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A variation of the cluster-type arrangement can be found in the few frequency dictionaries in which the items included are not arranged alphabetically. In such dictionaries the entries follow each other in the descending order of their frequency, items of the same frequency value grouped together.

Each of the two modes of presentation, the alphabetical and the cluster-type, has its own advantages. The former provides for an easy finding of any word and establishing its meaning, frequency value, etc. The latter requires less space and presents a clearer picture of the

relations of each unit under consideration with some other units in the language system, since words of the same root, the same denotational meaning or close in their frequency value are grouped together.

Practically, however, most dictionaries are a combination of the two orders of arrangement. In most explanatory and translation dictionaries the main entries, both simple words and derivatives, appear in alphabetical order, with this or that measure of run-ons, thrown out of alphabetical order.

If the order of arrangement is not strictly alphabetical in synonym-books and phraseological dictionaries, very often an alphabetical index is supplied to ensure easy handling of the dictionary.

Some frequency dictionaries, among them nearly all those constructed in our country, contain two parts with both types of lists.

§ 8. Selection and Arrangement of Meanings

One of the most difficult problems nearly ‘ all lexicographers face is recording the word-meanings and arranging them in the

most rational way, in the order that is supposed to be of most help to those who will use the dictionary.

If one compares the general number of meanings of a word in different dictionaries even those of the same type, one will easily see that their number varies considerably.

Compare, for example, the number and choice of meanings in the entries for arrivetaken from COD and WCD given below1. As we see, COD records only the meanings current at the present moment, whereas WCD also lists those that are now obsolete.

The number of meanings a word is given and their choice in this or that dictionary depend, mainly, on two factors: 1) on what aim the compilers set themselves and 2) what decisions they make concerning the extent to which obsolete, archaic, dialectal or highly specialised meanings should be recorded, how the problem of polysemy and homonymy is solved, how cases of conversion are treated, how the segmentation of different meanings of a polysemantic word is made, etc.

It is natural, for example, that diachronic dictionaries list many more meanings than synchronic dictionaries of current English, as they record not only the meanings in present-day use, but also those that have already become archaic or gone out of use. Thus SOD lists eight meanings of the word arrive(two of which are now obsolete and two are archaic), while COD gives five.

Students sometimes think that if the meaning is placed first in the entry, it must be the most important, the most frequent in present-day use. This is not always the case. It depends on the plan followed by the compilers.

There are at least three different ways in which the word meanings are arranged: in the sequence of their historical development (called historical order), in conformity with frequency of use that is with the most common meaning first (empirical or actual order), and in their logical connection (logical order).

1 See p. 223

In different dictionaries the problem of arrangement is solved in different ways. It is well-accepted practice in Soviet lexicography to follow the historical order in diachronic dictionaries and to adhere to the empirical and logical order in synchronic word-books.

As to dictionaries published in English-speaking countries, they are not so consistent in this respect. It is natural that diachronic dictionaries are based on the principle of historical sequence, but the same principle is also followed by some synchronic dictionaries as well (e.g. by NID and some other Webster’s dictionaries).

In many other dictionaries meanings are generally organised by frequency of use, but sometimes the primary meaning comes first if this is considered essential to a correct understanding of derived meanings. For example, in the WCD entry for arrivegiven below1 it is the primary, etymological meaning that is given priority of place, though it is obsolete in our days.2

§ 9. Definition of Meanings

Meanings of words may be defined in different ways: 1) by means of definitions that are characterised as encyclopaedic, 2) by means of descriptive definitions or paraphrases, 3) with the help of synonymous words and expressions, 4) by means of cross-references.

Encyclopaedic definitions as distinct from descriptive definitions determine not only the word-meaning, but also the underlying concept.

COD coalft. 1.Hard opaque black or blackish mineral or vegetable matter found in seams or strata below earth’s surface and used as fuel and in manufacture of gas, tar, etc. ANTHRACITE, BITUMINOUS COAL, LIGNITE; ...

Synonymous definitions consist of words or word-groups with nearly equivalent meaning, as distinct from descriptive definitions which are explanations with the help of words not synonymous with the word to be defined.

For example, in the two entries for despicablegiven above COD defines the word-meaning with the help of synonyms, while WNWD uses both descriptive and synonymous definitions.

