Editors’ Introduction to the Original CD-Rom Project

The Léxico hispanoamericano Project

The present edition of Boyd-Bowman’s Léxico hispanoamericano is an enterprise begun in 1994, when the editors suggested to Professor Boyd-Bowman the possibility of adapting his version, with the help of technology then becoming available, to an electronic format with custom-designed software which would enable search capabilities of varying complexity. Since 1967 Professor Boyd-Bowman had been collecting material for the LHA, and a preliminary version of the sixteenth-century material was published in 1971 (Peter Boyd-Bowman: Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XVI. London: Tamesis). The amount of material increased to such an extent, however, that it became clear that its publication on paper would not be a viable undertaking.


In 1982, therefore, the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies began to publish the LHA, century by century, in the form of microfiches. (Peter Boyd-Bowman: (1987) Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XVI; (1983) Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XVII; (1982) Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XVIII; (1984) Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XIX; (1994) Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XX. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies). Each collection of microfiches was accompanied by an introduction written by Professor Boyd-Bowman; users will find relevant sections of those introductions reproduced in a revised version here in Introducciones del Profesor Boyd-Bowman. The success of the publication is evidenced by the fact that the edition rapidly sold out. Many users and reviewers pointed out, however, that among other inconveniences of the microfiche edition was the fact that searching for individual forms was time-consuming and browsing difficult, and the usefulness of the LHA would be considerably increased if it were possible to combine the five individual century collections into a single corpus. By 1994, the editors realized that this might be feasible and approached the National Endowment for the Humanities in search of support for a projected conversion of the LHA to a CD-supported database with appropriate software incorporated. The Endowment, after consultation with outside experts, agreed to support what would turn into a seven-year venture.


In addition to the basic conversion of the manuscript into electronic format, the present edition embodies a large number of changes and adaptations from the microfiche publications, almost all of which were necessary in order to make the corpus more easily accessible and searchable. At the same time, virtually all of the source material available in U.S. libraries was traced and the accuracy of citations checked; some addition of new material was made to the corpus (as well as the incorporation of an addendum that had appeared in the microfiche edition). The combination of material into a single corpus led to a number of problems, essentially involving issues of consistency, which could not have been foreseen at the beginning of the project and indeed did not all become apparent until the database had been prepared, edited and revised. Solution of these problems lengthened initial projections of the time necessary to complete the edition, and the editors would like to express their gratitude to the National Endowment for the Humanities for being willing to continue support over this extended period.


In working so closely with the material contained in the LHA, the editors have confirmed again and again their belief that this corpus of material documenting the use of Spanish in the Americas over five centuries is an incomparable source of information for scholars in many fields. It is their hope that this version of the LHA will make it more widely known and more accessible to those who might use it as a tool. The lack of an adequate historical dictionary of American Spanish is regrettable, and though the LHA does not come near to filling that gap, the information which can be gleaned from it will prove invaluable to all those interested in the history of the language in the New World.


Ray Harris-Northall

John J. Nitti

Madison, August 2002




Many people have been involved in this project, not least a group of graduate students in the Hispanic Linguistics program in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, including Fernando Tejedo-Herrero, Matt Mayers, Sonia Kania, Cynthia Kauffeld, Michael Ferreira, Pablo Pastrana, and Steve Fondow. The staff of the Memorial Library were invaluable in the assistance they gave in locating source materials. Peter Boyd-Bowman himself has followed the progress of the project with enthusiasm and kindly suffered and responded to numerous queries from the editors. Thanks are also due to The Hispanic Society of America and to its Curator of Rare Books and Director of the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, Dr. John O’Neill, for his help in the publication of the LHA.


Ms. Jean Lentz has provided all technical support for this publication, including software design, analytic tools and troubleshooting. Her astonishing technical prowess is matched by the range of her linguistic and lexicographic knowledge and her positive attitude in the face of unpredictable and, it sometimes appeared, insurmountable difficulties. Her contribution has been indispensable.


Finally, the editors are very happy to express their gratitude for the gracious support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, without which this project could not have been undertaken. The assistance and encouragement of Dr. Helen Agüera, of the Division of Preservation and Access at the NEH, was especially significant in its progress. Research support was also made available by the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and is gratefully acknowledged.