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Dictionaries and Language Learners

Dictionaries and Language Learners

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Sections

  • INTRODUCTION
  • 1. THE HISTORY OF DICTIONARIES
  • 2. LEARNER’S DICTIONARIES
  • 3. BILINGUAL DICTIONARIES
  • 4. BILINGUALISED DICTIONARIES
  • 5. THE LONGMAN LANGUAGE ACTIVATOR
  • 1. DICTIONARY USE AND USERS – QUESTIONNAIRES AND EXPERIMENTS
  • 1. Questionnaires
  • 2. Criticism of Questionnaires
  • 3. Controlled Experiments
  • 4. Atkins and Varantola
  • 5. Hilary Nesi’s Research on Examples
  • 2. DICTIONARIES AND COMPUTERS
  • 3. THE NEED FOR A NEW KIND OF RESEARCH
  • 1. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
  • 1. The Research on Examples
  • 2. Types of Examples
  • 3. The Function of Examples
  • 4. Examples for Decoding and Examples for Encoding
  • 1. Classification
  • 2. Decoding
  • 3. Encoding
  • 4. Requirements for examples
  • 3. COBUILD AND AUTHENTIC VS. MADE-UP EXAMPLES
  • 1. The Defence of ‘Authentic Language’
  • 2. Criticisms of Cobuild and the Authentic Examples Policy
  • 3. Corpora
  • 4. The Didactic Point of View
  • 1. The Examples for Road in Collins Spanish-English
  • 2. The Examples for Road in Oxford-Hachette
  • 1. DECODING
  • 1. Morphology and Multi-Word Items
  • 2. Idioms and Collocations
  • 3. Polysemy
  • 4. Including the Context: Two Experiments
  • 2. ENCODING
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Encoding for Beginners
  • 3. Encoding for Advanced Learners
  • CONCLUDING REMARKS
  • GLOSSARY
  • APPENDIXES
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY

DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS

I
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
II
INTRODUCTION
III
PHILIPPE HUMBLÉ
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
HAAG + HERCHEN VERLAG
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
IV
CIP-Titelaufnahme der Deutschen Bibliothek
HUMBLÉ, Philippe:
Dictionaries and Language Learners/Philippe Humblé. – Frankfurt am
Main:
Haag und Herchen, 2001.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
V
Every author may aspire to praise, the
lexicographer can only hope to escape
reproach, and even this negative rec-
ompense has been granted to very few.
Johnson in the Preface to the English
Dictionary.
Voor Fernand Humblé, In memoriam
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
VI
INTRODUCTION
VII
Table of Contents
Introduction .......................................................................................15
CHAPTER 1 DICTIONARIES, HISTORY AND
LEARNERS’ NEEDS..........................................................................29
1. The History of Dictionaries ................................................... 29
2. Learner’s Dictionaries.......................................................... 33
3. Bilingual Dictionaries ........................................................... 36
4. Bilingualised Dictionaries ..................................................... 37
5. The Longman Language Activator ......................................... 38
CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITTERATURE.........................................41
1. Dictionary Use and Users – Questionnaires and Experiments ... 41
1. Questionnaires ................................................................. 42
2. Criticism of Questionnaires ................................................ 43
3. Controlled Experiments..................................................... 45
4. Atkins and Varantola ........................................................ 46
5. Hilary Nesi’s Research on Examples................................... 48
2. Dictionaries and Computers .................................................. 50
3. The Need for a New Kind of Research................................... 53
CHAPTER 3 EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE
LEXICOGRAPHY...............................................................................55
1. General Considerations ........................................................ 55
1. The Research on Examples................................................ 55
2. Types of Examples ........................................................... 58
3. The Function of Examples ................................................. 61
4. Examples for Decoding and Examples for Encoding.............. 61
2. Examples in Learner’s Dictionaries. The Problem of Collocation
and Syntax. ............................................................................ 62
1. Classification.................................................................... 62
2. Decoding......................................................................... 63
3. Encoding......................................................................... 65
4. Requirements for examples................................................ 69
3. Cobuild and Authentic vs. Made-Up Examples........................ 78
1. The Defence of ‘Authentic Language’ ................................. 79
2. Criticisms of Cobuild and the Authentic Examples Policy ...... 80
3. Corpora........................................................................... 81
4. The Didactic Point of View ................................................ 81
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
VIII
4. Examples in Bilingual Dictionaries. ....................................... 84
1. The Examples for Road in Collins Spanish-English............... 86
2. The Examples for Road in Oxford-Hachette......................... 93
CHAPTER 4 AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN
LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY.......................................................... 97
1. Decoding.......................................................................... 100
1. Morphology and Multi-Word Items ................................... 103
2. Idioms and Collocations .................................................. 104
3. Polysemy....................................................................... 106
4. Including the Context: Two Experiments. .......................... 114
2. Encoding.......................................................................... 123
1. Introduction................................................................... 124
2. Encoding for Beginners................................................... 124
3. Encoding for Advanced Learners ..................................... 131
CONCLUDING REMARKS .............................................................. 161
Glossary............................................................................... 165
Appendixes .......................................................................... 170
Bibliography ......................................................................... 189
INTRODUCTION
IX
List of figures
Fig. 1 Examples for road in Longman....................................................... 66
Fig. 2 Examples for the first literal sense of road in Oxford Wordpower....... 67
Fig. 3 Examples illustrating the literal meaning of road in Cobuild2. ........... 68
Fig. 4 Examples for take a stand retrieved from the Cobuild Collocations CD71
Fig. 5 Cobuild2 examples for indulge. ...................................................... 72
Fig. 6 Cobuild2 examples for indulge. ...................................................... 72
Fig. 7 Longman examples for indulge. ...................................................... 73
Fig. 8 Cambridge examples for indulge..................................................... 73
Fig. 9 List of the examples for road in Collins Spanish English Dictionary.... 87
Fig. 10 Classification of the examples according to their literal or figurative use
(the indications found in the dictionary are in parentheses). .............. 88
Fig. 11 Division of the examples according to their translatability. ............... 89
Fig. 12 Classification of the road examples according to the audience (English-
Spanish side)................................................................................. 90
Fig. 13 Classification of the camino examples according to the audience
(English-Spanish side).................................................................... 91
Fig. 14 Decoding problems of beginning learners. ................................... 102
Fig. 15 Collocates of take on the Cobuild Collocations CD-ROM. .............. 105
Fig. 16 Translations of lead according to co-text and context. ................... 108
Fig. 17 Example grid of the entry lead in an electronic dictionary. ............ 110
Fig. 18 Example grid of the entry break in an electronic dictionary. .......... 111
Fig. 19 Collocation tree for break. .......................................................... 112
Fig. 20 Unknown words in: ‘El robo de ordenadores portátiles aumentó de
forma significativa.’ ..................................................................... 115
Fig. 21 Words experienced as hard by the test subject in the first chapter of
Don Quixote. .............................................................................. 116
Fig. 22 Least frequent words in Herald Tribune article on Desert Storm.... 119
Fig. 23 Semantic field of ‘modern warfare’ extracted from a Herald Tribune
article on ‘Desert Storm.’ ............................................................. 120
Fig. 24 Scheme of an encoding dictionary based on the sequence of a typical
look-up. ...................................................................................... 123
Fig. 25 Construir in the Oxford Spanish Dictionary. ................................. 135
Fig. 26 Demander in Oxford-Hachette.................................................... 137
Fig. 27 Illustrative table of a few word frequencies indicated in number of
diamonds, and (between brackets) number of senses. ..................... 138
Fig. 28 Improve in Longman Language Activator. ................................... 141
Fig. 29 Man in Webster’s Thesaurus. ..................................................... 145
Fig. 30 Man in an L2 learner-oriented thesaurus. .................................... 146
Fig. 31 Examples for house in the Oxford Wordpower. ............................ 154
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
X
Fig. 32 Cobuild2 examples for the first sense of house. ............................154
Fig. 33 Impetus in Oxford Wordpower....................................................155
Fig. 34 Five examples for impetus in the Grolier Encyclopaedia................156
Fig. 35 Examples for impetus in Cobuild2...............................................156
Fig. 36 Five examples for impetus from the Cobuild CD-ROM. .................157
INTRODUCTION
XI
Preface
In 1984, G. Stein stated that “Dictionaries are obviously written for
their users. We therefore need much more research on the dictionary
user, his needs, his expectations and his prejudices.” Adopting the
user's perspective is indeed a praiseworthy undertaking, because it is all
too often neglected.
With the publication of Dictionaries and Language Learners, we finally
have an innovative manual of pedagogical lexicography, written by someone
who is not only a theoretical lexicographer but also a practitioner and an ex-
perienced language teacher, thoroughly familiar with the problems and needs
of language learners.
Elaborating a new model for a foreign language learner's dictionary is
not an easy task. To be able to conduct this research and “to play the role of
interface between theoretically oriented lexicology and a more practically
motivated lexicography,” as Hartmann puts it, one needs to combine several
qualities:
– A sound knowledge of lexicology and lexicography;
– A rich didactic experience, which enables one to anticipate the user’s
problems and needs;
– A fair command of several and preferably very different foreign lan-
guages, as diverse as Spanish, French, Dutch and Japanese, for in-
stance. One needs to have experienced what it means to learn a foreign
language, to struggle with vocabulary, verbal forms, modes and tenses,
collocations, idiomatic expressions, false friends or cases of "deceptive
transparency,” to use B. Laufer's terminology;
– A wide-ranging experience with dictionary and corpus use.
It is also understood that a considerable and representative corpus is of
paramount importance. In fact, even today too many dictionary authors are
only, more or less commercial, dictionary compilers, with limited didactic
and foreign language experience.
In contrast, Philippe Humblé is an experienced teacher and researcher
as well as a dictionary maker –he is at present developing a Dicionario de Uso
Português-Espanhol. Unlike some well-meaning dictionary compilers, he rig-
orously considers the didactic and practical implications as well as the theo-
retical principles and models. This is why his work provides us with so many
useful new insights and proposals.
Of course, we all share the author's discontent with many current refer-
ence works. This "déficit dictionnairique" (dictionary deficit), as it is some-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
XII
times called, inevitably leads the user to a "dépit dictionnairique" (dictionary
discontent). Every attempt to improve dictionaries is therefore to be ap-
plauded.
As Cowie points out, dictionaries should be designed “with a specific set
of users in mind, for their specific needs,” and Humblé very rightly de-
nounces the hybrid character of many existing dictionaries, which are often
mainly commercial undertakings. This is why I think it is so helpful to make
sound distinctions and innovative suggestions, as the author does. He also
fully explores the practical consequences of his suggestions, both on the mac-
rostructural and microstructural level, monolingual versus bilingual diction-
aries, receptive versus productive functions of a dictionary, beginning versus
advanced learners, authentic versus made up and controlled examples, the
need for a good classification of examples, the role of definitions, examples,
and translation, the need to find ways of exploiting the staggering potential of
electronic dictionaries, which makes the traditional distinction between gen-
eral purpose dictionaries, dictionary of synonyms etc. completely obsolete,
the importance of the qualitative approach and the need to privilege intro-
spection and close-reading, the need to explore metaphors, to devote more
attention to collocations, among others.
At the end of this book, the author states: “With this book I intended to
make a contribution to improving dictionaries which I hope may have some
practical consequence,” the author states at the end of his book. It indeed is
a substantial contribution because quite a lot of these insights have already
been applied to the semi- multilingual reception and production oriented dic-
tionnaire d’apprentissage published recently (Dictionnaire d’Apprentissage du
Français des Affaires DAFA) as well as to one currently under development
(Dictionnaire d’Apprentissage du Français Langue Etrangère ou Seconde
DAFLES) at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.
For many other lexicographers and dictionary- makers this book will be
an invaluable guide in exploring new horizons in the field of pedagogical lexi-
cography.
Jean Binon
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Binon J., Verlinde S., Van Dyck J., Bertels A. 2000 Dictionnaire d’Apprentissage du
Français des Affaires, Paris, Didier
Bertels A., Binon J., Selva T., Verlinde S., Dictionnaire d’Apprentissage du Français
Langue Etrangère ou Seconde, electronic dictionary on line (to appear)
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
XIII
Acknowledgements
When time comes to write the acknowledgements, one is surprised to
see what an extraordinary number of people have in some way contrib-
uted to bring a relatively modest undertaking like this to a happy end-
ing. First of all I would like to thank Prof. Malcolm Coulthard of the
University of Birmingham, UK, who provided me with a few of the fun-
damental insights which lay at the basis of this research. I also particu-
larly appreciated the help and criticisms of my former colleague in Bel-
gium, Prof. Jean Binon of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in whom I
found a kindred spirit, not only in terms of lexicography. I also want to
specially thank Liz Potter from Cobuild for reading and commenting on
the text of this book. Prof. José Luiz Meurer’s help of the Universidade
Federal de Santa Catarina was decisive in the later stages of my re-
search.
A number of people read all or parts of this book and assisted me
with their criticisms. I would like to thank Gloria Gil, Silvana Serrani
and Christine Everley. Special thanks go to my Japanese teachers, in
Brazil and in Britain: Tsukamoto Chitose, Hukamachi Hideyo and Ki-
mura Mutsuko. I am furthermore indebted to the people at Cobuild who
assisted me so well during the fifteen months in which I had the pleas-
ure to be their guest. Special thanks go to Gwyneth Fox who made my
stay possible, to Rosamund Moon with whom I had many a fruitful dis-
cussion, and the whole Cobuild team now unfortunately scattered
around the four corners of lexicography, particularly Ramesh Krishna-
murthy, Ceri Hewit, Roz Combley, Laura Wedgeworth, Tim Lane, Gill
Francis, John Todd and Mick Murphy. I am much obliged to Paul
Meara whose hospitality and good advice I was able to enjoy while his
guest in Swansea. I am also very grateful to Hillary Nesi who provided
me with an electronic copy of several of her publications.
I would like to thank my colleagues at the Universidade Federal de
Santa Catarina for having taken over my classes while I was working on
this research: Alai Garcia Diniz, Liliana Reales de Ruas, Luizete Gui-
marães Barros, Rafael Camorlinga, Vera Aquino, and Walter Carlos
Costa. I would also like to thank the CNPq for the scholarship which al-
lowed me to spend a year at Birmingham University in excellent condi-
tions.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
XIV
Finally, the encouragement provided by Walter Carlos Costa,
Werner Heidermann, Elena Langdon, Paulo Iervolino and my wife Sil-
vânia Carvalho were decisive to see this book through completion.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
15
INTRODUCTION
This book was written as a response to a personal problem: my dissatis-
faction with dictionaries in regards to helping learners to write and
speak in a foreign language. As a speaker of a minority language,
trapped between some of the world’s major languages, I have always
been obliged to express myself in a language that is not mine, and prac-
tice applies to the present book. As a Dutch-speaking Belgian I have
been teaching Spanish since 1984 at the Universidade Federal de Santa
Catarina (Brazil). About eight years ago my Mexican colleague Rafael
Camorlinga and I started compiling a Portuguese-Spanish dictionary that
would help to solve our students’ problems. Theirs was not so much a
problem of decoding as of encoding. They were perfectly able to make
use of bilingual or monolingual dictionaries to solve problems of com-
prehension in Spanish, but were much less successful when attempting
to express themselves in this language. Dictionaries were not as helpful
as one would expect them to be.
Indeed, it was not until recently that dictionaries started to address
the issue of encoding. The reason for this is easy to understand. Until
the 1950’s people had little contact with foreign languages other than
through books. Languages were learned to be used passively. After WW
II this trend was reversed and learners discovered new language teach-
ing methods and new supporting materials such as dictionaries. But
writing a dictionary is not an overnight task and for the last 50 years
dictionaries have been evolving rather slowly. The burden of history and
a reasonable resistance to change have undoubtedly played some part in
this. Lexicographers understandably have the tendency to improve on
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
16
what already exists, and learners, on their part, are reluctant to accept
dictionaries that do not conform to their expectations. Dictionaries are
indeed an institutionalised tool, such as a telephone list or a recipe
book, which everybody expects to be able to use without any specific
preparation.
However, apart from this, I believe there is another reason why
dictionaries are now quite similar to what they were some 100 years ago
in spite of recent technological innovations: dictionaries have not yet
solved the problem of encoding because their authors have no clear un-
derstanding of what encoding represents from the point of view of the
user. Decoding is fairly straightforward. Materially it is a one-step op-
eration. It involves a few mental operations after consulting the diction-
ary, such as adapting a translational equivalent to the context in which
the unknown word was found. This, however, is not the lexicographer’s
concern. Encoding, on the other hand, still involves several material
steps. The process consists of: translating the item; having an idea of the
register of the word and its syntactical, pragmatical and other con-
straints. These are operations which at present still imply looking for in-
formation in different places. Research is required to understand the
nature of all these processes in order to design a tool that adapts to
them, yet there is no consensus on how to conduct such research. The
unconvincing outcome of some of the research already done might be
one of the reasons why dictionaries have not drastically changed and
why publishing companies, with some exceptions, are hesitant to embark
on radically innovating projects.
Researchers have called for studying how dictionaries are used. If
they succeeded in discovering how and what words are looked up, they
would be able to define a dictionary’s necessary characteristics that are
currently absent. The question is: how does one discover what the proc-
ess of encoding implies?
Over the last 30 years or so, research in the field of foreign
language lexicography has involved a remarkable interest in dictionary
users’ studies. Until now, this research has been done by means of tests
and questionnaires. These are quantifiable and yield results that can be
put into figures and statistics. There is no question that this kind of
research is valuable, but it has its limits. There is a pressing need for a
more qualitative approach, consisting of introspection on the part of the
INTRODUCTION
17
researcher, and a careful analysis of actual dictionaries in order to
determine their flaws. This book intends to be a sample of such
qualitative research.
In the first chapter of this book, I state that foreign language lexi-
cography aims at helping learners with decoding and encoding but that
emphasis has now shifted from decoding to encoding. In order to adapt
to this new trend, it is important to discover the precise needs of dic-
tionary users. I suggest that the relative lack of understanding of the is-
sue is due to inadequate research techniques.
In the second chapter, I situate foreign language dictionaries in a
historical perspective. Although not very suited for encoding, bilingual
dictionaries still fulfil an obvious need. This is not the case of monolin-
gual dictionaries, which serve ideological as well as linguistic needs.
Through learner's dictionaries, these ideological elements infiltrated the
field of foreign language lexicography.
In the third chapter of this book, I briefly review the literature on
foreign language dictionaries. I concentrate on the research done on
dictionary use and users.
In the fourth chapter, I present my own qualitative kind of research
centred on the issue of examples, which I consider central in lexicogra-
phy. When I examine a set of different dictionaries no clear examples
policy emerges from most of them, and in others, examples are not util-
ised to their full extent. Finally, I analyse the question of authentic ex-
amples as opposed to made-up ones.
In the final chapter I outline a new kind of dictionary. The recom-
mendations and suggestions I make take into account the capabilities of
modern computers, but are not dictated by them. So much so that my
suggestions can be of some use for compiling paper dictionaries as well.
First I make a basic distinction between the decoding and the encoding
part of the dictionary. I then consider both these activities from the point
of view of beginning and advanced learners respectively. I discuss the
utility of labels, synonyms, examples and definitions for the disam-
biguation of translation options in the decoding process. In the case of
encoding, which I consider more difficult, I first discuss how learners
can choose their item, then how they can learn to use it. Here again ex-
amples play an important role.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
18
The bulk of this book was concluded in 1997 as the result of a
doctoral research project. For this edition, I reviewed more recent lit-
erature, updated the bibliography and changed the text incorporating
quotations wherever I found it relevant.
Objectives and Hypothesis
The purpose of this book is to formulate suggestions to improve diction-
aries for foreign languages learners by means of qualitative research that
analyses existing dictionaries, on one hand, and, on the other, the
learner.
I hope the outcome of my research will lead to an improvement of
foreign language dictionaries. While electronic methods of storage and
data retrieval are constantly on my mind, as I am convinced that the
future of the dictionary lies in the digital world, the suggestions I will
formulate have some possible application to printed dictionaries as well.
My primary data are dictionaries, of which a full list can be found
in the bibliography at the end of this book. On a few occasions, I tested
subjects at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina and at Cobuild,
where I spent a year of research, but the process only increased my lack
of confidence in tests.
I considered three main categories of dictionaries: bilingual,
learner’s, and native speaker’s. The first two categories are the ones most
directly concerned with foreign language learners, whereas I include
native speaker’s dictionaries mainly because of their relationship to
learner’s dictionaries. I chose these dictionaries based on the languages
of which I have at least a minimal command. Furthermore, I decided to
study Japanese so that I could personally experience what it is like to
use a dictionary as an absolute beginner.
Nevertheless, most attention was dedicated to reference works in
English since English is allegedly the most studied language in the
world. Accordingly, more people learn it and more people work on im-
proving English dictionaries. Additionally, some types of dictionaries
only exist in English.
Tests and Questionnaires
After examining the literature on dictionaries I realized that there is cur-
rently no agreement on a proper methodology for the analysis of user
INTRODUCTION
19
needs. Several methods have been used in this area, none of them
leading to very conclusive results. When reading an article by Hilary
Nesi “The role of illustrative examples in productive dictionary use”
(1996), which I will discuss later in detail, it occurred to me that re-
search in the field is so unconvincing because current research methods
are flawed. After coming to some very unexpected results with a test on
dictionary examples, Nesi herself suggests that shifting from quantitative
to qualitative methods could be a more reliable way of conducting re-
search on the topic. In her own words:
Further investigations of the value of examples in learner’s dictionary entries
will need to develop a more sensitive method of measuring almost impercep-
tible developments in word knowledge resulting from dictionary consultation.
Qualitative rather than quantitative methods may prove more appropriate for
this purpose. (Nesi, 1996:205)
Still, interestingly I was unable to find any concrete reference to
this kind of qualitative research in Nesi’s latest book The Use and Abuse
of Learner’s Dictionaries (Nesi, 2000). This seems to indicate that this
approach has still not been undertaken.
In my view, most experimental quantitative research on dictionaries
depends too much on personal decisions, and therefore cannot have an
entirely objective basis and yields only the forecast results. This is true
for tests as well as for questionnaires. Indeed, sometimes one kind of re-
search contradicts the other, even if both seem equally well supported
by statistics and percentages (Harvey and Yuill, 1992, contradicting
Laufer, 1992). As is secondarily shown by research in closely related
areas such as foreign language acquisition (Larsen-Freeman, D. and
Long M. H., 1991), little is gained by applying methods borrowed from
the natural sciences to what is, to a large extent, a social science. I shall
expand on this briefly.
It is my experience that questionnaires tell us either what subjects
think they do when they consult a dictionary, or what the researcher al-
ready knew they did. Researchers tend to ask questions that are either
too obvious or too difficult, and the subjects are either unable or reluc-
tant to tell the truth
1
.

1
Malinowski’s ‘oral questionnaires’ in The sexual Life of Savages in North-Western
Melanesia (1929) are both entertaining and instructive reading on the subject. At
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
20
Tests or controlled experiments, on the other hand, seem more ob-
jective, but in fact they are not. So many variables must be taken into
account that the results must be questioned. Tests are reliable only when
asking specific and well-circumscribed research questions such as ‘can
subjects notice the difference between made-up and authentic exam-
ples?’ Even in this case, researchers still have to choose the examples,
but that is the only choice they have to make.
Particularly in the case of tests, researchers have to make a number
of more or less arbitrary choices according to the case. Additionally,
their subjects have to work in situations which cannot adequately repli-
cate a real life situation. Researchers are generally aware of this and
frequently apologise, but their results are no more reliable because of
this recognition. In her research on the efficiency of dictionary examples
and definitions, Laufer admits:
But it should be remembered that the objectives of the experiment required
an artificial situation of testing words out of context. In real life, people sel-
dom learn words from monolingual dictionaries only. In the case of reading, a
word is looked up in the dictionary and related to the text. … In the case of
writing, people rarely use words which are entirely new to them. They do,
however, look up words which are partially familiar to them. Therefore, in a
real-life situation, it would be reasonable to expect better results than in the
experiment. (Laufer, 1993:138)
The debate on the use of experimental methods exceeds the
boundaries of this book, but some clarification is required in order to
dispel doubts that may arise concerning the nature of my own research.
A quote from Popper’s essay ‘The logic of social sciences’ corroborates
my claim on the inadequacy of methods taken from the natural sciences
to elucidate lexicographic problems.

some point Malinowski wanted to find out what the Trobrianders’ concept of (fe-
male) beauty was. So he started a conversation with some men and all of them
agreed that they would never have sexual intercourse with one particular woman
because of her physical unattractiveness. The Trobrianders had at that time no
idea that sexual intercourse could lead to pregnancy. Malinowski was quite sur-
prised to see that the woman in question had plenty of children. (Malinowski
1929:246-247)
INTRODUCTION
21
There is, for instance, the misguided and erroneous methodological approach
of naturalism or scientism, which urges that it is high time that the social sci-
ences learn from the natural sciences what scientific method is. This mis-
guided naturalism establishes such demands as: begin with observations and
measurements; this means, for instance, begin by collecting statistical data;
proceed, next, by induction to generalisations and to the formation of theo-
ries. It is suggested that in this way you will approach the ideal of objectivity,
so far as this is at all possible in the social sciences. In so doing, however, you
ought to be conscious of the fact that objectivity in the social sciences is much
more difficult to achieve (if it can be achieved at all) than in the natural sci-
ences. For being objective demands that one is not biased by one’s value
judgements – that is (as Max Weber called it), ‘to be value-free.’ But only in
the rarest cases can the social scientist free himself from the value system of
his own social class and so achieve even a limited degree of ‘value freedom’
and ‘objectivity.’ (Popper, 1994:67-68)
It is true that a comparison with the social sciences to which Popper
refers is relative. The need to free themselves from a value system
seems an irrelevant requirement for linguists, but there are existential
aspects in the researcher’s situation that can be assimilated to this ‘value
system.’ For example, since English is the language most research fo-
cuses on, frequently Anglo-Saxon researchers investigate their own
mother tongue, leading them to formulate what I sometimes think are
wrong research questions. Also, not enough researchers seem to have
experience with teaching a foreign language —which is different from
‘teaching one’s own language to foreigners’— and this leads to a false
perception of where the possible difficulties for learners lay. Conse-
quently, many researchers do not have much experience with using a
dictionary for other than research purposes. Finally, some researchers
have close ties with publishing companies, which must make some con-
clusions more ‘desirable’ than others. All these factors can lead to bi-
ased research results, despite the most scientific research methods and
the best intentions. When scientific methods borrowed from the natural
sciences are applied to issues like dictionaries one does extract informa-
tion from them, but they usually shed more light on what researcher and
subjects want us to think they do than what they really do.
In tests as well as in questionnaires there is the possibility of inter-
fering in the execution of scientific methods without acknowledging this
interference. Lexicographers have opinions and these end up interfering
in the design of any of the controlled experiments of which I am aware.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
22
The danger of the researcher influencing the results exist in the case of
qualitative research as well, but in this case the research is presented
from the onset as the result of introspection and personal assessment.
The way dictionary research has been dealt with over the last 20
years gives the impression that the field is, to borrow a concept precisely
from the natural sciences, seeking out a new ‘paradigm’ (Kuhn, 1970).
In the case of lexicography, the old paradigm is evident through re-
search questions such as ‘is grammar necessary in a dictionary?’ ‘how to
classify multi-word items,’ ‘the inclusion of specialist vocabulary?’ ‘dic-
tionary skills,’ ‘translation equivalents in bilingual dictionaries.’ These
were the questions considered to be ‘relevant.’ This paradigm is now
being questioned as is illustrated by the fact that in the literature of the
last 20 years articles on relatively minor topics, such as those above, are
on an equal footing with articles on more fundamental questions such as
user needs. This is reminiscent of a paragraph in The Structure of Scien-
tific Revolutions:
When scientists disagree about whether the fundamental problems of their
field have been solved, the search for rules gains a function that it does not
ordinarily possess. While paradigms remain secure, however, they can func-
tion without agreement over rationalisation or without any attempted rationali-
sations at all. (Kuhn, 1970:49)
‘Rules’ are the methodology which current lexicographic literature
seems to have lost. The current attempts to define ‘needs’ are a symp-
tom of a much-needed ‘rationalisation’ of the area. Dictionaries today
are the result of material conditions and ideological considerations,
some of which have disappeared or become irrelevant. Indeed, a num-
ber of dictionary features such as codes, abbreviations, the non-
separation of encoding and decoding, are the result of the use of paper
and consequent commercial considerations are no longer inevitable. The
same thing applies to alphabetic ordering, so characteristic of traditional
lexicography, and which has given rise to research topics such as ‘under
what entries do learners look up the meaning of idioms.’ In a computer
programme all items of a dictionary are randomly accessible and pro-
grams (such as Euroglot and others) have solved this problem in a
straightforward and simple way.
Nonetheless, articles are still being published on the problem of
lemmatisation, which, in my opinion, belongs to the past. Furthermore,
INTRODUCTION
23
combining the solution of space and ordering, computers have now
made it commercially feasible to realise an old lexicographic dream:
split up encoding and decoding.
Ideology
I have already mentioned the ideological element in lexicography. A
methodology which aims at delineating the needs of dictionary user’s
should attempt to disperse a bit of the ideological fog
2
which surrounds
dictionaries and is responsible for part of their content. I see the influ-
ence of ideology in two ways.
Firstly, by standardising the language, dictionaries helped to con-
solidate modern national consciousness. Dictionaries became an element
of identification with a national creed, and this affirmation of national
consciousness has often been their main ‘raison d’être.’ There is indeed
no need to explain the meaning of a word to an audience, which knows
perfectly well what they mean. Because learner’s dictionaries were de-
rived from native speaker’s dictionaries, this ideological factor affected
foreign language lexicography, which is why so much in a learner’s dic-
tionary, seems ill adapted to its audience and their needs. Not an analy-
sis of the needs was the starting point, but a pre-existing kind of book.
Secondly, dictionaries are not only tools. They are also objects,
which hold a place and function in the ‘système des objets’ (Baudrillard,
1968, 1970, 1972). Dictionaries are social objects, emblems of liter-
acy, guardians of culture, warrants of distinction. As such, they also
have to respond to particular criteria, which have little to do with their
declared purpose. Instead of having only a usage value, dictionaries also
have a significant symbolic value, and are not only the mere answer to a
mere need. As Baudrillard puts it:

2
The concept of ideology is a rather controversial one, and is used by a number of
philosophical and sociological schools. I will not attempt to go into unnecessary
detail here. I hold a fairly Marxist view of ideology in the sense of a system of
ideas, which justifies the position of a particular class within society. This system of
ideas may give a more or less correct vision of society, but it might just as well not.
In the case of a dictionary, an item intimately linked with the shaping of the mod-
ern state, it is difficult to ignore any political motivation in its design beyond the
one that is publicly admitted.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
24
Aujourd’hui la consommation – si ce terme a un sens autre que celui que lui
donne l’économie vulgaire – définit précisément ce stade où la marchandise
est immédiatement produite comme signe, comme valeur/signe, et les signes (la
culture) comme marchandise. (Baudrillard, 1972:178, author’s emphasis)
The reasons for the compilation of a native speaker’s dictionary are
largely symbolic. They are produced as a ‘signe,’ as a cultural value.
Similarly, in the case of learner's dictionaries, the psychological value
should not be underestimated. Learners are attracted to monolingual
dictionaries because it is seen as an ‘upgrade,’ a sign that they have
reached a near native status. It does not necessarily mean that it is the
best dictionary for their purposes.
One of the symbolic functions of dictionaries is to defend the lan-
guage against ‘corruption.’ The compilers of the Dictionnaire de
l’Académie française were convinced that the French language had at-
tained in their century the highest degree of perfection. “Il (le
Dictionnaire de l'Académie) a esté commencé & achevé dans le siecle le
plus florissant de la Langue Françoise…” (Introduction, no page num-
ber, electronic version.)
In parallel, Johnson writes in his Plan of an English Dictionary
(1747): “The chief intent of it is to preserve the purity, and ascertain
the meaning of our English idiom…” (No page number, electronic edi-
tion)
However legitimate, from the moment the preservation of the ‘pu-
rity’ of the language became the dictionaries’ main function, they ceased
being tools and became repositories.
Learner’s dictionaries preserve many of their model’s characteris-
tics and instead of adjusting to needs, they have inherited part of the
native speaker’s dictionaries’ function as symbols. To quote an example,
the only reason why spanner is defined in a learner’s dictionary such as
the Cambridge International Dictionary of English —‘a metal tool with a
shaped end, used to turn nuts and bolts,’— has no other justification, no
other raison d’être than its mere presence in the dictionary. It has to be
there because this book can only be called a dictionary if it includes this
word. It will not teach foreigners what a spanner is. It might even induce
them into thinking that it is a nutcracker.
I am not claiming that dictionaries should shed their ideological
INTRODUCTION
25
function, since ideologies do have a reason to exist. However, with re-
gards to the part of these tools that is dedicated to solving linguistic
problems, ideology only stands in the way. An identification of the
‘bare’ facts of the problem with a humane minimum of ideological bi-
ases is essential for research to be productive. As it is, the strength of
the dictionary’s symbolic value is one of the elements which has pre-
vented researchers from approaching the question in a more funda-
mental way.
New criteria
The task of defining new criteria appears to be a huge one. Remarkably,
publishers are now the ones launching new trends, which are then ex-
amined by the researchers. There are perhaps at present more elec-
tronic dictionaries on the market than research articles published on the
subject
3
. At the least a sound analysis of the learners’ needs and a con-
sequent reshuffling of the different components of existing dictionaries
should be carried out. Over the centuries, lexicographers have produced
a large amount of fine work and a mere reorganisation of this material
would already be a huge step forward.
The techniques borrowed from the natural sciences have proven in-
sufficient
4
for a tabula rasa. Until now, a qualitative approach has
hardly been attempted. Of course every researcher dreads the accusa-
tion of being subjective. But the objective veneer on tests and question-
naires is thin. I find it preferable for researchers with experience in the
matter to question their own practices. In the words of Rousseau: ‘La
réflexion jointe à l’usage donne des idées nettes…’
I propose to submit dictionaries to an ‘analyse de textes’ which is
indeed more typical of literary studies and bears some relationship to
structural methods as applied by Barthes (1957) and Baudrillard (1968,