Reference to other words as a means of semantisation can be illustrated with the following examples taken from COD:

defense. See defence decrescendo.= diminuendo

It is the descriptive definitions that are used in an overwhelming majority of entries. While the general tendency is the same, words belonging to different parts of speech and to different groups within them have their own peculiarities. Encyclopaedic definitions are typical of nouns, especially proper nouns and terms. Synonyms are used most

1 See p. 223.

2 See also a detailed comparison of the entries for the word anecdote in four dictionaries made by Mathews (Readings in English Lexicology, pp. 196-201).

often to define verbs and adjectives. Reference to other words is resorted to define some derivatives, abbreviations and variant forms.

Apart from the nature of the word to be defined the type of definitions given preference depends on the aim of the dictionary and its size. For instance encyclopaedic definitions play a very important role in unabridged dictionaries (especially those published in America); in middle-size dictionaries they are used for the most part to define ethnographic and historical concepts. Synonymous definitions play a secondary role in unabridged dictionaries where they are used as an addition to descriptive or encyclopaedic definitions, and are much more important in shorter dictionaries, probably because they are a convenient means to economise space.

§ 10. Illustrative Examples

It is common knowledge that all dictionaries save those of a narrowly restricted purpose, such as, e.g., frequency dictionaries, spelling books, etymological, pronouncing, ideographic or reverse dictionaries, provide illustrative examples.

• The purpose of these examples depends on the type of the dictionary and on the aim the compilers set themselves. They can illustrate the first and the last known occurrences of the entry word, the successive changes in its graphic and phonetic forms, as well as in its meaning, the typical patterns and collocations, the difference between synonymous words, they place words in a context to clarify their meanings and usage.

When are illustrative examples to be used? Which words may be listed without illustrations? Should illustrative sentences be made up, or should they always be quotations of some authors? How much space should be devoted to illustrative examples? Which examples should be chosen as typical?

Those are some of the questions to be considered.

In principle only some technical terms that are monosemantic can, if precisely defined, be presented without examples even in a large dictionary. In practice, however, because of space considerations this is not the case. It is natural that the bigger the dictionary the more examples it usually contains. Only very small dictionaries, usually of low quality, do not include examples at all.

As to the nature of examples, diachronic dictionaries make use of quotations drawn from literary sources, while in synchronic dictionaries quoted examples are preferred by big dictionaries, in middle-size dictionaries illustrative sentences and phrases drawn from classical and contemporary sources or those constructed by the compilers are employed.

The form of the illustrative quotations can differ in different dictionaries; the main variation can be observed in the length of the quotation and in the precision of the citation.

Some dictionaries indicate the author, the work, the page, verse, or line, and (in diachronic dictionaries) the precise date of the publication, some indicate only the author, because it gives at least basic orientation about the time when the word occurs and the type of text.

It is necessary to stress the fact that word-meanings can be explained

not only with the help of definitions and examples but also by means of showing their collocability (lexical and grammatical valency 1), especially their typical collocability.

§ 11. Choice of Adequate Equivalents

One of the major problems in compiling translation dictionaries and other bilingual word-books is to provide adequate translation’ of vocabulary items or rather to choose an adequate equivalent in the target language.

According to Acad. L. V. Sčerba, translation dictionaries that do not give due attention to delimitation of word-meaning cannot ensure real mastery of foreign words. The compilation of such dictionaries must be based on systematic and detailed contrastive studies of the languages dealt with. Only this will enable the lexicographer to decide what parts of their vocabularies diverge and thus require special attention in translation.

Speaking of scientific methods in compiling translation dictionaries we pay a tribute to Prof. A. I. Smirnitsky and Prof. I. R. Galperin who following the principles of the Russian school of lexicographers (D. N. Ushakov, L. V. Sčerba, V. V. Vinogradov) made a valuable contribution to Soviet lexicography, particularly bilingual lexicography, and made useful innovations. The Russian-English Dictionary under Prof. Smirnitsky’s general direction and the New English-Russian Dictionary edited by Prof. I. R. Galperin differ from other word-books of their kind on account of wider and more profound information that is supplied both about the vocabulary items entered and their translations; more attention than usual is given to the way words are combined in speech, to their emotional and stylistic overtones, etc.

Conveying the meaning of a lexical unit in the target language is no easy task as the semantic structures of related words in different languages are never identical,2 which is observable in any pair of languages. The lack of isomorphism is not limited to the so-called “culture-bound words” only but also to most other lexical units.

