Lexicography: An Introduction

By Howard Jackson | Go to book overview

9

Beyond definition

In the previous chapter we discussed the treatment of what is often considered the main function of dictionaries: the description of word meaning. In this chapter, we investigate some of the other information about words that dictionaries may contain, some of the ‘facts about words’ that we outlined in Chapter 2. While we shall look at topics such as spelling, pronunciation, inflections, word classes, and usage, we shall leave etymology until the next chapter.


9.1Spelling

As we have noted before, dictionaries cannot help but give information about spelling, since as alphabetically organised word books they are founded on the written form of words. Consulting the dictionary to check the spelling of words we also found to be one of the major occasions of their use (Chapter 7). While headwords, or nested derivatives, supply information about the usual spellings of words, there is additional information, about variations in spelling, that dictionaries also give. The variation can be of various kinds.

Some words simply have alternative spellings, where the choice of one rather than the other is purely a matter of personal preference. Both spellings are equally acceptable. Here are some examples (from COD9):

absorption - absorbtion, baptistery - baptistry, caddie - caddy, diffuser - diffusor, extrovert - extravert, filigree - filagree, gizmo - gismo, horsy - horsey, judgement - judgment, movable - moveable, neurone - neuron, pendent - pendant, regime - régime, smidgen - smidgeon - smidgin, tranquillity - tranquility, yogurt - yoghurt.

A surprisingly large number of words have alternative spellings, and from this list we can observe some possible patterns: final -ie or -y, suffix -er or -or, z or s, possible loss of e after dg or v plus suffix, loss of accent from vowels of words borrowed from French, and so on.

Many British dictionaries take account of the differences between British and American spelling. CED4, for example, enters the American spelling of words like center and pediatrics at the appropriate place in the headword list, and then

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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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