in Dictionaries

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199573790
Published online September 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191777639 | DOI:

Series: Very Short Introductions


Show Summary Details


From a global perspective, the history of dictionaries spans thousands of years. Long before printing, scribal culture engaged with the various ways in which the knowledge of words might be organized and transmitted, often in the form of glosses on texts. Renaissance lexicography created dictionaries between different vernacular languages. Monolingual English dictionaries originally featured only difficult words, but in the 18th century Dr Johnson argued for the inclusion of ‘easy’ words and the omission of encyclopaedic information. In the 19th-century philological revolution, descriptivism displaced prescriptivism. This was exemplified in the OED. Modern dictionaries now draw on vast, computerized databases which can be analysed with far greater speed, rigour, and sophistication.

Keywords: Académie Française; dictionaries; history; Samuel Johnson; Richard Mulcaster; Oxford English Dictionary; Richard Chenevix Trench; Noah Webster

Chapter.  6088 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or login to access all content.