Lexicography: An Introduction

By Howard Jackson | Go to book overview

7

Users and uses

In Chapter 3, we noted the important place that ‘the dictionary’ holds in our culture. The education system makes extensive use of them. They are objects of discussion and review in the media. We are a ‘dictionarate’ society (Ilson 2001). Most people own one, have some idea about what it contains, consult it from time to time. In this chapter, we are going to consider who uses a dictionary and for which purposes. We look first at how dictionaries conceive of their aims, then at the uses people make of dictionaries and how the structure of dictionaries aids or hinders access to the information that users seek. Finally, we ask whether dictionaries have two sets of conflicting and incompatible aims.


7.1Dictionary aims

In the Preface to W3, the editor, Philip Gove, wrote of the aims of the dictionary as follows:

G. and C. Merriam Company now offer Webster’s Third New International Dictionary to the English-speaking world as a prime linguistic aid to interpreting the culture and civilization of today, as the first edition served the America of 1828.

This edition has been prepared with a constant regard for the needs of the high school and college student, the technician, and the periodical reader, as well as of the scholar and professional … The dictionary more than ever is the indispensable instrument of understanding and progress.

This new Merriam-Webster unabridged is the record of this language [English] as it is written and spoken. It is offered with confidence that it will supply in full measure that information on the general language which is required for accurate, clear, and comprehensive understanding of the vocabulary of today’s society.

Gove identifies the groups of users whose needs have especially been considered in the course of compiling the dictionary, and he specifies what those needs are: interpreting today’s culture and civilisation, understanding the

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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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