History of England Codification in Dictionary and Grammar
Dictionaries were clearly produced as part of the drive
towards standardization and improvement of the language. An important step
forward in organizing the English lexicon took place when..
Robert Cawdrey published the first “dictionary of hard
words” in 1604. A Table Alphabeticall contained glosses for 3,000 “hard usual
English words”. A part from occasional collection of a few thousand “hard
words”, the task was not attempted until 1721 when Nathanael Bailey published
his “Universal Etymological English Dictionary”. It was not Samuel Johnson
completed “A Dictionary of the English Language” in 1755. Over a seven-year
period, Johnson wrote the definitions of c. 40.000 words.
The alphabetical section of Johnson’s Dictionary is preceded
by a famous Preface, in which he outlines his aims and procedures. The first
sheets were printed in 1750. The work was completed by 1754 and an edition of
2.000 copies appeared the following year. This period sees two major
developments in the early part the trend towards universal dictionaries became
established and in the second part an increasing emphasis on pronunciation. At
the same time encyclopedias appeared and these influenced the development and
contents of the dictionaries.
The two earliest writers of encyclopedias, John Harris
(1704) and Ephraim Chambers (1728), attempted to describe the terms associated
with all branches of human knowledge. Harris’s work had the title Lexicon
Technicum: or, The Universal Dictionary of Arts and Science. The word
“universal” became standard feature of titles of dictionaries though it could
sometimes give away to general or complete. J.K.’s dictionary of 1702,
complained of previous dictionaries that they had often included Latin words
which were no part of English as well as foreign words, including Old English
ones. John Kersey adds in the preface of his dictionary “ours is intended only
to explain such English Words as are genuine, and used by Persons of clear
Judgement and good style”. At this stage pronunciation begins to appear in
dictionaries and one of those to show this new trend is the “Lingua Britannica
Reformata by Benjamin Martin of 1749. He is one of the first dictionary makers
century attached more importance to pronunciation than earlier
dictionary-makers. Thomas Sheridan produced a dictionary in 1780 with the
title. A dictionary along the same lines was produced by John Walker in 1791.
What Sheridan and Walker did was produced a series of signs, consisting mainly
of superscript numbers, like and elementary phonetic alphabet to show the
pronunciation of the various sounds in all words. Finally, the American
Lexicography Noah Webster wrote the first American Dictionary in 1828, with
70,000 words. The alphabetical section of Johnson’s Dictionary is preceded by a
famous Preface, in which outlines his aims and procedures.
Eventually, the need for a new dictionary arose in 1857,
after discussions at the
Philological Society in London have shown that all current English dictionaries
were deficient. This lead to the publication of the first instalment of the
“New English Dictionary” in 1884 which was later renamed the “Oxford English
Dictionary”. It was finally completed in 1928 with ongoing updates afterwards.
The Oxford English Dictionary addresses how old the word is in the language,
how its different senses have developed over the years, where it comes from,
what language it comes from, and whether English develops new senses for a word
itself, but most importantly what date these new senses arise. In essence, a
national dictionary showing the history of old and new words in English.
Then Bullokar’s ‘Bref Grammar for
English’ came later in 1586. This book was the first true grammar of English,
that it tried to rationalize the language’s structures and the spelling system,
it therefore intended to indicate how English should be, rather than how it
was. In the 16th the writing
of grammar books like Bullokar’s had become a political expedient. That every
European state provided its own grammar of the national language. This
so-called ‘spirit of linguistic patriotism’ typically involved attempts by
vernacular grammarians and lexicographers to reject regional dialects and
linguistic inconsistencies in an effort to somehow fix the language, to impose
a linguistic conformity that never really existed.
Commissioning of Dictionaries
Commissioning dictionaries helps to provide approved
guidelines that will control the English language. For example, Dictionary of
English language was commissioned by a group of composers in London to ensure
that English language followed particular language. Before commissioning
dictionaries, English language was unruly and messy; thus, this called for some
kind of discipline to disentangle the mess of the language.
