It should of course be noted that American English is not the only existing variant. There are several other variants where difference from the British standard is normalised. Besides the Irish and Scottish variants that have been mentioned in the preceding paragraph, there are Australian English, Canadian English, Indian English. Each of these has developed a literature of its own, and is characterised by peculiarities in phonetics, spelling, grammar and vocabulary.

Canadian English is influenced both by British and American English but it also has some specific features of its own. Specifically Canadian words are called Canadianisms. They are not very frequent outside Canada, except shack a hut and fathom out to explain.

The vocabulary of all the variants is characterised by a high percentage of borrowings from the language of the people who inhabited the land before the English colonisers came. Many of them denote some specific realia of the new country: local animals, plants or weather conditions, new social relations, new trades and conditions of labour. The local words for new notions penetrate into the English language and later on may become international, if they are of sufficient interest and importance for people speaking other languages.

International words coming through the English of India are for instance: bungalow n, jute n, khaki a, mango n, nabob n, pyjamas, sahib, sari.

Similar examples, though perhaps fewer in number, such as boomerang, dingo, kangaroo, are all adopted into the English language through its Australian variant and became international. They denote the new phenomena found by English immigrants on the new continent. A high percentage of words borrowed from the native inhabitants of Australia will be noticed in the sonorous Australian place names. 1

It has been noticed by a number of linguists that the British attitude to this phenomenon is somewhat peculiar. When anyone other than an Englishman uses English, the natives of Great Britain, often half-consciously, perhaps, feel that they have a special right to criticise his usage because it is their language. It is, however, unreasonable with respect to people in the United States, Canada, Australia and some other areas for whom English is their mother tongue. At present there is no single correct English and the American, Canadian and Australian English have developed standards of their own. It would therefore have been impossible to attempt a lexicological description of all the variants simultaneously: the aim of this book was to describe mainly the vocabulary of British English, as it is the British variant that is received and studied in Soviet schools.

1 S.J. Baker quotes a poem consisting of geographical names only:

I like the native names as Paratta
And Illawarra, and Wooloomooloo, Nandowra, Woogarora, Bulkomatta, Tenah, Toongabbie, Mittagong, Merroo...



Lexicography, that is the theory and practice of compiling dictionaries, is an important branch of applied linguistics. The fundamental paper in lexicographic theory was written by L.V. Shcherba as far back as 1940. A complete bibliography of the subject may be found in L.P. Stupins works. Lexicography has a common object of study with lexicology, both describe the vocabulary of a language. The essential difference between the two lies in the degree of systematisation and completeness each of them is able to achieve. Lexicology aims at systematisation revealing characteristic features of words. It cannot, however, claim any completeness as regards the units themselves, because the number of these units being very great, systematisation and completeness could not be achieved simultaneously. The province of lexicography, on the other hand, is the semantic, formal, and functional description of all individual words. Dictionaries aim at a more or less complete description, but in so doing cannot attain systematic treatment, so that every dictionary entry presents, as it were, an independent problem. Lexicologists sort and present their material in a sequence depending upon their views concerning the vocabulary system, whereas lexicographers have to arrange it most often according to a purely external characteristic, namely alphabetically.

It goes without saying that neither of these branches of linguistics could develop successfully without the other, their relationship being essentially that of theory and practice dealing with the same objects of reality. The term dictionary is used to denote a book listing words of a language with their meanings and often with data regarding pronunciation, usage and/or origin. There are also dictionaries that concentrate their attention upon only one of these aspects: pronouncing (phonetical) dictionaries (by Daniel Jones) and etymological dictionaries (by Walter Skeat, by Erik Partridge, The Oxford English Dictionary").