The dictionary-maker is to give the most exact equivalent in the target language. Where there is no equivalent, to achieve maximum accuracy in rendering the meanings to be entered the compiler may either describe the meaning with an explanation, much similar to the definition of an explanatory dictionary but worded in the other language, or resort to transliteration. Very often enumeration of equivalents alone does not supply a complete picture of the semantic volume of this or that word, so a combination of different means of semantisation is necessary.

§ 12. Setting of the Entry

Since different types of dictionaries differ in their aim, in the information they provide, in their size, etc., they of necessity differ in the structure and content of the entry.

The most complicated type of entry is that found in explanatory dictionaries.

1 See ‘Word-Groups’, § 2, p. 66.

2 See ‘Semasiology’, § 26, p. 33.

In explanatory dictionaries of the synchronic type the entry usually presents the following data: accepted spelling and pronunciation; grammatical characteristics including the indication of the part of speech of each entry word, the transitivity and intransitivity of verbs and irregular grammatical forms; definitions of meanings; modern currency; illustrative examples; derivatives; phraseology; etymology; sometimes also synonyms and antonyms.

By way of illustration we give the entry for the word arrivefrom COD. arrive’,v.i. Come to destination (lit. & fig.) or end of journey (at

Bath, in Paris, upon scene, at conclusion); (as Gallicism) establish one’s repute or position; (of things) be brought; (of time) come; (of events) come about. (f. OF ariver f. L. L. arribare f. L. ADripare come to shore (ripa)).

The compilers of a dictionary of the same type may choose a different setting of a typical entry: they may omit some of the items or add some others, choose a different order of their arrangement or a different mode of presenting the same information.

Compare, e.g., the entry for the same word arrivefrom Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

ar·rive/ă-riv'/, v.i. [O.F. ariver, deriv. of L. ad to + ripa shore, bank]. 1. Obs. To come to the shore. 2. To reach a place; as, to arrive at home. 3. To gain an object; attain a state by effort, study, etc.; as, to arrive at a conclusion. 4. To come; — said of time. 5. To attain success or recognition.

Syn. Arrive, come. Arriveimplies more definitely than come the attainment of a destination.

v.t. Archaic. To reach; come to.

As we see in COD the pronunciation of the word is given without respelling, only with the help of the stress mark (which it is important for practical purposes to know is placed at the end of the stressed syllable); in WCD the word is transcribed in full in special phonetic notation; besides in this word-book syllabification is indicated both in the graphic- and sound-forms of the word. Etymology is placed at the end of the entry in COD and at the beginning in WCD.

The two entries also differ in other respects. E.g., WCD provides synonymy, obsolete and archaic meanings, whereas COD gives more attention to the use of prepositions; the number of illustrative phrases is greater in COD than in WCD; in COD the meanings are separated with semi-colons, while in WCD they are all numbered.

A typical entry in diachronic explanatory dictionaries will have some specific features. Apart from the chronological arrangement of meanings and illustrative quotations to present the historical sense development, the etymology of the word is accorded an exhaustive treatment, besides a distinguishing feature of such reference books is the dates accompanying each word, word-meaning and quotation that indicate the time of its first registration or, if the word or one of its meanings is obsolete, the time of its last registration.

See, for example, the presentationof two meanings of the verb arrivein SOD (the sign + =obsolete, the dash — before the date indicates the time of the last publication):

arrive...+3. To bring, convey — 1667. 4. intr. To come to the end of a journey, to some definite place, upon the scene. Const. at, in, upon, + into, + to. ME. transf. Of things 1651.

It should be noted in passing that the dates that are often interpreted as the time of the word’s (or one of its meaning’s) appearance or disappearance in the language are in fact their earliest known occurrences, since the still earlier records might not have been examined by the staff collecting the material for the dictionary and the word might be current in oral speech a long time before it came to occur in print.