3
Even recent articles on the subject remain remarkably superficial because there is
still very little fundamental research on the subject to fall back on. (Leech and
Nesi, 1999) Nesi (1999) undoubtedly knowing her (lexicographic) audience, still
feels rightfully compelled to ‘introduce’ the electronic dictionary.
4
This is, again, illustrated by what occurs in the area of second language acquisition.
As Krashen (1996) shows in his account of a very proficient language learner,
more can be learned from the experience of successful individuals than from so-
called scientific tests.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
26
1970). On one hand, I look for the implicit criteria which guide
lexicographic practice, as will be seen in my analysis of dictionary
examples (in Chapter 3). On the other, I analyse the look-up process as
an expression of the user’s needs. To do this, I draw on my experience
as a routine dictionary user and, why not admit it, the use I made of
dictionaries to write this book. Indeed, in the course of this research I
had the feeling that I benefited most of all from my own consulting of
dictionaries and from monitoring myself. As Descartes put it: “non pas
qu’il ne puisse y avoir au monde plusieurs esprits incomparablement
meilleurs que le mien; mais pource qu’on ne saurait si bien concevoir
une chose et la rendre sienne, lorsqu’on l’apprend de quelque autre,
que lorsqu’on l’invente soi-même.”
A last hedge regards the form in which this book was written, which
some may object to be somewhat episodic. This may be because the
bulk of this research consists of an observation of the facts and not of
what has been written on them.
It is surely easier to weave a perfect web when one remains distant
from the facts, and it is easier to write a philosophy of dictionaries than
to attempt to improve them. In this book I have examined all publica-
tions which were within my reach. But the examination of these con-
vinced me that the confrontation with the different aspects of the prob-
lem would inevitably produce a less homogeneous picture than if I had
worked on secondary sources.
What is qualitative lexicographic research?
The issue can be approached through two different points of view. The
first one is to look at what has been produced and ask oneself: what
purpose does this production serve? For instance, taking the entry for
midget in the Oxford Wordpower, one can ask what is the purpose of
‘/’mIdZIt/noun [countable] a very small person.’ The pronunciation is
included for speaking purposes; the grammatical information is in-
cluded for speaking or writing purposes; and the definition is included
for reading or listening purposes. One can then go a step further and
see if the information directed at the speaking audience is sufficient and
adequate and do the same for the information intended for the listening,
writing and reading audiences. In this particular case, one can claim
that there is too much information for anyone who only wanted to pro-
INTRODUCTION
27
nounce the word. The pronunciation, in turn, is useless to the writing
user and the space could have been filled with an example. Doing this
kind of exercise one slowly becomes aware of dictionaries’ shortcom-
ings.
Another kind of qualitative approach starts not from the product,
but from its intended user. This kind of approach implies analysing the
behaviour of specific dictionary users: the researcher her/himself, or a
third person. I did this with myself for a few years. I may have deceived
myself more than once. I hope I have not deceived myself the whole
time.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
28
DICTIONARIES, HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS
29
CHAPTER 1
DICTIONARIES, HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS
1. THE HISTORY OF DICTIONARIES
Until recently “user needs” were not a lexicographic issue. Dictionaries
were tools created to respond to some obvious needs of a particular
audience, such as communicate with people who spoke a different lan-
guage. The first dictionaries were bilingual. They registered Sumerian
words and their Eblaite translations. Its purpose was clear: to make pos-
sible at least a rudimentary communication between two people who
spoke different languages.
In the first century AD, some nine hundred years after the Iliad
and the Odyssey were written, the Greeks found it increasingly difficult
to understand the versified account of their mythical ancestors’ eventful
travels, and scholars had the idea to compile commentaries on the hard
words in Homer. These were the first monolingual dictionaries. This
time the purpose was to make possible a diachronic form of communi-
cation. Hard words were intralingually translated from old Greek into
Modern Greek. In the Middle Ages this practice of explaining hard
words was expanded and the wordlists became independent of the
books they were found in.
In 1447, an Italian-German word list was compiled for travelling
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
30
purposes, which is considered the oldest ‘modern’ bilingual dictionary.
By the end of the fifteenth century, dictionaries had become a relatively
common tool, according to Hale:
From the 1480s, travellers had begun to include glossaries of useful foreign
words as appendices to their narratives. Polyglot vocabularies were published
with increasing frequency from 1477; François Garon’s Vocabulary of five
languages: Latin, Italian, French, Spanish and German proved so popular af-
ter its publication in Venice in 1526 that by the 1546 edition it had been ex-
tended to cover eight languages. Jacopo Strada, a scholarly collector and
dealer in antiquities whose portrait was painted by Titian, dies in 1588 while
working on an eleven-language dictionary. From the early sixteenth century,
multi-lingual conversation and phrase books started to appear as simple aids
for merchants abroad; from the mid-century they broadened to satisfy those
who wished to learn a foreign language in some depth. (Hale: 1994, 159)
During the revival of classical Latin in the Renaissance, a whole
range of Latin, Greek and Hebraic bilingual dictionaries went to press.
They responded primarily to a need for decoding classical and biblical
texts. In addition, these dictionaries assisted students eager to study
classical Latin. Because of this return to the roots and general rise in
civilization level in Europe, languages expanded their vocabularies
through the borrowing of words, mainly from Latin and Greek. Aston-
ishing is the fact that words like involve, exactly, activity, education, sin-
cerity and society, to name but a few, were coined single-handedly by
Thomas Elyot (Green, 1996: 87). The new words had to be explained
to the ‘more-knowing women, and the less-knowing men’ (Osselton,
1983) which gave rise to new monolingual dictionaries.
The real turning point in lexicography came in 1612, when the
Florentine Accademia della Crusca published a comprehensive list of all
the words that its members, the crusconi, considered to be authentically
Italian. This was the Italian they themselves spoke, of course, and
‘wrong’ was whatever others spoke. What they were interested in was
the ‘toscanizzazione.’ The Crusca Vocabolario is generally regarded to
be the first modern monolingual dictionary since it sought comprehen-
sive coverage for its own sake. This is, to my knowledge, the first time
the purpose of a dictionary became unclear. In the words of the present-
day crusconi:
DICTIONARIES, HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS
31
... opera concepita come uno strumento dedicato ai letterati e fondata sulla
lingua fiorentina fattasi "classica" per il tramite delle opere dei grandi autori
del Trecento, Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, e assurta a lingua letteraria degli
scrittori non toscani, desiderosi di abbandonare, nei generi più elevati, il loro
dialetto per una lingua d'arte comune.
5
The Vocabolario is, in its original sense, a thesaurus
6
. It collected
words as for a treasure, and illustrates the capacity of the language to
represent nationhood. Its purpose was to draw a political and
sociological line, which had little to do with the primitive function of the
dictionary as an aide to communication. As Collison puts it:
The spirit of nationalism has often proved a driving force in the making of
dictionaries. Scholars were quick to recognize that the compilation of a reli-
able and comprehensive dictionary was one sign of the achievement of their
country’s maturity, just as the lack of grammars and dictionaries indicated the
dominance of a foreign power or the weakness of a truly national feeling.
(Collison, 1982,18)
The crusconi seemingly had no problem in admitting this. Quite
sensibly they assumed there was no point in explaining to an Italian
audience what a dog was, and they simply defined cane as ‘known ani-
mal’ (Lepschy, 1984:174). The intention of the members of the Acca-
demia was to exalt the Florentine language, not to explain it.
The Crusca dictionary represents a remarkable shift in the purpose
of dictionaries. Whereas formerly their aim was to assist communication,
intralingually or interlingually, synchronically or diachronically, from
then on only bilingual dictionaries could claim to have this exclusive
purpose. In addition, from La Crusca onwards dictionaries start to em-
body literacy and culture, just as the possession of a Bible meant until
recently adherence to Christianity. Hence, the purpose of dictionaries
changed from practical to symbolic, from functional to emblematic.
Monolingual dictionaries have become ‘treasures,’ intended primarily to
be owned and not to be used, and they include as much information on
words as can be gathered about them —meaning, etymology, grammar,

5
At the Accademia della Crusca Site: http:// www.csovi.fi.cnr.it/crusca
6
If we look at the titles, this trend had begun early: Trésor de la langue française
(Nicot, 1530-1600), Tesoro de la lengua castellana (Covarrubias, 1611). The
Dutch and German words for vocabulary –woordenschat and Wortschatz– reflect
this, as well as the Latin word commonly used for dictionaries: thesaurus.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
32
synonyms, antonyms—, regardless of the usefulness of such information
or what audience this information has to serve.
***
In 1610, Covarrubias published his Tesoro de la lengua castellana. The
Tesoro is still much of a hard words dictionary, complemented by the
private intellectual pursuits of a brilliant, learned mind. The non-
normative, almost casual manner in which the dictionary was written
may well be related to the fact that language was not at that time a po-
litical issue in Spain. Due to the nature of the Reconquista, Spain has no
dialects until this day and Catalan and Basque nationalism are a 19
th
century phenomenon.
This was not the case of France, struggling at the time to hold its
various pieces together. Spain was unified at the end of the 15
th
century.
France would define its present day borders only under Louis XIV. In
1634, Cardinal Richelieu founded the Académie Française with the ob-
jective of compiling a French national dictionary, eventually to be pub-
lished in 1694. Known for his shrewdness as well as for his interests in
the arts, Richelieu’s intentions were first political. The centralisation of
power and the construction of a sense of nationality demanded a unified
language. Reaching a cultural apex around mid-17
th
century, the mo-
ment seemed ripe to stabilise and unify the French language under one
centralising power, just as the state was being centralised politically.
Johnson published his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755.
Although Johnson’s dictionary was a private undertaking, it had a simi-
lar goal as its French and Italian predecessors: standardising. To stan-
dardise means to unify. Johnson wanted to protect the English language
from ‘corruption.’ In Germany, the project of the Grimm brothers’ dic-
tionary was intimately linked with the linguistic unification of a highly
dialectal Germany, at that time attempting to reach its political unifica-
tion.
As a result, the primary function of a monolingual dictionary be-
came blurred. Why does one have a monolingual dictionary? For exam-
ple, I have been living in Brazil for almost 20 years. I have a copy of the
Dutch Van Dale and the French Robert, which I consider my two mother
tongues. I have never used them once. Colleagues at the university tell
me they use their Aurélio frequently, but they are unable to tell me what
DICTIONARIES, HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS
33
they look up. “When they are planning to write an article, to see what a
word exactly means,” one sometimes hears. They use their mother
tongue’s dictionary like a philosophy handbook. However, dictionaries
are written by people who have certainly less philosophical qualifications
then university lecturers.
Surveys report that meaning is the first reason why people reach for
a monolingual dictionary of their mother tongue, and spelling is the sec-
ond reason. However, once again these results are based merely on the
respondents’ opinions. According to my own observation, the main rea-
son why native speakers look up words in a dictionary is spelling, fol-
lowed by meaning only, of course, in the case of infrequent words.
Some might find the apparently modest use people make of such volu-
minous volumes hard to admit since it implies that a considerable piece
of work and scholarship can be replaced by a simple list of words. Yet,
if one recalls that Wittgenstein compiled such a list there should be no
dishonour in admitting this.
Monolingual dictionaries are primarily symbols, secondarily and at
best serving an intralingual translation purpose. This is certainly not the
case of bilingual dictionaries, which involve little symbolism and have a
clear objective. The line between these two kinds of dictionaries became
blurred, however, from the moment people like Hornby started using
monolingual dictionaries in foreign language teaching, with a new kind
of dictionary as a result. Indeed, in 1947 Hornby published The Ad-
vanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English. The learner's dictionary
tried to give back to the monolingual dictionary a function which it had
at that point only kept in name: explain words. Nevertheless, the design
of the monolingual dictionary was not adapted to this task and learner's
dictionaries were to inherit the ballast of their models. If learner's dic-
tionaries had started from scratch by analysing the needs of the target
audience, their features would be entirely different today.
2. LEARNER’S DICTIONARIES
At the end of the nineteenth century, the focus of language teaching
started changing slowly from merely understanding to producing a for-
eign language. However, it was the Second World War which gave this
tendency a decisive impetus, resulting in dramatic changes in language
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
34
teaching and learning pedagogy in the sixties (Rivers, 1975). The
eighties’ ‘communicative approach’ made it clear that the emphasis was
now on production. Compared to normal monolingual dictionaries, the
language used by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary was simpler
than that of traditional monolingual dictionaries, the number of entries
and senses was smaller, and there were more examples. Hornby’s dic-
tionary remained, however, a monolingual dictionary whose general
form and content was derived from the monolingual dictionaries for a
native speaker audience. The task was less difficult than starting a com-
pletely new bilingual dictionary from scratch. Hornby had worked for
12 years in Japan and it is likely that he had a Japanese audience in
mind. The first thing one would think of to help one’s students would be
a bilingual dictionary. It is my experience that a great many foreign lan-
guage teachers think that monolingual dictionaries are necessarily more
complete than bilingual ones. This is generally true only because the
main task of monolingual dictionaries is to be exactly that: complete, not
because they are necessarily better
7
.
Apparently, Hornby had the courage and the knowledge to compile
a dictionary, but not the necessary foreign language skills. As we learn
through Cowie: “unlike Palmer and Gatenby (…) both of whom spoke
Japanese to a high standard and showed a deep and informed interest in
the local culture, Hornby made no serious attempt to learn the lan-
guage.” (Cowie, 1999:9) Yet, his intention was most likely to help his
students with whatever means he had available. And he did invent a
new concept of dictionary. Learner’s dictionaries are like universal ‘bi-
lingual’ dictionaries, since they translate hard English into easy English,
independently of the user’s first language. However, it remains possible
that the design of the first learner's dictionary was a result of its inven-
tor’s ignorance of its audience’s mother tongue rather than of an analy-
sis of their needs. The traditional monolingual dictionary was trans-
formed to be acceptable to users less familiarised with the language than
native speakers are. It bears indeed many resemblances to children’s
dictionaries. It therefore does not surprise me that the authors of
learner's dictionaries were themselves surprised that by 1981 the ad-

7
It seems appropriate here to mention Oxford’s Bilingual Spanish Dictionary, in
many aspects more comprehensive than some of its numerous prestigious Spanish
monolingual counterparts.
DICTIONARIES, HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS
35
vantages of the learner's dictionary were not yet entirely clear to the
main target audience. Cowie, in ‘Lexicography and its pedagogic appli-
cations,’ illustrates the attitude towards learner’s dictionaries:
Yet, until quite recently there was no correspondingly widespread under-
standing among teachers that the scale and character of the information pro-
vided in a general EFL dictionary was radically different from that to be
found in works intended for the native user. In particular, it was not generally
understood that the learner’s dictionary was designed to help with production
as much as interpretation. (Cowie, 1981:203)
I know from my own college experience that learner's dictionaries
were simply the kind of monolingual dictionary you would find abroad.
In 2001, I am sure, most owners of learner’s dictionaries, including
teachers, will still be hard-pushed to say what the difference is between
this kind of dictionary and a normal monolingual dictionary. From a de-
coding point of view, learner's dictionaries presuppose a sufficiently
good command of the language to understand the definition. If learners
do not understand words such as cat and dog, it is useless for them to
look them up in a learner’s dictionary. One of the easiest learner’s dic-
tionaries, the Oxford Wordpower, defines cat as “a small furry animal
with four legs and a tail. People often keep cats as pets.” On the one
hand, learners do not look up easy words because they know them from
other sources. Dogs and cats keep on wandering through the pages of
learner's dictionaries because these dictionaries inherited them from
native speakers dictionaries designed for ideological purposes. As for
the hard words, learners do not understand the words used to explain
them. In addition and still from a decoding point of view, the reduced
number of entries and senses in learner’s dictionaries represents a
drawback. It are precisely the least frequent words that cause most
trouble to non-native readers.
Looking at learner’s dictionaries from an encoding point of view,
they too have weaknesses. First, one has to know what to look up. This
means that in most cases learners will have to consult a bilingual dic-
tionary prior to the learner’s dictionary. The learner’s dictionary is then
used to double-check what was found in the bilingual dictionary. How-
ever, anyone with a sufficiently good enough command of English to
understand a definition will be primarily interested in usage information,
i.e. syntax and collocations. This means that examples, which transmit
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
36
this kind of information, are extremely important. Learner's dictionaries
still have few of them, except maybe the first edition of Cobuild on CD-
ROM. Furthermore, the order of the information within the entries is
generally based on the division in senses and not on usage. This makes
the search cumbersome, and the results doubtful. Moreover, since it
appears that, paradoxically, learner’s dictionaries place no priority on
syntax or collocates information they are not the ideal tools for encoding
or decoding.
3. BILINGUAL DICTIONARIES
So far, bilingual dictionaries do not appear to be flexible enough to meet
the current encoding needs. There is surprisingly little difference be-
tween present-day and 17
th
century bilingual dictionaries. It is true that
17
th
century dictionaries were astonishingly good, and until recently
there was not much reason for change. As long as decoding was the
main concern, traditional bilingual dictionaries were perfectly up to the
task.
One expects bilingual dictionaries to be used not only as decoding
but also as encoding tools. However, their target audience is hybrid as it
is composed of native speakers of two different languages. The idea be-
hind this is that the decoding information of one audience is the encod-
ing information of the other. This does not always work out, since the
main encoding aids –examples– are still rare, useless to one audience,
and too scarce for the other. Moreover, fixed expressions, which are not
strictly speaking ‘examples,’ take up most of the examples’ space.
Bilingual dictionaries are most frequently produced by ‘mono-
national’ publishers and they give tacit preference to the national audi-
ence. Hence, the customary lack of balance between the two halves of
this kind of dictionary in mere number of pages. It has to be mentioned
that recent joint ventures, such as the Oxford-Hachette, Oxford-Duden
or Collins-Robert, have done much to change this situation for the bet-
ter.
However, there is still room for improvement. An encoder needs a
very large amount of information in order to feel rightfully secure. If one
compiles a French-English dictionary supposed to be equally useful to
English and French users, the ideal amount of information is immense.
DICTIONARIES, HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS
37
The Oxford-Hachette and Collins-Robert are admirable achievements,
but they are cumbersome to use and yet still incomplete.
4. BILINGUALISED DICTIONARIES
A relatively recent phenomenon in foreign language lexicography is the
bilingualised dictionary. As a mix between a bilingual and a learner’s
dictionary, a bilingualised dictionary defines words in the same manner
as a learner’s dictionary, and completes this definition with a translation.
Sometimes only the definition text is translated. This technique has the
apparent advantage of settling the question of whether it is better to give
learners a definition or a translation. Indeed, for learners who read the
whole entry, one could say this formula is an improvement. Bilin-
gualised dictionaries presently exist only in versions with a reduced
number of headwords. The constantly reprinted Longman English Dic-
tionary for Portuguese Speakers is a good example of this kind of diction-
ary. Thanks to a simple Portuguese wordlist at the end, this kind of bi-
lingualised dictionary comes close to an ideal encoding tool for begin-
ners. It is surprising that other learner’s dictionaries have so far ne-
glected this simple and useful device. The fact that it would imply writ-
ing a different dictionary for every single language is probably the rea-
son why this has not been done yet.
Despite all the praise they deserve, bilingualised dictionaries also
suffer the restrictions I articulated for bilingual and learner’s dictionar-
ies. For the purposes of decoding, these dictionaries do not have enough
entries and are only helpful in the case of relatively easy texts. For most
hard words, learners still have to consult another dictionary. A diction-
ary is a tool, however, and the main activity of learners is not ‘looking
up words in a dictionary.’ They look up words because they are reading,
writing, or listening. Therefore it is likely that even in dictionaries that
provide a translation alongside a definition, users will turn immediately
to the translation and not waste time reading both. This translation might
not give an exact idea of what the word means, but since the difficult
word was found in a context – the text which the learner is reading – ,
this will help the learner make the necessary adjustments.
Seen from the angle of encoding, the criticisms that apply to
learner’s dictionaries apply to bilingualised dictionaries as well. The en-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
38
coder still has to know which word to look up, a problem these diction-
aries do not resolve unless they have a list at the end. However, it
should not surprise us that in a test conducted by Batia Laufer (1994),
subjects equipped with a bilingualised dictionary scored better than oth-
ers who had only a bilingual or a monolingual dictionary at their dis-
posal. Since these dictionaries are often learner’s dictionaries with a
translation added, the result was of course a net increase in information.
A somewhat different kind of bilingualised dictionary is the Cobuild
English-Portuguese Bridge Bilingual conceived by John Sinclair. Co-
build’s Student’s Dictionary definitions were translated into Portuguese,
maintaining the entry words in English. Here is an example:
begrudge, se você begrudge someone algo, você sente que essa pessoa
não merece isso e sente inveja dela por tê-lo.
As the name Bridge suggests, the authors intended to compile a
dictionary that made a bridge between a bilingual English-Portuguese
dictionary and an English learner’s dictionary. The information is iden-
tical to that found in the Cobuild Student’s Dictionary, but translated
into Portuguese. Probably the purpose was to show the syntactic con-
straints of the word in the L2, but it is doubtful whether this is effective
(Humblé, 1996).
5. THE LONGMAN LANGUAGE ACTIVATOR
From a strictly encoding point of view, the most successful lexicographic
undertaking of the last few years is the Longman Language Activator. In
this case, the authors started from scratch in trying to match a product
to the needs of the user. The result is a considerable leap forward. The
knowledge in the L2 that users are supposed to have before using the
Activator is the superordinate of the word they are looking for. From
there on, the dictionary leads the learner to an alternative item that ex-
presses their thought more adequately (e.g. find overdo by looking for
exaggerate).
A criticism one can make of the Activator is that, in spite of its
1600 pages, its innovations and its size are, overall, modest. There are
not enough examples and, since only the most frequent superordinates
were included, there might be too few entries for advanced learners.
DICTIONARIES, HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS
39
Even so, the Activator is a large volume and the fact that it was printed
on paper must have limited the inclusion of more entries and examples.
One can only regret that in a time when paper dictionaries are being put
on CD-ROM as frequently as they are, Longman printed a dictionary
that has all the characteristics of an electronic dictionary.
***
At the beginning of their history, dictionaries were compiled with a pre-
cise purpose in mind: to make possible communication in the same or
between two different languages. With the advent of modern states,
monolingual dictionaries began to assume a symbolic function. Through
learner’s dictionaries, a part of foreign language lexicography also par-
ticipates in this symbolic function, and this confuses the relationship
between the dictionary and the user.
Nowadays the needs of foreign language learners are changing and
foreign language lexicography is seeking ways to adapt. Learners are
demanding efficient encoding tools, since this requires more information
than decoding. Technology offers a solution to lexicography’s oldest
problem: space. The question lexicographers are now faced with is how
to combine needs and the technological means to meet them. In spite of
its obvious benefits, lexicography has as yet made little use of computer
technology, because no one has a precise idea of what has to be done.
Solving this question implies researching the kind of dictionary learners
need for encoding. Once it is accepted that decoding and encoding have
to be separated, the problem is reduced to knowing what an ideal encod-
ing dictionary is. However, even though improvements can always be
suggested, a number of bilingual and monolingual dictionaries are al-
ready perfect decoding tools.
To know what an encoding dictionary should be like, one has to be-
come aware of the sequence that learners have followed when they suc-
ceed in using a new word correctly. A possible starting point is the L1,
but it could be a close word in the L2. Alternatively, they may start from
the right L2 word and want more information on its usage. To succeed
in mapping the learner’s look-up sequence means deciphering the
structure of the ideal dictionary. As will become clear in my review of
the literature on the subject, over the last few years much research has
concentrated on discovering the answer to the question: What do learn-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
40
ers do when they consult a dictionary and what helps them best? Once
this question is answered, a new kind of dictionary can be designed.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
41
CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF LITTERATURE
1. DICTIONARY USE AND USERS – QUESTIONNAIRES
AND EXPERIMENTS
In what follows I review some examples of research carried out mainly
by Tomaszczyk, Atkins, Nesi, Laufer and Béjoint on dictionaries and
their users. Next, I will discuss Sue Atkins’s article (1996) ‘Bilingual
dictionaries: past, present and future’ to examine the potential of new
technologies for foreign language lexicography. A full critical account of
the literature on the subject can be found in Dolezal (1999).
Over the past 20 years, a relatively great number of articles have
been published on the subject of dictionary use, and interest in the
subject is growing. Moreover, as encoding becomes increasingly
important, so does the need to reconsider the way in which dictionaries
are compiled. So far, in order to discover the needs of the target
audience, researchers have used mainly two techniques: questionnaires
and tests. The former ask users what they use their dictionaries for,
while the latter test users and dictionaries via controlled experiments.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
42
1. Questionnaires
Questionnaires ask users questions of the kind: do learners use a mono-
lingual or a bilingual dictionary; do they use it for reading or writing; do
they use it to look up meaning, spelling, etymology or grammar. The
subjects are typically ESL students.
The first comprehensive questionnaire on dictionary use was
elaborated by Tomaszczyk (1979). He questioned foreign students at
American and Polish colleges, and foreign language students at a Polish
university. His main conclusion was that students preferred bilingual to
monolingual dictionaries, and that meaning and spelling were the main
reasons for using a dictionary.
In 1981, Béjoint conducted a more detailed survey, yet less com-
prehensive in terms of subjects. Béjoint tried to discover how French
students of English used their monolingual English dictionaries. He
asked 122 subjects 20 questions ranging from ‘Do you own a monolin-
gual English dictionary?’ to ‘Which types of information do you look
up?’ According to this survey, half of the students used their monolin-
gual English dictionary once a week, mainly to look up meaning. Half of
the students said they sometimes browsed through their dictionary with-
out a special purpose, 89% admitted they had read the introduction to
their dictionaries ‘less than thoroughly.’ More than half responded that
they never used the dictionary codes, while 70% affirmed they used ex-
amples and quotations, 68% used the synonyms, and 24% used the
pictures. Some 50 % of the students thought their dictionaries were too
simplified while 45% thought they were just right. 77% claimed satis-
faction.
Béjoint devotes the introduction to his report to a succinct but keen
analysis of the needs of the foreign language learner. He stresses the dif-
ference between encoding and decoding and sums up the matter: ‘the
best dictionary for decoding is the one that contains the largest number
of entries’ and ‘the best dictionary for encoding is one that provides the
most detailed guidance on syntax and collocation’ (1982:210). One in-
evitably has to conclude that Béjoint knows obviously more about dic-
tionary use than his subjects, and his thoughts on the topic exceed by
far the results of his survey.
Béjoint’s questionnaire was pioneering, but when looked at from a
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
43
distance of more than 20 years, one is astonished that the questions
make little use of the decoding/encoding distinction when the author’s
analysis shows a clear awareness of how this affects dictionary use. The
question ‘Which types of information do you look for most often in your
dictionary?’ is difficult to answer, or the answer is difficult to interpret, if
one does not know the purpose of the look-up. Furthermore, when the
survey indicates that 87% of the interrogated subjects claim they look
for meaning, 53% for syntactic information, 52% for synonyms, 25%
for spelling and pronunciation, and 5% for etymology, it is likely that
students look for meaning when they decode and for syntactic informa-
tion, synonyms and spelling when they encode.
2. Criticism of Questionnaires
Bogaards (1988) voices a number of criticisms on questionnaires. He
mentions the need for a homogeneous subject sample, the lack of depth
of some analyses and the scarcity of interesting answers due to the
vagueness of the questions. Bogaards also laments that questions often
suggest the answers. He does not fundamentally criticise the method,
however, presenting in the same article the results of one of his own
questionnaires.
In 1987, Hartmann, himself the author of a questionnaire (1983), sums
up his criticism as follows:
Research into dictionary use still tends to be small-scale, often non-
representative, non-comparable (even contradictory!), non-correlational, and
non-replicable. This partly explains the tentative nature of many of the find-
ings, which frequently have the status of ‘informed opinion’ rather than valid
generalisation. (…) (tests) are more difficult to devise and possibly therefore
rarer… Even more complex techniques like controlled experiments have not
been used at all. (Hartmann, 1987:27)
In my view, questionnaires are to be used with caution for two
reasons. First, one assumes the subjects have a knowledge of linguistic
concepts and a lexicographic awareness which I think they generally
lack. Do they know what an ‘idiom’ is? Do they really, as Béjoint claims,
look for ‘syntactic information’ in more than half of the cases, or is this
what they think they do … or remember they did? Do they know what
‘syntactic information’ is at all? Do 68% look up idioms ‘very often’ or
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
44
do they not remember when they looked up, e.g., synonyms but
remember idioms as something special?
Second, the use of questionnaires assumes that subjects are being
honest. In a simple questionnaire I personally devised some years ago, I
required the subjects to write down the name of their dictionary without
looking at it. Surprisingly almost all of the subjects appeared to be able
to answer this question! Often a teacher administers the questionnaires,
which increases the risk that subjects will take it as an exam, and answer
what they think the teacher wants them to answer. Consequently, one
can understand Glynn Hatherall’s question: “Are subjects saying here
what they do, or what they think they do, or what they think they ought
to do, or indeed a mixture of all three?” (Quoted by Hartmann
1987:22)
In an overview, Battenburg (1991) lists 11 research projects
carried out between 1979 and 1990. Most of them consist exclusively of
questionnaires but a few have a test element. All of these studies come
to similar conclusions. First, learners prefer bilingual to monolingual
dictionaries. Second, they should be taught more dictionary skills.
Nuccorini’s research (1992) on dictionary use among students and
teachers is an example of how difficult the issue of survey reliability is.
Repeatedly she catches her subjects’ contradictions, concluding blandly
that teachers’ forms are much more reliable than students’ forms. If
researchers themselves have to pick out the “right” answers, then what
is the use of going through the trouble of devising a survey?
Questionnaires were the first indication of a changing relationship
between the lexicographers and their audience. Examined 20 years
later, the results of these first questionnaires seem obvious, even if they
were not so at the time. It would not be surprising if more recent
questionnaires only confirmed the conclusions of the first ones. One can
safely assume that this research method has by now yielded all its
possible results. Questionnaires only investigate what is and not what
should be or could be. The only practical conclusions to be drawn from
them are what dictionary features learners use (and should be
maintained), and what features they do not use (and should be
eliminated).
Since questionnaires depend heavily on what subjects consciously
know or think they know, it seems logical that controlled experiments, or
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
45
tests, would at some point take over.
3. Controlled Experiments
Bensoussan, Sim and Weiss (1984) carried out a pioneering experiment
on dictionary use. It dealt with the impact of bilingual and monolingual
dictionaries on reading comprehension through a multiple-choice EFL
reading test. Surprisingly, they detected no noticeable difference be-
tween the results of those students allowed to use a bilingual dictionary
and those working without any dictionary help.
In 1992, Batia Laufer tested the efficiency of corpus-based versus
lexicographer examples in the comprehension and production of new
words. Results indicated that the innovative ‘authentic examples’ as
used by Cobuild, did not improve learners’ performance.
Lexicographers’ examples appeared to be more efficient. In 1993, the
same researcher investigated ‘The effect of dictionary definitions and
examples on the use and comprehension of new L2 words.’ She started
from findings in first language research that showed that:
… children below puberty define words by describing and using them in sen-
tences, while the older ones (ages 10-14) tend to define words in abstract and
generic terms… These findings would suggest that it is the definition rather
than the example that is most beneficial to the average user of the monolin-
gual dictionary, since such dictionaries are most often used by adolescents
and adults. (p.133)
In her test, Laufer asked 43 first-year Hebrew university students
for the translation of 18 words. Some had the help of a definition, some
of an example, some of a definition in combination with an example.
The results were that for decoding, combined entries worked best, but
examples on their own seemed to be worse than just a definition. In
addition, “… the understanding of new words improves more when a
definition is added than when an example is added (…) in production,
unlike in comprehension, an example alone will be just as efficient as a
definition alone.” (Laufer, 1994:139)
Finally, in a research project I previously mentioned, Laufer and
Melamed (1994) compared the efficiency of monolingual, bilingual and
bilingualised dictionaries. Two groups of EFL learners totalling 123
subjects were tested on their decoding and encoding abilities, using 15
low frequency words. Although there were differences depending on the
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
46
activity, the overall conclusion was that bilingualised dictionaries were
the most effective.
4. Atkins and Varantola
Atkins and Varantola (1997) illustrate lexicographers’ attempts to de-
velop new measuring methods. Their aim was “to monitor the dictionary
look-up process in as natural a situation as possible (1997:2).” The re-
searchers asked 103 people (71 in Oxford and 32 in Tampere) to carry
out a translation task to and from their first language. For the 32 stu-
dents in Tampere this language was Finnish. In Oxford, the students
were of mixed linguistic origin, English being the first language for 38 of
them. Working in pairs, one of the subjects would use a dictionary and
the other one would write down what the first one did. The result of the
experiment was a written account of no less than 1.000 dictionary look-
ups.
The conclusions of the researchers were as follows: subjects prefer
bilingual to monolingual dictionaries; 90% of the look-ups are related to
encoding tasks; advanced students use the dictionary more than
beginners; in the case of translating into English as an L2, users first
look up the word in a bilingual dictionary and afterwards in a
monolingual one; finally, advanced learners were less easily satisfied
with their dictionary than beginners.
In spite of the test’s comprehensiveness and large number of
subjects, these results are not exactly surprising. Additionally, and as
the researchers themselves observe, one of the problems of this test was
that the evaluation of the success rate of the look-ups was entirely left to
the discretion of the subjects. They themselves had to decide whether
their use of the dictionary had given the expected results. It would have
been interesting to know this in a more objective way. It would also have
been interesting to know if the dictionaries had supplied the correct
information, and if the users had been able to retrieve it.
Without this knowledge it becomes difficult to agree with statements
like: ‘The fact that in 59% of the cases the dictionary users pronounced
themselves satisfied with the results of their search is encouraging’
(p.24). Moreover, Atkins and Varantola claim that ‘the failure rate of
40% (of the total number of look-ups) cannot be due only to some
inadequacy on the part of the dictionaries involved: inadequate
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
47
strategies and unrealistic expectations on the part of the user must also
contribute to this figure.’ (p.27) This gives the impression that the
authors were very committed to awarding dictionaries a 100%
satisfaction rate.
Another flaw of Atkins and Varantola’s test is that, although the
authors admit that ‘the situation will change when new dictionaries are
compiled for electronic access only,’ they do not take this into
consideration. When they respond to an alleged lack of information on
collocates they reply: ‘there is a physical limit to the amount of
information which a bilingual dictionary can contain.’(p.31) The truth is
that with present electronic storage capabilities, there is no limit, and
even if there were, collocations are such a vital piece of information that
it would be worthwhile to let other kinds of information out instead of
limiting the number of collocations. In reality, one knows that
collocations are not widely present in great numbers in dictionaries
because, first, there is no clear awareness of their importance for
learners and, second, they are extremely laborious to discover.
The main criticism one can make of this otherwise incredibly
interesting piece of work is its nearly exclusive use of quantitative data
analysis. The few qualitative analyses of specific look-ups are far more
appealing than the overall, massive, statistical conclusions.
8
The
accumulated material of Atkins and Varantola’s test should be a gold
mine for anyone tackling user needs through qualitative research
methods.
In conclusion, in the case of questionnaires, it is the learners, rather
than the dictionaries, who are being evaluated. Atkins et al. leave no
doubt about this when they state: “The purpose of this research project
is to discover how effective a learner the student of English as a foreign
learner is when working with a bilingual and/or monolingual dictionary”
(1987:29). Not surprisingly, questionnaires typically conclude that
learners do not make proper use of the tools at their disposal.
Accordingly, their authors frequently insist on the importance of
teaching ‘dictionary skills’ (Béjoint, 1981: passim; Nuccorini 1992,

8
On page 9, 10 and 11, the authors give an account of a number of look-ups that
could lead to exciting conclusions, and hints to improve the dictionaries used in the
experiment. However, they were probably considered too ‘small-scale’ to be worthy
of much attention.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
48
1994; Meara and Nesi: 1994).