Moreover, modern education ensured that English education
gained ground and was the main source of medium to transfer ideas and
information. For instance, in India educational papers were written in English
such as the Cuttack standard that promoted English journalism. At this period,
the need for education was a subject topic in various Odia periodicals and
newspapers such as Utkala Darpana(1873). The Odia newspapers published
government notices, notifications, important reports and advertisements published
in the English language. Therefore, both odia and English language was restored
in schools to be used as formal education . However, with modern education it
became important to formalize Odia and English language. Therefore, this called
for commissioning of dictionaries to provide bilingual dictionaries that could
be used for specific schools purposes. Already existing dictionaries underwent
commissioning to allow the inclusion of odia and English language. For
instance, an advertisement in a book prepared for the use of Orissa government
schools wrote that it contained updated words of sancrut origin and definitions
to cater for the people common language (Mishra & Sridhar, 2017). As such,
it is safe to say that dictionaries were commissioned to form a part of a
reference material that would help translate textbooks published in the
eighteenth century. Nonetheless, the commissioned dictionaries written in
bilingual language helped the local to read and learn the English language.
The Criteria for including words
in the dictionary
For a word to get into a dictionary, it needs to meet three
basic criteria. The first criteria is widespread use. It’s something’s used in
the Wall Street Journal and Vibe, then you figure that’s pretty widespread us.
The second one is it needs to have a shelf life. Once words get into the
dictionary, they tend to stay in dictionaries. Once words get into the
dictionary, they tend to stay in dictionaries. The shelf life of a word really
depends. There are other words that have very little use for a lot of time and
then suddenly have tones of use. The Indian word “korma” is a great example. It
first was used in English back in the 1830s or 1840s, and it had very little
use, really until the 1990s when people started eating lots of Indian food. So
korma’s a more recent addition to the dictionary, even though it’s almost 200
years old at this point. The third criteria is a word has to have meaningful
use- which means it has to have a meaning. The example I trout out is
antidisestablishmentarianism- which most people know as a long word, but it
doesn’t get used much in print. It gets used as an example of a long word. You
want to make sure that the word has a meaning and is not just an example of
letters smashed together. People think of English as something that needs to be
defended. It’s this beautiful pristine tower.. actually it’s much more like a
child. It’s an organic, living thing. You bring English into being, and then
the minute that it gains gross motor skills, it goes right where you don’t want
it to go. So there are two main approaches to language. One is prescriptivism,
one is descriptivism. Prescriptivism essentially promotes the best practices of
Prescriptivism is, by its nature, exclusionary.
Descriptivism on the other hand, as an approach to language, it follows where
language goes. Dictionaries exist on more of the descriptivist end of the
spectrum. Dictionaries record language as it is used, not as you think it
should be used. E.g. “Irregardless” is a word that people have a specific and
vehement hatred for. Irregardless, really for about 150-175 years has been
pegged as being uneducated, representative of people who don’t speak English
very well. It’s also entered into dictionaries, which just infuriates people.
So all dictionaries are descriptivist and prescriptivist.
Extent the dictionary is either prescriptive or descriptive
People think of English as this monolithic thing, but it’s
really not, it’s much more like a river. Every dialect of English is its own
current. And all of these currents come together to make this fairly cohesive
looking ribbon of water. But every one of those is integral to the direction of
English. Controlling water’s pretty difficult. English. And that’s an important
way that words are created. This idea of English being a river really sort of
celebrates that every single part of the language is important for the whole.
It’s all part of the same thing, you need all of it for it to survive.
DeMaria, R. (1987). Johnson’s
dictionary and the language of learning. Chapel Hill: University of North
Lynch, J (2002). Samuel
Johnson’s Dictionary: Selections from the 1755 Work that Defined the English
Language. New York. Walker and Co.
Johnson, S., & Lynch, J.
(2004). Samuel Johnson’s dictionary: Selections from the 1755 work that defined
the English language. Londres: Atlantic Books.