Are diacritics NOW irrelevant ? (Re: [INDOLOGY] the koti

Sun Nov 28 22:22:24 UTC 2010

On Sat, Nov 27, 2010 at 05:58:34PM +0100, Jean-Luc CHEVILLARD wrote:
> On 26/11/2010 18:49, Dominik Wujastyk wrote:
> >Yes, Ifra's book is flawed, yes he is inconsistent and idiosyncratic in his
> >use of diacritical marks, and yes, subject-specialists will find points to
> >criticize sharply.  And yet, and yet, one can still learn a great deal from
> >the book.
> Dear Dominik,
> it is quite clear from your comment that you think that some of the
> criticisms of the book under discussion are unfair or outrageous
> because the book is "path-breaking".
> All I am trying to say is that a "path-breaking" book (which belongs
> to the realm of RESEARCH) and a "reference book" (which belong to
> the realm of TEACHING) do not belong to the same category, and that
> "reference books" need to receive extra care, in order to avoid what
> is called in French "nivellement par le bas" (I do not know how to
> express that in English).


> Why print items which a student will not be able to reproduce as
> such without being considered as grossly ignorant?
> If Ifrah's book was a best-seller (I am happy for him), the
> publisher can certainly afford to release a corrected version with
> diacritics.
> Then it will be both a commercial success and a reference book that
> can honourably sit on everybody's shelf, including the famous
> Library of Congress.
> -- Jean-Luc Chevillard (EFEO/CNRS, Pondicherry)

Jean-Luc, your comments remind me of another, though somewhat less
recent, `best-seller'. A good number of years ago, when I was slowly
crawling through the Oresteia, a colleague of my father's kindly gave
me a number of volumes -- for my amusement than anything else. Amongst
them was John Lempriere's Bibliotheca Classica / Classical
Dictionary. This first left the press in the late 1780s but mine is
the 20th edn of 1844 -- and wasn't to be the last! Anyway, in the
preface, Lempriere is characteristically modest about the value of his

``In the following pages it has been the wish of the Author to give
the most accurate and satisfactory account of all the proper names
which occur in reading the Classics, and by a judicious collection of
anecdotes and historical facts to draw a picture of ancient times not
less instructive than entertaining. Such a work, it is hoped, will not
be deemed an useless acquisition in the hands of the public; and while
the student is initiated in the knowledge of history and mythology,
and familiarized with the ancient situation and extent of kingdoms and
cities that no longer exist, the man of letters may, perhaps, find it
not a contemptible companion, from which he may receive information,
and be made, a second time, acquainted with many important particulars
which time, or more laborious occupations, may have erased from his
memory.'' (v.)

After having seen the scan of Ifrah and the various comments following
I was curious to revisit Lempriere, see attached. Readers will draw
their own conclusions but a quick comparison makes me wonder how much
progress has been made during the the past 200 years.

Kind regards,


Richard MAHONEY - Indica et Buddhica

Littledene, Bay Road, OXFORD 7430, NZ
PO Box 25, OXFORD 7443
+64 3 312 1699 / +64 275 829 986
r.mahoney at
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