However, to recommend the teaching of
dictionary skills always sounds a little like trying to adapt the user to the
washing machine instead of the opposite. In many cases, users are
undoubtedly unable to find the information in the dictionary when it is
there. In a great many cases, however, the information is not there or
lays buried under loads of unwanted information. As Rundell puts it: “A
more realistic strategy is to aim for dictionaries whose structure is so
transparent that students do not need to learn how to use them, and
whose content is presented in such straightforward terms that users will
have no difficulty in grasping it.” (Rundell, (1999:48)
In the case of tests, unlike questionnaires, it is primarily the
dictionary which is being evaluated. It is therefore interesting and
encouraging that over the course of time emphasis has shifted from
questionnaires to tests. Tests tend to blame the dictionaries for the bad
results of the learners and question the dictionaries’ effectiveness. On
the other hand, these same tests often conclude that lexicographic
innovations, or even dictionaries tout-court, make little or no difference
(Bensoussan et al., 1984; Jain, 1981; Laufer, 1992, 1994; Nesi,
1996). Additionally, authors of tests are also convinced that dictionary
users are slightly naughty (Nuccorini, 1994), and apply the so-called
‘kidrule strategy,‘ looking only at the first sense they come across
(Meara and Nesi, 1994).
5. Hilary Nesi’s Research on Examples
I believe Hilary Nesi’s research on examples shows the limits of the
natural sciences method as applied to dictionary research while, at the
same time, pointing out a new way of tackling the problem. In 1996,
Nesi (1996
b
) published an article in which she gave an account of an
experiment she carried out with forty EFL learners to discover to what
extent dictionary examples were helping them to produce sentences
featuring words previously unknown to them.
Two versions of the test were prepared, using entries taken from the second
version of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE). In each
version, example sentences and phrases for half the target words were re-
moved. In version A examples for the first nine target words were removed,
but examples for the last nine words were retained. In version B examples for
the first nine target words were retained, but for the last nine words were re-
moved.’ (No page number, electronic version.)
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
49
The results of the test were surprising, not in the least for the re-
searcher herself. Indeed,
No significant difference in appropriacy was found between language pro-
duced with access to examples, and that produced without access to exam-
ples. (…) These results are important because they seem to challenge lexicog-
raphers’ beliefs regarding the value of examples. (Ibid.)
The fact is that these results challenge the beliefs of anyone who
ever studied a foreign language, and invite us to have a critical look at
the method used in this experiment. At several stages of her research,
Nesi had to make choices, involving opinions and a particular under-
standing of the facts. The first choice concerned the subjects. Was it
possible to know what their knowledge was and if the sample was homo-
geneous? Although a specific test was carried out to have an idea of the
learners’ background in terms of previous vocabulary knowledge, this
knowledge is only measurable in terms of number of words, and not in
terms of the more general awareness that supports the lexical knowl-
edge. Surely, to know what ‘shot’ means is a different kind of knowledge
for a medical student than for a drug addict or a police man. Further-
more, it is difficult to know what a particular dictionary example means
for each of the test students in particular. Let us take the sentence se-
lected in the LDOCE to illustrate perpetrate: ‘It was the managing direc-
tor who perpetrated that frightful statue in the reception area.’ (The re-
searcher herself has doubts on the appropriacy of this example.) West-
ern learners of a certain age and experience will have no difficulty in
identifying the irony in this example and it may even have some use for
them. For other learners, however, this example is meaningless. This is
an extreme case, but it is difficult to say what happened with any of the
test examples in the heads of the subjects. Consequently, it is difficult to
say what was the impact on their learning.
Secondly, another choice which Nesi had to make was the selection
of the words the subjects would be asked to use in their sentences. It
eventually became: enlighten, err, gravity, incorporate, intersect, perpe-
trate, retard, rudimentary, symptom, version, agitate, civic, clarify, collide,
compute, controversy, interact and interlude. Inadvertently
9
, all of the 18

9
This may have been because English native speakers tend to find words of Latin
origin more difficult than others. I think most foreigners would disagree with this.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
50
words are of Latin origin. First, this means these are all words that are
typical of a particular kind of discourse (written, intellectual, non-
fiction). Second, in my experience for Western and non-Western learn-
ers alike Latin words of this kind are easier to learn than Anglo-Saxon
words, for reasons I can only guess at. If, apart from that, the subjects
had themselves a Neo-Latin background, a circumstance not revealed in
the article, to grasp the meaning of these words would be an utterly
simple task. Along the same line of thought, we could even consider the
difference in impact of examples on learners coming from different lan-
guage families: agglutinative, analytic, incorporating, or inflectional. The
variables are countless.
With regards to tests, there are apparently two possibilities. In one
case, researchers have a precise idea of what they want to prove and
they devise their tests accordingly. The results are then what was ex-
pected. In another case, they sincerely want to understand the process
and they devise the test in a random way as to be sure they are not
prejudiced and forecasting the results. In this case, however, the results
often contradict common sense. Not everyone recognises this as clearly
as Nesi:
Further investigations of the value of examples in learner’s dictionary entries
will need to develop a more sensitive method of measuring almost impercep-
tible developments in word knowledge resulting from dictionary consultation.
(…) Qualitative rather than quantitative methods may prove more appropri-
ate… (1996: no page, electronic version.)
It was this last reference to qualitative instead of quantitative re-
search which seemed to me of the utmost interest, hopefully marking a
turning point in lexicographic research.
2. DICTIONARIES AND COMPUTERS
Nesi wrote an account of three electronic learner’s dictionaries, The
Longman Interactive Dictionary (1993), The Electronic Oxford Word-
power Dictionary (1994) and Collins Cobuild on CD-ROM (1995). She
claims the following are the ‘areas in which electronic dictionaries can
excel’:
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
51
They can cross-reference within and between sources published separately in
book form, they can provide direct links to other computer applications, they
can enable ‘fuzzy’ and complex searches, and they can interact with users to
help develop vocabulary and dictionary skills. (No page number, electronic
version.)
Until now electronic dictionaries have exploited only a few of these
possibilities and, as Sue Atkins states, existing dictionaries ‘may even
come to you on a CD-ROM rather than in book form, but underneath
these superficial modernisations lurks the same old dictionary.’ (Atkins,
1996:515)
A research project by Atkins (1996) is one of the few that take
computers into account. She claims that technological advances have
made it possible to meet the needs of foreign language learners much
better than before and that, although electronic dictionaries have been
published in a number of languages, the computer’s potentialities have
hardly been exploited. Atkins sums up the most important features that
an electronic dictionary could have:
- hypertext functionality eliminating linear text restrictions and opening the
way to new types of information by offering new ways of presenting it;
- no space constraints other than the need to avoid swamping the user;
- no distortion of the source language description by the needs of the target
language;
- flexible compiling liberated from alphabetical order;
- alternative ways of presenting the information, as for example graphics;
- rapid access to large amounts of lexicographical evidence in corpora;
- large scale user customisation. (1996:527)
The scope of Atkins’ research is limited to bilingual dictionaries,
however, and she sums up a few of their defects which could be reme-
died in electronic versions. She mentions, for instance, the high level of
redundancy which makes bilingual dictionaries cumbersome to use for
decoding. Apart from that, she claims, these dictionaries show gaps in
the coverage of neologisms and polysemous words. Additionally, there is
at times distortion of the source language part, because of the target
language: particular senses of a word are grouped only because they
happen to be translated by the same word. Finally, current bilingual
dictionaries lack information on collocations and synonyms. These de-
fects, Atkins claims, can be corrected by means of a ‘multilingual hy-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
52
pertext lexical resource’ using databases in several languages. In this
‘resource,’
the monolingual databases are real;
links (including metalanguage and instructions) between database items are
real;
the dictionaries themselves are virtual. (p. 531)
Atkins admits there are practical and commercial obstacles to this
project
10
. In my opinion, it has a few other flaws as well.
First, I am not sure if this new model, instead of starting from the
needs of the dictionary user, does not start from the bilingual dictionary
as it is today. If so, this prevents the lexicographers from tackling the
problem at its root and building up the solution from there. Addition-
ally, I am not sure if Fillmore’s ‘frame theory,’ the semantic theory used
to design Atkins’ electronic dictionary, did not put a burden on the dic-
tionary right from the start. It is essential to have a theoretical under-
standing of the area one is dealing with. However, to let this theory be
the guiding principle for compiling a dictionary is a different thing. This
is my conclusion after looking at the model entry crawl on the diction-
ary’s homepage. It is of great linguistic interest and shows clearly how
the word relates to others. However, does the mind of the intended user
operate this way?
Another criticism I have of Atkins’ plan is that she limits her pro-
posals to bilingual dictionaries, yet there is no technical reason for
maintaining the boundaries between different lexicographic genres
(monolingual, bilingual, thesaurus, synonyms, etymology, etc.) when
computers are involved. Should the integration of various lexicographic
genres into one not be one of the starting points of a new electronic dic-
tionary? This does not mean putting all the different dictionaries on one
CD-ROM, but integrating them into a single tool. As Atkins herself es-
tablished in her survey (Atkins and Varantola, 1996), encoders use sev-
eral dictionaries to obtain a single piece of information.
A new electronic dictionary should take advantage of the almost
unlimited capacities of electronic storage and put to use all the different

10 Atkins’ model is complex and ambitious and she doubts if an editor will take the
risk to compile it. The sample on the web site, however, still looks like a traditional
dictionary (http:// www. linguistics. berkeley.edu/hyperdico/).
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
53
kinds of lexicographic and encyclopaedic knowledge accumulated over
the centuries. From an electronic point of view, several sources of in-
formation can be available at the same time. It is possible to match the
different parts of a dictionary, indeed of several dictionaries, with the
different steps of a learner’s query, merging a number of search utilities
regardless of what they were originally designed for. Some of this mate-
rial will be ready for immediate incorporation into some new structure;
other elements will have to be adapted.
3. THE NEED FOR A NEW KIND OF RESEARCH
There are two direct routes to more effective dictionary
use: the first is to radically improve the dictionary; the
second is to radically improve the users. If we are to do
either of these things – and obviously we should try to
do both – the sine qua non of any action is a very de-
tailed knowledge of how people use dictionaries at pre-
sent. (Atkins and Varantola, 1997:1)
Over the last 30 years or so, lexicographers have been studying in-
tensely the lack of correspondence between dictionaries and their users.
The problem has been tackled in several ways, the main one being
questionnaires and tests. These have by now brought forth all the infor-
mation they could possibly produce. At the same time, technological in-
novations make it feasible to disregard any restrictions caused by lexi-
cography’s traditional hindrances: lack of space and linear ordering.
Methods such as questionnaires make an epistemological leap from
behaviour to needs. If a survey concludes that spelling is why learners
use a dictionary most frequently, this does not mean dictionaries should
specialise in spelling, nor that it is the learners’ most urgent need.
Questionnaires always work within the realm of what is possible. Needs
exceed this realm and point to what is not yet existent. Paradoxically, in
the history of mankind, solutions often have preceded problems and the
software industry of the last few years –as the invention of printing– has
clearly demonstrated this. In the case of questionnaires and tests, one
investigates what is apparent. When not predictable, the results are of-
ten doubtful. Investigating the link between needs and habits is useful
only to find out how learners at present tackle the problems which cur-
rent dictionaries are expected to solve. They reveal what the needs are
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
54
to the extent that they are soluble by already existing means.
If we succeed in using computers adequately for lexicographic pur-
poses this will render obsolete a large number of research publications
on grammar codes, phonetic alphabet, number of examples, the need
for synonyms, the need for encyclopaedic information, the place where
learners look up multi-word items, classification of fixed expressions,
and others. If qualitative research results fed this technology, a blueprint
could be drawn up and give rise to a major revolution in the world of
lexicography.
In the following chapter, I give an idea of how qualitative research
can be carried out. It is rather labour intensive, but it gives a clear over-
view of the issues under investigation. I chose examples as the topic of
this research since I think they are one of the most important and least
studied elements of foreign language lexicography.
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
55
CHAPTER 3
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE
LEXICOGRAPHY
1. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
1. The Research on Examples
Before Cobuild started using its corpus to retrieve dictionary examples
in 1987, little had been published on the subject. Up to then, the prob-
lem of examples had been virtually ignored and it was presumably con-
sidered minor when compared to topics such as the “definition of
meaning,” or “translational equivalents.” Choosing an example to illus-
trate the meaning of an item for decoding is probably not as difficult as
choosing one to show how an item can be used productively. In addi-
tion, since until recently dictionaries were primarily used to understand
texts, not to produce them, not much effort had been spent on this
question. Traditionally, the lexicographer makes up the examples. In
native speaker’s dictionaries, their length is kept to a minimum. In
learner’s dictionaries, they are linked very closely to semantically re-
lated items. The native option gives examples like ‘The sale drew large
crowds.’ (draw in the Random House Webster’s), the learner’s option
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
56
‘She hammered the nail into the wall.’ (hammer in the Oxford Word-
power).
In both cases, the user is offered an example of how the item can
be used, without much information about how it should be used. This
concern became important only when dictionaries started helping
learners to produce in a foreign language. Cobuild first gave encoding
learners authentic examples that were thought to be more adapted to
encoding needs. Whether this option was the most sensible one will be
discussed later in this chapter, but Cobuild deserves credit for putting
examples at the forefront.
Since I have discussed a number of articles published on the
subject in Chapter 2, I will limit this overview to a few highlights. In
1992, Ahmad, Fulford and Rogers published an article titled ‘The
elaboration of special language terms: the role of contextual examples,
representative samples and normative requirements.’ Apart from the
results of a questionnaire conducted among lexicographers on the
perceived function of examples, which will be discussed below, the
authors mention a series of criteria they claim should inform the choice
of examples. Although the area of Ahmad, Fulford and Rogers is
specifically terminology, these criteria are worth quoting:
a. Avoid examples containing pronouns referring outside the example
b. Avoid examples containing more than two other technical terms
c. Avoid examples with a complex structure
d. Avoid examples which are long
e. Favour examples which are a complete sentence
f. Favour examples where the term appears early on rather than late (Ahmad
et al., 1992:146)
Also mentioned in this article are the criteria which lexicographers
themselves felt to be important for the choice of examples: ‘typicality;
naturalness; length; usefulness of syntactic information provided by the
example; semantic complexity of the example.’ (142) The fact that in
the lexicographers’ answers no reference was made to the distinction
encoding/decoding indicates that, at the time, the issue was not a
priority.
In 1993, Batia Laufer conducted an experiment at the University of
Haifa on ‘The effect of dictionary definitions and examples on the use
and comprehension of new L2 words.’ As was mentioned before, Laufer
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
57
found that for encoding purposes, combined entries were better than a
definition alone and a definition alone was better than an example
alone. For decoding purposes also, combined entries were better than a
definition or an example alone. When used separately, definitions and
examples were equally efficient. (Laufer, 1993:140) I already pointed
out my reservations regarding this kind of research, but the results are
worth considering.
Since access to both a definition and an example increases the net
amount of information, it should not be surprising that learners who had
access to combined entries had the best results. Yet, it is contrary to my
personal experience that in the case of encoding a definition alone is
better than an example alone. Maybe the subjects were still unsure as to
the meaning of the item. Less astonishing, but worth keeping in mind, is
the fact that in the case of decoding, an example would be just as
efficient as a definition.
An internal Cobuild paper (Harvey and Yuill, 1992) contradicts
Laufer‘s conclusions, at least to a certain extent. This research was
based on an ‘introspective’ questionnaire given to 211 informants after
a production test. Since Cobuild commissioned the project, a great deal
of attention was given to examples. Harvey and Yuill conclude that
learners prefer to turn to the examples rather than to the definition in
order to work out the meaning of a word (Harvey K. and Yuill D.,
1992:20). This leaves us wondering whether the examples are
particularly suited to explain meaning, or whether definitions are
particularly bad at it. Here too, the research team acknowledges defects
inherent in the research method. Indeed, some subjects reported that
they found a particular piece of information in places where this
information had not been provided! (p.10) Not surprisingly, given who
commissioned the research, Harvey and Yuill defend the use of
authentic examples, a view questioned by Laufer.
In Hong Kong, Amy Chi and Stella Yeung (1996) carried out a
survey in which they reached the same conclusions as Harvey and Yuill.
Learners said they preferred to use the examples in an entry to
understand the meaning of a word.
In the case of using dictionaries for examples, 64% of the students
said they had been taught in class how to use example(s) of a given word
for reference in their own writing (Q.18) when in fact, examples came
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
58
fourth in the ranking we set for Q.14. Moreover, when students were
asked ‘How do you usually decide which one best explains your words?’
(Q.16) (Appendix VIII), over half of the students said they would use
the example(s) given to decide which explanation is most appropriate.
(No page number, electronic version.)
Since this survey consisted of a questionnaire, I think the results
should be treated with some caution. However, these findings coincide
with one’s own experience. Since the mind is lazier than the body, one
can expect a learner to prefer a concrete example to a definition which
is always a micro exercise in philosophy.
In Chapter 2, I discussed Nesi’s research on examples in the
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE). The results of
this experiment show how little examples have been examined and how
surprising the results can be when they are. One could question the
overall validity of the results of Nesi’s experiment, and she herself points
out some of its possible flaws. However, I tend to agree with her when
she claims that:
The number of example sentences provided by LDOCE for each target word
ranged from none (for compute) to five (for version), but, surprisingly, no ap-
parent policy seems to account for this variation. (No page number, electronic
version.)
According to my own research, this apparent lack of policy is
widespread and not simply a LDOCE characteristic.
2. Types of Examples
Several different types of utterances are traditionally considered appro-
priate dictionary examples. Hausmann (1979) comes up with definitions
for these types, distinguishing free associations, collocations, and fixed
expressions. I would reformulate his distinction in terms of Sinclair’s
theories (1991: Chapter 8, throughout) and subdivide examples into
those that abide by the open-choice principle, idioms, and fixed expres-
sions
11
. I will illustrate this briefly be means of a few examples taken
from the entry for road in the Collins Spanish Dictionary.
The open-choice principle. An example such as the road to Teruel

11
The terminology of this chapter is explained in the Glossary at the end of the book.
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
59
shows the target word road used in its core meaning: ‘the most frequent
independent sense’ (Sinclair 1991:113). On each side of road a number
of lexical items can be filled in: the road to Teruel goes that way, it would
be better to find the road to Teruel, there must be a road to Teruel, etc.
There are evidently limitations as to what kind of words can abut the
target word (on, at, from, up, into, down, off, along, across, to name only
the prepositions), but it is still a large list.
The idiom principle. The example to get a show on the road, listed
under road in the Collins Spanish Dictionary, illustrates the difficulties
surrounding idioms. Though undoubtedly a cautious lexicographer, the
person in charge of the entry road took a few liberties with to get a show
on the road. According to the Cobuild corpus, one can only get this show
on the road or get the show on the road or get someone’s show on the
road. Given these few possibilities, to get a show on the road qualifies for
the title of idiom. Get a show on the road, as Collins Spanish claims,
does not seem to be acceptable. Idioms are more flexible than fixed
expressions, but their possibilities of variation are restricted. In the
words of John Sinclair:
The individual words which constitute idioms are not reliably meaningful in
themselves, because the whole idiom is required to produce the meaning. Idi-
oms overlap with collocations, because they both involve the selection of two
or more words. At present, the line between them is not clear. In principle,
we call co-occurrences idioms if we interpret the co-occurrence as giving a
single unit of meaning. If we interpret the occurrence as the selection of two
related words, each of which keeps some meaning of its own, we call it a col-
location. (Website ‘Corpus linguistics,’ http:// clg1.bham.ac.uk/ glossary.html)
As Sinclair convincingly states, people speak and write mainly by
combining chunks of language, not words. In an idiom, a word acquires
a new meaning, apart from when it is used independently. Therefore,
the meaning which people intuitively give to a word is a criterion for
distinguishing parts of text created on the basis of the open-choice
principle and parts created on the idiom-principle. When a word in a text
cannot be taken in its core meaning, then it is part of an idiom
12
.

12
Verbal artists choose words, rarely chunks of words, while ordinary people do not
usually speak in words, but in chunks. The Brazilian translator and critic Boris
Schnaiderman told me that Nabokov was considered a fairly traditional writer in
Russia, contrary to what people thought of him in the West. When writing in Eng-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
60
Fixed expressions. Fixed expressions are a more familiar concept.
They are traditionally stored in the examples section of a dictionary
entry, even when they do not allow for variation. In the case of one for
the road, there is less possibility for variation than in the case of idioms.
Fixed expressions do not allow any creativity on behalf of the speaker.
Furthermore, their meaning cannot be deduced from the sum of the
elements. In one for the road, one cannot be normally replaced by two or
any other number, unless jokingly, nor can one speak of one ‘on’ the
road or one ‘off’ the road. The essential difference between idioms and
fixed expressions is the possibility or not of altering the order of the
elements or squeezing an element in between.
In conclusion, the different kinds of examples can be put on a cline with
the road to Teruel on one side, one for the road on the other and the id-
iom get the show on the road in between. The closer the item is to a fixed
expression, the less its overall meaning can be deduced from the sum of
the meaning of its separate elements. Fixed expressions and idioms are,
to a variable extent, chosen by the speaker as wholes; they are chunks
acting as large single words.
I define examples in the strict sense of the word as all utterances
that do not show the target word in a fixed environment. In the case of
road this is exemplified by the main road is very busy at times or you
must take compulsory basic training before you are allowed to ride on the
road (taken from The Bank of English). They show the application of the
rule by which the word road is governed in contexts in which it does not
depend on other words to convey its meaning.
On the other hand, examples such as one for the road are entities in
their own right. This sentence can be regarded as a single choice to
which firstly apply the rules for ‘one for the road,’ and only afterwards
the ones for ‘road.’ The kind of example users are interested in depends
on the activity they are pursuing. For decoding, fixed expressions and, to
a lesser degree, idioms are extremely useful. For encoding, examples
that show the constraints on the word in an open-choice environment are
more useful. (I will come back to this in Chapter 4.)

lish, since his command of English was not perfect, Nabokov was thinking in
words. This was his guarantee of originality. Likewise, when Mallarmé said: ‘Mais,
Degas, ce n’est point avec des idées que l’on fait des vers. C’est avec des mots,’ he
unknowingly referred to the idiom principle.
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
61
3. The Function of Examples
For all the doubtfulness of their methodology, surveys show that in the
case of learner’s dictionaries, users see the function of examples as an
aid to working out the meaning of a hard word. They prefer to read the
examples instead of trying to decipher the definition (Chi, 1996; Harvey
K. and Yuill D., 1992:20). This is interesting, because even if fleshing
out the definition may reasonably be regarded as one of the examples’
functions, it remains surprising that learners prefer to use them instead
of the definitions. This is surely something dictionary compilers do not
have in mind when they write a dictionary. Drysdale (1987:215) sums
up what he sees as the functions of examples as follows:
1. To supplement the information in a definition.
2. To show the entry word in context.
3. To distinguish one meaning from another.
4. To illustrate grammatical patterns.
5. To show other typical collocations.
6. To indicate appropriate registers or stylistic levels.
It is true that these criteria are rather vague. One might fail to see
how to ‘show the entry word in context’ would not be some sort of
superordinate for all the other features. Similarly, there does not seem
to be much of a difference between ‘to supplement the information in a
definition’ and ‘to distinguish one meaning from another.’ In 1992,
however, these criteria still agreed with those of the lexicographers
themselves. In the previously mentioned survey by Ahmad, K. et al.
(1992), lexicographers declared that examples were ‘to enable the user
to distinguish between senses; to provide usage evidence; to show
typical collocations; to amplify and clarify definitions; to show typical
use of words.’ (1992:142) I have not found much more precise
information on what purpose examples are supposed to serve. Not much
research has been done on them and I know of no study on what
requirements they should fulfil depending on what activity they are
involved in.
4. Examples for Decoding and Examples for Encoding
For the problem at hand – the choice of examples, – the distinction
between encoding and decoding is of great importance. A decoding
learner is interested in the meaning of a lexical item, whereas an encod-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
62
ing learner is interested in a word’s syntactic features and collocates.
How can one example satisfy these divergent needs, how can one exam-
ple serve such different types of users? This question had not been
properly addressed until recently. Examples were chosen to satisfy na-
tive and non-native speakers involved in both encoding and decoding,
with a clear emphasis on the latter. Even in the more advanced and
clearly encoding Longman Language Activator, no special policy for
choosing examples for encoding is perceptible. It is no surprise that
around 40 years after Hornby’s invention of the learner’s dictionary,
some people were still complaining that the made-up examples in
learner’s dictionaries were part of the definitions and that the main pur-
pose of examples was to ‘clarify the explanations’ (Sinclair in Cobuild I,
1987:XV).
2. EXAMPLES IN LEARNER’S DICTIONARIES. THE
PROBLEM OF COLLOCATION AND SYNTAX.
In order to see what logic underlies the choice of examples in learner’s
dictionaries, I examined the entries for road in Collins Cobuild English
Language Dictionary 1 (1987) and 2 (1995), Longman Dictionary of
Contemporary English (1995), Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of
Current English (1989) and Oxford Wordpower (1993)
13
. I chose road
simply because, since it is a very frequent word, a wealth of examples
are listed under this entry. Overall, all five dictionaries follow roughly
the same pattern. Cobuild has more and longer examples. Cobuild and
Longman tend to give full sentences, whereas the OALD gives only short
strings of words. Oxford Wordpower has both long and short examples.
The OALD has a higher percentage of sayings and fixed expressions,
while Longman, Oxford Wordpower and Cobuild concentrate on non-
idiomatic uses. What is the classification of the examples in these dic-
tionaries?
1. Classification
In all five dictionaries, the classifying principle of the examples for the
entry road is meaning. All entries are subdivided according to the dif-

13
Appendix 1 lists all the examples.
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
63
ferent senses which road can have. Within this classification into senses,
there is precedence of the literal sense (i.e. piece of ground between two
places) over the figurative one (i.e. way or course). Fixed expressions –
not examples in the strict sense of the word – come at the end. The first
senses in the entry always have the greatest number of examples. Addi-
tionally, all dictionaries list more examples for literal senses than for
figurative ones. This appears to be a common rule.
Within this general classification, there are further minor
subdivisions. In Cobuild1’s third subdivision and Longman’s first, the
examples show a list of prepositions commonly used with the word road.
Apparently, within the classification based on meaning, a syntactic
organisation tacitly takes over. This suggests that there is a link between
a particular sense of road and these prepositions. This is not in
accordance with the truth. In other places the information contained in
the examples highlights some sort of syntactic particularity (‘If you get
onto the ring road you’ll avoid the town centre,’ Oxford Wordpower), a
collocate (‘a busy road,’ Longman), or a multi-word item (‘he was killed
in a road accident,’ Longman). It is impossible to avoid transmitting this
kind of information while conveying meaning, but there are differences
in emphasis. Any example transmits information on meaning, but not
every example transmits adequate syntactical or collocational
information.
I shall now look at the road examples from the point of view of their
use for a decoding and for an encoding learner, respectively. Personally,
I do not think that examples in a learner’s dictionary are the most
adequate decoding aids, but since learner’s dictionaries aim at helping
learners with both processes, and quite a few learners maintain they use
examples to work out the meaning, I will discuss both encoding and
decoding.
2. Decoding
The classification of examples that I described is one to which dictionary
users have become accustomed and which seems self-evident. Yet, I
question its worth. When decoding – reading – one is dealing with the
meaning of a lexical item. This is an easy task for a dictionary. The most
logical thing for a reader to do is to look up the hard word in a bilingual
dictionary and then let the context correct any inaccuracies. Yet, this is
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
64
not everybody’s standpoint. Supposing that learners should use learner’s
dictionaries to find out the meaning of a word, this could be done more
effectively if examples did not have to illustrate other features of the
lexical item (collocates, prepositions, etc.) apart from its meaning. These
features inevitably make the comprehension of the example more diffi-
cult since they make it more complex. When the example repeats the
definition, as Sinclair criticises, it clarifies the meaning of the word more
effectively, but it is necessarily unnatural. ‘She hammered the nail into
the wall’ can clarify the meaning of hammer and nail, but it remains
doubtful if it is a very natural sentence to say.
The first Cobuild2 example, There was very little traffic on the roads,
transmits the meaning of road efficiently since traffic situates the word in
a precise co-text and on limits the kind of words by which roads is
followed. In this sentence, few other words can replace roads, and since
no syntactic intricacies render the understanding of the example
difficult, it is possible to infer a more or less correct meaning from the
example. There are, of course, other problems which any lexicographer
will be hard-pressed to solve and which derive from the flaw in
conception common to all learner’s dictionaries: the fact that traffic is a
less frequent word than road. This problem is difficult to solve since few
words are easier than road. In this case, the intention was probably,
first, to locate road in an unequivocal traffic. As an illustration of the
meaning, this example is one of the best ones, but it also highlights the
problem in its entirety. It is difficult to transmit the meaning, particularly
of very frequent words, through an example. The best one can do is
attempt to not suggest a false meaning. Jain (1981) did some interesting
research on this point, showing that dictionary examples often induce
exactly this: the wrong meaning.
The rest of the examples in this entry, all clear, help to successfully
circumscribe the word. For comparison purposes, we can look at the
Cobuild I examples: There is an antique shop at the top of my road and
the quiet Edgbaston road where he had lived for some thirty years. In
both cases, if road were replaced by another word both these sentences
would still make sense. This does not mean that these examples are not
useful for other purposes, but they do not work for decoding.
In Longman, the example a busy road does not give any conclusive
information about the meaning of the word and the intention was
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
65
obviously to show a significant collocate. At the end of the road does give
information about the meaning and We live just down the road fulfils
both the conditions of conveying the meaning adequately by using more
frequent words than road, and transmitting a useful collocate (live just
down…). This example ought therefore to be placed first.
***
Examples play a role in the elucidation of a word’s meaning and this is a
declared intention of the dictionaries under investigation. If so, exam-
ples should be chosen with this goal in mind. If not, learners may re-
place the target word with a lexical item that has a roughly similar syn-
tactic behaviour, but that in reality means something different. The fol-
lowing Cobuild2 examples for play down are an illustration of this: West-
ern diplomats have played down the significance of the reports. He plays
down rumours that he aims to become a Labour MP. Both London and
Dublin are playing the matter down. In these sentences, play down can
be replaced by take interest in, or reject, or some other verb. This means
that while a learner would surely extract a meaning from these exam-
ples, it could well be the wrong meaning.
I am not aware of any research claiming that learners get more
information from a dictionary definition than from a translation
combined with the context in which the word was found. I think that for
decoding purposes, bilingual dictionaries would be more suited if they
had the same coverage as monolingual dictionaries. Since this is not the
case, learners dealing with a more specialised kind of vocabulary will
necessarily have to use a monolingual dictionary. Moreover, given
current practices, and with teachers advising their students to use
monolingual dictionaries instead of bilingual ones, the meaning
transmitted by examples continues to be crucial. Either learners have to
be advised to switch to bilingual dictionaries again, or lexicographers
should consider this point and choose examples which transmit the
meaning of a word unequivocally. Because of the very nature of
language, I am aware of the fact that this is an extremely difficult task.
3. Encoding
An encoding learner needs much more information than a decoding
learner and the information is of a different nature. When encoding
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
66
learners look up a word they already know its meaning to some extent.
They may want to confirm this meaning, but their main interest is usage,
a combination of syntax and collocation. This kind of information can be
transmitted directly or indirectly: directly, by means of grammar formu-
las and lists of collocates, or indirectly by means of examples. Examples
are the way in which learners expect to find this kind of information in
the dictionary. Particularly in the case of grammar, an example is more
significant than the cryptic rules we find in current dictionaries. How-
ever, the classification of examples is anything but adapted to queries
about usage.
In the unlikely case that learners look up road for decoding
purposes in a monolingual dictionary and understand the meaning of the
word by reading the definition ‘way between places’ (OALD) they will
not bother to see their view confirmed by the examples the road to
Bristol/Bristol road (OALD) or There was very little traffic on the roads
(Cobuild). These examples are aimed at encoding users who would like
to know if one can say, for instance, Bristol road as well as the road to
Bristol. However, as we saw in the previous section, encoding
information has been classified entirely according to decoding needs,
making it tiresome for encoding users to retrieve it. This can be seen in
the first subdivision of the Longman entry, which deals with the main
literal sense of road.
1. a busy road
2. at the end of the road
3. We live just down the road.
4. It takes three hours by road.
5. Take the main road out of town and turn left at the first light.
6. He was killed in a road accident.
7. Kids of that age have no road sense.
8. A road safety campaign.
Fig. 1 Examples for road in Longman.
The entry was obviously compiled in a very orderly fashion. The first
example gives us a collocate that can help to understand the word’s
meaning, allowing for the fact that busy is a less frequent word than
road. Examples 2, 3 and 4 give syntactic information on prepositions,
less likely to be known by the learner. Example 5 gives the learner a
collocate (main), and 6, 7 and 8 show collocates which amount to multi-
word items. Who benefits from these examples? I am not sure if encod-
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
67
ers will benefit from the syntactic information. At most, encoding learn-
ers will see their assumptions confirmed and their doubts dispelled.
They can suspect that one can say ‘just down the road’ and, indeed,
find the phrase in the dictionary. Yet, since the list is anything but com-
prehensive, this will seldom be more than a happy coincidence.
The multi-word items, on the other hand, are intended for encoders
and not for decoders, since there is no explanation of what they mean.
Perhaps the lexicographers thought that the multi-word items’ meaning
could be derived from the meaning of the individual words which
comprise them, but that would be a miscalculation. Road sense is
especially difficult to grasp.
What then is the purpose of these multi-word items? It can only be to
show that they exist. If encoders have to translate uma campanha pela
segurança no trânsito
14
, they will rightly suspect that a road safety cam-
paign is the right translation. Unfortunately, the entry does not present a
comprehensive list and one can ask why the authors picked out this par-
ticular item. The criterion could be frequency, but it remains difficult to
deduce from this list of multi-word items what was the real selection
policy.
The following are the examples for the first literal sense of road in
Oxford Wordpower:
1. Is this the right road to Beckley?
2. Take the London road and turn right at the first roundabout.
3. Turn left off the main (= big, important) road.
4. major/minor roads
5. If you get onto the ring road you’ll avoid the town centre.
6. road signs
7. a road junction.
Fig. 2 Examples for the first literal sense of road in Oxford Wordpower.
These examples all illustrate, inevitably, some meaning of the word
road, but do they do anything else? The first three examples all refer to
the same activity: showing the way. They are probably useful, although
one would expect them to be part of a dialogue in a course book, rather
than examples in a dictionary. The examples show a few significant ba-
sic collocates: ‘right,’ ‘take,’ ‘main.’ The latter is explained between
brackets (=big, important) yet the learner is left without any help as re-

