Lexicography: An Introduction

By Howard Jackson | Go to book overview

2

Facts about words

In Chapter 1, we examined the ambiguity of the term ‘word’ and suggested a set of terms for resolving the ambiguity. We also outlined the morphology of the word in English and proposed terms for talking about the structure of words. This chapter makes a further contribution to the lexicology (study of words) of English, before we move on to the study of dictionaries (lexicography) in the next chapter.


2.1Where English words came from

The vocabulary of English contains words from more sources than the vocabulary of any other language, as a consequence of its history and the contacts between its speakers and those of other languages. As far as its basic components are concerned, it is useful to view the vocabulary of English as being composed of a number of strata, rather like a rock formation in geology. The substratum of English is Anglo-Saxon, the collection of dialects that developed after the invading Germanic tribes, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, colonised England following the departure of the Roman legions in the fifth century AD, driving the Celtic inhabitants to the fringes of the country in Wales and Cornwall. The language became known during this time as ‘English’, and we refer to the language during the period up to the mid-eleventh century as ‘Old English’. The only significant influence on the language from outside during this period was from across the North Sea, the Viking invaders, who also spoke a Germanic language, Old Norse. For a time the country was divided, with ‘Danelaw’ on the eastern side of a line from Chester to the Wash. Old English and Old Norse were to a great extent mutually intelligible, and the influence of Old Norse on Old English was limited. The greatest linguistic legacy of the Vikings was in place names, e.g. ending in -by or -thorpe; but also many words beginning with sk- come from Old Norse, as do the third person plural pronouns (they, them, their). Even with these additions, the vocabulary of Old English was essentially Germanic, with a handful of words from Celtic, and a number of ecclesiastical terms taken from Latin following the introduction of Roman Christianity as a result of Augustine’s mission in 597. (See Roberts et al. 1995 for a description of Old English vocabulary.)

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Lexicography: An Introduction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Dictionaries Cited ix
  • 1 - Words 1
  • 2 - Facts about Words 10
  • 3 - The Dictionary 21
  • 4 - The Beginnings 31
  • 5 - The New English Dictionary 47
  • 6 - Up to the Present 61
  • 7 - Users and Uses 74
  • 8 - Meaning in Dictionaries 86
  • 9 - Beyond Definition 101
  • 10 - Etymology 117
  • 11 - Dictionaries for Learners 129
  • 12 - Abandoning the Alphabet 145
  • 13 - Compiling Dictionaries 161
  • 14 - Criticising Dictionaries 173
  • References 184
  • Index 189
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