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Classification of Linguistic Dictionaries

Thus a linguistic dictionary is a book of words in a language, usually listed alphabetically, with definitions, pronunciations, etymologies and other linguistic information or with their equivalents in another language (or other languages).

Linguistic dictionaries may be divided into different categories by different criteria. According to the nature of their word-list we may speak about general ditinaries, on the one hand, and restrited, on the other. The terms general and restricted do not refer to the size of the dictionary or to the number of items listed. What is meant is that the former contain lexical units in ordinary use with this or that proportion of items from various spheres of life, while the latter make their choice only from a certain part of the word-stock, the restriction being based on any principle determined by the compiler. To restricted dictionaries belong terminological, phraseological, dialectal word-books, dictionaries of new words, of foreign words, of abbreviations, etc.

As to the information they provide all linguistic dictionaries fall into those presenting a wide range of data, especially with regard to the semantic aspect of the vocabulary items entered (they are called explanatory) and those dealing with lexical units only in relation to some of their characteristics, e.g. only in relation to their etymology or frequency or pronunciation. These are termed specialised dictionaries.

Dictionaries with the same nature of word-lists may differ widely in the kind of information they afford, and the other way round, dictionaries providing data of similar nature may have a different kind of word-list. For example, dictionaries of unrestricted word-lists may be quite different in the type of information they contain (explanatory, pronouncing, etymological, ideographic, etc.), terminological dictionaries can also be explanatory, parallel, ideographic, presenting the frequency value of the items entered, etc. On the other hand, translation dictionaries may be general in their word-list, or terminological, phraseological, etc. Frequency dictionaries may have general and terminological word-lists.

All types of dictionaries, save the translation ones, may be mnolingualor bilingual, i.e. the information about the items entered may be given in the same language or in another one.

Care should be taken not to mix up the terms monolingual and explanatory, on the one hand, and bilingual and translation dictionaries on the other. The two pairs of terms reflect different dimensions of dictionaries. The terms monolingual and bilingual pertain to the language in which the information about the words dealt with is couched. The terms explanatory and translation dictionaries characterise the kind of information itself.

Thus among dictionaries of th3 same type, say phraseological or terminological, we may find both monolingual and bilingual word-books. For example, Kluges Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache is bilingual, but it is not its purpose to supply translation of the items entered.

It is important to realise that no dictionary, even the most general one, can be a general-purpose word-book, each one pursues a certain aim, each is designed for a certain set of users. Therefore the selection of material and its presentation, the language in which it is couched depend very much upon the supposed users, i.e. whether the dictionary is planned to serve scholarly users or students or the general public.

Thus to characterise a dictionary one must qualify it at least from the four angles mentioned above: 1) the nature of the word-list, 2) the information supplied, 3) the language of the explanations, 4) the prospective user.

Below we shall give a brief survey of the most important types of English dictionaries, both published in English-speaking countries and at home. We shall first dwell on the dictionaries that are unrestrited in their word-lists and general in the information they contain, - on explanatory and translation dictionaries, - presented by the greatest number of word-books, then deal with word-books of restricted word-lists and with specialised dictionaries and after that with a special group of reference books, the so-called learner's dictionaries.

Explanatory Dictionaries

Out of the great abundance of linguistic dictionaries of the English language a large group is made up of the so-called explanatory dictionaries,big and small, compiled in English-speaking countries. These dictionaries provide information on all aspects of the lexical units entered: graphical, phonetical, grammatical, semantic, stylistic, etymological, etc.

Most of these dictionaries deal with the form, usage and meaning of lexical units in Modern English, regarding it as a stabilised system and taking no account of its past development. They are synchronic in their presentation of words as distinct from diachronic, those concerned with the development of words occurring within the written history of the language. For instance, the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles commonly abbreviated in NED and its abridgement The Shorter Oxford Dictionary on Historical Principles (SOD) coyer the history of the English vocabulary from the days of King Alfred down to the present time; they are diachronic, whereas another abridgement of the NED the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (COD) as well as H. C. Wylds Universal Dictionary of the English Language are synchronic. Other series of authoritative synchronic explanatory dictionaries are Webster dictionaries, the Funk and Wagnalls (or Standard) dictionaries and the Century dictionaries.

It should be noted that brief remarks of historical and etymological nature inserted in dictionaries like the COD do not make them diachronic. Moreover, dictionaries of a separate historical period, such as Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by J. Bosworth and T. N. Toller, Stratmann's Middle English Dictionary by H. Bradley, which are sometimes called historical, cannot be strictly speaking referred to diachronic wordbooks. They do not trace the evolution of the language, but study a synchronic cross-section, i.e. the words of a historical period are regarded from a synchronic angle.

Translation Dictionaries

Translation dictionaries (sometimes also called parallel) are wordbooks containing vocabulary items in one language and their equivalents in another language. Many English-Russian and Russian-English dictionaries have been made in our country to meet the demands of language students and those who use English in their work. The most representative translation dictionaries for English are the New English-Russian Dictionary edited by Prof. I. R. Galperin, the English-Russian Dictionary by Prof. V. K. Müller and The Russian-English Dictionary under prof. A. I. Smirnitskys general direction.

Specialised Dictionaries

Phraseological dictionaries in England and America have accumulated vast collections of idiomatic or colloquial phrases, proverbs and other, usually image-bearing word-groups with profuse illustrations. But the compilers approach is in most cases purely empiric. By phraseology many of them mean all forms of linguistic anomalies which transgress the laws of grammar or logic and which are approved by usage. Therefore alongside set-phrases they enter free phrases and even separate words. The choice of items is arbitrary, based on intuition and not on any objective criteria. Different meanings of polysemantic units are not singled out, homonyms are not discriminated, no variant phrases are listed.