14
a road safety campaign
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
68
gards the phrase ‘turn left off.’ Example 4 gives collocational informa-
tion useful for encoding in the likely case that dictionary users recognise
major/minor roads as the item they were looking for. Examples 5, 6, and
7 seem intended to show a few multi-word items with road in them. One
would tend to classify this as decoding information, but as before there
is no indication as to what these multi-word items mean.
If one examines the authentic language examples in Cobuild2, one
sees that the policy for the choice of examples is not fundamentally
different. Yet, the Cobuild authors boast that their choice of examples
reflects their corpus. The following is the first section of the entry,
illustrating the literal meaning of road:
1. There was very little traffic on the roads.
2. We just go straight up the Bristol Road.
3. He was coming down the road the same time as the girl was turning into the
lane.
4. Buses carry 30 per cent of those travelling by road.
5. You mustn’t lay all the blame for road accidents on young people.
Fig. 3 Examples illustrating the literal meaning of road in Cobuild2.
These five examples show the most common preposition for road – on –
and three significant collocates: ‘go straight up,’ ‘come down’ and
‘travel by.’
Especially for encoding learners, the possibility of quickly recognising
sought out information is fundamental. Yet, in most dictionaries this in-
formation is scattered all over the sometimes very long entries. In the
Cobuild entry for road this task has been made easier because there is
only one section dedicated to the literal use of the word, and the exam-
ples are all grouped. It is, however, strange to find the multi-word item
‘road accident’ in this same location. The reasoning must have been that
an accident takes place on a ‘literal’ road.
***
As things stand now, it would be better for learner’s dictionaries to focus
on helping learners with encoding and not decoding. Strictly speaking,
decoding learners do not need examples. A good bilingual dictionary
solves their problems. If they currently consult examples for information
on meaning, this might indicate the doubtful usefulness of definitions; it
does not prove that examples are the best way to understand what a
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
69
word means. A definition is necessarily more abstract than an example
and it has to be fleshed out with nouns and verbs to become under-
standable.
The consequence of a classification which attempts to fulfil the
needs of both decoding and encoding audiences is that neither of them
will easily find what they are looking for. Decoding learners do not
always find examples that clarify the meaning, and the sequence of the
examples does not take into consideration the needs of encoding
learners. The latter do not always find a sufficient amount of collocates
or syntactic information and have to wade through information unsuited
to their needs.
4. Requirements for examples
In 1981, Béjoint claimed: ‘the best dictionary of encoding is one that
provides the most detailed guidance on syntax and collocates.’ (Béjoint:
1981:210) Next, I will analyse to what extent four learner’s dictionaries,
the Cambridge International Dictionary of English, Cobuild I and 2, and
the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, deal with this issue.
Syntax
Strictly speaking, the difficulty involved in using a lexical item in a for-
eign language, and consequently the number of examples needed, is
proportional to the difference that exists between this word’s behaviour
and that of its equivalent(s) in the learners’ L1. Spanish gustar is a case
in point. English-speaking students may experience difficulties using
gustar, a pronominal verb which makes the item one likes become the
subject of the verb (I like books/me gustan los libros). These same stu-
dents have few problems using its antonym detestar, because here the
syntactic construction is the same as in English (I hate books/detesto los
libros). Brazilian students have the same difficulties with gustar as British
ones, for the same reason.
It is not the task of dictionaries to teach grammar in a comprehen-
sive way, but the dictionary is the place where learners look for infor-
mation on particular grammar items such as syntactic constraints.
Grammar rules in dictionaries should therefore be both general and
specific. They should be general because there are difficulties common
to all nouns, verbs, adverbs, etc.; they should be specific because every
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
70
word has its own syntactic particularities when compared to its equiva-
lent(s) in another language. In order to choose truly useful examples,
dictionaries should ideally pay attention to the specific problems arising
from the contrasting of two languages: the language it is supposed to
elucidate and the language of the audience. Speakers of different lan-
guages have each different problems and need different examples. In a
Spanish-English dictionary, English speakers need a large number of
examples showing the use of ser and estar, of gustar and so on. Yet, in
terms of learner’s dictionaries, only Cambridge makes a modest use of
contrastive information for a number of words identified as false friends.
Since dictionaries do not usually give discursive information about
syntax, there are two ways of conveying this: codes and examples. Al-
though the first method, as used in Cobuild’s ‘extra column,’ is more di-
rect and saves space, it might not be as effective as to put in more ex-
amples. The information in the ‘extra column’ repeats the information
given in the examples under the form of codes, but this is neither very
clear nor attractive to the common user. The information a learner
needs may be more readily supplied by a series of examples rather than
by an abstract and abbreviated rule. In addition, a syntactic construc-
tion is rarely neutral with regard to collocations. If the number of possi-
ble collocates is small, it should be easy to list them all. The list of collo-
cates would then also give the list of possible syntactic constructions. If
they are too numerous, an appropriate grouping will reveal the regulari-
ties.
In what follows, I analyse the case of take a stand and indulge from
the viewpoint of syntactic information and as conveyed through exam-
ples in a learner’s dictionary.
Take a stand
To take a stand is a frequent but difficult expression. It can be used on
its own; with different prepositions (on, against, for); or followed by a
number of adverbial phrases. Most dictionaries do not give any indica-
tion of these uses. When they do, as in the Cobuild Dictionary on CD-
ROM based on Cobuild1, they mention rather enigmatic formulas such
as PHR: VB. – INFLECTS. A look at the Cobuild Collocations CD
yields a wealth of examples displaying a variety of syntactic structures
for take a stand. They even show secondary syntactic information, such
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
71
as the fact that the infinitive form is by far the most common one, and
that against – and not on, as other dictionaries suggest – is the most
frequent preposition. The following table shows examples retrieved from
the Cobuild Collocations CD.
it’s time to take a stand
on the movement to take a resolute stand against Iraq
felt it was important to take a stand against Souter
Law Lords yesterday failed to take a stand against that moral decline
by failing to take a strong stand against the students
to take such a stand attacks the credibility of the FASB
Joanna decided to take a stand herself
believe that he will take a tougher stand in negotiations with the Chinese
I wouldn’t expect him to take a stand like that against Jews or blacks
government finally decided to take a stand not because it believed
to take a more principled stand
the group insisted he take a stand to overturn Amendment 2
doesn’t know whether to take a stand
Fig. 4 Examples for take a stand retrieved from the Cobuild Collocations CD
The examples above were not carefully chosen. They were me-
chanically retrieved from a corpus and listed in a random fashion. Still,
the information they provide is much richer than the dictionary entry. It
is also much more accessible to the learner than an abstract rule or,
even worse, its abbreviated form. When using a corpus, learners are
able to retrieve, and sort at their leisure, a large number of examples.
This makes the use of grammar rules superfluous altogether. It also
guarantees learners to reach information of which the lexicographer is
often not even aware.
Indulge
Indulge is another illustration of the problem of conveying syntactic in-
formation. It has at least two possible constructions and, in none of the
languages with which I am familiar, it can be translated by a single verb
with the same syntactic particularities as in English. Consequently, from
the moment one is sure that indulge is the right word to use, one has to
start the struggle to get the syntax right. A French speaking learner
could be fairly sure that indulge is the verb which best translates
s’adonner à, taking into account the possible pragmatic implications such
as the pejorative connotation of the word, irony and slight formality. Still
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
72
one can have doubts about how to use this verb with such a difficult
syntactic pattern. Is it indulge in or indulge with or by? Is it indulge one-
self in or indulge oneself without any preposition? To what extent do ex-
amples help the learner with this dilemma? These are the Cobuild2 ex-
amples for indulge:
Only rarely will she indulge in a glass of wine.
He returned to Britain so that he could indulge his passion for football.
You can indulge yourself without spending a fortune.
He did not agree with indulging children.
Fig. 5 Cobuild2 examples for indulge.
Cobuild mentions two senses for indulge:
1. If you indulge in something or if you indulge yourself, you allow yourself to have
or do something that you know you will enjoy.
2. If you indulge someone, you let them have or do what they want, even if this is
not good for them.
Fig. 6 Cobuild2 examples for indulge.
Two of the examples illustrate two possible constructions corre-
sponding to the first meaning, and two illustrate the second one. The
constructions which convey the first meaning are: indulge in + a noun;
indulge + a noun. Two examples is probably what a native speaker
finds more than sufficient, but for a learner, unless there is an equiva-
lent in the learner’s first language with the same syntactic behaviour,
this is not enough. These entries seem to indicate that there was no
awareness that indulge is a difficult verb, which is the reason why it is
treated in exactly the same way as most other verbs. However, without
even trying to translate it, the lexicographers should have been aware of
the difficulty of this verb for a learner because of the number of its pos-
sible constructions. In the case of the Cobuild entry, the problem is that
a general rule of thumb – one example per construction – was applied
to a particular case, instead of tailoring rules to specific verbs. The cho-
sen examples are excellent, but not nearly enough to allow a learner to
use the word productively.
Longman’s examples are less satisfactory than Cobuild’s:
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
73
Most of us were too busy to indulge in heavy lunchtime drinking.
Eva had never been one to indulge in self pity.
I haven’t had strawberries and cream for a long time, so I’m really going to indulge
myself.
Ray has enough money to indulge his taste for expensive wines.
His mother pampered and spoiled him, indulging his every whim.
Fig. 7 Longman examples for indulge.
First, to use the verb four times out of five in the infinitive form
gives the learner the erroneous impression that ‘to + indulge’ is the
verb’s normal construction. There is an indication in the examples that
the construction with in can apply to concrete as well as abstract activi-
ties (drinking; self-pity), which is indeed a likely question for a learner.
However, a single example is not sufficient to retrieve this information
correctly; nothing in the examples will prevent a learner from saying
*Most of us were too busy to indulge ourselves in heavy lunchtime drink-
ing if this information is not given in some other way. Here and in other
dictionaries, the compilers were either unaware of the difficulty of the
item or assumed that the learners had sufficient ‘dictionary skills’ to re-
trieve the information by themselves. This suggests once again that one
of the drawbacks of existing dictionaries is that they are in most cases
compiled exclusively by native speakers who are understandably yet un-
forgivably unaware of the difficulty of their own language.
For indulge, Cambridge gives the following examples:
The soccer fans indulged their patriotism, waving flags and singing songs.
With his friend’s family he was able to indulge his passion for the outdoors, espe-
cially skiing.
I love champagne but it’s not often I can indulge myself.
The children indulged me with breakfast in bed.
This was a deliberate decision by the company to indulge in a little nostalgia.
She was furious with her boss and indulged in rapturous fantasies of revenge.
Fig. 8 Cambridge examples for indulge.
Cambridge gives a few more examples than the other two diction-
aries: two with the noun construction, two with in, one pronominal and
one with a pronoun. This last one, however, features with in bold, giving
the learner the impression that this is a typical construction, at the same
level as indulge in. Furthermore, ‘indulge their patriotism’ is a slightly
ironic use unlikely to be grasped by the average learner. In addition, the
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
74
‘company’ indulging in ‘a little nostalgia’ is not what one would call a
‘typical use,’ and ‘rapturous fantasies’ may be a little farfetched for a
beginning second language learner.
* * *
As a rule, dictionaries lack examples to highlight syntactic constraints.
Instead, perhaps merely to save space, they use codes, supposed to in-
dicate how words are used. (These codes, probably justifiable in a
printed dictionary, should not be maintained in an electronic diction-
ary.) The above analysis reveals a deficient identification of what the dif-
ficult features of the language are –target language for the learner, but
source language for the lexicographer. One has the impression that a
uniform guideline for the number and type of examples is applied re-
gardless of the difficulty of a specific item. However, a learner needs
fewer examples for a noun than for a verb, for instance. A flexible ex-
amples policy should be applied, adapting the number and kind of ex-
amples to the item under analysis.
Finally, if learner’s dictionaries are to help learners with encoding,
the selection and sequence of examples should obey a logic of possible
syntactic constructions and not of senses, even if syntax and meaning
are inevitably intertwined
15
. It is true that encoders want to transmit a
message and that this message is meaning. However, there is a stage in
the encoding process when dictionary users know what lexical item en-
codes a specific meaning and where the problem is purely formal. In
these cases, a classification according to syntactic patterns is more use-
ful. Frequently advanced learners are fairly sure of what lexical item
they should use because their passive knowledge of the language is
much greater than their active competence. Often the problem refers
purely to arbitrary syntactic constraints. Since the dictionary of the fu-
ture will be electronic, users will at least be given the option of classify-
ing the examples according to either meaning or syntax.
Collocations
Together with information on syntax, collocations are the main reason
why encoders use dictionaries. In this section, I will show the results of

15
As research by Gill Francis and her team (1996) has demonstrated.
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
75
some research I did on the subject with both monolingual and bilingual
dictionaries.
First, the issue of collocations receives surprisingly little attention.
Dictionaries provide quite a bit of information on exceptional uses of
lexical items but very little on common usage. Fixed expressions are
generally well represented, whereas little attention is given to everyday
use, as if exceptional use were more difficult. The OALD lists 14 typical
expressions with cat (it rains cats and dogs, let the cat out of the bag,
etc.), but gives no indication on collocates such as feed the cat, let the
cat out/in, stroke the cat, etc. The reason is the same as before: learner’s
dictionaries were fundamentally designed to serve decoders, not encod-
ers, even if their authors state the opposite. Fixed expressions are useful
for decoders, much less for encoders. Besides, it seems to be easy for
native speakers to think of fixed expressions when asked for them. Nor-
mal uses, however, are so much a part of everyday life that native
speakers are not aware of them in such a way that one can only retrieve
these normal uses with the help of a corpus.
Face, fact, failed, fail, and fade
In some research I did on collocations, I compared the presence of col-
locates in Cobuild2 and the Cambridge International Dictionary of Eng-
lish for the randomly chosen items face, fact, failed, fail, and fade (full
details in Appendix 2). Although Cobuild I produced the Collocations
CD from where I took my information, this dictionary scored only
slightly better than Cambridge. Of the 66 Cobuild examples for face,
only 4 contain a collocate; in Cambridge’s 12 examples there are no
collocates at all. One wonders why Cobuild, which signalled its aware-
ness of the importance of collocations by producing a Collocations CD
and whose theoretician John Sinclair wrote extensively on the subject,
dedicated so little attention to this feature. In one case – fact –, Cam-
bridge even scored relatively better than Cobuild, even though Cam-
bridge had much fewer examples. This makes it seem that when Cobuild
got it right, it was not because of a specific policy but due to a lexicog-
rapher’s intuition. In the case of fail, Cambridge manages to show nine
significant collocates in nine examples. In the overall evaluation, Co-
build scores better only because it features a greater number of exam-
ples.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
76
‘Criteria’
In another short research project, I looked at the word criteria, the use
of which had caused me problems. According to the Cobuild Colloca-
tions CD, the most common collocate for criteria is meet. I looked at the
following dictionaries: Collins German, Collins Portuguese, Collins Rus-
sian, Collins Spanish, Collins-Robert, Collins-Sansoni, Hazon-Garzanti,
New Proceed, Oxford Spanish, Oxford-Duden, Oxford-Hachette, Taishu-
kan –all major bilingual dictionaries– along with Collins (monolingual),
Oxford Wordpower, Longman, Cambridge and Cobuild1 and2. Only Co-
build2 and Oxford-Hachette feature an example with meet. These same
two dictionaries, however, did not have any examples with other high
frequency collocates such as set or apply. This is a surprising result
since it seems such an obviously useful piece of information that is also
easy to provide. There are only a limited number of actions to which cri-
teria can be subjected: set, meet, use and apply, or fail to do these
things. In dictionaries designed with the encoding user in mind, this
kind of information should be included.
‘Proposal’
According to the Cobuild Collocations CD, the most frequent verbs col-
locating with proposal are: reject, put forward, make, support, accept, and
consider. In Appendix 3, I list the examples for proposal in five monolin-
gual learner’s dictionaries and nine bilingual ones.
OALD. The second edition of the OALD (1963) paid little attention
to collocational information and concentrated on the preposition re-
quired for proposal. The 1992 (encyclopaedic) edition shows no system-
atic change in this policy. There are more examples, one with put for-
ward, but the focus remains on illustrating the use of the preposition. It
is remarkable, however, that from one edition to the other there is a
tendency to increase the length of examples. Again, this might indicate a
welcomed shift in the function of examples from illustrating the meaning
to showing how the item functions within a sentence.
Cobuild. An evolution took place between Cobuild1 and Cobuild2.
Although the example-like definition used put forward, Cobuild1 exam-
ples did not contain a single typical collocate. Cobuild2, however, has
three: put forward, reject, and accept. An obstacle to more collocational
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
77
information may have been the Cobuild ‘authentic example’ policy. The
need to find ‘typical,’ ‘relevant ,’ and ‘authentic’ examples may have
proved difficult.
Cambridge. Cambridge successfully concentrates collocational in-
formation in an example such as: Congress has rejected the latest eco-
nomic proposal put forward by the president (the underlining is mine,
bold is original). Reject is as much a collocate of proposal as put forward
but only the latter was highlighted. This might indicate that the presence
of this collocate was coincidental rather than resulting from a policy. Un-
fortunately, as the list bears out, there is no indication of the fact that
one can ‘refuse’ a marriage proposal but not, for instance, a peace pro-
posal. Overall, it seems difficult to discern a rationale behind the choice
of examples. There are a few collocates, a few prepositions, and a few
typical constructions present, but none of these areas has been given
extensive treatment.
***
There are indications that lexicographers are becoming increasingly
aware of the need for dictionaries to become tools for encoding and not
only for decoding. However, this switch is still not apparent in the sec-
tion which is the main aid for encoders: the examples. My analysis sug-
gests that there is some concern with syntax, but much less with collo-
cates. There seems to be at present no genuine policy regarding these
issues. The main reason for this is that dictionaries do not choose be-
tween encoding and decoding. Decoders should turn to the examples
when they are unable to deduce the meaning of a lexical item from the
definition. Otherwise, examples should concentrate on giving informa-
tion on syntax and collocation.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
78
3. COBUILD AND AUTHENTIC VS. MADE-UP EXAMPLES
The authentic vs. made-up debate became a focus of attention when the
first Cobuild dictionary was published in 1987, and authentic language
was first directly used as a means to supply examples for dictionary en-
tries. Using authentic language was not in itself a novelty. In the field of
native speaker’s dictionaries, Dr. Johnson used authentic language in his
Dictionary of the English Language (1755) and present-day lexicogra-
phers use ‘citation files’ with authentic language to compile their dic-
tionaries. However, there are a few differences between traditional lexi-
cographers and Cobuild.
Before Cobuild, ‘authentic’ language had never been tried out on
learners. The difficulties in terms of vocabulary and syntax were consid-
ered too great. The first edition of the Cobuild dictionary was highly
criticised by people like Hausmann and Gorbahn (1989) and to a lesser
degree by Fillmore (1989). In reality, the level of EFL learners has
probably improved due to globalisation and the dominant role of Eng-
lish as a koine. Cobuild offered the first response to this trend.
The second difference between Cobuild and traditional dictionaries
is that, until recently, citation files were used as a source of inspiration
rather than to provide on-hand examples. Cobuild takes its examples di-
rectly from the corpus and puts them into the dictionary with little or no
modification.
Finally, Dr. Johnson, the ‘canonical critic proper’ as Harold Bloom
calls him (1994:183), would never have dreamt of using sources other
than ‘canonical’ authors, the reason for which his dictionary is still as
pleasant to read as a dictionary of quotations. Cobuild uses a corpus that
also includes literary authors, but consists of non-fiction, newspapers,
magazines, and speech examples. From Johnson’s dictionary’s aim –to
fix the standard of English–, Cobuild has moved on to a more modern
linguistic conception of describing the language instead of being strictly
normative.
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
79
1. The Defence of ‘Authentic Language’
The concept of ‘authentic language’ is not as plain as it may seem. Ac-
cording to those who defend the use of ‘authentic language’ in peda-
gogic materials, specifically in dictionaries, the fact that a native speaker
produced an utterance does not render it ‘authentic.’ This is even less
so if this utterance was produced to illustrate a grammar item or to show
the meaning of a word. To use John Sinclair‘s (1988) terminology,
metalinguistic utterances of this kind can be ‘grammatical,’ but they are
not ‘natural,’ and therefore not ‘authentic.’
The Cobuild undertaking ends up generating indirect criticism of
other learner’s dictionaries for making up samples of language whose
main purpose is to clarify meaning. According to the Cobuild team, this
practice gives an incorrect idea of the language, thus misinforming the
learner. Fox, a senior member of the former Cobuild team, claims: “If a
word typically occurs in a sentence which is grammatically complex or
alongside vocabulary items that are infrequent, it would be misleading
of a dictionary to present that word in a very simple clause or sentence
with easy vocabulary.” (Fox 1987:138)
According to John Sinclair, each sentence carries with it the char-
acteristics of the text from which it was extracted. He calls this phe-
nomenon ‘encapsulation.’ In Sinclair’s opinion, “a text is represented at
any moment of interpretation by a single sentence… each new sentence
encapsulates the previous one by an act of reference.” (1993:7) Conse-
quently, made-up examples are deceptive since the lexical or grammati-
cal choices made in them do not depend on any text whatsoever. They
can be ‘grammatical,’ but they are not ‘natural’ and it is not enough for
learners to be able to produce sentences that are grammatically well
formed. They must also be recognised as ‘natural’ by native speakers
(Fox 1987:139). According to the Cobuild team, traditional lexicogra-
phers, being native speakers, make up examples that are grammatically
acceptable, but because their intention is not to communicate anything
other than information on a lexical item, this information is, strictly
speaking, incorrect. Therefore, in these made-up examples, there is a
chance that the words carry unwarranted negative connotations, that the
collocates are wrong, and that the syntactic construction is correct yet
unusual. In other words, a made-up example has no validity as a model.
Sinclair states:
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
80
[made-up examples] have no independent authority or reason for their exis-
tence, and they are constructed to refine the explanations and in many cases
to clarify the explanations. They give no reliable guide to composition in Eng-
lish and would be very misleading if applied to that task. (…) Usage cannot be
invented, it can only be recorded. (Sinclair 1987:XV)
Most people will not doubt the exactitude of most of the theoretical
premises on which the choice for authentic examples was based. Even
so, much criticism has been raised, related not so much to the theoreti-
cal premises, but to their practical implications.
2. Criticisms of Cobuild and the Authentic Examples Policy
At the time of its first edition, Cobuild was the only dictionary to use an
all-encompassing electronically accessible corpus. Until then, the techni-
cal means were hardly available, making the search for and retrieval of
examples in large databases a difficult task. Yet, the technical side of
the problem is not at the heart of the matter. Probably the main reason
why traditional lexicography did not use authentic language was its lexi-
cal and syntactic difficulties. It was also thought that there would be too
much interference from an absent co-text, whereas examples were sup-
posed to teach a particular feature, singled out by the lexicographer and
concocted with this feature in mind. The results of the questionnaire
distributed among lexicographers (Ahmad et al., 1992), discussed in
Chapter 3, confirm this.
In practice, learner’s dictionary publishers seem to have been un-
aware of a change in the public’s attitude and needs. Cobuild was the
first attempt at renewing foreign language lexicography. Criticisms fol-
lowed and people like Della Summers (1996) (from Longman) popular-
ised a distinction between corpus-based and corpus-bound examples,
stressing that lexicographers should find their inspiration in the corpus,
check frequencies and collocations, but not be bound to it. In reality,
after Cobuild all dictionaries started to use a corpus and to emphasise
such practice.
***
The debate on authentic examples can be subdivided into two sections:
the problem of corpora, and the didactic implications.
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
81
3. Corpora
The idea that a corpus is a valuable aid for the compilation of diction-
aries has been generally accepted and currently, all learner’s dictionar-
ies stress the fact that they use one. It is probably because of Sinclair
that lexicographers have acquired a sound distrust of their own intui-
tions, and this applies particularly to making up examples. When com-
paring contemporary examples to those of a few decades ago, one no-
tices that an effort has been made to make them sound less contrived.
Although there are still differences of opinion as to the management of a
corpus or its representativeness, all lexicographers now agree that the
non-corpus based dictionary belongs in the past.
Other parts of Sinclair’s theory, however, have not been as widely
accepted. The authentic/made-up distinction has been empirically ques-
tioned. In an experiment conducted in 1992, Batia Laufer concludes
that native speakers are unable to distinguish between authentic and
made-up examples. I myself did a similar experiment with native speak-
ers of Portuguese that confirmed Laufer’s results.
This does not necessarily mean there is no difference between
authentic and made-up language, it means that this difference is not
immediately apparent even in the eyes of native speakers. One might
contend that made-up examples only contain information which the lexi-
cographer has put in them whereas authentic examples carry data of
which the lexicographer is unaware. This, however, is hard to prove and
does not necessarily mean an improvement for the learner. If authentic
language has an unconscious salutary effect, this has not been estab-
lished. The idea of ‘encapsulation’ sounds attractive, but if native
speakers mistake made-up examples for authentic ones, this part of Sin-
clair’s theory is not really convincing. Moreover, even if one makes al-
lowances for this unproven distinction, the question remains whether
corpus samples should become dictionary examples without any previ-
ous adaptation, since dictionary examples fulfil a didactic function.
4. The Didactic Point of View
Cobuild’s claim that learners should learn natural and not grammatical
language is controversial. One can accept, even without any empirical
proof, that there is a distinction between the two kinds of language. If
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
82
natural language is more valuable because it conveys intended and un-
intended information, does this mean that this unintended information is
not conveyed when a lexicographer made up the sentence in order to
underline a particular aspect of a word’s use? In other words, a lexicog-
rapher could concoct a sentence to demonstrate a particular aspect of a
word –e.g. the different possible syntactic structures of indulge– and
unknowingly transmit other information along with it.
Secondly, one wonders if natural language is more suited for
teaching than grammatical language. There are several stages in learn-
ing a foreign language, each characterised by a particular form of ex-
pression. Even very advanced L2 speakers use a language that is differ-
ent from a native speaker’s language. Grammatical language is only one
step away from natural language and many advanced learners should
consider themselves fortunate if they ever get near it. It could be argued
that grammatical language can best be taught with sentences made up
by a native speaker with a specific purpose. In fact, they allow a lexicog-
rapher to point out specific features to the dictionary user. Undoubtedly,
this would only really work if lexicographers had a contrastive knowl-
edge of the audience’s language, and this is usually not the case. Still,
even without this knowledge, grammatical analysis should lead a lexi-
cographer to an awareness of the important features a learner should
know. Authentic language examples are much harder to control in terms
of syntactic and lexical intricacies.
The fact that a sentence is unnatural does not mean that it is not in-
structive. To put it in an extreme way, ‘colourless green ideas sleep furi-
ously’ may well be meaningless to native and non-native speakers alike,
but it teaches a basic English grammar: NP-VP-AP. An unnatural sen-
tence such as ‘this is a pencil’ can make a grammar point more clearly
than an authentic example. This does not mean it has to be made-up
and unnatural; it means that it very well can be. It all depends on what
is being taught.
In an article I have already commented on, Laufer (1992) reports
on an experiment which tested the efficiency of authentic examples as
opposed to made-up ones in comprehension and production tasks. This
leads her to conclude:
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
83
Lexicographer’s examples are more helpful in comprehension of new words
than the authentic ones. In production of the new word, lexicographer’s ex-
amples are also more helpful but not significantly so. (…) The findings suggest
that lexicographer-made examples are pedagogically more beneficial than the
authentic ones (further studies would be useful to substantiate this claim). If
this is so, can they be considered as unacceptable on the grounds of lack of
naturalness? (1992:75-76).
As is the case with a number of experiments conducted in the field
of language learning, the results of this survey depended on a range of
more or less disputable decisions. Laufer had to choose a set of exam-
ples, then a number of subjects whose previous knowledge was difficult
to measure, and eventually she had to write a test which conceivably
could have been written in various other ways. These results, therefore,
should be considered with caution.
Furthermore, as Jean Binon pointed out to me, the lexical density
of authentic examples is often so high that understanding them becomes
a problem in itself. If one looks at it from a cultural point of view, refer-
ences to proper names and dates of events are rapidly outdated and can
make a sentence difficult to understand. In the second edition of their
dictionary, the Cobuild team took special care to avoid this kind of ref-
erence. However, to eliminate cultural information entirely is difficult,
particularly if you are a member of this culture and unaware of what
others do not know about it. Language is culture, of course, and the
latter should be transmitted to the learner, but not everything has to be
learnt at the same time, and dictionary examples may not be the best
place for providing cultural information.
Finally, in defence of authentic examples, it can be argued that
there is a psychological factor which critics rarely or never discuss.
Learners seem to tell me that the feeling of being in direct touch with
‘authentic English,’ is an asset; they feel like they are already a part of
it. Since language learning remains a largely mysterious psychological
matter, this factor –impossible to measure– should be taken into consid-
eration.
***
As innovative as Cobuild was, it still seemed to be missing insight on
foreign language teaching and learning. In fact, the Longman Language
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
84
Activator might be the only dictionary capable of escaping this criticism.
No one today denies the validity of using a corpus to analyse language,
but the most efficient way to transmit the knowledge obtained via this
analysis is still up in the air. It is one thing to analyse the language and
realise that, while ‘blatant’ means ‘obvious,’ no native speaker would
speak of a ‘blatant choice.’ But another thing is to teach this to learners.
If a collection of utterances taken from a corpus reveals a particular us-
age pattern for a particular lexical item, this knowledge is certainly
worth transmitting to the learner. However, we still do not know whether
this knowledge can be conveyed more clearly if one uses raw material.
4. EXAMPLES IN BILINGUAL DICTIONARIES. THE
PROBLEM OF CLASSIFICATION.
For foreign language learners, the bilingual dictionary is still the main
reference tool, particularly in the case of encoding. Because of this, one
expects these dictionaries to pay special attention to examples and to
follow a particular policy in this respect. However, this is not always the
case and the choice of examples often seems rather random. Once
again, the lack of distinction between decoding and encoding is the main
impairing factor. In what follows I will illustrate what I think is the dis-
tinction between encoding and decoding examples, this time with a focus
on bilingual dictionaries. In a subsequent section, I will analyse the
choice and ordering of examples in the case of an advanced traditional
bilingual dictionary, the Collins Spanish Dictionary.
Decoding and encoding. Current bilingual dictionaries attempt to
meet the needs of both decoding and encoding learners. A Spanish-
English dictionary is supposed to help Spanish speakers with the
understanding and production of English while at the same time
assisting English speakers with the understanding and production of
Spanish. Nevertheless, the needs in terms of examples for decoding and
encoding are very different.
Indeed, for decoding there is no need for examples in the strict
sense of the word. Even if a source word can be translated by several
different words in the target language, the context in which the word was
found will elucidate any doubts. In a sentence like ‘Ni la solitude ni les
épreuves n’avaient pu venir à bout de cet homme dont l’énergie n’avait
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
85
d’égale que l’insensibilité,’ (Gaucher R. 1965 Les Terroristes, Albin,
Paris, p.32) any French-English dictionary will tell us that épreuve can
mean test, print, and ordeal. Given the context, however small, there can
be no doubt that the correct translation is ‘ordeal.’ An example in the
dictionary would have been superfluous.
In the case of encoding, on the other hand, examples are of the ut-
most importance, since they help with the choice of the item and show
its use. The first function is of great importance, particularly in the case
of beginning learners. Since the translation of a word depends on the
context, learners will choose a possible translation guided by a label, or
by comparing the source sentence to the example sentences. Thus, in
the case of encoding, the learners will need examples in the strict sense
of the word. Only advanced learners will want to translate fixed expres-
sions.
To understand what the possible problems were, I monitored my
own look-ups in Japanese as a beginning learner, and in Italian as an
intermediate learner. In both cases I looked up high frequency words
more than anything else –words with a large range of meanings and
therefore more likely to be ruled by the open-choice principle.
In English, on the other hand, a language in which I have had to
express more complex ideas and use more infrequent words, my look-
ups concerned collocations and syntax and I have instinctively been
looking for examples. My quest for examples, I may say, has been tire-
less.
The kind of examples decoding and encoding dictionary users need
are very different. Decoders are exclusively interested in examples in the
broad sense of the word, whereas encoders need more common uses
(see Chapter 3). Since traditional bilingual dictionaries cater to both
kinds of audiences at the same time, in two different languages, it is dif-
ficult to meet these needs in a satisfactory manner. This is what I will
show in the following analysis of how examples are handled in the entry
for road in the excellent Collins Spanish-English Dictionary and, more
briefly, in the equally outstanding, but more modern, Oxford-Hachette
French-English Dictionary.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
86
1. The Examples for Road in Collins Spanish-English
The Collins Spanish Dictionary is a typical example of the more tradi-
tional kind of dictionary. Initially a monumental piece of work by a sin-
gle individual, the latest editions have benefited from the support of an
extended group of lexicographers.
In what follows I look at the examples for the entry road and try to
find out why they were selected or made-up, in order to discover what is
the rationale behind the examples policy in an average traditional bilin-
gual dictionary. I look at what their sequencing criteria are and who is
their intended audience. It is important to point out that the Collins
Spanish does not mention whether it used a corpus, which makes me as-
sume that it did not; at least not how a corpus is currently defined.
In an ideal dictionary, the selection and ordering of examples
should be guided by what functions these examples are supposed to per-
form. If the main purpose of the dictionary is to help with decoding, the
fixed expressions should be listed first, or at least clearly separated from
the rest. If the purpose is encoding, preference should be given to ex-
amples showing the word first in open-choice contexts, then in contexts
where a collocation was required, and finally in fixed expressions. Multi-
word items, if not listed as separate entries, should be at the end of the
entry.
The original hypothesis of this analysis was that, since bilingual
dictionaries had to meet the needs of two different audiences, each with
possibly two different aims, the lexicographers had no other choice than
to make a random selection of examples without considering their pur-
poses. The hypothesis appeared to be true. In addition, the analysis of
the examples revealed that this was a practically untenable position and,
in fact, there was a privileged audience. For commercial reasons, how-
ever, this kind of bias can never be admitted and the needs of this ‘se-
cret’ privileged audience cannot be fully met. A necessarily heterogene-
ous product is the eventual outcome.
Order of the Examples
As it was immediately evident that there was no clear-cut classification
for common uses, idioms and fixed expressions, I tried out a number of
alternative classifications, starting with the one distinguishing literal and
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
87
figurative. This classification is the one traditionally used; yet, here too,
the criterion was not applied very openly.
Road is a very frequent word. It is used literally as well as figura-
tively and there is a Spanish equivalent –camino– whose semantic range
for the most part covers that of road. This makes a comparison with the
Spanish part of the dictionary fairer. If the dictionary is really intended
for speakers of both languages, words with a relatively equal frequency
and with a comparable semantic distribution should receive a compara-
ble amount of attention.
Collins Spanish-English enumerates 38 ‘broad sense’ examples.
Below are the examples in the order in which they appear in the
dictionary.
1. roads (naut.), road narrows, road up, the road to Teruel, at the 23rd kilometre
on the Valencia road, the road to success, one for the road, across the road, she
lives across the road from us, by road, my car is off the road, to be on the road, my
car is on the road again, he’s on the road to recovery, we’re on the road to disaster,
the dog was wandering on the road, to get (or take) a show on the road, to take to
the road, to be on the right road, to get out of the road, our relationship has
reached the end of the road, to hold the road, to take the road.
2. road accident, road construction, road haulage, road haulier, road hump, road
junction, road racer, road safety, road sense, road tax, road test, road trial, road
traffic, road transport, road vehicle.
Fig. 9 List of the examples for road in Collins Spanish English Dictionary.
Although they are all listed under the same entry, these examples
are very different in character. Group 2 shows multi-word items that are
only listed under the entry because of their spelling. Somewhat surpris-
ingly, roads as a nautical term heads the list. If we keep only the exam-
ples listed under number 1, minus roads, we are left with 22 examples.
A first attempt at classification according to the ‘open-choice vs. idiom
principle’ shows that this was not the criterion used. The list starts with
two fixed expressions (road narrows, road up), continues with three ex-
amples of open-choice (the road to Teruel, at the 23rd kilometre on the
Valencia road), then an idiom (the road to success). It continues with a
fixed expression (one for the road), gives another example of open-
choice (across the road, she lives across the road from us), and ends
with a typical preposition (by road).
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
88
Literal/figurative
Since the distinction literal/figurative is used by the dictionary itself and
explicitly added to two examples (‘to be on the right road and ‘to get out
of the road’), I checked to see if this was the rationale behind the selec-
tion of the examples. From my experience as a language teacher, I know
this is one kind of subdivision into which learners expect the examples
in a dictionary to be classified. Whereas the literal meaning of a word
travels easily from one language to another if the same extra-linguistic
reality exists in both languages, the way in which these same words are
used to express concepts may well be very different. I listed the exam-
ples for road according to this criterion.
Literal Figurative
the road to Teruel
at the 23rd kilometre on the Valencia
road
across the road
she lives across the road from us
the dog was wandering on the road
to be on the right road (in one sense)
to be on the road (in one sense)
road narrows
road up
the road to success
by road
my car is off the road
to be on the road
my car is on the road again
he’s on the road to recovery
we’re on the road to disaster
to get (or take) a show on the road
to be on the right road (in one sense)
(also fig)
to get out of the road (fig)
one for the road
our relationship has reached the end of
the road
to take to the road
to hold the road
to take the road (to X para ir a X)
Fig. 10 Classification of the examples according to their literal or figurative use (the
indications found in the dictionary are in parentheses).
Even allowing for a few doubtful cases, the comparison with the
actual order in the dictionary makes it clear that this distinction was not
the guiding principle for classifying the examples. Although not always
satisfactory, an ordering in literal and figurative uses has the advantage
of facilitating access to information. A more sophisticated classification
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
89
might even take into account that a number of figurative uses of words
are common in different languages.
Literally Translatable/Not Literally Translatable
Bilingual dictionary compilers have a contrastive knowledge of the two
languages they are working on; hence, they could use this knowledge to
categorize examples according to some kind of helpful classification
such as the examples’ ability to be literally translated. The following
listing undertakes this classification by comparing each example to its
equivalent in the target language. I considered ‘not literally translatable’
those examples that would not be acceptable in Spanish in the case of a
word-for-word translation, either because of syntactic intricacies (‘the
road to Teruel/la carretera de Teruel’) or because they would be simply
unintelligible. I draw mainly on Halliday’s definition of metaphor to
make this distinction (Halliday 1994, Chapter 10, throughout).
Literally translatable Not literally translatable
at the 23rd kilometre on the Valencia
road.
the road to success.
across the road.
she lives across the road from us.
by road.
to be on the road.
my car is on the road again.
he’s on the road to recovery.
we’re on the road to disaster.
the dog was wandering on the road.
to be on the right road.
to get out of the road.
our relationship has reached the end of
the road.
to hold the road
road narrows.
road up.
the road to Teruel.
one for the road.
my car is off the road.
to be on the road.
to get (or take) a show on the road.
to take to the road.
to take the road.
Fig. 11 Division of the examples according to their translatability.
This list does not seem to have any relation to the original ordering
either. Since learners do not know beforehand if the item that they are
looking for can indeed be literally translated, the literal/figurative dis-
tinction is a classification level prior to the literally/not-literally translat-
able one. Introducing this classification first would not necessarily speed
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
90
up the search, but it would have a pedagogical impact. Yet, the compil-
ers of the Collins Spanish did not seem to have this classification in
mind.
The Audience
Finally, I looked at the examples for road from the audience’s point of
view, classifying the examples into two categories: those that were useful
for an English audience, and those that were useful for both English and
Spanish audiences. The useful examples for the English speakers would
be those that originally caused difficulty. Spanish speakers, however,
would immediately understand these same examples. Any Spanish
speaker who understands the English words at, the, 23
rd
, kilometre, on,
and road understands at the 23
rd
kilometre on the Valencia road. This
example is therefore intended for an English speaking audience. Road
up and one for the road, on the other hand, are examples intended for a
Spanish and English audience alike. It is useful for Spanish speaking
learners because even if they know what road and up mean this is not
sufficient to understand road up. The item has to be translated as a
whole. For English speakers, on the other hand, this example is useful
because it shows that road up cannot be translated by camino arriba.
This kind of classification gives us the following list, which I will discuss
below.
English speakers (encoding into Spanish) Examples useful for both
(encoding into Spanish or
decoding from English)
the road to Teruel
road narrows
at the 23rd kilometre on the Valencia road
the road to success
across the road
she lives across the road from us
by road
my car is off the road
to be on the road
my car is on the road again
he’s on the road to recovery
we’re on the road to disaster
the dog was wandering on the road
to be on the right road
to get out of the road
our relationship has reached the end of the road
road up
one for the road
to get (or take) a show on the
road
to take to the road
Fig. 12 Classification of the road examples according to the audience (English-Spanish side).
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
91
What conclusions can be drawn from this list? Again, the examples’ or-
der does not coincide with the original list, so the guiding principle was
clearly not the audience. The lexicographers either tried to satisfy both
audiences simultaneously, or had no specific audience in mind and
chose their examples randomly. However, the list of examples intended
for English speakers is much longer than the one intended for both
English and Spanish speakers. A look at one of the most likely transla-
tions for road, camino, makes the degree of this bias crystal clear. Clas-
sifying the examples according to this criterion confirms a tendency to
favour the English needs. Since this makes the dictionary more effective
for these users, it can only be regretted that this tendency was not im-
plemented more thoroughly by cutting out the examples useless to them
(and that potential Spanish buyers were not informed of this bias on the
cover). The next figure classifies the examples for camino in the same
way as the examples for road were classified in the previous figure.
Examples useful for Spanish speakers
(encoding into English)
Examples useful for both (encoding into
English and decoding from Spanish)
camino de acceso
camino de entrada
camino forestal
camino de Santiago
camino de Damasco
camino de peaje
camino de tierra
el camino a seguir
el camino de La Paz
es el camino del desastre
el camino de en medio
camino de Lima
en el camino
después de 3 horas de camino
nos quedan 20 kms de camino
es mucho camino
¿cuanto camino hay de aquí a San José?
por (el) buen camino
¿vamos por buen camino?
errar el camino
todos los caminos van a Roma
llevar a uno por mal camino
ponerse en camino
camino sin firme
camino francés
camino de herradura
camino de ingresos
camino real
camino de sirga
camino trillado
tener el camino trillado
camino vecinal
Caminos, Canales y Puertos
vamos camino de la muerte
a medio camino
de camino
tienen otro niño de camino
está en camino de desaparecer
traer a uno por buen camino
abrirse camino
allanar el camino
echar camino adelante
ir por su camino
partir el camino con uno
quedarse en el camino
camino de mesa
Fig. 13 Classification of the camino examples according to the audience (English-
Spanish side).
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
92
The examples which I consider useful for (encoding) Spanish
speakers are those which would offer some difficulty if these users had
to translate them into English. These examples include multi-word items
such as camino de acceso, which a Spanish speaker might be drawn to
translate literally, and sentences like después de 3 horas de camino,
which cannot be translated as after 3 hours of road.
These same examples are of little use to English speakers. If one
knows what camino, acceso, después and hora means, then the phrase
después de 3 horas de camino is easy to understand.
Regarding the examples that are useful for both audiences, tienen
otro niño de camino will prove difficult for a decoding English speaker,
as well as for an encoding Spanish speaker. It is striking that the list of
examples useful for speakers of both languages is longer on the Spanish-
English side of the dictionary, which confirms the bias encountered on
the English-Spanish side.
I will spare the reader more details, but if one compares the Collins
entry to the corresponding entry in the Oxford English-Spanish, one no-
tices some evolution. No audience –nor particular activity– has been
chosen to classify the examples, but these have been ordered roughly
into common uses and fixed expressions
16
. In practice, this comes down
to one subdivision into examples useful for encoding Spanish speaking
users, and another one for both audiences. Unfortunately, this was not
totally carried through. The choice of examples still seems a little for-
tuitous and many of the collocates of road which the Cobuild Colloca-
tions CD-ROM presents as the most common ones (run down the road,
continue down the road, head down the road, walk along the road) have
been left out.