For dictionaries in which the words and their definitions belong to the same language the term unilingual or explanatory is used, whereas bilingual or translation dictionaries are those that explain words by giving their equivalents in another language.1 Multilingual or polyglot

1 The most important unilingual dictionaries of the English language are The Oxford English Dictionary, A.S. Hornbys dictionary, Websters, Funk and Wagnells, Random House and many more (see Recommended Reading at the end of the book).

dictionaries are not numerous, they serve chiefly the purpose of comparing synonyms and terminology in various languages. 1

Unilingual dictionaries are further subdivided with regard to the time. Diachronic dictionaries, of which The Oxford English Dictionary is the main example, reflect the development of the English vocabulary by recording the history of form and meaning for every word registered. They may be contrasted to synchronic or descriptive dictionaries of current English concerned with present-day meaning and usage of words. 2 The boundary between the two is, however, not very rigid: that is to say, few dictionaries are consistently synchronic, chiefly, perhaps, because their methodology is not developed as yet, so that in many cases the two principles are blended. 3 Some synchronic dictionaries are at the same time historical when they represent the state of vocabulary at some past stage of its development. 4

Both bilingual and unilingual dictionaries can be general and special. General dictionaries represent the vocabulary as a whole with a degree of completeness depending upon the scope and bulk of the book in question. The group includes the thirteen volumes of The Oxford English Dictionary alongside with any miniature pocket dictionary. Some general dictionaries may have very specific aims and still be considered general due to their coverage. They include, for instance, frequency dictionaries, i.e. lists of words, each of which is followed by a record of its frequency of occurrence in one or several sets of reading matter. 5 A rhyming dictionary is also a general dictionary, though arranged in inverse order, and so is a thesaurus in spite of its unusual arrangement. General dictionaries are contrasted to special dictionaries whose stated aim is to cover only a certain specific part of the vocabulary.

Special dictionaries may be further subdivided depending on whether the words are chosen according to the sphere of human activity in which they are used (technical dictionaries), the type of the units themselves (e. g. phraseological dictionaries) or the relationships existing between them (e. g. dictionaries of synonyms).

The first subgroup embraces highly specialised dictionaries of limited scope which may appeal to a particular kind of reader. They register and explain technical terms for various branches of knowledge, art and trade: linguistic, medical, technical, economical terms, etc. Unilingual books of this type giving definitions of terms are called

1 See, for example: Buck, Carl Darling. A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages. Chicago, 1949.

2 Such as: Hornby A.S., Gatenby E.V., Wakefield H. The Advance Learners Dictionary of Current English. Oxford, 1948.

3 Cf.: The Concise Oxford Dictionary/Ed. by H.W. Fowler. Oxford, 1944.

4 Bosworth J. and Toller T. An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Oxford, 1882-1898; Kurath, Hans and Kuhn, Sherman M. Middle English Dictionary. Univ. of Michigan Press, 1952.

5 See, for instance: Thorndike E.L. and Lorge I. The Teachers Word-Book of 30,000 Words; West Michael. A General Service List of English Words. London, 1959; Eaton, Helen S. Semantic Frequency List of English, French, German and Spanish. Chicago, 1940; Kuccra, Henry] and Francis, W. Nelson. Computational Analysis of Present-Day American English. Brown Univ. Press, Providence, 1967.

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glossaries. They are often prepared by boards or commissions specially appointed for the task of improving technical terminology and nomenclature.

The second subgroup deals with specific language units, i.e. with phraseology, abbreviations, neologisms, borrowings, surnames, toponyms, proverbs and. sayings, etc.

The third subgroup contains a formidable array of synonymic dictionaries that have been mentioned in the chapter on synonyms. Dictionaries recording the complete vocabulary of some author are called concordances,1 they should be distinguished from those that deal only with difficult words, i.e. glossaries. Taking up territorial considerations one comes across dialect dictionaries and dictionaries of Americanisms. The main types of dictionaries are classified in the accompanying table.

Types of Dictionaries




Unilingual Bilingual or multilingual
General Explanatory dictionaries irrespective of their bulk English-Russian, Russian-English, etc. and multilingual dictionaries  
Etymological, frequency, phonetical, rhyming and thesaurus type dictionaries   Concentrated on one of the distinctive features of the word
Special Glossaries of scientific and other special terms; concordances1 Dictionaries of abbreviations, antonyms, borrowings, new words, proverbs, synonyms, surnames, toponyms, etc.2 Dictionaries of scientific and other special terms1 Dictionaries of abbreviations, phraseology, proverbs, synonyms, etc.2
Dictionaries of American English, dialect and slang dictionaries Dictionaries of Old English and Middle English with explanations in Modern English  

1 Dictionary entries are chosen according to the sphere of communication or the corpus in which they occur.

2 Dictionary entries are selected according to the type of relationships between words.

1 For instance: Schmidt, Alex. Shakespeare Lexicon. A Complete Dictionary of All the English Words: In 2 vols. Berlin, 1923. There are concordances to the works of G. Chaucer, E. Spenser, W. Shakespeare, J. Milton, W. Wordsworth, P.B. Shelley and other writers.

