Lexicography as a science of dictionary-making (42911)

Посмотреть архив целиком

Kolomna State Teacher-Training Institute

Report on the course:

Introduction to the Contemporary English Philology

Theme: Lexicography as a science of dictionary-making


Gavrilin M

Year 1 Term 2

Faculty of foreign languages

Group 11/2

Teacher of a foreign language:

Akhrenova N.A.





1. Lexicography as a science

2. Dictionary: notion, functions, classification, components

3. The characteristics of Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners


List of used literature


It’s well known that we can’t imagine studying any language in the world without such an important thing as a dictionary. It’s obvious that it plays the most leading role in studying a language. But there’s such a problem as what kind of a dictionary we must choose to improve our speech skills day by day.

This report is devoted to the lexicography as a science of dictionary-making. The pursuit of lexicography is divided into two related disciplines:

Practical lexicography is the art or craft of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries.

Theoretical lexicography is the scholarly discipline of analyzing and describing the semantic relationships within the lexicon (vocabulary) of a language and developing theories of dictionary components and structures linking the data in dictionaries. This is sometimes referred to as met lexicography.

A person devoted to lexicography is called a lexicographer, famously defined in Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755) as "A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words".

General lexicography focuses on the design, compilation, use and evaluation of general dictionaries, i.e. dictionaries that provide a description of the language in general use. Such a dictionary is usually called a general dictionary or LGP dictionary. Specialized lexicography focuses on the design, compilation, use and evaluation of specialized dictionaries, i.e. dictionaries that are devoted to a (relatively restricted) set of linguistic and factual elements of one or more specialist subject fields, e.g. legal lexicography. Such a dictionary is usually called a specialized dictionary or LSP dictionary.

There is some disagreement on the definition of lexicology, as distinct from lexicography. Some use "lexicology" as a synonym for theoretical lexicography; others use it to mean a branch of linguistics pertaining to the inventory of words in a particular language.

It is now widely accepted that lexicography is a scholarly discipline in its own right and not a sub-branch of linguistics.

The theme of the report is actual because any pupil, student and even experienced teacher whose activity is closely connected with studying or teaching a language constantly needs a good dictionary which can always help at any time.

So the object of the investigation is lexicography as a science. The subject of investigation is dictionary-making itself.

There’re the following aims of the investigation: to show the importance of dictionary-making in modern linguistics, to study the history of lexicography and its modern development, to make out the dictionary its notion, functions, classification and components, to characterize the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners as an example of a dictionary of good quality.

  1. Lexicography as a science

The theory and practice of compiling dictionaries is called lexicography.

In other words it is the art and craft of writing dictionaries.

The Erya, from the early 3rd century BC, was the first Chinese language dictionary. The book organized Chinese characters by semantic groups. The intention of this dictionary was to explain the true meaning and interpretation of words in the context of older ancient texts.

One of the earliest dictionaries known, and which is still extant today in an abridged form, was written in Latin during the reign of the emperor Augustus. It is known by the title De Significatu Verborum ("On the meaning of words") and was originally compiled by Verrius Flaccus. It was twice abridged in succeeding centuries, first by Sextus Pompeius Festus, and then by Paul the Deacon. Verrius Flaccus' dictionary was an abridged list of difficult or antiquated words, whose usage was illustrated by quotations from early Roman authors.

The word "dictionary" comes from neoclassical Latin, dictio, meaning simply "word".

The history of compiling dictionaries for English comes as far back as The Old English period, where we can find glosses of religious books. Regular bilingual dictionaries began to appear in the 15th century. These dictionaries were Anglo-Latin, Anglo-German, Anglo-French.

The first true English dictionary was Robert Cawdrey's Table Alphabetical of 1604, although it only included 3,000 words and the definitions it contained were little more than synonyms. The first one to be at all comprehensive was Thomas Blount's dictionary Glossographia of 1656.

In 1721 an English scientist and writer Nathaniel Bailey published the 1st etymological dictionary which explained the origin of English words. It was called Universal Etymological English Dictionary. Bailey’s entries are fuller, compared with the glosses in the hard-word books, and there’re more of them (as many as 60, 000 in the 1736 edition), but his definitions lack illustrative support, and he gives little guidance about usage.

The history of lexicography is dominated by the names of 3 figures: Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster and James A. H. Murray. The role played by the first two in the Early Modern English period of the language was very significant. Their influence continues today – directly, in the case of Webster, through the series of dictionaries which bear his name; and indirectly, in the case of Johnson, through the tradition which led the Philological Society to sponsor a «new» English dictionary.

In 1755 an English scientist Samuel Johnson compiled a famous explanatory dictionary which was called A Dictionary of the English language. Over a seven-year period, Johnson wrote the definitions of 40,000 words, illustrating their use from the best authors since the time of the Elizabethans. Although Johnson was fewer entries than Bailey, his selection is more wide-ranging, and his lexicological treatment is far more discriminating and sophisticated.

The book, according to his biographer Boswell, «conferred stability» on the language – and at least with respect to spelling (where most of Johnson’s choices are found in modern practice).The alphabetical section of Johnson’s Dictionary is preceded by a famous Preface in which he outlines his aims and procedures:

When I took the 1st survey of my undertaking, I found our speech copious without order, and energetic without rules: wherever I turned my view, there was perplexity to be disentangled, and confusion to be regulated… Having therefore no assistance but from general grammar, I applied myself to the perusal of our writers; and noting whatever might be of use to ascertain or illustrate any word or phrase, accumulated in time the materials of a dictionary, which, by degrees, I reduced to method…

The preliminaries also include a short history of the language, with long extracts from earlier authors, and a grammar, much influenced by the work of John Wallis, with sections on orthography and prosody. But it is in the Preface, often anthologized as an independent text, that we find an unprecedented statement of the theoretical basis of a dictionary project. The statement is notable for its awareness of the realities of the lexicographer’s task, and also for its descriptive intention – an interesting change of opinion from the prescriptive attitudes Johnson expressed in his 1747 Dictionary plan. There he had written: «The chief intent is to preserve the purity and ascertain the meaning of our English idiom». The Preface, by contrast, stresses that his aim is «not form, but register the language»; and it is this principle which introduces a new era in Lexicography.

The Johnsonian Method.

This page illustrates several features of the approach Johnson outlines in his Preface:

  1. Most of the definitions are appropriate and consistent between entries;

  2. He plays special attention to the different senses of a word – five, in the case of eternal;

  3. There’s a copious use of quotations to support a definition – 116,000 in all;

  4. He routinely identifies parts of speech;

  5. He shows the most strongly stressed syllable in a headword by an accent;

  6. There’s an openness of approach;

  7. He includes topical explanations of some words;

  8. A wide range of ordinary words are included alongside technical terms;

  9. It includes, in the «hard-words» tradition, many cumbersome Latinate forms, such as cubicula, estuation, whose status within English was doubtful;

  10. His creations are highly selective, chosen more for their literary or moral value than for their linguistic clarity;

  11. Several of his definitions use difficult words, such as reciprocates in estuary;

  12. Several of his definitions have become famous for their subjectivity.

Some Johnsonian Definitions.

There’re not many truly idiosyncratic definitions in the Dictionary, but some have become famous.

LEXICOGRAPHER – a writer of dictionary, a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.