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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



A stubborn inconsistency in many bilingual dictionaries is hyphenation. While most headwords beginning with "anti-" or "non-" or "un-" are spelled as single words without hyphens, the example sentences often use the hyphenated forms. (In actual usage, hyphenated forms are much more common than the dictionary spellings would suggest.)

One English-Japanese dictionary gives "antinuclear" as the headword, but its companion Japanese-English dictionary has the following example under 惹起:
この事件がその地に反核運動を惹起することになった.
This incident gave rise to [brought about] an anti-nuclear movement in the region.
Another English-Japanese dictionary spells the headword "nonverbal" but gives the following under "verbal":
verbal and non-verbal communication
言語的および非言語的コミュニケーション
Most dictionaries today are--or should be--spell-checked before they go to press, but spell checkers do not catch hyphenated or separated phrases that should be spelled as single words.
(February 22, 2003)