Finally, dictionaries may be classified into linguistic and non-linguistic. The latter are dictionaries giving information on all branches of knowledge, the encyclopaedias. They deal not with words, but with facts and concepts. The best known encyclopaedias of the English-speaking world are The Encyclopaedia Britannica1 and The Encyclopaedia Americana.2 There exist also biographical dictionaries and many minor encyclopaedias.

English lexicography is probably the richest in the world with respect to variety and scope of the dictionaries published. The demand for dictionaries is very great. One of the duties of school teachers of native language is to instil in their pupils the dictionary habit. Boys and girls are required by their teachers to obtain a dictionary and regularly consult it. There is a great variety of unilingual dictionaries for children. They help children to learn the meaning, spelling and pronunciation of words. An interesting example is the Thorndike dictionary.3 Its basic principle is that the words and meanings included should be only those which schoolchildren are likely to hear or to encounter in reading. The selection of words is therefore determined statistically by counts of the actual occurrence of words in reading matter of importance to boys and girls between 10 and 15. Definitions are also made specially to meet the needs of readers of that age, and this accounts for the ample use of illustrative sentences and pictures as well as for the encyclopaedic bias of the book.

A dictionary is the most widely used reference book in English homes and business offices. Correct pronunciation and correct spelling are of great social importance, because they are necessary for efficient communication.

A bilingual dictionary is useful to several kinds of people: to those who study foreign languages, to specialists reading foreign literature, to translators, to travellers, and to linguists. It may have two principal purposes: reference for translation and guidance for expression. It must provide an adequate translation in the target language of every word and expression in the source language. It is also supposed to contain all the inflectional, derivational, semantic and syntactic information that its reader might ever need, and also information on spelling and pronunciation. Data on the levels of usage are also considered necessary, including special warnings about the word being rare or poetical or slangy and unfit to be used in the presence of ones betters. The number of special bilingual dictionaries for various branches of knowledge and engineering is ever increasing. A completely new type are the machine translation dictionaries which present their own specific problems, naturally differing from those presented by bilingual dictionaries for human translation. It is highly probable, however, that their

1 The Encyclopaedia Britannica: In 24 vols. 10th ed. London Chicago Toronto, 1961.

2 The Encyclopaedia Americana. The International Reference Work: In 30 vols. 9th ed. N.Y., 1957.

3 Thorndike E.L. The Thorndike Century Junior Dictionary. Scott Foresmann Co.. Chicago Atlanta Dallas New York, 1935.

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development will eventually lead to improving dictionaries for general use.

The entries of a dictionary are usually arranged in alphabetical order, except that derivatives and compounds are given under the same head-word. In the ideographic dictionaries the main body is arranged according to a logical classification of notions expressed.1 But dictionaries of this type always have an alphabetical index attached to facilitate the search for the necessary word.2

The ideographic type of dictionary is in a way the converse of the usual type: the purpose of the latter is to explain the meaning when the word is given. The Thesaurus, on the contrary, supplies the word or words by which a given idea may be expressed. Sometimes the grouping is in parallel columns with the opposite notions. The book is meant only for readers (either native or foreign) having a good knowledge of English, and enables them to pick up an adequate expression and avoid overuse of the same words. The Latin word thesaurus means treasury. P. Rogets book gave the word a new figurative meaning, namely, a store of knowledge, and hence a dictionary containing all the words of a language. A consistent classification of notions presents almost insuperable difficulties. Only relatively few semantic fields", such as kinship terms, colour terms, names for parts of human body and some others fit into a neat scheme. For the most part, however, there is no one-to-one correlation between notions and words, and the classification of notions, even if it were feasible, is a very poor help for classification of meanings and their systematic presentation. The system of meanings stands in a very complex relationship to the system of notions because of the polysemantic character of most words. The semantic structure of words and the semantic system of vocabulary depend on many linguistic, historical and cultural factors.

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