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date: 21 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The challenges of grammatical analysis and documenting grammatical change within a historical dictionary are examined, using examples from the Oxford English Dictionary. Editors of the first edition of OED did not codify the grammatical system they used, assuming a generally accepted model, based on the traditional classical system as adapted to the description of English. This produced variation in the way similar features were described. A principle underlying OED is unambiguous use, that is, where a lexical feature has developed gradually from one state to another, ambiguous uses are assigned to the earlier state. A principle that underlies a number of changes regarding grammatical categorization in the new edition of OED is discrete classification, that is, if an item appears to lie on a borderline between categories, especially standard ‘parts of speech’, it must be assigned to one of those categories and not to a terminologically grey area.

Keywords: historical dictionaries, historical lexicography, grammatical analysis, grammatical change, Oxford English Dictionary, unambiguous use, discrete classification, categorization, closed-class grammatical words, anomalous headwords

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