An Anglo-Russian Phraseological Dictionary by A. V. Koonin published in our country has many advantages over the reference books published abroad and can be considered the first dictionary of English phraseology proper. To ensure the highest possible cognitive value and quick finding of necessary phrases the dictionary enters phrase variants and structural synonyms, distinguishes between polysemantic and homonymic phrases, shows word- and form-building abilities of phraseological units and illustrates their use by quotations.

New Words dictionaries have it as their aim adequate reflection of the continuous growth of the English language.

There are three dictionaries of neologisms for Modern English. Two of these (Berg P. A Dictionary of New Words in English, 1953; Reifer M. Dictionary of New Words, N. Y., 1955) came out in the middle of the 50s and are somewhat out-of-date. The third (A Dictionary of New English. A Barnhart Dictionary, L., 1973) is more up-to-date.

The Barnhart Dictionary of New English covers words, phrases, meanings and abbreviations which came into the vocabulary of the English language during the period 19631972. The new items were collected from the reading of over half a million running words from US, British and Canadian sources newspapers, magazines and books.

Dictionaries of slang contain elements from areas of substandard speech such as vulgarisms, jargonisms, taboo words, curse-words, colloquialisms, etc.

The most well-known dictionaries of the type are Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by E. Partridge, Dictionary of the Underworld: British and American, The American Thesaurus of Slang by L. V. Berry & M. Den Bork, The Dictionary of American Slang by H. Wentworth and S. B. Flexner.

Usage dictionaries make it their business to pass judgement on usage problems of all kinds, on what is right or wrong. Designed for native speakers they supply much various information on such usage problems as, e.g., the difference in meaning between words like comedy, farce and burlesque, illusionand delusion, formalityand formalism, the proper pronunciation of words like foyer, yolk, nonchalant,the plural forms of the nouns flamingo, radix, commander-in-chief,the meaning of such foreign words as quorum, quadroon, quattrocento,and of such archaic words as yon, yclept, and so forth. They also explain what is meant by neologisms, archaisms, colloquial and slang words and how one is to handle them, etc.

The most widely used usage guide is the classic Dictionary of Modern English Usage by N. W. Fowler. Based on it are Usage and Abusage, and Guide to Good English by E. Partridge, A Dictionary of American English Usage by M. Nicholson, and others. Perhaps the best usage dictionary is A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage by B. Evans and C. Evans. (N. Y., 1957).

Dictionaries of word-frequency inform the user as to the frequency of occurrence of lexical units in speech, to be more exact in the corpus of the reading matter or in the stretch of oral speech on which the word-counts are based.

Most frequency dictionaries and tables of word frequencies published in English-speaking countries were constructed to make up lists of words considered suitable as the basis for teaching English as a foreign language, the so-called basic vocabulary. Such are, e.g., the E. Throndike dictionaries and M. Wests General Service List.

Other frequency dictionaries were designed for spelling reforming, for psycholinguistic studies, for an all-round synchronic analysis of modern English, etc.

In the 50s 70s there appeared a number of frequency dictionaries of English made up by Soviet linguo-statisticians for the purposes of automatic analysis of scientific and technical texts and for teaching-purposes (in non-language institutions).

A Reverse dictionary is a list of words in which the entry words are arranged in alphabetical order starting with their final letters.

The original aim of such dictionaries was to indicate words which form rhymes (in those days the composition of verse was popular as a very delicate pastime). It is for this reason that one of the most well-known reverse dictionaries of the English language, that compiled by John Walker, is called Rhyming Dictionary of the English Language. Nowadays the fields of application of the dictionaries based on the reverse order (back-to-front dictionaries) have become much wider. These word-books are indispensable for those studying the frequency and productivity of certain word-forming elements and other problems of word-formation, since they record, in systematic and successive arrangement, all words with the same suffixes and all compounds with the same terminal components. Teachers of English and textbook compilers will find them useful for making vocabulary exercises of various kinds. Those working in the fields of language and information processing will be supplied with important initial material for automatic translation and programmed instruction using computers.

Pronouncing dictionaries record contemporary pronunciation. As compared with the phonetic characteristics of words given by other dictionaries the information provided by pronouncing dictionaries is much more detailed: they indicate variant pronunciations (which are numerous in some cases), as well as the pronunciation of different grammatical forms.

The world famous English Pronouncing Dictionary by Daniel Jones, is considered to provide the most expert guidance on British English pronunciation. The most popular dictionary for the American variant is A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English by J. S. Kenyon and T. A. Knott.

Etymological dictionaries trace present-day words to the oldest forms available, establish their primary meanings and give the parent form reconstructed by means of the comparative-historical method. In case of borrowings they point out the immediate source of borrowing, its origin, and parallel forms in cognate languages.

The most authoritative of these is nowadays the newly-published Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology edited by . . Onions.

Quite popular is the famous Etymological English Dictionary by W. W. Skeat compiled at the beginning of the century and published many times.

Ideographic dictionaries designed for English-speaking writers, orators or translators seeking to express their ideas adequately contain words grouped by the concepts expressed.

The world famous ideographic dictionary of English is P. M. Rogets Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases.

Besides the most important and widely used types of English dictionaries discussed above there are some others, of which no account can be taken in a brief treatment like this (such as synonym-books, spelling reference books, hard-words dictionaries, etc.).

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