English Dictionaries for Foreign Learners: A History

Synopsis

This is the first history of dictionaries of English for foreign learners, from their origins in Japan and East Asia in the 1920s to the computerized compilations of the present. Monolingual dictionaries for foreign speakers were a revolutionary development at their outset, and now represent a coming-together of intellectual, technological and commercial forces almost unequalled in book publishing. As the author shows, the early history of EFL dictionaries was research-driven, arising directly from research in linguistic theory and language pedagogy; now it is user-driven, determined by what users require or are thought to require. The pioneering dictionaries were the work of individuals. Current dictionaries are the products of huge databases manipulated by sophisticated processing, as publishers strive to share an immense and constantly growing global market. The book has both a thematic and a chronological structure. Three chapters describe the historical sequence over a period of some sixty years. These alternate with chapters dealing with phraseology, computers and corpus linguistics, and research into dictionary users and uses - three subjects central to the development of ELT dictionaries over the last thirty years. Dr Cowie examines the way in which availability of massive computing power has transformed the recording and analysis of current speech, and shows how the growth of research into the users and uses of dictionaries has led to developments both in ELT lexicography and method. This readable and non-technical account is directed both at professionals in applied linguistics and English language teaching, and at lexicographers, but it will interest and fascinate everyone concerned with the analysis of English and faced with the challenge of recording of the subtelties of its grammar and meaning.