In other types of dictionaries the content and structure of the entry will be altogether different. Compare, for instance, the four entries for arrivetaken from a translation and a frequency dictionaries, from an etymological and pronouncing word-books:

The Dictionary edited by I. R. Galperin:

arrive[a'raiv] v 1. (at, in, upon) прибывать, приезжать; to~ in London прибыть в Лондон; the police ~d upon the scene на место происшествия прибыла полиция; to ~ punctually [tardily, in good time] прибыть точно [с опозданием, вовремя]; sold “to ~” ком. к прибытию (условие сделки при продаже товара, находящегося в пути); 2. (at) 1) достигать (чего-л.), приходить (к чему-л.); to ~ at understanding достигнуть взаимопонимания; to ~ at a decision принять решение; to ~ at a conclusion прийти к заключению. ..

The General Service List by M. West:

arrive, v 532 (1) Arrive home, in London

Arrive at an age when ... 74%

(2) The parcel has arrived

The time has arrived when... 11%

(3) Arrive at a conclusion... 12%

(The count is to be read as follows: In a count of 5 million running words the word arriveoccurred 532 times. In 74% of these occurrences it had the first meaning, in 11% — the second, etc.).

Oxford Etymological Dictionary:

arrive[arэiv] + bring or come to shore, land XIII; come to the end of a journey, a goal, etc. XIV; + reach (a port, etc.) XVI; + come to pass XVII. — OF. ariver (mod. arriver arive, happen) = Pr.aribar, Sp. arribar: — Rom. *arripare come to land, f. ad AR+ripo shore (cf. RIVER). Formerly sometimes inflected+ arove, +ariven; cf. STRIVE.

Jones’ Dictionary:

arriv/e, -s, -ing, -ed; -al/s э'raiv, -z, iŋ, -d, -эl/z arrogan/ce, -cy, -t/ly ‘ærэgen/s [-roug-, -rug-], -si, -t/li

ascertain, -s, -ing, -ed, -ment; -ableæsэ'tein [-sэ:'t-], -z, -iŋ, -d, -mэnt; -эbl

Sometimes the entries for the same word will look quite different in dictionaries of the same type. Thus the setting of the entry varies in different books of synonyms depending upon the practical needs of the intended users. Some word-books enumerate synonyms to each meaning of the head-word to help the user recall words close in meaning that may have been forgotten. Other word-books provide discriminating synonymies, i.e. they explain the difference in semantic structure, use and style, and show how each synonym is related to, yet differs from all the others in the same group.


Admission,n. 1. Admittance, introduction, access, entrance, initiation, entrée. 2. Allowance, avowal, concession, acknowledgement, assent, acceptance. ’ (Soule R. A Dictionary of English Synonyms and Synonymous Expressions.)


ADMISSION,for being allowed to enter (usually a place), is the commonly used word, and it has today almost entirely displaced ADMITTANCE, which is now restricted to a few idiomatic uses, e.g. “No admittance except on business".

(Collins V. H. The Choice of Words. A Book of Synonyms with Explanations)

§ 13. Structure of the Dictionary

When the selection of the dictionary entries, the contents and structure of the entries, their order of arrangement etc. are decided upon, the lexicographer is to settle upon this or that structure of the dictionary.

In spite of the great variety of linguistic dictionaries their composition has many features in common. Nearly all of them may be roughly divided into three unequal parts.

Apart from the dictionary proper, that make up the bulk of the wordbook, every reference book contains some separate sections which are to help the user in handling it — an Introduction and Guide to the use’ of the dictionary. This prefatory matter usually explains all the peculiarities of the word-book, it also contains a key to pronunciation, the list of abbreviations used and the like.

It is very important that the user of a dictionary should read this prefatory matter for this will enable him to know what is to be found in the word-book and what is not, will help him locate words quickly and easily, and derive the full amount of information the dictionary affords.

Appended to the dictionary proper there is some supplementary material valuable for language learners and language teachers. This material may be divided into one of linguistic nature, pertaining to vocabulary, its development and use, and the other pertaining to matters distinctly encyclopaedic. In explanatory dictionaries the appendixes

of the first kind usually include addenda or/and various word-lists: geographical names, foreign words and expressions, forenames, etc., record new meanings of words already entered and words that have come into existence since the compilation of the word-book. The educational material may include a list of colleges and universities, special signs and symbols used in various branches of science, tables of weights and measures, etc.

In translation dictionaries supplementary material is in some respects different from that in explanatory dictionaries, e.g. the Russian-English dictionary referred to above does not only include a list of geographical names, standard abbreviations pertaining to the public, political, economic and industrial life, but also contains the rules of English and Russian pronunciation as well as brief outlines of English and Russian grammar.