16
Common uses: is this the road to Boston?; the Cambridge road; five miles down the
road; a factory just down the road (from here); there’s a baker’s over or across the
road; the people from over the road; the house is set back a mile or so from the
road
Fixed expressions: a major/minor road; a dirt road; it’s good road all the way now;
by road; my car’s off the road; to take to the road; road closed; road narrows; to
have one for the road; all roads lead to Rome.
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
93
2. The Examples for Road in Oxford-Hachette
The Oxford-Hachette has been acclaimed as one of the most advanced
bilingual dictionaries. Its features confirm the upcoming trend of more
encoding-oriented dictionaries, even though its authors do not clearly
state this purpose.
The entry for road lists a large number of examples classified ac-
cording to their possible translations in French (mainly rue and voie).
This semantic subdivision amounts to the traditional subdivision of lit-
eral and figurative since, most of the time, route and rue are used liter-
ally, and voie figuratively. Within this first subdivision, there is another
subdivision according to the preposition required. Finally, three fixed
expressions are listed at the end (any road (up); let’s get this show on
the road!; one for the road). There are a few more examples scattered
over the rest of the entry, but their number is reduced when compared
to the examples abiding by the open-choice principle. This fact, together
with the type of classification, characterises the Oxford-Hachette as pre-
ponderantly aiming at an encoding audience. Classifying the examples
according to a semantic criterion implies that the lexicographers are
thinking of users that have an idea of the meaning, which means they
are encoding. This emphasis on encoding is new, particularly in the case
of bilingual dictionaries.
Despite these innovations, however, the classification of examples
continues to be a problem, even if a number of search-engines included
in the electronic version of the Oxford-Hachette provide an immense im-
provement. It is now possible to search for a word that customarily ac-
companies the word looked up to get to the idiom. When translating
mettre la main sur quelque chose, the learner can go to the entry for
main and search for mettre, which will instantaneously take him to the
fixed expression. One can lament, however, that this is not a solution to
the classification problem as the result of a reflection on the needs of the
users and the way these users proceed when using a dictionary. Indeed,
in this case the example loses its function of ‘exemplifying’ since it only
represents itself. First, the search facility will not provide an example if
the morphological form of the search string is not identical with the form
in the example – it will not recognise j’ai mis as a form of mettre. Sec-
ondly, it certainly will not recognise analogous structures. It will not in-
dicate the example avoir une brûlure à la main if the user searches the
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
94
examples using an alternative such as blessure, tatouage, etc. The neces-
sity for a sensible classification of examples is therefore still deeply felt,
even in the age of computerised dictionaries.
Conclusion
Dictionaries are tools, not books for reading. This means they should be
as efficient as possible, and a sensible classification of the examples is
one way to achieve this. In his famous story on a Chinese encyclopae-
dia, Borges
17
jokingly shows how a classification is dependent on the
classified information’s intended function. Efficiency implies adjusting
means to purposes. As I have suggested before, since dictionaries do
not separate decoding and encoding, this adjustment is difficult to im-
plement.
I could discover no user-oriented logic governing the classification
of examples for road in Collins English-Spanish. They are not grouped
according to figurative uses, nor according to their possibility for literal
translation, nor to their usefulness for one audience or another. The
only order is perhaps an alphabetical one following the prepositions, but
this is not certain. The lack of organisation –caused in turn by a lack of
definition of the audience and its needs– has a direct impact on the way
users can profit from their dictionary.
First, the look-up process is slowed down since the answer to a
learner’s question might be found more or less anywhere, and therefore
nothing can be skipped. This discourages learners from using a diction-
ary altogether.
Secondly, there is no guarantee that users will find what they are
looking for, since no feature has been exploited in full. For an encoding
audience more examples of common usage should be included, whereas
for a decoding audience the list of fixed expressions should be all-
inclusive.

17 “In its remote pages it is written that the animals can be classified as: (a) property
of the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) trained, (d) piglets, (e) sirens, (f) mythical, (g)
loose dogs, (h) included in this classification, (i) moving restlessly, (j) innumerable,
(k) drawn with a very thin camel hair brush, (l) etcetera, (m) that have just broken
the vase, (n) that from a distance look like flies.” (Borges: 1980, Vol2. 223) (My
translation.)
EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
95
Finally, other possibilities that examples offer, such as giving con-
trastive information, are not exploited. In Collins English-Spanish it
would have made sense to contrast examples where road is translated as
camino with examples where road is translated as carretera.
***
Despite all possible criticisms and with all due respect to those who exe-
cute the Sisyphean task of compiling dictionaries, the Oxford-Hachette,
the Collins-Robert and the Oxford Spanish Dictionary testify to a forward
shift in the conception of dictionaries. It is true that the problem of clas-
sification remains intact and will become ever more pressing with the in-
creasing use of corpora, capable of supplying an unlimited number of
examples, and which is becoming a basic tool for language learning and
teaching.
The use of authentic language was a radical innovation. As with all
innovations, it had to be defended. Unfortunately, the result was a pre-
dictable radicalisation of the Cobuild team and a renewed insistence on
‘orthodoxy’: no tampering with real examples! Meanwhile, competitors
have adopted an intermediate position that I think is likely to become
standard: interrogate the corpus for evidence, and use adapted authen-
tic or authentic examples in the dictionary.
The area of examples in learner’s and bilingual dictionaries has still
some way to go and a few problem areas have been identified. There is
a relationship between the choice of examples and the task one assigns
to dictionaries for foreign language learners in general. If the emphasis
is on decoding, the task is relatively simple. If it is on encoding, it is
necessary to describe what the needs of the encoding learner are. When
encoders turn to a learner’s dictionary, they are less likely to have a
problem with meaning than with syntax and collocates.
In my experience, this information can best be presented in the
form of examples. Until now, either no choice has been made in favour
of decoding or encoding, or there is only a patchy awareness of how
these goals can be fulfilled. However, the tools are at hand. Most dic-
tionaries now have a corpus and the Cobuild Collocations CD is freely
available on the market. The information simply has to be made acces-
sible to the learner in a systematic way, and integrated with the other
dictionary elements.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
96
In doing this, care has to be taken to deal with each word as an en-
tity, since every word class is characterised by particular difficulties.
This is true from the viewpoint of a native speaker, and it is even truer
when one puts the lexical item in contrast with the learner’s first lan-
guage. Some dictionaries such as Cambridge International Dictionary of
English have gone some way in modelling their work according to the
first language of their audience. It is clear, however, that these are first
attempts and that the research underpinning these projects is still in its
infancy.
Since English is becoming a most necessary second language with a
high number of potential dictionary buyers, it is probable that in the
near future more target-conscious encoding dictionaries will be put on
the market with examples chosen accordingly. Whether these examples
will be authentic or made-up seems to be of less concern than was ini-
tially thought. Probably a mixed form of modified authentic examples
will be the eventual outcome of the authentic vs. made-up debate. How-
ever, since electronic dictionaries are most likely to be the future of lexi-
cography and space will no longer be a problem, it is reasonable to
think that in the future learners will have at their disposal both made-up
and authentic examples integrated into the same tool.
In the next chapter, I will present an approach to dictionary com-
pilation which I think introduces some new elements, as a result of my
analysis of existing dictionaries and my own experience as a user.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
97
CHAPTER 4
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE
LEXICOGRAPHY
In this chapter I describe what I see as the foreign language dictionary
of the future. Its main feature is a clear separation between encoding
and decoding. In what follows I consider the practical consequences of
such a distinction.
While I will not go into details about software, I take it for granted
that the dictionary of the future will be electronic; anyone who uses
electronic dictionaries on a regular basis does not need to be persuaded
of the advantages which computers offer in this area. Considering the
chronic need for space in traditional dictionaries, unlimited storage ca-
pacity is the most obvious advantage of a computer, but speed and ran-
dom access are equally important. Because of their technical nature I
shall not discuss aspects such as customising possibilities, compiling
personalised dictionaries, new search features, hyperlinks and others.
These will all considerably improve the life of language learners, but I
believe they fall outside the scope of my research. What an electronic
dictionary allows us to do is to reshuffle the information in a dictionary
in such a way that it is presented to the learner in different ways ac-
cording to what the activity is, decoding or encoding.
Thus, as the reader will notice, many of the problems and current
possibilities of separating the two dictionary functions (encoding and de-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
98
coding) are respectively solved and wide-open with electronic dictionar-
ies. It is no coincidence that both a new proposal and the means to im-
plement it emerge at the same time. In spite of this, what I put forward
is not dictated by what computers can do, but is based on an analysis of
learners’ needs. Computers just happen to meet these needs better.
Since I am not proposing a different kind of definition, nor different
kinds of translational equivalents, the reader will notice that this new
dictionary does not presuppose a large amount of work at the micro-
structural level. I basically propose to break up in parts much of what
has been achieved all along the history of lexicography and restructure
this material. An important part of this work is related to defining the
order in which a search is carried out and what kind of tools are
necessary to make this search successful, even though one of the main
characteristics of computers used for reference works is allowing a user
random access to the information.
Encoding vs. decoding
Asking for separate encoding and decoding dictionaries is basically ask-
ing that the encoding parts of dictionaries be emancipated from the de-
coding tool that current dictionaries still basically are. As I suggested in
previous chapters, often the encoding information is present in the dic-
tionary, but is submerged by decoding information, hampering the look-
up process. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the more diction-
aries attempt to meet encoders’ needs, the more they burden the decod-
ers with unnecessary information. The first request for a different set of
dictionaries for decoding and encoding dates back to the 1930s, when
Lev Sjtsjerba:
launched the idea that two types of dictionaries have to be compiled – one
type for users who translate from a foreign language into their mother tongue,
and the other for users who translate from their mother tongue into a foreign
language. Therefore, according to Sjtsjerba, for a particular pair of languages
it was necessary to have four dictionaries: A!B and B!A for users with the
mother tongue A, and A!B and B!A for users with the mother tongue B.
(Berkov, 1996:547)
This idea of ‘Deux langues, quatre dictionnaires’ (Bogaards, 1990)
was afterwards periodically repeated by a number of researchers, with-
out any practical consequence. It is rather easy to think of a few com-
mercial reasons why Sjtsjerba’s proposal was never put into practice. On
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
99
the other hand, it should be noted that Sjtsjerba’s proposal is a typical
encoding user’s demand and that when he made it dictionaries were still
predominantly used for decoding. In 1983, Cowie outlined the problem
as follows:
Some foreign learners may be more concerned with interpretation than pro-
duction – they may use the dictionary primarily for quick retrieval of individ-
ual items or meanings when reading – but no general dictionary for the ad-
vanced student can afford to neglect one need in favour of the other. (Cowie,
1983:136)
The essence of the problem had by then long been understood.
Apparently, however, it seems like there would still be no majority in fa-
vour of a change.
I wish to suggest as a general principle that the interpretative function places
a high premium on ease of access and thus on the strict alphabetical ordering
of entries. The productive function, on the other hand, places a high premium
on the clustering of derivatives, compounds, idioms, phrasal verbs, and so on
around the simple lexemes (or particular meanings of those lexemes to which
they are related). (Cowie, Ibid.: 141)
But however obvious these claims for separating encoding and de-
coding seemed to many, to others they seemed to amount to a rather
superfluous demand. In 1983, Zgusta was not convinced of the neces-
sity of separating encoding and decoding:
The reason for this overlapping (of decoding and encoding dictionaries) is
clear: the statistically ‘normal user’ does not wish to buy several dictionaries
of the same language, and therefore many dictionaries are designed to serve
more than one purpose. Observably, one of the purposes taken care of in
such a multi-purpose dictionary usually enjoys a degree of preference; nev-
ertheless, the chance of being useful to more sets of users and therefore ap-
pealing to a broader public (i.e. more buyers) proves to be attractive to many
editors and to most publishers. (Zgusta, 1983)
Of course, Zgusta wrote this 20 years ago, when the separation of
decoding and encoding dictionaries would mean an enormous pile of
paper. The prospect of having to print four dictionaries in the place of
one could not have appealed to most commercial publishers. Appar-
ently, it was not the time for dramatic changes in dictionary conception.
But with the advent of the computer era needs changed, and so did the
means to meet them.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
100
As a language learner and teacher, I am personally convinced that
the main transformation dictionaries have to undergo is the separation of
encoding and decoding. Today, of course, the information needed to
compile a decoding dictionary can be put to use in an encoding diction-
ary and both can be part of one and the same electronic dictionary.
In what follows, I will deal with the decoding and the encoding part
of the dictionary separately, in the same sequence that learners follow
when they look up a word. Since an electronic dictionary can be ran-
domly accessible, this sequence is not a necessary ingredient of the dic-
tionary I propose. It would only be a path for users if they so wished.
As the reader will observe, the part of the section dealing with de-
coding is much shorter than the part dealing with encoding. As I made
clear before, I consider decoding to be a lesser problem than encoding.
1. DECODING
Decoding can be understood in two ways: decoding to understand and
decoding to translate. The latter usually implies the former, even if there
are cases, such as simultaneous translation, in which translators trans-
late the words of a message which they themselves often don't under-
stand. But these are clearly exceptions. One usually wishes first to un-
derstand to be able to translate. In both cases one goes from a language
that one knows less well to a language that one knows better. This
means, in most cases, going from a foreign language to the mother
tongue.
In the first case, a dictionary user is reading a text, or looking up a
word she or he heard, merely in order to understand a message. This
situation will by far be the most common one and corresponds to the
primary task of a dictionary.
Translation, on the other hand, involves a process of encoding
which follows the process of decoding. It is as much because of this en-
coding part, as of the decoding part, that translation gave rise to a sepa-
rate discipline of ‘translation studies’ with its linguistic as well as broad
cultural and literary considerations. A number of distinguished authors
18

18
Jakobson, 1959; Mounin, 1963; Catford, 1965; Steiner, 1971; Basnett-McGuire,
1991
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
101
make it clear that translation is a complex process, so complex that some
authors have come to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible. How-
ever, as Mounin sharply states:
Si l’on accepte les thèses courantes sur la structure des lexiques, des
morphologies et des syntaxes, on aboutit à professer que la traduction devrait
être impossible. Mais les traducteurs existent, ils produisent, on se sert
utilement de leurs productions. On pourrait presque dire que la traduction
constitue le scandale de la linguistique contemporaine. (Mounin, 1963:8)
It seems to me that native speaker’s dictionaries should tackle the
demands translation places on dictionaries in the decoding and subse-
quent encoding sense of the word. Even if in the future nothing prevents
elaborate native speaker’s synonym dictionaries and thesauruses from
being included on a CD-ROM together with a foreign language diction-
ary, thus merging native speaker’s and foreign language lexicography.
Decoding is at any rate easier than encoding. Particularly for ad-
vanced learners, most of the existing reference tools will be adequate,
even if open to improvement. This does not mean decoding is easy, but
it is on the whole a smoother process than encoding because the learner
usually has more resources in the language she or he knows best.
Decoding always consists of some form of translation, be it interlin-
gual or intralingual (Jakobson, 1959), and can be assisted by either a
bilingual or monolingual dictionary.
Advanced learners in particular can choose between a bilingual,
native speaker’s, synonym, learner’s, or bilingualised dictionary, at least
for a few languages. As a number of surveys show (Tomaszczyk, 1979;
Baxter, 1980; Bensoussan et al., 1984) and common sense dictates, bi-
lingual dictionaries are in most cases the obvious choice. If advanced
learners often prefer a monolingual reference work, this is probably be-
cause current monolingual dictionaries still cover a broader area of the
lexis than bilingual dictionaries. This does not necessarily mean that an
intralingual translation is better than an interlingual one. But whatever
kind of dictionary advanced learners prefer, the existing tools are usu-
ally sufficient. Even when the dictionary lists more than one translation
or definition for a word, its context can guide the learner.
Beginning learners, on the other hand, cannot but use bilingual
dictionaries and I analyse their problems with this limitation in mind. In
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
102
figure 14 I list different kinds of items beginners may have trouble
looking up in a dictionary.
Example Type
1. found/find
tabemasu/taberu (to eat in Japanese)
omoshirokunai/omoshiroi (not funny/funny, in Japanese)
jemandem/jemand (someone, dative and nominative in German)
morphologi-
cal problem
2. road block
swimming bath
swimming pool
swimming costume
multi-word
item
4. at first glance
at great length
in zeven haasten (in a hurry, in Dutch)
de uma cajadada só (to kill two birds with one stone, in Portuguese)
fixed ex-
pression
5. wie laatst lacht best lacht (he who laughs last laughs longest, in
Dutch)
muita esmola o santo desconfia (too much effort makes one suspi-
cious, in Portuguese)
proverb
3. in aanmerking komen voor (qualify for, in Dutch)
dar uma esperadinha (to wait, in Portuguese)
idiom
6. lead
break
polysemy
Fig. 14 Decoding problems of beginning learners.
Assuming that the information which learners are looking for exists
in the dictionary, their failure to retrieve it can be traced back to three
problems. The first one occurs when the dictionary form is different
from the looked-up form. The second, when the word is part of a multi-
word item not recognised as such. The third, in the case of polysemy. I
will now deal with each of these problems separately. I will tackle the
issue of different word forms and multi-word items together in one sec-
tion.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
103
1. Morphology and Multi-Word Items
The easiest problem to solve is that of learners unable to find the right
entry because they do not know the dictionary form of the item which
they are looking for. In this case, all that is needed is to include all
forms in the dictionary, as is already a common practice in a number of
English paper dictionaries for foreigners, at least for verbs, and in a few
electronic dictionaries where this feature is easier to implement. When
users type fiz in the Brazilian Aurélio Eletrônico XXI, they are automati-
cally referred to fazer, and so on. This may not be possible for all types
of languages, but it is for all those with which I am familiar, including an
agglutinating one like Japanese. Including all word forms may result in
large lists, but this is not a problem for electronic dictionaries. What has
to be included depends on what the morphological modifications of each
language are.
The problem of multi-word items is harder to tackle. However, in
the case of long recognised multi-word items such as swimming bath,
swimming pool, swimming costume, and the like, the solution is relatively
simple. In an electronic dictionary, looking up swimming, bath, pool or
costume should lead the learner to all possible combinations. Electronic
dictionaries’ ability to present the information on successive screens
prevents the user from feeling overwhelmed and put off by the sheer ex-
cess of information. When looking up swimming, the words bath, pool
and costume could pop up and would trigger a reaction from the learn-
ers if the same word(s) were part of their context. For instance, learners
looking up levée who are unaware that levée de terre was a single item,
should be confronted with terre, which will automatically draw their at-
tention to the multi-word item.
Secondly, fixed expressions can be considered multi-word items at
the same level as proverbs. At first glance, at great length, in zeven haas-
ten and de uma cajadada só do not allow any variation in their sequence
and function as single words. In a traditional dictionary, users had to
look up these items under one of the expression’s words. Because of
lack of space they were not included under all of the entries involved.
Since some of these entries would end up being very long, there was al-
ways a danger that the learner would miss the item. In an electronic
dictionary, a fixed expression does not have to be classified anywhere in
particular and it is possible to access it through any of its component
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
104
words. This has already been implemented in the Cobuild Dictionary on
CD-ROM and other electronic dictionaries such as Euroglot. Again, the
information is not presented to the learner all at once, but on successive
screens.
2. Idioms and Collocations
Sinclair defines idioms as ‘semi-preconstructed phrases that constitute
single choices, even though they might appear to be analysable into
segments.’ (Sinclair 1991:110) Under this heading, Sinclair classifies a
number of items which, for lexicographic reasons, I prefer to categorise
into two groups.
The first group consists of rigid constructs which I consider multi-
word items. In of course, a Sinclair example, two words are intimately
linked forming virtually a single lexical item translated by one word in
many languages (claro, natuurlijk, natürlich), and in two words (bien
sûr) in others. These fall under the previous heading.
The second kind of idioms is the one Sinclair exemplifies through
phrases such as set one’s eyes on and it’s not in his nature to. These idi-
oms allow for lexical, syntactical and word order variation, making them
much harder for a dictionary to handle (Sinclair 1991:112, 113). Yet
dictionaries should deal with them. Indeed, for most idioms a word-for-
word translation does not make any sense, although it depends on the
target language. But even in Dutch, a language closely related to Eng-
lish, a word-for-word translation of make up your mind, maak op uw ver-
stand, will lead only very clever Dutch speakers to understand this as
beslissen. In French, the literal translation is total gibberish (fais sur ton
esprit), just as in Portuguese (faz sobre tua mente).
Dictionary compilers have been aware of an “idiom problem,” yet
not all idioms are recognised as such. Several are commonly listed in an
entry under one form or another, but others, such as it’s not in his na-
ture to, have never been identified as idioms. The fact that even native
speakers are often not aware of the fixedness of these chunks of words
and their changeable nature makes it difficult to solve this problem in a
dictionary. In addition, the challenge for the lexicographer is not so
much to translate these idioms as to make learners aware of the fact that
they are dealing with an idiom and that their quest for understanding
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
105
will be useless if they limit themselves to translating each word sepa-
rately.
In the case of rigid constructs such as of course or de graça or por
supuesto a dictionary should simply place all possible idioms of which a
word can take part before the learner’s eyes. A search for course, graça,
supuesto could lead to a screen where all the possibilities are listed and
a click on these items would yield a translation. In the case of less evi-
dent idioms, the dictionary should allow users to input all the words they
suspect form one unit: ‘up, mind, take,’ ‘towel, throw.’ These are rather
simple solutions, but I have never seen them put into practice.
The main reason why this problem is nevertheless difficult to solve
in traditional dictionaries is that these dictionaries must necessarily
choose a single classification order, which makes cross-referencing diffi-
cult. In a traditional dictionary, idioms can be classified either under
their first word; under the word which is considered most important; or
according to the semantic field. Not all of these orders can be used at
the same time. Thus traditional dictionaries often have the right infor-
mation, but they have limited ways of making it accessible.
Since an idiom is a mutable construction, it is a challenge for lexi-
cographers to pin it down. With make up your mind the morphological
variations of the verb and the possessive pronoun, the variations in word
order, plus the intercalation of other optional items which can result in
phrases like ‘make your own mind up,’ are all possible. However, a cor-
pus allows for making a list of all possible variations – an otherwise dif-
ficult task. This presupposes there is a list of all possible idioms and, ac-
cording to Sinclair, this project is under way, at least in English.
One way of making idiom decoding easier is to draw the attention of
the dictionary user to the most frequent combinations in which a word
can appear. Even for highly frequent words such as take this is quickly
done with the help of a simple tool such as the Cobuild Collocations CD-
ROM:
part in; (take) place; (take) off; (take) legal action; (take) care of; (take) more than;
(take) some time; (take) some kind of; (take) advantage of; (take) full advantage of;
(take) a (very) long time; (take) (too) long; (take) any chances; (take) a (quick, hard,
detailed, fresh, long, hard) look; (take) account of; (take) into account; (take) years,
months, weeks, days.
Fig. 15 Collocates of take on the Cobuild Collocations CD-ROM.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
106
This list is probably incomplete because of possible flaws in the
construction of the corpus, failure to recognise mechanically the mor-
phological variations of the idiom, or simply limitations of the CD-ROM
as a medium. Even so, it is a start and it makes looking up the collocates
easy. Surprisingly, I do not know of any dictionary where this has been
systematically undertaken, not even in dictionaries which profess to
work with a corpus. Undoubtedly the listing of all possible idioms would
take up much space in a paper dictionary, but not on a CD-ROM. In
addition, the same information could be used in several different places
at once. Taking advantage of the sequencing possibilities of the com-
puter, looking up take would bring up other possible collocates: part;
place; off; legal action; care of; time; kind; advantage; long; chances;
look; account; years; months; weeks; days. When looking up part, take
would also be one of the possible directions in which to proceed, to-
gether with time; most; play; any; important; because; large; life; world;
first; also; become; country; work. Even ignoring the fact that the word
they look up is part of a larger item, a glance at the possible collocates
would quickly make learners aware of the fact that it is
19
.
To speed up decoding, a dictionary should rank the likelihood of a
given word combination. In the case of place, the most likely combina-
tion is take. If a word can form idioms, there is a fair chance it will form
more than one and in this list of combinations one collocate will be more
frequent than another one. The current programmes designed for
searching a corpus automatically detect this sequence. It should be easy
to take advantage of this capability.
3. Polysemy
Words can be polysemous within a language itself, or only when looked
at from the point of view of a foreign language. In the first case, which I
would call internal polysemy and in which the various senses of the word
will frequently be metonymically related to each other, a word refers to
two or more different entities (hammer as a tool; as a part of a gun; as a
device on a piano).
The second kind of polysemy, which I will refer to as external

19
This is exactly what has been implemented in the 1998 Collins Cobuild Edict,
produced after the bulk of this book was finished.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
107
polysemy, only appears in translation. The average language user is
unaware of it. Native speakers of French do not normally know that
quelque chose can be understood in two different ways, reason why it
can be translated in English by anything or something. Another example
is esperar in Portuguese, which can be translated by expect, hope, or
wait.
It is the first kind of polysemy which is troublesome for decoding,
whereas the second kind is a problem for encoding. For foreign learn-
ers, most words are polysemous, since high-frequency words –particu-
larly verbs– have easily more than one possible translation. When look-
ing up a word in a bilingual dictionary, the user will frequently find that
more than one translational equivalent is suggested. This is, mutatis mu-
tandis, also true for definitions in a monolingual dictionary.
Cases of polysemy are elucidated by taking into account the con-
text. Choosing between the various meanings of a word will be easy for
advanced learners, since they understand the context from which they
retrieved the word. It is more difficult for beginning learners. A solution,
therefore, would be to amplify a ‘word’ to some sort of larger lexical
item containing the context of whatever nature this context may be. This
is what a dictionary should endeavour to do. I will explain this now in
more detail.
Lead
The Random House Webster’s College Dictionary lists 62 different
meanings for lead. A number of them mean roughly the same, but quite
a few have different translations, depending on the language. According
to my calculations, there are at least 30 different translations for lead
each Spanish, Portuguese, and French (for instance in Spanish: plomo;
balazos; sonda; escandallo; excusas para no trabajar; mina; lápiz; em-
plomado; cabeza; primer lugar; ejemplo; iniciativa; pista; correa; traílla;
cable; papel principal; protagonista; solista; principal; artículo principal;
introducción; mano; llevar; guiar; conducir; etc.) The right translation
depends in some cases on the immediate context of lead, in others on its
broader context, in still others on whether lead is a verb or a noun.
The procedure for describing a word in terms of context –how to
build up a lexical item by broadening the boundaries of a word– is
closely related to that of looking up a word in a corpus. When one
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
108
knows how to look up a specific meaning of a polysemous word in a
corpus, one has described it as a lexical item. If I know the specific
characteristics of a word I have to mention in order to retrieve only
those instances in which it has a meaning X, and not Y, I know every-
thing that is necessary to disambiguate it.
However, current programs for analysing a corpus, such as Look-
Up at Cobuild, are only partially satisfactory since they limit searches to
a nine-word span. They are not able, for obvious reasons, to pick out
the pertinent words from the rest of the text which, in some cases, de-
termine its meaning. Words which determine the sense of a polysemous
word may not be syntactically related to it. If one takes the case of lead
and parses it out by translating it into Portuguese, one comes to the fol-
lowing figure:
If lead occurs together or in the context of: Translate it as:
I, you, she, he, we, they lead liderar, enca-
beçar
I, you, she, he, we, they lead + life levar uma vida
lead + to levar
lead + noun (story, singer, etc.) principal
lead + swing inventar descul-
pas
of lead (but not followed by a noun: story, singer,
etc.)
de chumbo
‘s lead (but not followed by a noun: story, singer,
etc.)
liderança
to lead guiar
will lead levará/levarão
would lead levaria
point lead vantagem
[auxiliar] + lead levar
the lead a liderança
lead +[química] [exploração de minas] chumbo
lead + [cachorros] corrente
Fig. 16 Translations of lead according to co-text and context.
The figure above gives an overview of how lead is translated into
Portuguese, depending on the co-text and the context. It is a partial de-
scription which demonstrates that describing the whole lexis of a lan-
guage in this way is a huge task. It might, however, be worthwhile. This
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
109
figure shows how easy it is to help a beginning learner determine the
meaning of a word by means of another word or an indication of the
general topic of the text. This might seem a bit laborious to an advanced
speaker, but beginning learners are more willing to put some effort into
their search since they cannot cheerfully skip words and continue to un-
derstand the text.
When looking at a corpus it is astonishing which elements, and how
few elements, characterise a specific meaning of a word. These ele-
ments, unfortunately, do not necessarily belong to a neat ‘nine-word
span.’ In the case of lead and unless lead is followed by a noun, all
combinations with ‘s automatically rule out any other translation if not
liderança. Similarly, the presence of of indicates the cases in which lead
means chumbo
20
. This is also the correct translation if the topic of the
text is mines or chemistry or a related area. This analysis of lead, which
should of course have a more user-friendly aspect in an electronic dic-
tionary, deals with the question in a pragmatic and not in a scholarly
way. Hence the motley aspect of the figure. The purpose is to help the
learner by any possible means. The way in which the data are presented
here is not the way in which they should appear on a screen. The inten-
tion is only to give an example of how a polysemous lexical item can be
disambiguated by adding succinct pieces of information, possibly of very
different kinds: syntactic, semantic, morphological. It is indeed a mix-
ture of formal information (co-text), meaning information (context) and
grammatical information (e. g. ‘auxiliary’).
A possible way of presenting this information is in the form of a
grid, comparable to the ‘picture’ of a word in a programme such as Co-
build‘s Look-Up. Users would click on any word in the grid which they
would recognise from their context and the translation would pop up. It
could be something like the following figure.

