Usage in the Usage Dictionary of Anglicisms in Selected European Languages

By Goerlach, Manfred | Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies, Annual 1997 | Go to article overview

Usage in the Usage Dictionary of Anglicisms in Selected European Languages


Goerlach, Manfred, Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies


Multa renascentur quae iam cecidere cadentque
quae nunc sunt in honore vocabula si volet usus
quem penes arbitrium est et vis et norma loquendi.
                                      (Horace, Ars Poetica)

Many a word yfalne shall eft arise
And such as now bene held in hiest prise
Will fall as fast, when vse and custome will
Onely vmpiers of speach, for force and skill.
                           (Puttenham's translation, 1589)

1. Introduction

All through the history of dictionary-making and reflections on standard languages, usage has been one of the lexicographers' major stumbling-blocks. (1) Although it can be argued that the question of a linguistic norm is even more relevant in the fields of phonology and syntax, it is eminently important for vocabulary, too. To indicate the currency, degrees of acceptability and the geographical, social and stylistic restrictions of individual words is a problem common to both more prescriptive and more descriptive dictionaries. Johnson's aim to establish a standard for the English lexicon left but a few words unaffected in his great dictionary of 1755 and these had usage labels attached to such entries to warn readers against using them; modem dictionary editors sometimes use panels of experts to decide on the acceptability of words and their individual meanings. Whatever method for establishing usage is preferred, whether that of the editor's Sprachgefuhl or the combined judgment of experts (a method which appears to permit neatly graded degrees of acceptability), any indication of usage carries with it idiosyncratic elements as well as the restriction to a particular period, region and class-related opinion. It would be silly to complain about this, since it is the very essence of usage, that the labels used to indicate it have a certain degree of vagueness about them. The narrower the description of correct usage is, the more certain it is that the evidence will be homogeneous, and the more likely that the guidance will be taken as prescriptive.

In a dictionary which has 'usage' as the first word of its title, readers will rightly expect this type of information to be central. The UDASEL project was in fact started with the explicit intention of concentrating on the fully accepted loanwords from English in 16 European languages, (2) rather than focussing on more narrowly etymological questions of word origins. As will be obvious (or become evident from my discussion), the difficulty of describing the usage of specific items in an individual language multiply when 16 sets of data are compared (which makes possible up to 240 binary comparisons).

The basic decision as far as the currency of loanwords from English is concerned was not to rely on text corpora, for various reasons:

a) such collections from recent texts were not available for most of the languages concerned;

b) where such corpora existed, their representativeness and comparability was open to doubt;

c) the frequencies elicited from them would not really be indicators of acceptability: for this the context and context would have to be investigated for each individual item, and judgments would therefore in any case be based, at least partially, on the interpreter's Sprachgefuhl.

All this made it necessary, if the evidence was to be covered in a 'snapshot' manner for the early 1990s, to rely on the competence of educated users of the individual language, and leave judgments on the acceptability of English words to the specialist. This hard-won decision is supported by the fact that pilot studies with German informants (Gorlach 1994) have shown that speakers' views on degrees of acceptability conform to a greater extent than might have been expected, or feared. (3)

2. Degrees of acceptability

After the pilot study was completed, the grading decided on was based on a combination of degrees of integration and of acceptability/currency: these two aspects are not always compatible, but coincide in most cases, and they were combined in order to prevent the system from becoming too complex for a general reader to take in and remember. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Usage in the Usage Dictionary of Anglicisms in Selected European Languages
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.