Oxford University Press has announced that it is embarking on a project to create the Oxford Dictionary of African American English. Funded in part by grants from the Mellon and Wagner Foundations, Oxford University Press is teaming up with the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard Univerity on the project.
This three-year research project brings together the lexicographical resources of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Hutchins Center’s network of scholars of African American studies to produce a groundbreaking work of scholarship that will serve as a cornerstone of new research into African American language, history, and culture. A diverse team of lexicographers and researchers will create a dictionary that will illuminate the history, meaning, and significance of this body of language.
Alongside meaning, pronunciation, spelling, usage, and history, each entry will be illustrated by quotations taken from real examples of language in use. This will serve to acknowledge the contributions of African-American writers, thinkers, and artists, as well as everyday African Americans, to the evolution of the U.S. English lexicon and the English lexicon as a whole.
Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. has been named editor-in-chief of the Oxford Dictionary of African American English. Professor Gates notes that “while many scholars have compiled dictionaries of African American usage and vocabulary, no one has yet had the resources to undertake a large-scale, systematic study, based on historical principles, of the myriad contributions that African Americans have made to the shape and structure of the English language that Americans speak today.”