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The Unmasking of English Dictionaries

The Unmasking of English Dictionaries

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R M. W. Dixon
Cambridge University Press, 1/31/2018
EAN 9781108433341, ISBN10: 1108433340

Paperback, 272 pages, 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.6 cm
Language: English

When we look up a word in a dictionary, we want to know not just its meaning but also its function and the circumstances under which it should be used in preference to words of similar meaning. Standard dictionaries do not address such matters, treating each word in isolation. R. M. W. Dixon puts forward a new approach to lexicography that involves grouping words into 'semantic sets', to describe what can and cannot be said, and providing explanations for this. He provides a critical survey of the evolution of English lexicography from the earliest times, showing how Samuel Johnson's classic treatment has been amended in only minor ways. Written in an easy and accessible style, the book focuses on the rampant plagiarism between lexicographers, on ways of comparing meanings of words, and on the need to link lexicon with grammar. Dixon tells an engrossing story that puts forward a vision for the future.

Prologue
the work in advance
1. How the language is made up
2. What a dictionary needs to do
3. Semantic set
finish, cease, and stop
4. Explaining hard words
5. Putting everything in
6. Semantic set
big and little, large and small
7. Spreading wings
8. Semantic organisation
9. Semantic set
fast, quick, rapid, swift, slow, and speed
10. No need to keep re-inventing the wheel
11. The nineteenth century
12. Semantic set
want, wish (for), and desire
13. The role of grammar
14. Standing still
15. The way forward.