§ 14. Main Characteristic Features of Learner’s Dictionaries

Nowadays practical and theoretical learner’s lexicography is given great attention to, especially in our country. Lexicographers, linguists and methods specialists discuss such problems as the classification of learner’s dictionaries,1 the scope of the. word-list for learners at different stages of advancement, the principles of word selection, etc.

In the broad sense of the word the term learner’s dictionaries might be applied to any word-book designed as an aid to various users, both native and foreign, studying a language from various angles. Thus, we might refer to this group of word-books such reference books as Student’s Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon by H. Sweet, the numerous school-level or college-level dictionaries for native speakers, the numerous spelling-books, etc. By tradition the term is confined to dictionaries specially compiled to meet the demands of the learners for whom English is not their mother tongue. It is in this sense that we shall use the term further on.

These dictionaries differ essentially from ordinary academic dictionaries, on the one hand, and from word-books compiled specially for English and American schoolchildren and college students, on the other hand.

Though foreign language learners and children speaking the same language as their mother tongue have both imperfect command of English, it is obvious that the needs and problems of the two groups of dictionary users are altogether different. A foreign adult student of

1 See, e.g., the discussion “What should a learner’s dictionary be like?” on the pages of the magazine «Русский язык за рубежом», also «Вопросы учебной лексикографии» под ред. П. Н. Денисова и Л. А. Новикова, М., 1969.

English even at a moderately advanced stage of learning will have pitfalls and needs of his own: among the other things he may have difficulties with the use of the most “simple” words (such as play, wipe),he may not know the names for commonest things in everyday life (such as oatmeal, towel, rug)and he will experience in this or that degree interference of his mother tongue.

On the one hand, we have users who for the most part have command of the language, who have fluent speech habits, since this language is their mother tongue; they need guidance as to which of the usage they come across is correct. On the other hand, we have users that have a limited vocabulary and no speech habits or very weak ones and who have stable speech habits in another language which is their native tongue and these native speech habits interfere with the foreign ones. That is why these users must be given thorough instruction in how the words are to be used and this instruction must be given against the background of the learners’ native language.

That is why the word-lists and the sort of directions for use for the benefit of the foreign adult learners of English must differ very widely (if not fundamentally) from those given to English or American schoolchildren.

Hence the word-books of this group are characterised by the following features:

1) by their strictly limited word-list, the selection of which is based on carefully thought over scientific principles;

2) the great attention given to the functioning of lexical units in speech;

3) a strong prescriptive, normative character;

4) by their compilation with the native linguistic background in view.

§ 15. Classification of Learner’s Dictionaries

Learner’s dictionaries may be classified in accordance with different principles, the main of which are: 1) the scope of the word-list and 2) the nature of the information afforded.

From the point of view of the scope (volume) of the word-list they fall into two groups. Those of the first group contain all lexical units that the prospective user may need, in the second group only the most essential and important words are selected. To the first group we can refer A. S. Hornby’s Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (50,000 lexical units) and M. West’s International Reader’s Dictionary (about 24,000 units); to the second group — A Grammar of English Words by H. Palmer (1,000 words), and The English-Russian Learner’s Dictionary by S. K. Folomkina and H. M. Weiser (3,500 units).

As to the information afforded by learner’s dictionaries lexicographers and methodologists seem to have agreed that there should be a whole series of them. There must be a group of dictionaries presenting different aspects of the vocabulary: showing mainly the semantic structure of words (explanatory), presenting the syntagmatic relations between words (dictionaries of collocations), providing information: about the word’s structure (derivational), supplying synonymous and antonymous words, etc.

Another grouping of dictionaries reflects the practice of teaching different aspects of speech. The word-books having as their goal the ability to read scientific and technical literature in a foreign language will need a vast word-list ensuring adequate comprehension of written speech. Teaching oral speech habits requires a dictionary that contains a selected list of active words explained from the point of view of their use.

Since learners of different linguistic background will have different pitfalls in mastering the same language, will need different directions for use, different restrictive remarks, each pair of languages requires its own dictionaries, dictionaries based on a contrastive study of the learner’s native tongue and the language to be learned.1

In this connection it must be said that Hornby’s dictionary, with all its merits and advantages, has an essential demerit — it does not take into account the user’s linguistic background, so it cannot foresee and prevent the possible language problems of this or that national group of English learners.

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