20
Looking at it from another angle, of lead and ‘s lead can be considered multi-word
items just like, e.g., railway-track or road block.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
110
Would lead to
the singer
point story
will
would
int
o
‘s
auxiliary
personal pro-
noun
exploração de mi-
nas
música jornalis-
mo
políti-
ca
química cachorros
Fig. 17 Example grid of the entry lead in an electronic dictionary.
Break
The case of break is slightly different from lead. Break is even more
polysemous than lead. It is also more devoid of meaning, which means
its sense is less dependent on the context and almost exclusively on the
co-text. Apart from more traditional types of co-text such as prepositions
or objects in the case of break as a verb, less expected words like came
indicate in what sense break is being used. The grid below is only an in-
dication of what an entry could look like and is by no means compre-
hensive. A great number of occurrences of break, in all its forms, should
be translated into the target language and in each case it should be es-
tablished what words determine a particular translation.
break descanso
(substantivo) ou
quebrar (verbo)
a/the descanso, pausa
take a descansar, fazer
uma pausa
From interromper para
descansar
+ into +
car
house
home
building
Assaltar
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
111
+ away Desprender-se,
libertar-se
big + Grande
oportunidade
+ bones Quebrar
+ off Separar-se,
desistir,
interromper
+ diplomatic
relations
negotiations
dialogue
cortar
+ out Rebentar, brotar
+ fighting
disturbances
epidemic
fights
conflict
war
row
começar
+ free Libertar-se
+ from libertar-se de
+ of libertar-se de
+ glass Quebrar
+ up partir-se,
dissolver-se
+ marriage fracassar
+ protests
demonstrations
dissolver
we, they + separar-se
+ with separar-se
de
the break-up of dissolução
+ came oportunidade
+ ranks sair de forma
+ record quebrar um
recorde
+ even sair sem perder ou
ganhar
+ rules violar as regras
+ law violar a lei
Fig. 18 Example grid of the entry break in an electronic dictionary.
The grid above is based greatly on an analysis of the ‘collocations
tree’ of break as taken from the Bank of English. The original colloca-
tions tree looks like this:
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
112
Collocate Frequency of collocates in 1000
sentences in which break occurs
Statistical significance of the collocate
(over 2 is significant)
down 91 8.823179
up 71 6.322514
out 67 6.189736
after 43 4.810485
record 22 4.364512
into 38 4.231458
a 239 4.157161
in 201 3.959329
his 66 3.914527
rules 16 3.815851
when 41 3.701246
silence 14 3.652114
the 525 3.641007
off 24 3.573706
had 50 3.177460
away 16 3.145142
leg 10 3.025647
tax 12 3.003254
through 19 2.990364
free 13 2.977855
marriage 10 2.956224
lunch 9 2.845882
war 14 2.813841
before 19 2.808706
bones 8 2.769681
glass 8 2.603870
over 23 2.587004
law 10 2.583217
during 12 2.485047
big 11 2.396905
talks 8 2.381263
try 9 2.379298
tie 6 2.331762
since 12 2.259616
laws 6 2.250825
taboo 5 2.222910
deadlock 5 2.217709
trying 8 2.180300
taking 8 2.177877
ranks 5 2.158782
news 9 2.151499
heart 7 2.125252
fighting 6 2.122338
diplomatic 5 2.094875
ago 9 2.087023
Fig. 19 Collocation tree for break.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
113
Clearly, a number of these collocates have to be eliminated since
they do not influence the translation of break. Words like during, since,
before or ago show that break is often used with an indication of time,
but this is not enough to know what break means in these cases. The be-
haviour of most polysemous words should be carefully studied, and it is
not sufficient to include the words which appear in the collocations fre-
quency chart. Indeed, some words which co-occur with high frequency
polysemous words are themselves not extremely frequent and do not
even appear in the collocations chart. But when these words appear
within a nine-word span of the polysemous word, they determine the
meaning. This is the case of came, which does not feature in the list of
most frequent collocations for break, but when it appears in conjunction
with break, it most likely means opportunity: “But the break for South-
ampton came in the 74
th
minute when Le Tissier sent former Arsenal re-
serve Neil Heaney off through the middle.”
I realise that presenting the hypertext reality of a computer screen
in two dimensions demands a lot from the reader’s imagination. In the
eventual dictionary, the columns in the grid of figure 17 and 18 should
be displayed in separate windows or in boxes popping up at the click of
a mouse. Users would also personalise the grid’s appearance. Apart
from a translation, users would have the possibility of calling up a defi-
nition in the target language or a set of examples. However, in the case
of decoding this would probably not be necessary. In the grid above it is
understood that decoders can stop their search whenever they think they
have sufficient information. Typing in break would give the user quebrar
and descanso. If this did not make sense, users could click on one of the
words which they recognise in the context, e.g., off. If still not satisfied
with the translation, users could go on clicking on other words which
would be part of their text and end up finding começar. As can be no-
ticed for break, the translation of the word does not depend on the
broader context, but only on the co-text. The translation of very polyse-
mous words tends to depend on the words found in the traditional nine-
word span. Decoders do not know what are the words that change the
core meaning of the hard word, and these must be suggested to them.
Learners should not have to enter more words beyond the word they are
looking up. They should be prompted to look for suggested words in the
surroundings of their hard word if the core translation does not make
sense.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
114
The users themselves would decide on how much of all this would
be visible on the first screen. They might find it more practical to have
just the prompting words or concepts first and the mouse to click on
them. Some users would prefer to see the whole picture, others to pro-
ceed gradually.
4. Including the Context: Two Experiments.
The task of the decoding dictionary is to give users the right meaning of
a hard word by whatever means, and as quickly as possible. In the pre-
ceding section, I concentrated on the co-text. In the case of some words,
nevertheless, the meaning of a word depends on the broader context.
The translation of hammer can be deduced from its co-text in some
cases, but it may be easier to proceed via the context: martelo if the text
is on metallurgy, percussor if on guns, martelo again if on pianos. If the
dictionary could establish what the general context of the hard word is,
it would be able to immediately suggest to the user the most probable
translation. Looking up the meaning of a word in a dictionary would be
greatly facilitated if the search area were not usually so broad. As things
stand now, one starts from a book which contains a fair part of the
whole lexis of a language to find one single word. But one can either
make the pond smaller or the fish bigger. What follows is an account of
two experiments aiming at trying to make the fish look bigger.
First experiment
In the first experiment, I asked a group of English students learning
Spanish to read a number of short newspaper articles from the Catalan
newspaper El Mundo. Their task was not to point out all the words that
were hard to understand, but only those which they would look up in a
normal reading situation, in which they wanted to understand the mes-
sage. The articles were on different subjects, ranging from international
politics to computing. In addition, one student took on the first Chapter
of Don Quixote. This gave a number of lists for every article with the
words the students thought they would need to look up.
When I realised that these lists contained the stories’ new informa-
tion, I was rather pleasantly surprised. Had the students failed to look
up these words, they would certainly have understood what the topic
was, but not what was newsworthy. In other words, the hard words justi-
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
115
fied why an author had written on the subject. The easy words carried
the information generally known on the subject. A telling example of this
is the following list which shows the hard words in an article of
approximately 180 words on the increasing number of computer thefts
(‘El robo de ordenadores portátiles aumentó de forma significativa.’) In
the right-hand column, I tried to imagine what questions the hard words
were an answer to.
Hard word Question (it is an answer to…)
Ordenadores (3 times) What is being stolen?
datos (de las compañías de seguros) Where does the information come
from?
Alrededor (de 208.000 ordenadores
robados)
How many?
Fundas y bolsas How do the thieves go about it?
Suelen
dueño (del ordenador) How do the thieves go about it?
pertenencias What is being stolen?
piezas metálicas How do the thieves go about it?
se apodera (el ladrón) How do the thieves go about it?
formar cola (en la línea del detector) How do the thieves go about it?
sustraído (por el ladrón) How do the thieves go about it?
funda How do the thieves go about?
Fig. 20 Unknown words in: ‘El robo de ordenadores portátiles aumentó de forma
significativa.’
As can be deduced from this figure, most of the unknown words
are an answer to the question ‘How do thieves go about stealing a com-
puter?’ This is the newsworthy part of the article, and not so much the
fact that robberies are increasing, which is something everybody would
expect. Seven of the twelve unknown words are directly related to this
topic. This means that, allowing for some information obtained by in-
duction from the context, this part of the article would be largely missed
out by learners without access to a dictionary.
In the case of the learner who took on the first chapter of Don Qui-
xote (1900 words), the unknown words (app. 2.5 % of the entire text)
are like a summary of the chapter and indeed of the book as a whole.
Without them, the story is devoid of interest. This is the list of words
which the student who read the first chapter would have looked up.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
116
Hard word What it refers to
astillero knighthood
adarga knighthood
rocín knighthood
galgo corredor knighthood
olla habits of Don Quixote
vaca habits of Don Quixote
carnero habits of Don Quixote
salpicón habits of Don Quixote
quebrantos habits of Don Quixote
lentejas habits of Don Quixote
palomino de añadidura habits of Don Quixote
velarte habits of Don Quixote
vellorí habits of Don Quixote
ama who lives with Don Quixote
frisaba appearance of Don Quixote
recta appearance of Don Quixote
enjuto de rostro appearance of Don Quixote
desatino knighthood
requiebros knighthood
desafío knighthood
fermosura knighthood
desvelábase lack of sleep
heridas knighthood
rostro appearance
darle fin al pie de la letra books
melindroso knighthood
no le iba en zaga knighthood
turbio lack of sleep which typifies Don Qui-
xote
pendencias knighthood
OTHERS: acabar; ensillaba; podadera;
ratos; enflaquece; sacara; inacabable,
competencia, muy acomodada situación.
Fig. 21 Words experienced as hard by the test subject in the first chapter of Don Qui-
xote.
Basically this first chapter is about who Don Quixote is, what he
looks like, what his habits are, who he lives with and his obsession with
books and knighthood. Some of the unknown words in this list are
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
117
clearly not ascribable to any special feature of Quixote, but the nice
thing is that so many are. There are maybe no four words that charac-
terise Don Quixote better than pendencias (fights), desafíos (challenges),
heridas (wounds) and requiebros (flatteries addressed to women), all on
the hard word list. These words are extremely frequent in Quixote, but
are relatively rare in the language in general. Unfortunately I do not
have any 17
th
century Spanish corpus to confirm this.
The conclusions to be drawn from this experiment are, first, that
the difficult words of a text are responsible for the important part of its
content. Second, that since the hard words are the less frequent ones,
taking out the more frequent words leaves us with a summary of the
text. This may seem obvious, since otherwise there would be a limited
number of texts, but it is something dictionary design could take into ac-
count. If the topic of a text resides in the less frequent words in the lexis
of a language as a whole, the learner’s look-ups shed light on this topic.
This means that in the case of polysemous words, electronic dictionaries
could guide learners more directly to the meaning of the word if they
had at least a rough idea of what the text was about. In the case of a
polysemous word such as drive, it is unlikely that the meaning should be
anything else but dirigir/unten suru/besturen/lenken/manejar/conduire if
the text is on cars. Consequently, the learner need not know what he
drives me mad means, unless the author of the text wanted to make a
pun.
This can also be illustrated by the word key. Key can be translated
in French by clé; remontoir; clavette; touche; secret; légende; liste; solu-
tions; corrigé; tonalité; capital; essentiel (Oxford-Hachette). Depending on
the situation, a learner will retrieve the right translation by means of a
collocation –e.g. if key is followed by issue, preceded by master, house,
car– , or a morphological feature since there is a fair chance that the
plural keys refers to clefs. However, the topic of the text might lend a
hand as well. If the text is on music, key should be understood as to-
nalité, if on clocks as remontoir, if on language textbooks as corrigé. A
label could solve this problem, but what if the reader has only a vague
idea of the topic of the text, or if the label is not easy to tell? In this
case, the list of hard words would give the (electronic) dictionary an idea
of what the topic is and lead the learner to the right translation of a
polysemous word.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
118
Second experiment
To check this hypothesis on frequent and infrequent words, I took a se-
ries of articles published in the American Herald Tribune and filtered
out the words included in a list of the 600 most frequent English words,
according to the Bank of English. This left me with skeletons of the arti-
cles which still had enough function words to be roughly understand-
able. I reached the number of 600 words empirically. Leaving out more
than 600 the text became incomprehensible.
The experiment with the Herald Tribune confirmed my hypothesis
that the information of a text lies in its infrequent words which are, in
fact, very frequent within the text itself. I will limit myself to one exam-
ple, an article on the operation Desert Storm. In the figure below, I list
the words retained after taking out the words that are amongst the 600
most frequent words in English. The original article consisted of 846
words, the sifted one of 585. (Including repetitions.)
Smart Arms In Gulf War Are Found Overrated
Pentagon’s Reliance On High-Tech War Questioned in Review
Gulf/Pentagon dramatically oversold/effectiveness/expensive -tech
aircraft/missiles/thorough independent study/date /
Pentagon/principal contractors claims/precision/impressive/weapons -/Stealth fighter
jet/Tomahawk land-attack missile/laser-guided ''smart bombs''/overstated
misleading inconsistent/data/unverifiable/study/non-partisan Accounting /
accounting concluded/costly ''smart'' weapons systems/necessarily
perform/Gulf/fashioned cheaper ''dumb'' ones/wisdom/plans/depend
increasingly/weapons/extend/art/tens/billions/dollars/accounting analyses
programs/Congress/secret -/study/conducted Operation Desert Storm/detailed
analysis/
million pieces/: Defence Department databases compiled/commanders
intelligence/analyses/contractors/accounting/interviewed/100 Desert Storm pilots
planners/battlefield commanders /
unclassified summary/250-page secret/scheduled/published//
commissioned/1992/Senator David Pryor Democrat/Arkansas/Representative John
Dingell Democrat/Michigan/Congress decide/weapons/buy /
secret contains facts/figures/buttress/13-page unclassified summary/official
familiar/lying /
Pentagon briefers treated/videotapes showing/smart bomb
diving/shaft/Baghdad/anecdotes/extraordinary accuracy/Tomahawk missiles
launched/afar/study concluded/stories/true/truth /
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
119
Pentagon/dispute/conclusions/April 28 letter/accounting/Defence
Department/acknowledges/shortcomings/ precision-guided munitions/aircraft/carry/
Tomahawk missiles/department/ability/assess/effectiveness/bombing campaign/Gulf
/
shortcomings/improved smart weapons studying
whether/mix/weaponry/arsenal/proposing/ways/locate/destroy targets /
overwhelmed/Iraqi/1991 Gulf/deployed nearly 1000 combat aircraft/unleashed
nearly/tons/bombs/dropped/Gery/Japan daily/
superior technology pilots/whether/presumed
target/tank/truck/whether/destroyed/sensors - laser electro-optical/infrared
systems/clearly clouds rain fog smoke/humidity/
sleek F-117 Stealth fighter jet/highly touted ability/target evading
detection/necessarily outperform older cheaper aircraft
claimed/80 percent success/bombing runs/Stealth fighter/reality/closer/40 percent /
inappropriate aircraft perforce/effectiveness demonstrated/Desert
Storm/characterise higher- aircraft/generally/capable/lower- aircraft/ summary /
Nor smart bombs necessarily deliver bang/buck/summary /
8 percent/bomb tonnage dropped/Iraq/smart bombs/guided
munitions/accounted/84 percent/munitions/summary/
campaign data/validate/purported efficiency/effectiveness/guided munitions
qualification/summary/-target/-bomb' efficiency/achieved
smart bombs built/Pentagon/planned/estimated/$58/triple/spend/FBI/drugs
immigration customs federal courts/prison construction /
guided munitions/ summary concluded/limitations/effectiveness
demonstrated/Desert Storm/addressed/Department/Defence /
praise/Pentagon weaponry/flush/victory/Gulf/questioned/1991 George Bush/Patriot
missile/nearly perfect shooting 41/42 Iraqi missiles aimed/Israel/Saudi Arabia /
Defence/Patriot/perfect knocking/40 percent/Scuds aimed/Israel/70
percent/aimed/Saudi Arabia /
Fig. 22 Least frequent words in Herald Tribune article on Desert Storm.
This experiment supports the hypothesis that a text’s new informa-
tion lies in its less frequent words. It also suggests, as is natural, that this
new information does not lie in the function words, all included in the
list of the 600 most frequent words
21
. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that

21
Literature teachers may claim that very important information lies enclosed in
these function words and in the way they are combined, and even in a newspaper
article these very frequent words inform us about a possible hidden agenda. But in
this case we are dealing with problems which precede these considerations. Un-
doubtedly, very frequent words are the first thing one learns in a foreign language,
then come the less frequent ones, and eventually one has to start all over again and
learn the true significance of the most frequent words once more. However, the
problems I am trying to deal with regard the content –and not the presentation– of
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
120
many of the collocations were not affected by leaving out the 600 most
frequent words (depend increasingly, costly ‘smart’ weapons systems, la-
ser-guided ‘smart bombs,’ Stealth fighter jet, thorough independent study).
In other words, the structure of the text as a construction of chunks was
left surprisingly intact.
Finally, a secondary result of this procedure is that we can now
build an important portion of the semantic field of the topic of the arti-
cle, modern warfare, including the collocations. Here is a list of these
words extracted from the same article on Desert Storm.
Effectiveness, expensive, high-tech aircraft, missiles, precision weapons, Stealth
Fighter jet, Tomahawk land-attack missile, laser guided ‘smart bombs,’ costly
‘smart’ weapons systems, perform, cheaper ‘dumb’ ones, plans, depend
increasingly, Congress, secret, conducted, Operation Desert Storm, Defence
Department, commanders, intelligence, pilots, planners, battlefield, unclassified
summary, secret, scheduled, figures, videotapes, shaft, extraordinary accuracy,
Tomahawk missiles launched, precision-guided munitions, aircraft, carry, assess,
effectiveness, bombing campaign, improved smart weapons, weaponry, arsenal,
ways, locate, destroy targets, overwhelmed, deployed nearly 1,000 combat aircraft,
unleashed nearly, tons, bombs, dropped, superior technology, presumed target,
tank, truck, destroyed, sensors, laser, electro-optical, infrared systems, clouds,
rain, fog, smoke, humidity, sleek F-117 Stealth fighter jet, highly touted ability,
target evading detection, necessarily outperform older, cheaper aircraft, claimed,
80 percent success, bombing runs, fighter, inappropriate, aircraft, effectiveness
demonstrated, higher- aircraft, generally, capable, lower- aircraft, bomb tonnage
dropped, guided munitions, accounted, munitions, campaign data, validate,
purported efficiency, guided munitions, target, smart bombs built, guided
munitions, Pentagon weaponry, Patriot missile, nearly perfect, shooting, missiles,
aimed.
Fig. 23 Semantic field of ‘modern warfare’ extracted from a Herald Tribune article
on ‘Desert Storm.’
Naturally, if the aim were to document exhaustively the semantic
field of warfare this list should be completed and adapted manually, but
even this rather crude catalogue shows the possibilities of the technique,
enabling one to draw semantic maps, taking authentic texts as a starting
point. These semantic maps, together with their translations, provide us
with a syntagmatic –in some sense ‘onomasiological’– map of the lan-
guage instead of a more traditional one, in which a word is related to its

messages communicating states of affairs.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
121
synonyms and not to the words with which it is likely to occur in a nor-
mal text
22
. In a text containing the words aircraft, bombing, guns, the
meaning of drop would probably be related to bombs and thus the
French translation would be larguer and not baisser; in Portuguese, lar-
gar and not abaixar. Similarly, a round will mean cartucho in Portu-
guese and not série or volta. As soon as a user had looked up a handful
of words, the electronic dictionary would be able to identify the matter
of the text and direct all further searches accordingly. In the case of
polysemy, this means that the dictionary programme would go first to the
meaning most likely to appear in a text on gardening, football, etc.
Fields would not have to be formally delineated. It would be sufficient to
link words or items and their translation: if in the same text an item x is
proven to have a translation x1 and an item y a translation y1, than the
translation of z is likely to be z1 as opposed to z2, z3 etc.
23
In an electronic dictionary, all the lexical items can be classified al-
phabetically with their various meanings one after the other (lead, music;
boxing; nautical; etc.), but also within these bigger groupings them-
selves, together with the words they normally occur with. In current dic-
tionaries, the various meanings of a word are listed together, but it is
highly unlikely for a same word to be used in more than one sense in
one and the same text. It is when the text ends that another sense can
be chosen for the same word (lead refers to the mineral in an economic
survey, and to play first violin in an article on music). In an electronic

22
It is this kind of consideration which induces some lexicographers to apply this
classification to the whole dictionary. This classification has the advantage of being
more rational, yet less practical, at least in the case of printed dictionaries. As Jean
Binon puts it:” De nombreux arguments militent en faveur d’un classement
onomasiologique lorsqu’il s’agit d’encoder, de produire, de passer à la mise en
discours. En effet pour le décodage la consultation d’un dictionnaire a lieu au gré
des lectures et des occurrences. Lors de la production en revanche on part d’une
intention de communication, d’une idée, on aborde un thème. On ne parle, on
n’écrit pas alphabétiquement.” (Binon, 1995, no page number, electronic version)
23
Here is just one practical application of this. Most newspapers and other maga-
zines are nowadays published on the Internet. This means that texts come more
often to the reader in a machine-readable form. An electronic dictionary could sift
the 600 most common words out of an article, deduce from what is left what the
topic of the article is, then sort the order of the senses according to the senses the
words can have in texts on this topic.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
122
dictionary a polysemous word can be stored in both classification sys-
tems: in the alphabetical as well as the semantic grouping that gives it its
sense.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
123
2. ENCODING
Fig. 24 Scheme of an encoding dictionary based on the sequence of a typical look-up.
USAGE
CHOICE of the ITEM
(meaning/appropriateness)
Via the L2 (synonyms) 'intelligent' thesaurus
Via the L1 bilingual dictionary
explicit
implicit (examples) selected real examples
'controlled' examples from example texts (encyclop.)
examples
synonyms
definition
labels
(collocations) list
(syntax) grammar rules
made-up examples
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
124
1. Introduction
As was the case for decoding, it is necessary here to make a distinction
between beginning and advanced learners. From an encoding point of
view, a distinction is traditionally made between beginners, intermediate
and advanced.
24
For compiling a dictionary, however, I would suggest
that there is no need for that much differentiation. It is sufficient to dis-
tinguish between beginners and more advanced learners.
When encoding, one can have the following problems:
1. one does not have any idea of what the word is in the target lan-
guage;
2. one knows the word superficially and could recognise it, but
cannot recall it actively;
3. one knows the word but is unsure of its collocates or its syntax.
All three problems will occasionally trouble the foreign language learner
of any level. However, the first kind of difficulty is encountered more
often at the beginner’s level and will have specific consequences for the
design of a dictionary. The second and third kinds of situation are more
typical of an advanced level and will be dealt with separately.
2. Encoding for Beginners
I will illustrate the problems of beginning language learners by means of
two examples in Japanese. Japanese dictionaries are specially suited for

24
Although this distinction is well established, it has been poorly described and is
generally taken for granted. According to my own experience as a language teacher
and learner, this distinction exists. At a beginners level, learners are concerned
with expressing simple messages on everyday matters. They are aware of the limi-
tations placed on their communication capacities by their lack of knowledge and
their queries aim at diminishing this lack. At an intermediate level, learners can
express anything they want by means of congruent language, to use Halliday’s no-
menclature. They only use grammatical metaphors sporadically. Seen from a dif-
ferent angle and in accordance with Sinclair‘s terminology, intermediate learners
are able to express themselves well grammatically, but not naturally. Advanced
learners aim at a native-like fluency and they use idioms, grammatical metaphors
and pragmatically appropriate language.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
125
this kind of demonstration since any Westerner who has a command of
only European languages is a true beginner in Japanese. Lexicographers
working on Japanese dictionaries for foreigners clearly conceive their
dictionaries with true beginners in mind. The Japanese writing system
leaves no doubt as to the intended audience of each dictionary. It is
therefore easy to choose precisely those designed for learners of Japa-
nese, and not of English. Indeed, dictionaries using kanji, Chinese
characters, are intended for Japanese or very advanced learners,
whereas those written in romaji, the romanised alphabet, are designed
for a non-Japanese audience. As for dictionaries written in hiragana,
they can be considered to be half way between kanji and romaji, but are
in practice only a way to simplify the localisation of words for Japanese
learners, since the Introductions to these dictionaries are written in
Japanese only.
First test sentence
To make my point, I chose to translate a typical beginner’s sentence:
The flowers are on the table. Beginning learners of Japanese will at least
know that there are no articles in Japanese, no plurals, no verb inflec-
tions which depend on the personal pronoun, that the word order is the
inverse of English, and that the theme of the sentence is indicated by
the particle wa. This gives the following basic pattern to be translated:
Flower-wa table on be.
Martin’s Concise Japanese Dictionary is a small dictionary with an
English-Japanese and a Japanese-English part. It uses kanji, hiragana,
katakana, and roman characters. Using this dictionary allows us to
translate our sentence into: Hana wa teburu on desu. The dictionary
entry for on is:
On … de… ¯, (located) … ni… .` (atop) …no ue (de/ni) ... ·d ¹¯.)
Fig. 25 Entry for on in Martin’s Concise Japanese Dictionary.
Needless to say, this is not an entry which is particularly helpful in our
case, since there is no indication of what the differences are between the
different translation options. Then for whom is this information in-
tended? The romaji part was certainly intended for a non-Japanese
audience. The kanji character for ue, on the other hand, can only be
meant for Japanese. For these users, however, the romaji part is useless.
If this information is meant for Japanese learners decoding an English
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
126
text and not knowing what on meant, then the dictionary should give
these three possible translations in kanji or hiragana, not in a Western
writing system. If this information is instead intended for English learn-
ers of Japanese, then they must be capable of distinguishing between
these three options for on. This is not exactly beginners’ knowledge. The
dictionary tells dictionary users that there are three possible translations,
but merely makes them aware of this piece of information, and that they
are indeed incapable of telling the difference. Not a very refreshing
pedagogical experience.
If, on the other hand, one is advanced enough learner to know how
to use the different on’s in Japanese, one will most probably remember
them without a dictionary. Consequently, this information is not meant
for advanced learners either. Moreover, if one feels unsure about the
usage of each on, only examples or a grammatical explanation can help.
None of these is present in the entry.
I suspect this is another example of the emblematic information all
dictionaries include to a certain extent. Nobody can claim that the in-
formation is not included. Yet nobody can tell what it is good for either.
Collins-Shubun tackles the problem of function words like on in a
different way. In the concrete case of on, a whole section is dedicated to
its various senses with examples to help beginners with their choice.
on [a:n] prep 1 (indicating position) ... (·d).[¯] ... (no ue) ni (de)
on the wall ¸. kabe ni
it's on the table ¯¸ (·d).¨¹¨¹ téburu (no ue) ni arimasu
on the left ¹. hidari ni
the house is on the main road ¸:¦|).¯`¯'¨¹ ie wa kafisendoro
ni me shite imasu
2 (indicating means, method, condition etc) ...¯ ...de
on foot (go, be) ¸'¯aruite
on the train/plane (go) ¸÷ [)¦¦] ¯ de; (be) ¸÷ [)¦¦] . ÷¯
densha (hikoki) ni notte
on the telephone/radio/television ¸, [¯.·, ¯`!] denwa (rajio, terebi)
de
she's on the telephone {¸:¸,.,¯'¨¹[¸,¬¯¹] kanojo wa
denwa ni dete imasu (denwachu desu)
I heard it on the radio /saw him on television 1:¯.·¯[
¸¨`¨ [¯`! ¯ {¡¸¨`¨] watakushi wa rajio de kikimashita (terebi
de kare wo mimashita)
to be on drugs (¸¡·¯'¸ mayaku wo yatte iru
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
127
to be on holiday ;¦¬ kyuukachuu de aru
to be away on business ¦)¯,]´¯'¸ shooyoo de dekakete iru
3 (referring to time) ... . ...ni
on Friday ¸j|. kinyoobi ni
on Fridays ¸j|. kinyoobi ni, )¸¸j|. maishu kin-yoobi ni, ¸j|)
. kinyoobi goto ni
on June 20th 6 )20 ). rokugatsu hatsuka ni
on Friday, June 20th 6 )20 )¸j|. rokugatsu hatsuka kinyoobi ni
a week on Friday ;¸· ¸j|. raishuu no kin-yoobi ni
on arrival he went straight to his hotel )j ¹¸¸{:)i
.¯·¦¸¨`¨ toochaku suru to kare wa massugu ni hoteru e ikimashita
on seeing this ´|¡¸¸¸kore wo miru to
4 (about, concerning) ... .[`¯ ni kan shite
information on train services ¯÷.[¹¸ ]| ressha ni kan suru joohoo
a book on physics. |¸·¯ butsuri no hon
adv 1 (referring to dress) }.·´¯ mi ni tsukete
to have one's coat on ¯·¡j¯'¸ kooto wo kite iru
what's she got on? {¸:;¡j¯'¨¹. , kanojo wa nani wo kite imasu ka
she put her boots/gloves/hat on {¸:¯¨` ¡]'¨ [÷¦¡:"¨,
L¯¡.¨] kanojo wa buutsu wo haita (tebukuro wo hameta, booshi wo
kabutta)
2 (referring to covering): screw the lid on tightly ¨¡`.¹ /"¯¯¸'
futa wo shikkari shimete kudasai
3 (further, continuously) ¡´¯ tsuzukete
to walk/drive/go on ¸¸ [÷¯¿¹, ¦¸] ¡´¸ aruki (kuruma dè hashiri,
iki) tsuzukeru
to read on ]¨¡´¸ yomitsuzukeru
adj 1 (functioning, in operation: machine) ]'¯¸ ugoite iru; (:radio, TV,
light) ·'¯'¸ tsuite iru; (: faucet) /.,¯'¸ mizu ga dete iru; (:brakes)
..¯'¸ kakatte iru; (: meeting) ¡'¯'¸ tsuzuite iru
is the meeting still on? (in progress) ¨¨,±¬¯¹. mada kaigichuu desu
ka; (not cancelled) ,±:¯]¸¹.·¸.¯¹. kaigi wa yotei doori ni
yarun desu ka
there's a good film on at the cinema ||¦¯´''||¡·¯'¨¹
eigakan de ima ii eiga wo yatte imasu
2: that's not on! (inf: of behavior) ¸|1'´¨'. sore wa ikemasen
Fig. 26 Entry for on in Collins-Shubun.
In the Collins-Shubun, three hundred ‘keywords,’ function words
and other very frequent words like ‘have’ and ‘be,’ were given the same
‘extended treatment.’ In the case of our test sentence, The flowers are on
the table, Collins-Shubun gives the example It’s on the table (teburu ni
arimasu) which immediately reminds us of our test sentence. The trans-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
128
lation is given both in romaji and in Japanese characters, although it is
not entirely clear what the kanji characters are for. Since the example
sentences do not include fixed expressions or idioms, they were obvi-
ously intended for non-Japanese who, having to look up basic informa-
tion of this kind, will not be able to decipher the kanji anyway. One
could argue that they accustom the user to these characters and add to
the Japanese flavour. More likely, however, they are to convince Japa-
nese learners of English that this dictionary was also intended for them.
I am afraid that is not true.
Going back to our test-sentence, with the help of Collins-Shubun,
the first tentative translation can be corrected into Hana wa teburu ni
arimasu. However, learners could still doubt if arimasu is the right verb
in this case. This is where the romanised Japanese-English part of the
Martin’s dictionary comes in hand. Since it mentions ‘it is (located)’ as
one of the possible translations of arimasu, it confirms the information
retrieved from Collins-Shubun.
Second test sentence
Another Japanese example illustrating the dictionary problems of begin-
ners is the sentence Is the bank open? Martin’s provides the translation
for bank: ginko. Open is more of a problem.
open 1. opens it akemasu (akeru, akete) [´¨¹, ([´¸, [´¯), (opens it
up) hirakimasu (hiraku, hiraite) [¸¸¨¹ ([¸´, ['¯), (begins it)
hajimemasu (hajimeru, hajimete) ¹"¨¹, (¹"¸, ¹"¯) 2. it opens
akimasu (akui, aite) [¸¨¹, [´', ['¯; (it begins) hajimarimasu
(hajimaru, hajimatte) ¹¨¹¨¹ (¹¨¸, ¹¨¯), a place, an event) opun
shimasu (suru, shite) ·–·``¨¹ (¹¸, `¯), kaijo shimasu (suru, shite)
[¸`¨¹ (¹¸, `¯), (a shop/business) kaiten shimasu (suru, shite) [¹
`¨¹ (¹¸, `¯)
Fig. 27 Martin’s entry for open. (Strangely, this dictionary does not mention open as
an adj.)
Collins-Shubun tackles the problem as follows:
open [ou'pen] adj. (not shut: window, door, mouth etc) ['¨ aita; (: shop,
museum etc) ,¸¬· eígyoochuu no, ['¯'¸ aite iru; (unobstructed: road)
[¸`¯¸ ' kaítsuushite iru; (view) [´¨; (not enclosed; land)|'·/';
(fig: frank: person, manner, face) ¯i/ sótchoku na; (unrestricted: meeting,
debate, championship) .[·
vt [´¸akéru, [´hiráku
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
129
vi (flower, eyes, door, shop) [´akú [´; hiráku; (book, debate etc:
commence) ¹¨¸haj¸aru
in the open (air) |º. yagá ni
an open car ·¯`¯– ópùnkaa
Fig. 28 Collins-Shubun’s entry for open
Martin’s entry for open has two sub-sections, one headed by the expres-
sion opens it, the other by it opens, a way of avoiding the use of transi-
tive and intransitive. A further subdivision leads to: “(a shop/business)
kaiten shimasu (suru, shite).” This entry induces learners to believe that
the fact that something is open should be expressed by a verb and a
complement and not by an adjective, since the dictionary does not show
this possibility.
According to Collins-Shubun, however, open can be translated by
an adjective as well as by a transitive or intransitive verb. In the case of
shops and museums, the suitable form, says the dictionary, is eigyochu
no or aite iru. No indication is given as to the difference between these
two possibilities, which makes the information anything but helpful.
Since what we want to ask is not if the bank opens but if it is open, one
can only venture to follow Collins-Shubun which results in: Ginko wa
eigyochu no desu ka or Ginko wa aite imasu ka.
In order to confirm this, we go back to the Japanese-English part of
Martin’s which tells us that eigyo means (running a) business! This seems
to mean that eigyochu no does not apply to our case. Aite, on the other
hand, appears to mean coming open and iru is the dictionary form of
imasu (is or stays). This gives a new translation: Ginko wa aite imasu ka
which is indeed the correct translation.
All this shows a typical beginner’s problem: uncertainty as to what
has to be looked up. This is not that much of a problem if one stays
within the same family of languages, but it might be very intricate in-
deed if one is accustomed to, for example, inflectional languages, and
studies an agglutinative language for the first time. The main problem I
had with translating Is the bank open? came down to knowing in what
way open was lexicalised in Japanese. This shows clearly the funda-
mental importance of simple examples, in great quantity, for the begin-
ning learner
25
.

25
I have written some more on the case of Japanese in Humblé (1999).
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
130
Function words
A first conclusion that can be drawn from these experiences is that a
beginning learner has to go back and forth a number of times to retrieve
the information necessary to solve, all things considered, a rather
straightforward problem. The Martin’s team did not do enough research
as to how the dictionary would be used in practice.
Secondly, if we look at these experimental look-ups, it appears that
all beginners’ problems are somehow related to grammar: grammar at a
macro level –the verb system in Japanese–, or at a micro level –function
words. In terms of the micro level, Collins-Shubun is admirable in its
treatment of 300 keywords. This is particularly useful for beginning
learners who will seldom recognise the target item and will often learn it
through a dictionary. In the case of as (in English), the examples are as
follows (in the dictionary these examples are followed by their transla-
tion in Japanese, both in kanji and romaji).
1. (referring to time) as the years went by; he came in as I was leaving; as from
tomorrow
2. (in comparisons) as big as; as much/many as; as much money/many books as; as
soon as
3. (since, because) as you can’t come, I’ll go without you; he left early as he had to
be home by 10
4. (referring to manner) do as you wish; as she said
5. (concerning) as for/to that
6. he looked as if he was ill
7. (in the capacity of) he works as a driver; as chairman of the company, he…; he
gave it to me as a present
Fig. 29 As in Collins-Shubun English-Japanese Dictionary.
These examples contain only a few fixed expressions, showing that this
dictionary, in fact, targets English-speaking beginners. There is indeed
not much chance that a Japanese learner will look up (to decode) a sen-
tence like he came in as I was leaving, since it is perfectly understand-
able if one knows what he, came, in, as, I, was, and leaving mean. The
example phrases are almost exclusively of the open-choice type and al-
low dictionary users to fill in the pattern with the words of their own
message. The adding of labels would in this particular case be superflu-
ous, since labels are unavoidably more abstract than examples, in them-
selves clear enough.
The separate grammar part in Collins-Shubun at the end of the vol-
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
131
ume is clear, but since it is a print dictionary, without the flexibility of
an electronic dictionary, the information was not included in the appro-
priate spot. This dictionary could have been an ideal beginners’ paper
dictionary had the lexicographers been allowed to concentrate on the
English speaking audience. The present dictionary contains 30.000
headwords, far too many for (encoding) learners of Japanese and not
enough for the (decoding) Japanese learners of English. This results in a
lack of examples and poor treatment of very frequent and difficult words
such as think, mean, know, etc. Unfortunately, Collins-Shubun aimed at
being ‘useful to the language student and the native speaker alike’ and,
as a result, a compromise was made. Unfortunately, an excellent con-
cept was only partially carried out.
***
Learners have modest aims when encoding into a language they have
just started to study. This means they have modest demands in terms of
content words and a pressing need for information on function words.
When choosing between several alternatives for a word, they will pro-
ceed by comparing their sentence in their L1 to the ones listed under
the form of examples. Examples, particularly for function words, are of
the utmost importance in this kind of dictionary since an encoding
learner does not always have a clear idea of what is the item to be
looked up.
The analysis of two Japanese dictionaries for beginners suggests
that even in cases when it is obvious that a particular audience should
be chosen, commercial considerations get in the way. In an attempt to
satisfy both encoders and decoders, clever lexicographic projects are im-
perfectly carried out.
3. Encoding for Advanced Learners
Ideally, advanced learners have no morphological problems, they want
to use grammatical metaphors, the correct collocates and, from a prag-
matic point of view, the appropriate expressions. In addition, the highest
stage in language learning is characterised not only by the use of the
appropriate word, but also by the use of the appropriate sequence of
words, i.e. idioms and fixed expressions. Advanced learners aim at a na-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
132
tive-like command of the foreign language. What kind of dictionary
would help them with this?
Basically, the look-up process can be subdivided into the choice of
the item and its usage. These stages will normally follow each other
chronologically and in my argument I assume they do. However, the
possibility should not be excluded that a learner accesses the dictionary
at any of these stages. In other words, learners may skip the choice stage
if they are only interested in usage.
Since I start from the presupposition that the dictionary of the fu-
ture will be computer-based, random access to any of its component
parts is taken for granted. As I have not found much literature on this
subject, what follows draws basically on my own experience as a dic-
tionary user and the experience of fellow dictionary users whom I have
observed and interrogated over the last few years. I myself wrote down a
number of my own look-ups in as many languages as I could handle.
These include Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, English, Italian,
German, Japanese, Latin, modern and ancient Greek, and Danish.
These are languages in which I am a native speaker, advanced, inter-
mediate, false beginner, absolute beginner, or almost ignorant.
1. Choice of the Item
The process of choosing the appropriate equivalent in the target lan-
guage will usually start by looking up the item in a bilingual dictionary,
i.e., proceed via the source language. This will be the subject of this
chapter’s first section. In the second section, I will concentrate on users
who already have an idea of the target item and have the possibility of
proceeding via the target language to refine their choice.
1. Via the Source Language
When proceeding via the source language, i.e., through a bilingual dic-
tionary, the odds are that the learner will be confronted with more than
one translation option. There are traditionally four ways to distinguish
between various options: synonyms, labels, examples and definitions.
Although all four have advantages and disadvantages, at least one is
suited for each particular kind of item. In some cases, a synonym in the
source language will help the learner out. In others, an example. To be
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
133
effective, the dictionary should propose the most adequate option first,
even if the lexicographers choose to offer more than one.
The moment users have located their item in the dictionary, there is
a stage of decoding within the operation of encoding, a stage for which
most of the observations I formulated for decoding are valid. The differ-
ence here is that encoding is, as a whole, a much more precise activity.
If the word to encode is avaliar and the dictionary suggests appraise,
evaluate, value (Taylor, Portuguese-English Dictionary. 1963), encoders
will have to decode these translations to see which one fits their context.
Since in a dictionary the particular context of the user is of course not
included – while decoding users have their own text – , what the dic-
tionary has to do is to provide one, of whatever kind, in order to enable
users to make their choice. This is what examples and definitions and, in
a broader sense, synonyms and labels do. They all attempt to connect
the unknown word with something the learner knows.
The information for the dictionary user can be of two kinds:
abstract and concrete. The two extremes of the spectrum are occu-
pied by labels and by examples. Labels are often more abstract than
the looked-up word when they give information on the semantic
field to which the word belongs. They can be of various degrees of
abstraction. Examples, on the other hand, give concrete information
by providing users with a type of context which they will or will not
recognise as the one they had in mind.
In order to distinguish between different lexical items from an en-
coding point of view, the distinction between function and content words
is again of some utility. The meaning of a content word tends to depend
on the context, while the meaning of a function word depends on the co-
text. In English, particular function words, such as pronouns, are gener-
ally quite straightforward. Others, such as prepositions, are highly com-
plex and can be translated in a variety of ways, depending on the words
which immediately follow.
In dictionary terms, this means that the correct translation of a
function word can be selected by putting it in an example followed by its
translation. The translation of a content word, on the other hand, is de-
cided on by referring to a semantic field, or a synonym in the source
language, in a label. In Collins-Shubun, the function word at has a dif-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
134
ferent translation depending on whether the co-text is: at the top, at
school, to look at something, at 4 o’clock, etc. The labels which in this
case accompany the examples (referring to position; time; rates, etc.) are
superfluous.
A content word like French énergie can be translated in several dif-
ferent ways into English, but the synonyms used in Collins-Robert (force
physique; fermeté, ressort moral) go a long way towards disambiguating
the possible translation options.
Clearly, each item should be examined in itself but, as a rule, sense
disambiguation of function words can be attempted fruitfully by means
of examples, and of content words by means of labels. In particular
cases, a definition can help by stressing the specific features of a word
as opposed to its synonyms. However, this is at present rarely done.
Synonyms in the source language are often useful, but since current dic-
tionaries have four possible audiences, two encoding ones and two de-
coding ones, it is not clear at all in which language the synonyms should
be.
Another way of looking at the problem is by means of the item’s
frequency. Allowing for a number of exceptions, one can say that the
more frequent a word is, the greater the chances are that it can be
translated in many different ways. In addition, the number of possible
translations of a word depends on the target language. Linguistically,
and culturally, related languages have a greater likelihood of being par-
tially isomorphic.
Labels
I will call a label anything between brackets giving an indication of the
meaning or the pragmatic appropriateness of a word. While they are ex-
tremely common, not much has been written on labels
26
and I know of
no publication which considers the matter for the specific case of foreign
language lexicography. Meaning labels situate the item in a semantic
field: directly (maritime, agricultural, medical), or by means of another
word which refers to it. This last modality – as in “régler (ajuster) to
adjust [hauteur, dossier, micro, chauffage]” (Oxford-Hachette), where the
label refers to machinery – has some characteristics of a disambiguation

