritanien. Disse kaldes nu i Almindelighed Maurer. 2. en Neger;
36 My translation. Danish original: Maurer […] 1) egl. om indbygger af det nordvestlige Afrika (Mauretanien). [...] spec. om det muhamedanske folk af berbisk-arabisk race, der i middealderen fra Nordafrika trængte ind i Spanien og satte sig fast der. [...] 2) (nu sj.) om muhamedaner ell. araber i al alm.
37 My translation. Danish original: Mor […] 1) (uden for talem. nu arkais.) om de mørkhudede indbyggere i Nordafrika, spec.: maurer; i videre anv., om folk af den sort race: neger. de Morer (faldt) ind udi Spanien, ob gemægtigede sig fast det heele Rige.
38 However, the blending of categorizations of religion and race is not new in the colonial period but very prominent. The dynamics underlying religious conceptualizations over time can even be observed, if the entries for heathen (hedning)are analysed.
39 My translation. Danish original: maurer 1. en person fra den vestlige del af Nordafrika som tilhører den berbiske el. arabiske race; især om de arabere der i middelalderen trængte op i Spanien = mor
40 My translation. Danish original: hvid II [...] den hvide race modsat: de farvede racer
41 See Arndt/Hornscheidt (2004) for a detailed criticism on the concepts of white and black and coloured in this context.
42 My translation. Danish original: Koloni-smør, et. smør fra de tidligere engelske kolonier Australien og New Zealand.
43 My translation. Danish original: Colonie [...] De danske Colonier i Vestindien
44 My translation. Danish original: kolonial [...] -raad, et, kommunalt, til Dels lovgivende Raad, særl. i Vestindien
45 My translation. Danish original: plantage [...] 2) (is. i Vest- og Østindien)
46 My translation. Danish original: kolonist = nybyggere
47 My translation. Danish original: koloni – nybygd, protektorat, mandat;
48 My translations. Danish originals: Tysklands Barbarisering i Hitlertiden. (ODS-S), herrefolk [...] (folkeslag der hersker (el. ønsker at herske) over andre folk som det anser for laverestående □ Polakkerne .. tilhørte efter nazisternes opfattelse en mindreværdig race. De skulle for fremtiden være slavearbejdere for det tyske herrefolk skoleb-hist.89b)
49 My translation. Danish original: neger [...] –handel [...] Med  Begyndelsen af Aaret 1803 skal al Negerhandel for de Kgl. Undersaatter ophøre. [...] Den danske Konge gav Exemplet paa Negerhandelns Afskaffelse.
50 My translation. Danish original: neger 1. en person af negroid afstamning = sort, negroid; nigger [...] 1. (Neds.): = NEGER
51 In addition, further elements could be mentioned here, the differentiation between core and figurativemeaning, for example. See Hornscheidt (2005: forthcoming).
52 My translation. Danish original: primitivt folk (undertiden nedsættende)
53 My translation. Danish original: barbar (bruges også som skældsord) 
54 My translation. Danish original: hedning (ofte nedsættende el. fordømmende)
55 There are more interesting observations to be made with respect to metalinguistic comments. There is a general tendency to mention a discriminatory usage especially in those contexts where a form is used to denote a European context. In an utmost subtle way, a discrimination of the colonized for example, is reaffirmed here as natural. The transfer of concepts solely from the colonized to the colonizers is regarded as discriminatory. See Hornscheidt (2005: forthcoming) and Arndt/Hornscheidt (2004) for a discussion on this aspect.
56 An interesting observation to be mentioned here for the Danish context is the public negotiation of racism as a totally new phenomenon to Denmark in the 70s. The ignorance of colonialism as a part of Danish politics probably has contributed to this development in public perception.

1.3. Re-writing linguistic history – (post)colonial reality on the fringes of linguistic theories

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For quotation purposes:
Antje Hornscheidt: An analysis of post-colonial continuities in Danish monolingual dictionaries – An empirical contribution to a critical postcolonial linguistics - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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