Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
His father was a Danish physician named Yohan Christian Dahl. The future lexicographer was born in Luhansk and served in the Russian Navy from 1814 to 1826. Dahl was interested in the language and folklore from early years. Having graduated from the medical department of the Derpt University, he started travelling by feet through Russian countryside and collect sayings and fairy tales of the Russian people. He published his first collection of fairy-tales in 1832. Some of these were put in verse by his friend Alexander Pushkin, and have become some of the most familiar texts in the language. After Pushkin's fatal duel, Dahl was summonned to his deathbed and looked after the great poet during the last hours of his life. In 1838, he was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences.
In the following decade, Dahl adopted the penname "Cossack from Lugansk" (mod. Uk. Luhansk) and published several realistic essays in the manner of Nikolai Gogol. He continued his lexicographic studies and extensive travels throught 1850s and 1860s. His magnum opus, Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian language, was published in 4 huge volumes in 1863-66. The Sayings and Bywords of Russian people, featuring more than 30000 entries, followed several years later. Both books have been reprinted innumerable number of times.
Dahl was a strong proponent of the native rather than adopted vocabulary. In the words of his great admirer, Vladimir Nabokov, Dahl's dictionary is a masterpiece of art rather than a mere work of science. The encompassing nature of this dictionary gives it critical linguistic importance even today, especially because a large proportion of the dialectal vocabulary he collected has since passed out of use. The dictionary served as a base for Vasmer's Etymological dictionary of Russian language, the most comprehensive Slavic etymological lexicon.
For his great dictionary Dahl was honoured by the Lomonosov Medal and the honorary fellowship in the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is interred at the Vagankovskoye Cemetery in Moscow. To mark the 200th anniversary of Vladimir Dal's birthday, UNESCO declared the year 2000 The International Year of Vladimir Dahl.
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