26
Hartmann (1981, 1983) and Osselton (1996) discuss related areas.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
135
by means of an example. It is the type of example that learners have to
‘assemble’ themselves by using the label word in a made-up sentence.
Labels of the pragmatic type indicate the word’s register by naming it:
slang, formal, archaic, etc. and are rather straightforward.
Labels can be of various kinds: a reference to a semantic field; a
verb which can be used with the target noun; a noun which can be used
with the target verb; a noun to which the target adjective can apply. The
Oxford Spanish Dictionary uses, among others, the following labels:
(naut.); (astrol.); (aviat.). These labels are very effective at disambiguat-
ing the translation of a content word. The same technique would be
useless if applied to a function word. In the case of function word at, the
same dictionary separates the various senses by means of the following
labels: indicating location, position; indicating direction; indicating time;
indicating state; occupied with; with measurements, numbers, rates, etc.;
with superlative; because of; concerning. In this case, classification by
means of labels has no other purpose than to provide, at least formally,
some kind of classification for the high number of examples in the entry.
Yet most users will simply go straight to the examples ignoring the la-
bels.
In the Oxford Spanish Dictionary, the two possible translations of
construir (build and construct) were distinguished by means of the fol-
lowing labels:
a ‹ edificio/barco/puente › to build
b ‹ figura geométrica › to construct
c ‹ frases/oraciones › to construct
d ‹ sociedad/mundo › to build; construir un nuevo mundo to build a new world
Fig. 25 Construir in the Oxford Spanish Dictionary.
In this case, the user was directed to four alternatives by an indication
of the semantic field. Seen from a grammatical point of view, the labels
here are the direct objects of the translational equivalents in question,
half way towards an example. One can construir un edificio, construir
una figura geométrica, etc.
These are a few of the many other kinds of labels found in the
Oxford Spanish Dictionary, and which are familiar to most people who
have ever dealt with dictionaries: “(Teatr); (Ven); (AmE); (BrE); (Ven
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
136
fam); (Ven arg); (Méx); (Dep); (AmS vulg); (AmE sl); (BrE sl); (colloq);
(crit);. (para el pelo); (de un cangrejo); (en costura); (para la ropa).”
Some of these labels refer to a geographical area, some to what the
word applies to, and some indicate the level of formality. They orient
the user not only to the right translation in terms of meaning, but also of
appropriateness. In this case, labels which are intended to help with de-
coding have been mixed with labels intended for encoding. Indications
such as ‘de un árbol,’ ‘del queso,’ arg. (argot), are intended for encod-
ing Spanish speakers, which is the reason why they are in Spanish.
Strangely enough, the indications sl (slang), colloq (colloquial), and crit
(criticised usage) are in English, although English speakers of the kind
who use dictionaries should know if the English word is slang or formal.
This is one type of incoherence that results from targeting more than
one audience.
Concrete and abstract
As I stated, labels come in two varieties, concrete and abstract. When-
ever possible, concretising should be preferred. I will illustrate this ex
absurdo by means of an example of the opposite.
In the entry for oreille in Collins-Robert the labels are, among oth-
ers: anatomie; ouïe; comme organe de communication. They are almost
the same as in Oxford-Hachette: anatomie, ouïe, personne. Unfortunately,
these labels look somewhat like a scholastic exercise. One should ques-
tion whether users in search of a translation for oreille will start asking
themselves if in their case oreille refers to something anatomical, a fac-
ulty of hearing, or an organ of communication. Any disambiguation
which requires from the user a supplementary effort of abstraction con-
tradicts the dictionary’s aim of being a mere tool, as practical as possi-
ble. When users are in search of an item, they look for something they
recognise that is connected to what they want to express. This is mostly
a word related to the field they are dealing with. A practical approach
which gives the user supplementary information, of any kind, should
therefore prevail and publishers should let lexicographers be guided
more by Hermann Rorschach than by Saint Thomas Aquinas. The entry
for demander (in its transitive sense) in Oxford-Hachette gives an exam-
ple of a pragmatic approach. Any reference that ‘rings a bell’ has been
used:
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
137
1. (solliciter) [conseil, argent, aide, permission]; (dans une offre d’emploi) (…)
2.(enjoindre) (…)
3. (souhaiter) (…)
4. (interroger sur) (…)
5. (faire venir) [médecin, prêtre]; (dans son bureau) (au téléphone) (…)
6. (nécessiter) [travail, tâche] [effort, attention, qualification]; [plante, animal].
[attention]; [sujet, texte] (…)
7. droit [tribunal] [peine, expertise]; [personne] [divorce]; [dommages-intérêts] (…)
Fig. 26 Demander in Oxford-Hachette.
In this entry, the user finds: plain synonyms; the object of what can be
asked for (conseil, médecin, etc.); the circumstances (tribunal). Re-
markably, the type of labels has been adapted to the item in question.
The lexicographers were not guided by any kind of orthodoxy, obliging
them to apply the same rule to each and every word. I do not think or-
thodoxy agrees well with the diversity of lexis. A flexible kind of ap-
proach such as the one applied in Oxford-Hachette and others, should
inform all dictionary making. It should go as far as adapting the treat-
ment of a word to the language to which it is translated. Here, as in all
other aspects of dictionary making, contrastive information is the key to
a learner-oriented dictionary.
Synonyms
Another way of differentiating the possible translations of an item is
through synonyms in the source language. However, these synonyms will
necessarily have to be superordinates, and if the problem item refers it-
self to an abstract entity and is also a verb, this may require a consider-
able effort of reflection from the user. The entry for demander in Oxford-
Hachette lists the following synonyms: solliciter; enjoindre; souhaiter; in-
terroger sur; faire venir; nécessiter. The limits between these distinctions
are tenuous, and dictionary users will find it hard to decide in which
category their intended meaning falls.
Synonyms are quick and efficient ways of distinguishing senses
when these are as clearly distinct as in table: piece of furniture; list. They
are difficult to use in the case of subtle differences. Thus synonyms
should be used according to each case and not applied to every entry as
a rule.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
138
This brings us back to the phenomenon of internal and external
polysemy. When native speakers are aware that a word has more than
one meaning – table (and chairs) vs. (time) table – translation disam-
biguation by means of synonyms will be successful. This will not be so
easy for external polysemy – quelque chose as anything or something –
in which native speakers are generally not aware of the different senses
of the word.
Examples
Examples direct learners towards a particular translation by putting the
word in a co-text which they can compare to their own. As I have al-
ready spent a few pages analysing the problem of examples, I will here
limit myself to highlighting the main features of their disambiguating
function. As I argued before, in the case of beginning encoders, exam-
ples are vital and should consist of frequent phrases, or sentences with
frequent words. For advanced learners, however, the situation is differ-
ent.
In the following list, I give a random sample of words with their
frequency (according to Cobuild 2). Between brackets is the number of
senses listed for each word in the dictionary.
no
diamond
27
impudent
(1)
dispersion
(1)
ellipse (1) shirk (1) seducer
(1)
1 diamond terse (1) mod (1) raven (2) pristine (1) orchard
(1)
2 diamonds ratio (1) Carve (5) covering
(1)
justified
(2)
polite (2)
3 diamonds justify (1) massive (2) neutral (9) pipe (7) prior (4)
4 diamonds finger (16) indicate (6) liberal (4) movie (2) print (20)
5 diamonds form (20) half (16) go (49) nothing
(18)
test (13)
Fig. 27 Illustrative table of a few word frequencies indicated in number of diamonds,
and (between brackets) number of senses.
As this list suggests, internal polysemy does not necessarily mean exter-
nal polysemy, but it is a strong indication that a word has more than one
translation. To distinguish between the various translations of form in
Portuguese (20 senses in Cobuild2; 53 possible translations in Houaiss’

27
In Cobuild2, ‘diamonds’ indicate the frequency of a word, the more ‘diamonds’
the more frequent the word.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
139
Dicionário Inglês-Português), examples would be very effective since the
meaning of form will depend to a large extent on the co-text. However,
in the case of raven (two possible translations: ‘corvo’ and ‘cabelo
preto’), examples might help but will be far less effective than a label.
Here again the link between audience and content of a dictionary
emerges clearly: beginners need the translation of frequent words dif-
ferentiated by means of examples; advanced learners need infrequent
words differentiated by means of labels or synonyms. This of course re-
gards the differentiation of translation equivalents and does not mean
advanced learners do not need examples.
28
The ability of examples to distinguish between different meanings
of words is directly proportional to their frequency. Indeed, dependency
on the co-text to indicate the meaning of a word is directly proportional
to its possibility of appearing in an idiom or a fixed expression. The
more frequent a word is, the more it tends to rely on the co-text to ac-
quire meaning and the greater is the probability that an example will be
able to give an idea of its meaning. The less frequent a word is, the
more it has a meaning independent from the co-text, and the context.
The more the meaning of a word depends on the co-text, the more ex-
amples will help to distinguish different options.
Definitions
A fourth possibility of distinguishing between various translation
equivalents is through a definition. This is the wordiest way of proceed-
ing and should therefore be reserved for particularly intricate cases such
as words for which there exists only one equivalent in the source lan-
guage. For instance, Spanish cambiar can be translated by alter or
change; sustituir can be translated by substitute and replace. In these
cases the difference has to be explained and cannot always be glossed
over with a label or a synonym in the source language
29
. Japanese col-
lege dictionaries have been doing this admirably for many years and
Cambridge Word Selector does something similar.
In practice, advanced learners get used to looking up a word in a

28
This is fully discussed in Chapter 4.
29
The difference between substitute and replace does not coincide with sustituir and
reemplazar.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
140
bilingual dictionary and then looking for additional information in a
monolingual dictionary. However, this would be more effective if both
were in the same volume and if the definition followed the translation. If
this definition is in the target language, there is a possibility that it will
not be entirely understood by the learner. A definition in the source
language could be more helpful in cases of subtle differences and where
the distinction made in the target language does not exist in the source
language. Proceed Japanese-English Dictionary explains the differences
between declare, proclaim and pronounce, for instance, between job and
post, and many others, all in Japanese. The dictionary exhibits
explanations of this kind on every page. What enables the Proceed’s
authors to do this with so much conviction is that they know precisely
who their audience is and what their problems are with very specific
items. Cambridge International Dictionary has been criticised for the
way in which it introduced contrastive information in its first edition.
However, it is predictable that other learner’s dictionaries will start
adopting similar strategies in the future. It is different to learn English if
you are Brazilian or Malay, and dictionaries will have to adapt to this
30
.
Longman Language Activator is a monolingual dictionary, but one
can imagine a bilingual dictionary using its type of definitions in order to
distinguish between translations, somewhat along the lines of the Portu-
guese-English Bridge Bilingual
31
. The Activator tackles the task of defin-
ing each alternative quite well despite occasional unhelpful abstractions.
In the case of improve, for instance, the Activator makes the following
introductory distinctions.

30
Nesi (1994) refers to this issue.
31
A reminder of how the Portuguese-English Bridge Bilingual uses both English and
Portuguese:
lug, lugs, lugging, lugged, VB com OBJ Se você lug um objeto pesado, você o
carrega com dificuldade; uso informal. She lugged the suitcase out into the hallway.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
141
IMPROVE
1. to become better in standard or quality
2. ways of saying that a situation or someone’s life becomes better, more enjoyable,
less difficult etc.
3. to make something better by making changes, working harder etc.
4. to keep improving something that is already good until you make it perfect
5. to make a situation, quality, or someone’s life better and more interesting, more
enjoyable etc.
6. a change or addition that improves something
Fig. 28 Improve in Longman Language Activator.
In this case, the alternatives correspond each to a different section. In
these sections, several synonyms are suggested. The concept is excellent
and really thought out with the users’ needs in mind. Even so, it seems
rather unlikely that learners will choose their particular sense of improve
from this rather abstract list. On the other hand, the definitions of the
synonyms themselves that render the idea of improvement are as clear as
humanly possible. On must admit that the task is hugely difficult since
the differences between make something better, fine-tune, brush up and
clean up (among others) are evident for native speakers, but difficult to
master for learners. One of the problems is that the different alternatives
are defined in relationship to the hyponym, not to the other synonyms.
Streamline is defined as ‘to improve a system or process by…,’ upgrade
is defined as ‘to improve something such as machinery …,’ but stream-
line is not contrasted with upgrade.
The advantage of a bilingual dictionary would be the smaller num-
ber of synonyms from which to distinguish. If a Brazilian learner wanted
a translation for aprimorar she or he would have to choose between re-
fine and perfect and would not have to start from the hyponym improve.
The Activator perpetuates a tradition of “English dictionaries for speak-
ers of any language” that has been useful until recently, but they will
probably split up into minor areas and focus more on specific languages.
Definitions are useful distinguishing synonyms (modernise/upgrade),
except when different translation options are the result of polysemy
(lead (metal) and lead (guide)). In this case, in which the equivalents in
the target language are completely different, a simple translation would
mean much less work, for lexicographer and learner alike. Since defini-
tions place more demand on the learner’s powers of abstraction, they
should only in specific cases be used to disambiguate synonyms.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
142
2. Via the Target Language
More advanced learners may prefer to obtain their information directly
via the target language. In this case, they will necessarily start from
some kind of target language input. This can be of various kinds: a su-
perordinate; elements of a definition; number of syllables; sounds; ges-
tures (‘something you do with your fingers to show approval’); or a com-
bination of these elements. To be able to do this kind of search would
be particularly useful for advanced learners who only have difficulty
remembering an item, or want to turn their passive knowledge active.
Advanced learners often have a good idea of what they want to say in
the target language, but may want to express themselves either in a
more formal way; or by using an idiomatic expression; a metaphor; or a
fixed expression. Furthermore, learners may have an idea of the defini-
tion of the word they are looking for, without knowing the word itself.
For a number of advanced learners the ideal dictionary may be an im-
proved kind of thesaurus. A thesaurus presupposes that there is already
a word in the mind of the learner, but that this word is inadequate for
some reason: register; congruent
32
; metaphorical; lack of precision; re-
gional variant.
Some of the publications now on the market which are termed ‘the-
saurus’ could just as well be called synonym dictionaries and some, such
as the Concise Oxford Thesaurus, indeed bear the subtitle A Dictionary of
Synonyms. In what follows I consider a thesaurus to be any book which
lists synonyms together with some supplementary information. This in-
formation can be in the form of an example, a label, or a non-
alphabetical classification.
Finding a Word Starting from its Definition
Let us imagine a situation in which learners have an idea of some of the
components of the definition of a lexical item they are looking for and of
the words they collocate with. A learner should be allowed to input
‘generous’ and ‘fight’ as a collocate and be presented with the word
magnanimous; or ‘abundant’ and ‘give’ as a collocate and get lavish.
These input words could include descriptions of physical gestures such
as ‘forward,’ combined with an indication of its semiotic meaning ‘dis-

32
In the Hallidayan sense of the word (Halliday, 1994)
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
143
content’ and the search should yield pout. Of course this presupposes
that there is some kind of simple, congruent definition for the word like
the one Oxford Wordpower gives for pout: “to push your lips, or your
bottom lip, forward to show that you are not pleased about something.”
The electronic Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus and Ran-
dom House Webster’s have a feature which allows users to search the
definitions for specific words. The difficulty is, however, that the learner
has to use exactly the same words as those that were used in the defini-
tion. In the case above with Oxford Wordpower, for instance, this means
one has to use the phrase not pleased instead of discontented. In a com-
puter based dictionary this could rather easily be remedied since a
synonym dictionary can be used to reduce the user’s needs for a par-
ticular definition. On the other hand, a more analytical and even playful
method would be to start from lips, go to movement then to forward,
then to irritation or discontent or not pleased. Additionally, the definition
stored in the dictionary/thesaurus should be of a kind learners them-
selves would be able to formulate, i.e., not include very infrequent
words.
Next is another example of a problem which a thesaurus could
solve. Suppose that a learner, inspired by the French expression ‘être
d’une grande utilité’ and the Dutch ‘een grote hulp zijn,’ wants to ex-
press the ill-formulated idea: ‘the encyclopaedias are of great help.’
There must be a way of saying this in English along the lines of:
— are of great help
— are of great use
— are of great utility
— are a great help
— are a big help
Learners should be allowed to look up ‘help’ + ‘utility’ for the dic-
tionary to give them the right expression under several forms: formal,
informal, metaphor, vulgar, plain, etc.
Using the same principle, a learner could find the right collocate. A
typical learner’s question could be: ‘Does one really say draw the cur-
tains?’ It would be useful to be able to click on the word curtain, then to
choose between adjective, verb, etc. and be given a list of possibilities.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
144
Varying the Register
It is extremely difficult for learners, even advanced ones, to be sure
whether the register of the word they are about to use is right. Foreign-
ers using informal expressions in formal contexts and vice-versa are a
frequent source of jokes in academic circles. It is a typical task for a
thesaurus to eliminate this kind of confusion. Learners often know the
formal, or neutral, word for what they want to say, but would like to
sound more vernacular. Specifically in English, a learner would often
prefer a phrasal verb rather than Latin equivalent. However, before
doing so, one has to be entirely sure of the implications of the alterna-
tive option. How do native speaker thesauruses tackle this question?
In the case of a word such as man, Collins Thesaurus offers the
following alternatives: ‘bloke (Brit. inf.), chap (Inf.), gentleman, guy
(Inf.), male.’ If the learner had a memory laps, this list will surely help.
For most learners, however, the precise difference between a bloke and
a chap will not be clear if the only supplementary information they get is
the indication “informal.”
Once again, it is unclear whose problem this indication of “infor-
mal” is supposed to solve. Typically, a thesaurus user is an encoding
user and she or he has to be very sure that the word she or he is going
to use is the right word. If native speakers are targeted here, they might
find a particular alternative in the thesaurus of which they were at first
unable to think. But in this case the indications Brit. and inf. are super-
fluous since a native speaker knows if they are informal or typically Brit-
ish. For a non-native speaker in search of a more informal way of refer-
ring to a man –for instance, translating cara in Portuguese, mec in
French, tío or tipo in Spanish, and so on– the choice between guy, bloke
and chap remains hazardous if no supplementary information is sup-
plied. This supplementary information would have to be looked up in
another dictionary. One could contrast the Collins Thesaurus with Ro-
get’s. Published several times and directed exclusively at native speak-
ers, the latter is well adapted to their specific needs: not to learn the
word, only to recall it starting from the idea.
The Random Webster’s Thesaurus is meant for native speakers but is
helpful for L2 learners because it is a thesaurus that separates the
senses by means of an example. The result is a very clear overview of all
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
145
the possibilities. Although the Thesaurus does not contain any register
indications sufficiently explicit to help out L2 non-native speakers, still
something can be learned from it:
man n.
1. Man cannot live by bread alone: mankind, the human race, men and women,
human beings, humankind, people, humanity, Homo sapiens.
2. Every man must follow his own beliefs: individual, person, human being,
human, living being, living soul, soul, one; anyone, somebody, someone.
3. The average man is taller than the average woman: male, masculine person;
gentleman, chap, fellow; Slang guy, gent.
4. The minister pronounced them man and wife: married man, husband, spouse;
Informal hubby.
5. Hire a man to take care of the garden: handyman, workman, hired hand, hand,
laborer, day laborer; employee, worker; manservant, male servant, boy, waiter,
footman, butler, male retainer; assistant, helper, right-hand man; male follower,
subject, liegeman, henchman. v.
6. The crew was ordered to man the lifeboats: attend, staff, take up one’s position
in, take one’s place at, get to one’s post; supply with hands, furnish with men,
people; equip, fit out, outfit; garrison.
Fig. 29 Man in Webster’s Thesaurus.
These kinds of examples –common to a number of dictionaries– does
not give the meaning of the word but only help to disambiguate its vari-
ous senses. It does this more effectively than a definition would, while
still proving that native speakers are the intended audience, for the indi-
cation slang for guy and gent is too vague for L2 learners and hence su-
perfluous.
Rudolf Meldau recognised and successfully tackled this problem in
his thesaurus Schulsynonymik der deutschen Sprache. Its design shows
that the author had a clear idea of his audience’s needs. 300 entries
cover between 1500 and 1600 synonyms. When appropriate there is a
clear explanation of each word’s register. Apart from this, there is a
wealth of examples that help situate the word in its register. Under
Mann one finds Herr, Mannsbild, Kerl. The information for Mannsbild,
for instance, is: “fig.; Umgangssprache, meist abschätzig, selten
bewundernd.“ There are 6 examples for Mannsbild, 34 for Mann, a
comparable number for Herr and Kerl, making this thesaurus exemplary
as a learner’s thesaurus.
Native speakers use a thesaurus to recognise words, and learners
use them to learn new words. To be really practical, and in computer
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
146
terms, a superordinate should be surrounded by boxes on which to
click, each of them mentioning one of its different lexical realisations.
One would start from man and ask for something “less formal,” or
”more scientific,” ”vulgar,” etc. and examples would complement the
information. It would look like this:
man ! formal !common use ! gentleman
! scientific (human beings) ! male
! as a type ! male
! informal ! American ! guy
! British ! modern ! bloke (esp. working class)
! modern ! guy
! critical ! fellow
! slightly old-fashioned ! chap (middle and upper-class)
Fig. 30 Man in an L2 learner-oriented thesaurus.
The difference between a native speaker’s and a learner’s thesau-
rus resides in the amount of information necessary to distinguish be-
tween several options. One example illustrating an option, even if well
chosen and translated, is often not enough.
Advanced learners are able to evaluate the tenor of a word by its
context, provided there is a huge number of instances. Only a corpus
can provide this. Here the use of authentic material seems to be the best
choice since it is precisely in the area of register that made-up examples
are weakest. Made-up examples are certainly justified in the case of be-
ginners, but they cannot give a correct idea of a word’s use for ad-
vanced learners.
Changing from Congruent to Metaphoric
The main task of an advanced learner’s dictionary is to help learners
‘complicate’ their messages. Making their messages less congruent is
one way of doing this. Native discourse is pervaded by metaphors. Be-
ginning learners have limited ways of expressing themselves and tend to
adapt their message to what they are able to say. Advanced learners, on
the other hand, have a message and study its most adequate wording.
The area of metaphors is virtually unexplored in foreign language
lexicography. Although metaphors are language specific, languages of-
ten use metaphors for the same phenomena and there are certain areas
which are more susceptible to being encoded by means of a metaphor
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
147
than others. ‘Not to see anything’ is an example of a universal metapho-
risation (I can’t see a thing; no veo ni gota, je n’y vois goutte, ik zie geen
fluit, não vejo bulufas, etc.); ‘not to care about something’ (I don’t give a
damn; me importa tres pimientos; je m’en fous; het kan mij geen barst
schelen; não estou nem aí). There are certain areas for which one in-
stinctively feels there must be a metaphorical and thus more natural ex-
pression. In a learner’s thesaurus one should be allowed to input the
congruent expression and get the metaphorical one. There are, to the
best of my knowledge, no available dictionaries which do this kind of
translation, although the elements to compile one are already contained
in the many native speaker’s thesauruses currently on the market. Web-
ster’s Thesaurus dedicates special attention to metaphorical expressions,
including what Halliday (1994, Ch. 10, passim) would call grammatical
metaphors, but one has to pick them out individually. Here is the entry
for think:
reason, reflect, cogitate, deliberate, turn over in the mind, mull over, ponder,
contemplate, meditate, ruminate, have in mind, make the subject of one’s thought,
dwell on, brood, keep in mind, remember, recall, recollect, use one’s wits, rack
one’s brain. (my emphasis)
Fig. 31 Think in Webster’s Thesaurus.
In addition to metonymies, advanced learners feel the need to use
grammatical metaphors. Halliday calls expressions such as ‘use one’s
mind,’ ‘apply the mind,’ ‘take a walk,’ ‘dar uma esperadinha,’ ‘aan de
beurt zijn’ (‘to be one’s turn’) grammatical metaphors. They are essen-
tial for anybody aiming at a native-like fluency since they are the normal
native speaker’s way of talking. Grammatical metaphors, unlike meta-
phors in the strict sense of the word, might not exist in every language
for the same activities. One ‘has a headache,’ ‘a des maux de tête,’
‘heeft hoofdpijn,’ ‘hat Kopfschmerzen,’ etc., but in Japanese the more
common way to say it is ‘atama ga itai desu,’ ‘my head hurts,’ even if
the metaphorical way exists. Likewise, I do not know of any language
apart from Portuguese where you can ‘give a (little or normal size of)
waiting’ (dar uma esperadinha/esperada), ‘holding’ (segu-
rada/seguradinha), ‘talking’ (falada/faladinha). However, these expres-
sions are essential for anyone aiming at native-like proficiency in Brazil-
ian Portuguese and a learner’s thesaurus can give the user easy access
to this information.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
148
Fixed Expressions
Non-native speakers can sound less congruent when communicating in a
foreign language, by using fixed expressions. The problem with finding
fixed expressions in a monolingual dictionary is that, although the ideas
which can be expressed in this way often coincide, their lexicalisation is
different. There is no reason why think hard should mention eyebrows as
in quemarse las cejas, or neurones as in queimar neurônios. Nevertheless,
there is a fair chance that a language has a fixed expression for think
hard as opposed to the activity of, e.g., parking one’s car.
Similes, which we can consider a kind of fixed expression, are
rather well documented because they are so obviously typical of each
language and are recognised as such by its speakers. In my experience,
English-speaking people are aware that not necessarily everyone on this
planet thinks of pitch as the epitome of black nor of a cricket as the
quintessence of liveliness. Yet the English do, and say black as pitch and
lively as a cricket. The ideal thesaurus should allow a learner to find a
fixed expression by inputing a few words.
This procedure is not very different from finding a word through its
definition, yet I know of no electronic dictionary which has even begun
to develop this feature. It presupposes listing the fixed expressions of a
language and defining them in terms of words which would be used to
call them up. Current idiom dictionaries – as fixed expressions are also
called – list the idioms according to their components, not their mean-
ing, which makes these dictionaries useless for learners. To understand
what go through the mill means, a learner will consult a dictionary,
probably the entry mill, and indeed all the bilingual dictionaries I con-
sulted mentioned the expression. What is lacking is a dictionary allowing
the learner to encode go through difficult times as go through the mill, or
through a sticky patch. Similarly, defeat to meet your Waterloo and dis-
agree should lead to be at odds with. The fact that such an evidently use-
ful and easily realisable tool is not yet on the market is indicative of the
lack of research into the needs of advanced learners.
Formulas
There is a long-standing tradition of dictionary appendixes that deal with
another kind of fixed expressions which could be classified as formulas
and are a kind of idiom in the Sinclairian sense of the word. Previously,
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
149
dictionaries would limit themselves to formulas used in letters, but this
section has been expanded lately to fixed expressions based on an
analysis of the functions of language. In its appendix, Collins-Robert lists
Suggestions, Advice, Offers, Requests, alongside more conventional items
like Correspondence and Announcements. No doubt this is very valuable
information, of the kind learners aiming at a native-like fluency should
try to master. However, the problem here is the user interface. The list
of functions and their wording as they appear in Collins-Robert is the
most complete one I know and is very valuable. Yet, which learner will
think first of the statement they want to produce as an expression of the
‘mechanics of argument,’ then pass on to the section ‘moderating a
statement’ to find ‘Sans vouloir critiquer cette façon de procéder, il semble
cependant qu’…’?
This is a recurring problem in lexicography, which I call the ‘trian-
gle problem.’ The dictionary user has in mind an expression at a certain
level of abstraction. In order to retrieve the information in the dictionary
she or he has to elevate that level, only to come back down afterwards,
in the other language, to the level of abstraction she or he started from.
For instance, a learner has in mind the Portuguese verb papear. To find
the correct translation that has the same level of abstraction (chat), this
learner has to raise the level of abstraction to, say, communicate verbally
in an informal way.
This is a mental operation which most encoding learners are reluc-
tant to perform, unless there is no other way of doing it or skipping it.
Instead of this, a more realistic option could be to include these formu-
las in the body of the dictionary where the input of two or more words
would lead the dictionary to suggest the rest, exactly as current elec-
tronic dictionaries with a browse-feature. The problem could be dealt
with as Sinclairian idioms, since this is what these formulas are. There is
a strong possibility that, for instance, given in Collins German Dictionary
as a way to Argumente abschwächen (soften arguments), allows very few
variations, if any. Starting from the source language, there is no reason
why the formula cannot be included under the entry for think.
2. Usage of the Item
Once the item is selected, attention must be paid to its usage. Although
it is now generally accepted that lexis and grammar are a whole which
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
150
Halliday qualifies as a lexico-grammar, choosing the item and learning
how it should be inserted into a text has purely formal aspects which the
dictionary should teach. These formal aspects of encoding refer mainly
to syntax and collocates, and this information can be transmitted implic-
itly or explicitly depending on the case and on the learner’s personal
preferences.
The explicit way to transmit information on syntax is to list with
every word the ‘formula’ of its use – the constraints to which it is sub-
jected. The explicit way to transmit collocational information is to list all
the lexical items that combine with the item in the target language.
The implicit way of transmitting this information is through exam-
ples. Different kinds of examples, combining various types of informa-
tion, were described above. I will discuss the advantages of a few of
them for the purpose of encoding.
1. Explicit Information
Syntax
For the purpose of this book, syntax is a set of rules which governs the
use of a lexical item within a sentence. These rules intertwine to various
degrees with the meaning of the item and I am aware of Sinclair and
Francis’s work on this issue (Francis, 1996). In some cases they are
likely to appear to a learner as arbitrary and simply typical of a particu-
lar language, whereas in other cases these rules may be arbitrary in
themselves, although intimately meaning-related. I suggest that the way
in which the dictionary should handle each of these cases will depend
on the category to which these items belong. I see two possibilities,
meaningful and meaningless syntax, and I will now give a few examples
of each together with how I think the dictionary should handle each of
these problems.
***
In Japanese, the pattern ‘because followed by a verb’ is translated by the
formula [nazenara … <verb in dictionary form> kara desu]. This is a
pattern which may have some meaning within the context of the Japa-
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
151
nese language, meaning which would emerge if one did a special re-
search on the subject, but for the learner it is a purely technical,
‘meaningless’ question. In this case, the dictionary should explicitly pro-
vide the ‘formula,’ along with a few illustrative examples.
An example in French is the use of the subjonctif after verbs ex-
pressing will. Although there is a remote connotation of ‘unreality’ in-
volved in the use of the subjonctif, this is of little concern to encoding
dictionary users and this sort of information should not hamper their
queries. In this case as well, a simple formula should orient the learner.
In other cases, however, syntax is intimately intertwined with the
word’s meaning. In English, indulge is used in the patterns: verb + in +
noun; verb + noun; and pronominally. In each of these constructions,
indulge means something different and, e.g., in French the translation
equivalent for each of these patterns is a different word : céder à; donner
libre cours à; gâter; se laisser tenter; boire de l’alcool; se livrer à; se faire
plaisir; s’offrir; se faire une gâterie en faisant….
In the case of items of arbitrary syntax, a dictionary should provide
explicit information; examples are still important, but only secondarily.
If the dictionary only gives a number of examples of the Japanese con-
struction for because, these might not make the learner aware of the fact
that the verb has to be in the dictionary form (and not in the -masu, -te, -
nai, or -ta form). Yet, this is essential information, which should be
given explicitly. In the second situation, on the other hand, such as in
the case of indulge, explicit information can be given, but examples are
much more important. Indeed, when syntax conveys meaning, the co-
text reveals this. So much so, that this is a strong case in favour of the
use of authentic examples. The information conveyed by syntax is so
subliminal and subtle that no lexicographer is capable of grasping it in
all its complexities. Examples are needed here, authentic, and in large
quantity.
***
Information on syntax is typical of production dictionaries and can be
found in two forms: general information in a separate part of the dic-
tionary, or particular information concerning specific items under the
appropriate entries. I am very much in favour of considering a diction-
ary a word-based tool in the sense that every word –it should ideally be
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
152
‘every word-form’–, particularising all the information so as to fit spe-
cific lexical items, i.e., concentrating everything in the entries, and not
under other headings. Explicit syntax indications in a dictionary are
controversial because of their necessarily abstract and compact charac-
ter, and abbreviations are partly to blame for some of the dictionary’s
unpopularity. The understandable reason for this is, as always, lack of
space. This is likely to change with electronic dictionaries, although the
ones published to date still follow the print tradition.
Furthermore, dictionary users are instinctively put off by grammar
because it demands a fair amount of mental effort and one cannot
always be sure it is the best way of coping with a specific item’s
problems. However, when the syntax indications are not followed by an
illustrative example, some users will not consider it worth the effort.
Syntax indications should therefore not be used indiscriminately
but only when they really help and are vital to show how a word must be
used, this is: when a word’s syntax has no bearing on its meaning (as in
the syntactical constraints of because in Japanese). If not, (as in the case
of indulge), implicit syntax information in the form of examples will be
more efficient than a grammatical formula.
Collocations
Collocations are a neglected problem. Although the advent of corpora
should have made it easier to deal with the issue, there does not seem to
be much awareness of its importance. Advanced learners often have a
vast passive knowledge and simple solutions as E. H. Mikhail’s Diction-
ary of Appropriate Adjectives, which lists 4000 nouns with their possible
adjectives, can be highly effective. This explicit way of giving informa-
tion on collocates can be even more helpful than examples. Collocates
consist, by definition, of the words which occur most often with the tar-
get word. It is therefore likely that if advanced learners want to use a
word, they will recognise the one that goes with it and applies to the
context at hand. Examples could additionally dispel any doubts.
1. Implicit Information: Examples
Examples are a key feature for encoding learners. They can make the
explanation of the meaning of a word more precise, show in which con-
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
153
texts it is used, what the collocates are and what its syntax is. In chapter
3 I discussed the current situation of examples and established a few
criteria; I will now concentrate on how different kinds of examples can
specifically assist encoding. As I said before, a learner needs an enor-
mous number of examples to be able to use a word correctly. Even the
Longman Language Activator, which claims to concentrate on encoding,
does not give more than three examples per word, and this is often not
enough.
For the purpose of encoding I distinguish three kinds of examples:
made-up, authentic, and controlled. The distinction between made-up
and authentic is clear. ‘Controlled’ examples are those retrieved from
publications such as encyclopaedias and other reference works which
target not only a native-speaker audience.
Made-up vs. authentic examples
Made-up examples are the most common type and until recently they
were the only ones available. The first examples of the Oxford Learner’s
Dictionary were supposed to confirm and corroborate definitions. They
were, in this sense, decoding aids. At the same time they also taught
something about the syntax of the word. However, made-up examples
presume the lexicographer knows the learners’ problems and what
learners should be taught. This may be true for the most frequent senses
of the most frequent words, but perhaps not for the rest of the lexis.
House and home are frequent words translated by casa in Portu-
guese. It is unlikely that these words will be looked up more by ad-
vanced learners than by beginners. Below are the examples for house in
the Oxford Wordpower, aimed at intermediate students.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
154
1a building that is made for one family to live in
Is yours a four-bedroomed or a three-bedroomed house?
Note: Look at bungalow, cottage and flat. Your home is the place where you
live, even if it is not a house:
Let’s go home to my flat.
Your home is also the place where you feel that you belong. A house is just a
building:
We’ve only just moved into our new house and it doesn’t feel like home yet.
You can build, do up, redecorate or extend a house. You may rent a house
from somebody or let it out to somebody else. If you want to move house you go
to an estate agent.
2[usually singular] all the people who live in one house
Don’t shout. You’ll wake the whole house up.
Fig. 31 Examples for house in the Oxford Wordpower.
The first example seems rather inadequate. The word bedroomed is
more difficult than house and the structure Is yours a…? must sound a
bit strange even to intermediate students. The example Let’s go home to
my flat is better because it illustrates the helpful comment on the dis-
tinction house-home. It is presumably not a very natural example. How-
ever, it fulfils the function that paradigmata fulfil in traditional Latin
grammar teaching. If learners learn by heart Let’s go home to my flat, it
is unlikely they will ever say Let’s go house to my flat. The examples for
home counterbalance this with the example That old house would make
an ideal family home. This is not a very natural sentence either but it
shows the distinguishing features of the words home and house, allowing
learners to make grammatically correct if not very natural sentences.
The example We’ve only just moved into our new house and it doesn’t feel
like home yet reinforces this teaching point, clearly the lexicographers’
intention.
Particularly in the case of very frequent words like house, authentic
examples do not fulfil any immediately evident purpose, at least not if
the dictionary is aimed at beginning students. Cobuild2 includes the
following ones for the first sense of house:
She has moved to a small house and is living off her meagre savings.
…her parents’ house in Warwickshire.
Fig. 32 Cobuild2 examples for the first sense of house.
In the first example, meagre is, in Cobuild‘s own classification, a one-
diamond frequency word and live off is probably not more frequent.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
155
The second example is too short to be helpful. No reference is made to
home and none of the examples make clear the difference between
house and home.
It is when made-up examples are used for less frequent words, that
the superiority of authentic examples shows clearly. Impetus is a very
low frequency word. The entry in the Oxford Wordpower is:
impetus noun [uncountable] [singular]
something that encourages something else to happen
I need fresh impetus to start working on this essay again.
Fig. 33 Impetus in Oxford Wordpower.
This example has probably been made up. Any foreigner looking up
impetus for encoding reasons supposedly knows what the word means,
and at the most wants to confirm this knowledge. This kind of learner
needs information on syntax and collocates (gain, sustain, add, strong,
fresh, etc.), not on meaning, and an example illustrating only what the
definition says is not of much use. An authentic example would inevita-
bly carry that sort of information and an authentic corpus has lots of
them for most words.
Controlled examples
As a kind of authentic examples, I find ‘controlled examples’ to be very
useful. They are not being used by any dictionary –or CD-Rom with a
dictionary coupled to an encyclopaedia, which should be utterly simple–
, but can be found by means of several CD-Rom encyclopaedias. Al-
though not conceived for this purpose, they are a fast way of providing a
great number of examples. Encyclopaedia examples have the advantage
of being authentic while also providing a broader context for the word at
hand. Moreover, the language used in this kind of example is mid-
range, both from the point of view of the register and the difficulty of the
language. The following are only five of the 140 examples which the
Grolier Encyclopaedia came up with for infrequent impetus:
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
156
1. The introduction of powered flight by means of the dirigible, a cylindrical
balloon driven by propellers, and more important, by the first primitive airplanes
gave impetus to the development of military air forces. (Air Force)
2. The California GOLD RUSH of the 1850s provided the impetus for the initial
wave of immigrants from China. (Asian Americans)
3. The development of digital computers, which can monitor external conditions
and make appropriate adjustments to a system, added further impetus to the
applications of automation. (Automation.)
4. In the wake of the abortive coup d’etat attempted by hard-line political elements
in the USSR in mid-August 1991 the three Baltic States received new impetus in
their struggle for independence. (Baltic States)
5. Although Bacon was not a great scientist, he gave impetus to the development of
modern inductive science. (Francis Bacon)
Fig. 34 Five examples for impetus in the Grolier Encyclopaedia.
These five randomly chosen examples all obey a regular, uncomplicated
syntax, use an advanced type of vocabulary and provide learners with a
number of collocates (give, provide, add further, receive new), which they
would have difficulty collecting from learner's dictionaries. If a learner
has any doubt about the meaning, or the range of applicability of the
item, she or he can read as much of the context as required (and consult
the built-in dictionary).
By contrast, we can compare these examples to the two Cobuild2
impetus examples. They are of course authentic as well, but of a totally
different character, as I hope to show below.
This decision will give renewed impetus to the economic regeneration of East
London…
She was restless and needed a new impetus for her talent.
Fig. 35 Examples for impetus in Cobuild2.
Apart from the fact that two examples may be too few to start using any
new word with sufficient confidence, the examples themselves are not
learner-friendly since there is no way a learner can gauge with any cer-
tainty the type of publication – or speech – these examples come from.
The first one reads like a newspaper article, whereas the second one
sounds like fiction. Yet with so little information, learners will have diffi-
culty finding out whether impetus is a suitable word for their particular
context.
In spite of this and because impetus happens to belong to a rather
formal register, there is not much chance a learner would make a regis-
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
157
ter error taking the Cobuild examples as a model. However, the suitable
collocates for impetus are not clear. Since there is no repetition, there is
no way for learners to know what these collocates are. From these ex-
amples they can only deduce that give, renewed, need and new can safely
be used with impetus, not whether they are particularly frequent. From a
quick glance at the examples from the Grolier Encyclopaedia, on the
other hand, the collocates appear immediately. Moreover, this kind of
uncontroversial style gives learners a trustworthy model. It is unlikely
that learners want to use a word in a very original and experimental way
right from the beginning. What they need are examples showing how the
word is used, in a comprehensible style. This is not the case with corpus
examples, at least in the way they are presently made available. The
following are the first five examples from a total of 14 retrieved from the
corpus of the Cobuild Dictionary on CD-ROM:
1. This weekend is our reunion when we meet again to reflect upon the tour with
the impetus of our slides and photographs to invoke memory. (ephemera)
2. The committee agreed. Whispers that the committee had been wanting to name
Arnie for years, waiting impatiently for Jack to reach the same conclusion.
Whatever the impetus, the good deed was done. (magazine)
3. But you have to dive at a spectacular angle to gain sufficient impetus for a loop
or roll, the control forces becomes (sic) high, and the speed drops off quickly and
the nose pointed upwards. (magazine)
4. 5 per cent and that provided the impetus for an upward surge in trading at the
St Leger Sales after a series of disasters had set the market back a full decade.
(magazine)
5. There were growing fears that the rift would sour the annual Group of Seven
summit and prevent the leaders of the West from providing fresh impetus for the
long-running Gatt round. (newspaper)
Fig. 36 Five examples for impetus from the Cobuild CD-ROM.
In the first example, the use of we indicates a rather informal setting and
the words within the nine-word span (of our slides) are clearly not regular
collocates. Examples 2 and 3 present a peculiar syntax which might
even be considered wrong in the mouth of a foreigner. Example 4 gives
too little information on the context, making it hard for the learner to
understand what is meant, and example 5 includes two proper names,
presupposes a lot of general knowledge, and its metaphors make the
sentence simply hard to understand. I do not think this kind of example
is particularly useful.
With the examples retrieved from the Cobuild CD, learners benefit
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
158
from the identification of their sources, which provides them with some
supplementary pragmatic information. However, apart from the some-
times difficult vocabulary and the problem of grasping the text’s topic on
the basis of only one sentence, what stands out from these examples is
that they have an author behind them, somebody expressing his or her
personality. Still, what is probably welcomed in a magazine, newspaper
or any other book, is supposed to be avoided in a reference work. This
is why dictionary definitions, which should be impersonal, all seem to be
written by one and the same person. A way in which a personality ex-
presses itself is by infringing the rules, by dashing if only slightly the
reader’s expectations with the use of an unusual piece of syntax, a
metaphor, or a surprising collocate. The result is a number of sentences
that are not always very clear for a foreigner. This does not mean that
no collocates can be deduced from these Cobuild examples; it means
that the learner will not feel confident to deduce them from the exam-
ples because the source is not totally trustworthy.
If some of the Grolier examples, on the other hand, are not imme-
diately clear, learners can read as much of the context as they want, or
they can jump to the next example to solve their problem, since there
are so many of them. An encyclopaedia might not reflect the whole of
the language in all its intricacies, but since it was not written to illustrate
the use of particular words, the danger that these examples were made
up only to suit a lexicographer’s argument is inexistent.
***
Encoding is for advanced learners as difficult a problem as for begin-
ning learners. Beginners have difficulty producing easy sentences, ad-
vanced learners have difficulties producing difficult sentences. The tools
for both can be improved.
Advanced learners’ look-up problems can be subdivided into two
stages: the choice and usage of the item. These two steps are more
clearly distinguishable in the case of advanced learners because in many
cases they are almost certain as to which item they want to use, and are
only unclear as to its usage.
As for the choice of the item, beginning as well as advanced learn-
ers may want to solve their lexicographic problem in two different ways:
via the source language or via the target language. If they start from the
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY
159
language they know best, they will use a bilingual dictionary and will
need some help in choosing between the different alternatives. Labels
are best suited to disambiguate content words. Synonyms are able to
distinguish quickly the different translations for a word if these refer to
clearly distinct entities. Examples are less appropriate for distinguishing
various translation options for the kind of word which advanced learners
need. Indeed, infrequent words depend less on the co-text to be disam-
biguated. Finally, definitions are useful to distinguish synonyms (modern-
ise/upgrade), but not when different translation options are the result of
one word possibly indicating two completely different entities [lead
(metal) and lead (guide)].
Not infrequently, advanced learners, accustomed to expressing
themselves and thinking in the target language, will have a fairly good
idea of the lexical item they need. A dictionary should allow them to
find an item starting from a few elements that are part of its definition. It
should also offer the possibility of varying the register of a given word,
changing expressions from congruent to metaphorical, and facilitating
the use of fixed expressions.
One of the main challenges of an encoding dictionary is to turn pas-
sive knowledge into active knowledge. In practice, this means to provide
the learner with sufficient information on an item’s usage. This informa-
tion can be given in two basic forms: explicit and implicit. Explicit in-
formation on usage consists of grammatical information in its crudest
form: rules. This is an appropriate method when the item’s grammatical
structure has no influence on its meaning. If not, an example is a more
appropriate procedure. As for the issue of collocations, since advanced
learners have an extended passive knowledge, it will be easy for them to
recognise the collocates they are looking for, if these are listed.
Another way of learning about the usage of a word is by means of
examples. They are my personal preference. I distinguish three types:
made-up, authentic and ‘controlled,’ and they each have their own uses.
For advanced learners, made-up examples are not very adequate since
they mostly teach one specific point, or only illustrate the definition.
Authentic examples have the advantage of combining several kinds of
information but are sometimes confusing. ‘Controlled’ examples can be
found in encyclopaedias and similar reference works
33
. They have the

