User-Friendliness of Verb Syntax in Pedagogical Dictionaries of English

By Andersen, Birger | Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies, Annual 2008 | Go to article overview

User-Friendliness of Verb Syntax in Pedagogical Dictionaries of English


Andersen, Birger, Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies


User-friendliness of verb syntax in pedagogical dictionaries of English. By Anna Dziemianko. Tubingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 2006. Pp. xii, 229.

In Dziemianko's own words, User-friendliness of verb syntax in pedagogical dictionaries of English is "an endeavour to contribute to the experimental research on the use of monolingual English dictionaries". More specifically, "[t]he study attempts to examine the user-friendliness of sources of verb syntax in pedagogical dictionaries of English" (Dziemianko 2006: 3).

Two terms are central here--experimental and user-friendliness. To take experimental first, Dziemianko notes that, compared to studies of dictionary use based on questionnaires and interviews, "[e]xperimental research ... is more reliable in that it has the advantage of obtaining first-hand data on dictionary-using behaviour" (2006: 2). She also notes that " ... the experimental approach ... is underdeveloped in research on dictionary use" (2006: 2). The only comparable studies are those reported in Bogaards and van der Kloot (2001) and Bogaards and van der Kloot (2002).

With respect to user-friendliness, Dziemianko takes the view that user-friendliness in dictionary use is not guaranteed by including in a given dictionary information which is believed by the dictionary compiler to be useful. Neither is it enough that relevant information is easily accessible. In Dziemianko's (2006: 7) words:

 
   Once the syntactic information found in a dictionary has helped 
   users achieve their purpose, it can be considered useful, but its 
   source may not be user-friendly. The utility, or usefulness, of the 
   identified syntactic information is seen as a necessary, although 
   not yet sufficient condition for the user-friendliness of the 
   source which furnishes such information. 

According to Dziemianko, the ultimate test for whether user-friendliness has been achieved lies with the dictionary user's frequent reliance on the source of information: "The source should ... be referred to very often, or, in other words, it should present the information in a way which would attract users' attention very frequently" (2006: 7).

This view of user-friendliness, which is remarkably clear in its reliance on the judgment of dictionary users, leads to the formulation of the following three research questions:

1. Was the relevant syntactic information identified in the verb entry?

2. Was the identified syntactic information used correctly?

3. In which source or sources was the useful syntactic information located most often?

The study falls into two parts--a theoretical part and an empirical part. The theoretical part consists of an analysis of the entire range of English learner's dictionaries from Grammar of English words from 1938 to Cambridge advanced learner's dictionary from 2003, and a review of the literature on trends in the presentation of verb syntax in pedagogical dictionaries. The empirical part consists of an experimental study of the user-friendliness of sources of verb syntax in pedagogical dictionaries.

With respect to the theoretical part, the assumption, for which Dziemianko does not provide any specific argumentation, is that information on verb syntax in pedagogical dictionaries resides in three microstructural elements: codes (including pattern illustrations), examples and definitions. The analysis of the dictionaries and the review of the literature reveals a number of trends of development, which eventually help Dziemianko formulate her hypotheses.

For codes she notes the following four features, which can be viewed as lexicographers' efforts to make encoded information on verb syntax more userfriendly:

1. increasing transparency of coding systems;

2. gradual departure from functional codes to formal codes;

3. placement of codes next to the pertinent examples illustrating the coded structures; and

4. …

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