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date: 28 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

A dictionary is an inventory of the words of a language, with explanations or translations. All major languages and many others have dictionaries. This chapter traces the development of dictionaries for over 2,000 years, starting with China, India, Persia, classical Greece, and Rome. Arabic and Hebrew dictionaries in the Middle Ages were of comparable cultural importance. A major impact was the invention of printing. During the Renaissance, the Latin dictionaries of Calepino and Estienne set standards for future lexicography. The prescriptive aims of European Academies during the Enlightenment are contrasted with Johnson’s descriptive principles. The historical principles of OED are contrasted with the synchronic principles of dictionaries intended as a collective cultural index and dictionaries as aids for foreign learners. In Russia (unlike America), lexicography developed harmoniously with linguistics. The relationships between dictionaries and language development in different countries are discussed. The chapter concludes with a summary of the impact of computer technology, corpora, and changing business models on lexicography.

Keywords: dictionaries, thesauruses, lexical description, word meaning, aids for language learning, phraseology, inventory of words, historical principles, synchronic principles

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