33
I wrote some more on controlled examples in Humblé (1998).
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
160
advantage of being authentic, guaranteeing the register, providing the
entire context, and being written in a clear and uncontroversial manner.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
161
CONCLUDING REMARKS
In this book I have addressed a number of issues which I think are es-
sential for improving dictionaries for foreign language learners. I argued
that needs should drive the conception of a tool such as a dictionary, but
when I situated foreign language dictionaries in the broader field of
historical lexicography, the relationship between needs and the tools
supposed to meet them showed that this relationship was no longer as
clear as when dictionaries were first invented. Bilingual dictionaries still
fulfil an obvious need, but Baudrillard convinced me that not everything
has necessarily a usage value, and that every object also functions in a
symbolical circuit in which the token value predominates.
Over the centuries, monolingual native speaker’s dictionaries were
greatly influenced by ideological considerations and this has muddled
the relationship with their audience. As a result, learner's dictionaries,
which have come to assist non-native speakers in learning a foreign lan-
guage and were derived from native speaker’s dictionaries, have inher-
ited some of the latter’s defects. They are still adaptations of the original
native speakers’ dictionaries, instead of tools directly modelled on the
analysis of learner’s needs. At the same time, the needs of present-day
foreign language learners have changed. This change consists basically
of an interest switch from merely understanding texts written in a foreign
language, to expressing oneself in that language.
An analysis of learners’ needs is an essential ingredient for any
project that aims at improving the efficiency of foreign language learning
tools. In order to better gauge these needs and the methods used to dis-
cover them, I resorted to specialised literature on the subject. I realised
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
162
that part of this literature dealt with problems that modern technology
had almost rendered obsolete. Another part of it dealt with what I con-
sidered to be the right questions, but research on the matter did not
seem to come to entirely convincing conclusions.
This was, in my opinion, largely due to the application of inade-
quate research methods. It also meant that there was no consensus on
what exactly had to be discovered. Reading Kuhn (1970), I realised that
theoretical lexicography lacks a clear awareness of the discipline’s foun-
dations, and that the techniques used to acquire new knowledge were
epistemologically flawed. It is not enough to study ‘habits,’ if you want
to discover ‘needs.’ Additionally, Popper’s work (1994, 1995) con-
vinced me that methods borrowed from natural sciences – currently the
norm – were inappropriate.
Indeed, the two methods used by researchers to discover learners’
needs in terms of dictionaries are questionnaires and tests. Since their
results are not entirely satisfactory and sometimes do not agree with my
own experience, I concluded the matter should be tackled differently.
Agreeing with Hilary Nesi (1996), I figured a qualitative approach was a
better way to deal with this kind of research. I decided therefore to
privilege introspection and close-reading.
In my research this expressed itself in two ways. When possible, I
asked learners about their experience with dictionaries. This was not al-
ways a rewarding exercise, since a number of learners would answer the
way they thought they were expected to answer, either by me or by so-
ciety. This reflected secondarily the questionnaire situation and con-
firmed to me that this methodology was indeed often unsuitable. It was
only by ‘cross-examining’ my subjects –asking questions about what
they effectively did– that I obtained a few interesting answers. More re-
sults, however, were gained with a second method – examining diction-
aries myself – , in an attempt to solve specific problems. It is in these
moments of ‘réflexion jointe à l’usage’ that I had, I hope, a few ‘idées
nettes.’
In one particular case, I set out to analyse qualitatively a feature
which I deem to be of the utmost importance in foreign language lexi-
cography: examples. However, no agreement exists as to the best kind of
example and over the last few years the issue has generated some con-
troversy. This dispute was launched with the publication of the first Co-
CONCLUDING REMARKS
163
build dictionary in 1987. Because of the issue’s controversial nature –
many tests, no conclusive results–, I thought it was an adequate topic to
demonstrate how qualitative research could be carried out.
In this research, I investigated the nature of examples and their
possible characteristics. I also took a critical look at the treatment given
to examples in traditional and less traditional foreign language lexicog-
raphy, bilingual as well as learner's. In both cases, I had to conclude
that example policies still suffer from a few shortcomings, the main rea-
son being that no clear distinction is made between encoding and decod-
ing. In the absence of any clear idea of what examples are supposed to
do, their choice remains rather random and learners miss out on one of
the main forms of help a dictionary can provide. In terms of collocates
and syntax, examples do rather poorly in all of the dictionaries I investi-
gated. The typical requirements of encoding learners are still not given
due consideration and suffer from a seemingly haphazard treatment.
Finally, I took a closer look at authentic examples in connection
with the Cobuild experience, concluding that they were certainly useful
and indeed a revolution in the world of foreign language lexicography,
but that their use should not become preached across the board. De-
pending on the case, made-up examples may be more suited.
In the last part of this book, I sketch what I would consider to be
the ideal foreign language dictionary. An essential characteristic – and
basic requirement – of this new dictionary is the distinction between en-
coding and decoding. Starting from this distinction, I discuss several as-
pects of both processes. The case of decoding is easier because the
context in which a hard word is found always helps comprehension.
Even so, I discuss some problems that can arise in the course of a de-
coding process. Polysemy is one of the most important ones and I hope
to have made a few helpful suggestions.
As for encoding, this is clearly a more difficult undertaking. Several
expedients have been invented over the centuries to assist learners with
encoding, and generations of lexicographers have dedicated themselves
to perfecting them. All this material should be re-used in a way that is
more adapted to present-day needs. Labels, synonyms, examples and
definitions, all convey a particular kind of information but, depending
on the item, one is more useful than the other.
Furthermore, it is necessary to make a distinction between the en-
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
164
coding problems of beginners and of advanced learners. Beginners have
a great number of grammatical problems which must be addressed, and
they often do not know exactly what to look up. Whereas it is the task of
language classes to teach macro-grammatical concepts, it is the task of
the dictionary to show the grammatical constraints of specific words.
Function words are in this aspect the most complex items and examples
are the most suitable way to teach them.
Encoding learners of an advanced stage, on the other hand, are
constantly in search of the right collocate, and are often in the dark as to
the appropriateness of the item they want to use. It is clear for me that
there is still much to be done in the field of dictionaries. This work must
be based on an analysis of advanced learners’ needs. In the section on
advanced encoding I have analysed a few of these needs and have sug-
gested ways of meeting them. Encoding learners have at their disposal
several different ways of obtaining the item they need. An ideal refer-
ence tool could integrate various approaches and incorporate flexibility,
greatly enhanced with electronic dictionaries.
With this book I intended to make a contribution to improving dic-
tionaries, which I hope may have some practical consequence. In order
to have this kind of outcome, I am aware that much additional research
needs to be carried out. More research is needed as to an item’s fre-
quency and its best-suited kind of example, as well as on the relation
frequency/polysemy, a particular interest of mine. Moreover, studying
Japanese has convinced me that a number of problems go unnoticed if
we are familiar with only one type of language –in my case, Indo-
European. Many of the insights I personally had on lexicography were
due to this experience of dépaysement, which I recommend.
GLOSSARY
165
GLOSSARY
• Bilingual dictionary. A bilingual dictionary translates lexical items
from one language into another. Depending on who is the user, a bi-
lingual dictionary translates from an L1 into an L2 or from an L2
into an L1. A normal bilingual dictionary has two possible audiences:
the L1 of one audience is the L2 of the other.
• Bilingualised dictionary. A bilingualised dictionary is a kind of peda-
gogical dictionary. It necessarily includes information in two lan-
guages without being a bilingual dictionary in the traditional sense of
the word. Often bilingualised dictionaries are a partial or total trans-
lation of a monolingual learner’s dictionary. In some cases, the defi-
nition of a word in a foreign language is given in the foreign language
and a translation in the language of the learner is added. In other
cases, the definition is translated into the language of the learner.
There are hybrid forms such as the Cobuild English-Portuguese
Bridge Bilingual Dictionary, where the definition is partly in Portu-
guese and partly in English. In contrast with the normal bilingual
dictionary, the bilingualised dictionary has a clearly defined audi-
ence: those who speak the language into which the headwords or the
definitions were translated.
• Cobuild. Abbreviation of “Collins Birmingham University Interna-
tional Language Database.”
• Collocate. A collocate is a word which occurs very frequently with
another word so that the chance of both occurring together is very
high.
• Context. Context is the surroundings, in terms of meaning and not
only of words, of a lexical item. The context includes the co-text inso-
far as it is specifically relevant to understand the meaning of a par-
ticular lexical item. The context does not have to be linguistic and
can include the kind of medium in which a text was published or ut-
tered.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
166
• Corpus. A corpus is ‘a collection of naturally-occurring language text’
(Sinclair on the “Corpus Linguistics Homepage” http:// www-
clg.bham.ac.uk/glossary.html). In this book, I will refer mainly to the
Bank of English, corpus of Cobuild.
• Co-text is the immediate linguistic surroundings of a lexical item. Of-
ten this co-text will indicate a nine-word span, four words on each
side of the word under consideration.
• Decode. To decode is to translate from an L2, target language or for-
eign language, into an L1, source language, usually the mother
tongue. Decoding is, in the context of this book, the process of un-
derstanding a (usually) written text in a language which is not the de-
coder’s L1. It is a commonly used term in lexicography and does not
imply any specific linguistic theory on language as a code. It does not
mean that when somebody reads or hears another language, they are
decoding. One is only decoding when one does not spontaneously
understand the word in the L2 and has to look it up or go in search
of some kind of linguistic information in order to understand the
message.
• Encode. To encode is to translate from an L1 into an L2. Encoding is
the process of producing a text, written or spoken, in a language that
is not the encoder’s L1. This does not mean that when somebody
speaks or writes another language, they are encoding. One is only en-
coding when one does not spontaneously know the word in the L2
and has to look it up or go in search of some kind of linguistic infor-
mation to be able to do so.
• Fixed expression. A series of words people feel belong together and
express one concept. I avoid using idiom in this sense, although this
term is widely used to indicate a fixed expression. (See also idiomatic
expression.)
• Foreign language lexicography. By foreign language lexicography, I
understand all types of language reference works target non-native
speakers as their audience. These reference works can be written in
the target language (L2), or include both the source (L1) and the tar-
get (L2) language.
GLOSSARY
167
• Idiom (traditional definition). A group of words whose meaning can-
not be predicted from the meanings of the constituent words, as for
example (It was raining) cats and dogs (Collins English Dictionary).
Idioms are sometimes called fixed expressions or idiomatic expres-
sions. There exists no consensus on this terminology and I give pref-
erence to the term fixed expression.
• Idiom (Sinclair). Idioms are ‘semi-preconstructed phrases that con-
stitute single choices, even though they might appear to be analys-
able into segments’ (Sinclair, 1991:110) ‘The individual words which
constitute idioms are not reliably meaningful in themselves, because
the whole idiom is required to produce the meaning. Idioms overlap
with collocations, because they both involve the selection of two or
more words. At present, the line between them is not clear. In prin-
ciple, we call co-occurrences idioms if we interpret the co-occurrence
as giving a single unit of meaning. If we interpret the occurrence as
the selection of two related words, each of which keeps some mean-
ing of its own, we call it a collocation.’ (Sinclair, 1991:172)
• L1. The L1 is the source language, usually the learner’s mother
tongue.
• L2. The L2 is the target language, usually a foreign language that a
learner is in the process of mastering.
• Learner. A learner is someone who is in the process of mastering an
L2. Any person using a dictionary in order to obtain information on a
language other than his or her mother tongue is a ‘learner.’ Even if
people who consult dictionaries are not always doing this with the
conscious purpose of learning, the fact is that they do learn and, con-
sequently, at the moment in which they consult a dictionary, they are
learners.
• Learner’s dictionary. A learner’s dictionary defines the words of a
particular language in that same language for people for whom this
language is a foreign language. Learner’s dictionaries only exist for
the languages most studied by foreigners: English, French, Spanish
and German. A learner’s dictionary aims at giving a more extensive
treatment to the most frequent words of a language, although these
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
168
‘most frequent words’ may include up to 90.000 lexical items
(Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English). Usually the vocabu-
lary used in this kind of dictionary is ‘controlled.’ Only, say, the
2,000 most frequent words are used in the definitions. Learner’s
dictionaries have a negatively defined audience. They are not in-
tended to be used by native speakers.
• Lexical item. A lexical item consists of at least one word but can con-
sist of more than one. I use the term when I refer either to items in-
cluding one or more words, or forms of words. Swimming pool, found
and at first glance are all single lexical items.
• Lexis. All the word-forms of a language.
• Monolingual dictionary. In this research, I consider two kinds of
monolingual dictionaries: native speaker’s dictionaries and learner’s
dictionaries.
• Multi-word item. A multi-word item is a group of words that refers to
a single reality (e.g. operating table).
• Native speaker’s dictionary. A native speaker’s dictionary defines the
words of a particular language primarily for native speakers of this
language. Every complex society, in the anthropological sense of the
word, has its own dictionary.
• Open-choice principle. The normal way of seeing language according
to a ‘slot and filler’ principle. According to this principle, almost any
word can occur after any word, respecting syntactic constraints. (Sin-
clair, 1991:109)
• Pedagogical dictionary. Pedagogical dictionaries are primarily
teaching materials and secondarily reference works. They are differ-
ent from other kinds of dictionaries in that they are as much ‘tool’ as
‘study material.’ They often concentrate on one particular area of the
lexis of a language (e.g., business French). As a consequence, peda-
gogical dictionaries are often published together with exercise mate-
rial.
• Source language. The L1, usually the learner’s mother tongue.
GLOSSARY
169
• Target language. The L2, usually a foreign language that a learner is
in the process of mastering.
• User. A user is a learner using a dictionary.
• Word. A word is anything between two white spaces.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
170
APPENDIXES
Appendix 1 ‘Road’
34
Cobuild I
1. Cross the main road, then go on down the lane to the village.
They took the road that led up the hill.
.the road from Belfast to Londonderry.
She was studying a road map when I got back into the car.
By road Luxembourg is about 225 miles from the ferry.
The ancient ruins were accessible by road.
2. There is an antique shop at the top of my road.
.the quiet Edgbaston road where he had lived for some thirty years.
The museum was in a side street leading off from a road of shops.
3. The hotel was just a little farther along the road.
There are shops just down the road.
.her cousins from across the road.
I was talking to Mr Marks from along the road.
.Janet from down your road.
4.159, London Road.
This is the Oxford road, and the Watford road turns off to the right.
They crossed the Yugoslav border on the Budapest-Zagreb road.
5. The number of road accidents was greatly reduced.
6. I was again on the road, again at the wheel of the old blue sedan.
I was stiff after seven hours on the road.
7. It could well be the only one of its type still on the road.
8. We’ll take the play for a few weeks on the road before it opens in London.
9. She was well on the road to recovery.
Surely you’re on the road to recognition, even if it’s only as head of department.
10. New information is probably the surest road to new ideas.
We have science and technology to help us along the road to peace and plenty.
This is the first step on the road to victory.
11. Let’s have one for the road before we go.
Cobuild2
1. There was very little traffic on the roads…
We just go straight up the Bristol Road…
He was coming down the road the same time as the girl was turning into the lane…
Buses carry 30 per cent of those travelling by road…
You mustn’t lay all the blame for road accidents on young people.

34
Bolds and italics are mine.
APPENDIXES
171
2. We are bound to see some ups and downs along the road to recovery.
3. I was relieved to get back in the car and hit the road again.
4. He still hoped someday to get a new truck and go back on the road.
5. The government took another step on the road to political reform.
…the stunning fashion pictures which launched unknown teenager Jane March on
the road to stardom.
Longman
1. a busy road
at the end of the road
We live just down the road.
It takes three hours by road.
Take the main road out of town and turn left at the first light.
He was killed in a road accident.
Kids of that age have no road sense.
A road safety campaign.
2. Maple Road.
3. I’ve been on the road since 5:00 a.m. this morning.
It costs a lot of money to keep these old cars on the road.
4. It was this deal that set him on the road to his first million.
5. You could move your pension to a private scheme, but I wouldn’t advise going
down that road.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
1. The road to Bristol/the Bristol road
main/major/minor roads
a quiet suburban road
2. a road-map of Scotland
be considerate to other road-users.
3. 35 York Rd, London SW16.
4. the Southampton Roads.
5. all roads lead to Rome.
6. It’s a long way by road – the train is more direct
It’s cheaper to ship goods by road than by rail.
7. get the show on the road.
8. hit the road.
9. one for the road.
10. The band has been on the road for almost a month.
11. the road to success/ruin.
12. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
13. take to the road.
Oxford Wordpower
1. Is this the right road to Beckley?
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
172
Take the London road and turn right at the first roundabout.
Turn left off the main (= big, important) road.
major/minor roads.
If you get onto the ring road you’ll avoid the town centre.
road signs.
a road junction.
a road-map of England.
Bayswater Road, London.
60 Marylebone Road, London.
It’s going to be a terrible journey by road – let’s take the train.
We were on the road for 14 hours.
APPENDIXES
173
Appendix 2 ‘Collocates in Cambridge and Cobuild2’
face
Cambridge
They face/are faced with financial penalties.
We’ll have to face her with this new information and see what she has to say.
I can’t face climbing those stairs again.
He’ll have to face the music when his parents find out he’s been missing school.
Their houses face each other across the street.
We’ll have to face the facts and start cutting costs.
He thinks he would lose face if he admitted the mistake.
She tried to save face by inventing a story about being overseas at the time.
They gave him the title of company president as a face-saving gesture, although he
no longer had any power.
They agreed that there should be no attempts at face-saving.
The hospital charges £4000 for a full facelift.
The bank is planning to give its 1930s building a complete facelift.
collocate occ.
down 0
now 0
let 0
value 0
look 0
smile 0
changes 0
man 0
see 0
problems 0
turned 0
eyes 0
across 0
back 0
off 0
hands 0
put 0
still 0
made 0
looked 0
total 0
collocates/example 0/12=0
stopword occ.
the 2
to 4
of 0
a 3
and 1
in 0
his 0
‘s 0
her 1
on 0
total 11
stopwords/example 11/12=0.91
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
174
face
Cobuild
He rolled down his window and stuck his face out.
A strong wind was blowing right in my face.
He was going red in the face and breathing with difficulty.
She had a beautiful face.
He was walking around with a sad face.
The priest frowned in the light, his face puzzled.
Harrer was one of the first to climb the north face of the Eiger.
He scrambled 200 feet up the cliff face.
The changing face of the British country side.
This would change the face of Malaysian politics.
Brothels, she insists, are the acceptable face of prostitution.
With the collapse of communism, the ugly face of capitalism to some extent is ap-
pearing again.
England doesn’t want a war but it doesn’t want to lose face.
To cancel the airport would be a loss of face for the present governor.
Children have an almost obsessive need to save face in front of their peers.
Can’t you see this could blow up in your face?
You can criticise him until you’re blue in the face, but you’ll never change his per-
sonality.
All the time Stephen was lying face down and unconscious in the bath tub.
Charles laid down his cards face up.
No human being on the face of the earth could do anything worse than what he did.
If a nuclear war breaks out, every living thing will be wiped off the face of the
Earth.
We were strolling into the town when we came face to face with Jacques Dubois.
It was the first face to face meeting between the two men.
Eventually, he came face to face with discrimination again.
I was gradually being brought face to face with the fact that I had very little suc-
cess.
Scientific principles that seem to fly in the face of common sense.
He said that the decision flew in the face of natural justice.
The Prime Minister has called for national unity in the face of the violent anti-
government protests.
Roosevelt was defiant in the face of the bad news.
With juveniles under eighteen, there’s little we can do. We can’t keep them in
custody. They just laugh in your face.
He came to me with a very long face.
Opening the door, she made a face at the musty smell.
Katrhyn pulled a face at Thomasina behind his back.
On the face of it that seems to make sense. But the figures don’t add up.
APPENDIXES
175
It is, on the face of it, difficult to see how the West could radically change its posi-
tion.
Friends will see you are putting on a brave face and might assume you’ve got over
your grief.
Scientists are putting a good face on the troubles.
This Government has set its face against putting up income tax.
If she shows her face again back in Massachusetts she’ll find a warrant for her ar-
rest waiting.
I felt I ought to show my face at her father’s funeral.
What went through Tom’s mind I can’t imagine, but he did manage to keep a
straight face.
You have to wonder how anyone could say that seriously and with a straight face.
Her opponent called her a liar to her face.
Relief and gratitude were written all over his face.
I could just see the pain written across her face.
Stand up. Face the wall.
He was hauled in to face the judge.
Although your heart is breaking, you must face the truth that a relationship has
ended.
He accused the Government of refusing to face facts about the economy.
I have grown up now and have to face up to my responsibilities.
They were having to face up to the fact that they had lost everything.
I couldn’t face the prospect of spending a Saturday night there, so I decided to
press on.
My children want me with them for Christmas Day, but I can’t face it.
I couldn’t face seeing anyone.
She was always attracted to younger men. But, let’s face it, who is not?
Nothing gives a room a faster facelift than a coat of paint.
The decision seems to be a face-saving compromise which will allow the govern-
ment to remain in office.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
176
Collocate occ.
down 1
now 0
let 0
value 0
look 0
smile 0
changes 0
man 0
see (1)
problems 0
turned 0
eyes 0
across 1
back 1
off 1
hands 0
put 0
still 0
made 1
looked 0
total 4
collocates/example 4/66=0,06
stopword occ.
the 31
to 14
of 14
a 11
and 6
in 10
his 4
‘s 0
her 3
on 5
total 98
stopwords/example 98/66=1.48
APPENDIXES
177
fact
Cambridge
I’m not interested in hopes and plans, I just want you to tell me the plain/bare
facts.
Can I regard what you have just told me as fact?
The play was closely based on fact.
The fact is that they are the stronger team and are sure to win.
No, I don’t work. In fact, I’ve never had a job.
Have you always lived here? As a matter of fact I’ve only lived here for the last
three years.
Going bald is a fact of life.
We are getting some facts and figures together and we will then have a full board
meeting, and hopefully make a decision.
Collocates occ.
despite 0
matter 1
no 0
very 0
only 1
some 1
many 0
people 0
most 0
think 0
life 1
even 0
much 0
(erm) 0
never 1
quite 0
both 0
finding 0
remains 0
women 0
total 5
collocates/example 5/8=0.62
stopword occ.
the
in 1
that 1
is 2
it 0
was 0
I 6
he 0
they 1
are 3
total 14
stopwords/example 14/8=1.75.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
178
fact
Cobuild
His chances do not seem good in view of the fact that the Chief Prosecutor has al-
ready voiced his public disapproval.
Despite the fact that the disease is so prevalent, treatment is still far from satisfac-
tory.
No amount of encouragement can hide the fact that talking about very personal is-
sues with a stranger is intimidating.
In Rome, meeting him every morning, he soon became aware of the fact that Erter
was ill.
My family now accepts the fact that I don’t eat sugar or bread.
The fact that he had left her of his own accord proved to me that everything he’d
said was true.
We’ve had a pretty bad time while you were away. In fact, we very nearly split up
this time.
He apologised as soon as he realised what he had done. In actual fact, he wrote a
nice little note to me.
Mr Major didn’t go to university. In fact he left school at 16.
That sounds rather simple, but in fact it’s very difficult.
They complained that they had been trapped inside the police station, but in fact
most were seen escaping over the adjacent roofs to safety in nearby buildings.
Why had she ever trusted her? In point of fact she never had, she reminded her-
self.
A statement of verifiable historical fact.
How much was fact and how much fancy no one knew.
There is so much information that you can almost effortlessly find the facts for
yourself.
His opponent swamped him with facts and figures.
The lorries always left for China in the dead of night when there were few witnesses
around to record the fact.
The local people saw all the sufferings to which these deportees were subjected.
And as a matter of fact, the local people helped the victims of these deportations.
‘I guess you haven’t eaten yet.’ ‘As a matter of fact, I have,’ said Hunter.
I know for a fact that baby corn is very expensive in Europe.
I know for a fact that Graham has kept in close touch with Graham.
The fact is blindness hadn’t stopped the children doing many of the things that
sighted children enjoy.
I found that election rallies were being very poorly attended. But the fact of the
matter is that they’re not terribly interested in this election.
The fact remains, however you measure it, is unacceptably high.
His admirers claim that he came to power perfectly legally, but the fact remains
that he did so by exploiting an illegal situation.
APPENDIXES
179
We aren’t playing well as a team, and that’s a fact.
He’s a dull writer and that’s a fact.
‘I’m still staff colonel.’ — ‘Is that a fact?.’
A UN fact-finding mission is on its way to the region.
Stress is a fact of life from time to time for all of us.
There comes a time when children need to know more than the basic facts of life.
collocates occ.
despite 1
matter 3
no 0
very 3
only 0
some 0
many 0
people 0
most 1
think 0
life 2
even 0
much 2
(erm) 0
never 1
quite 0
both 0
finding 1
remains 2
women 0
total 16
collocates/example 16/31=0.51
stopword occ.
the
in 6
that 11
is 4
it 0
was 2
I 4
he 3
they 0
are 0
total 30
stopwords/example 30/31=0.96
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
180
failed
Cambridge
I tried to persuade him to come, but I failed.
She moved to London in the hope of finding work as a model, but failed.
He failed dismally/miserably in his attempt to break the record.
The two sides in the negotiation have failed to come to an agreement.
She failed to reach the Wimbledon Final this year.
He’s a failed writer.
After two failed marriages, he is planning to marry for a third time.
She has been given the task of sorting out the government’s failed taxation policy.
He promised to help, but he failed to arrive on time.
Her parents failed to understand that there was a problem.
The club had been promised a grant from the council, but the money failed to ma-
terialize.
He never failed to take a disapproving stand at people who got divorced.
He failed her when she most needed him.
When I looked down and saw how far I had to jump, my courage failed me.
‘Did you pass?’ ‘No, I failed.’
I passed in history but failed in chemistry.
The examiners failed him because he hadn’t answered enough questions.
The brakes failed and the car crashed into a tree.
After talking non-stop for two hours, her voice failed.
The wheat failed last year because of the lack of rain.
Collocates occ.
because 2
coup 0
make 0
last 1
get 0
any 0
government 0
win 0
reach 1
attempt 1
take 1
find 0
far 0
also 0
having 0
tried 1
test 0
yesterday 0
again 0
even 0
total 7
collocates/example 7/28=0.25.
stopwords occ.
to 6
the 8
have 1
has 0
that 0
had 0
he 6
but 5
they 0
his 0
total 26
stopwords/example 26/20=1.3.
APPENDIXES
181
failed
Cobuild
The Worker’s Party failed to win a single governorship.
He failed in his attempts to take control of the company.
Many of us have tried to lose weight and failed miserably.
The truth is, I’m a failed comedy writer really.
We tried to develop plans for them to get along, which all failed miserably.
After a failed military offensive, all government troops and police were withdrawn
from the island.
He failed to file tax returns for 1982.
The bomb failed to explode.
The lights mysteriously failed, and we stumbled around in complete darkness.
In fact many food crops failed because of the drought.
So far this year, 104 banks have failed.
a failed hotel business.
Here in the hills, the light failed more quickly.
communities who feel that the political system has failed them.
For once, the artist’s fertile imagination failed him.
Their courage failed a few steps short and they came running back.
Collocates occ.
because 1
coup 0
make 0
last 0
get 0
any 0
government 1
win 1
reach 0
attempt 1
take 1
find 0
far 1
also 0
having 0
tried 2
test 0
yesterday 0
again 0
even 0
total 8
collocates/example 8/16=0.5.
Stopwords occ.
to 4
the 7
have 2
has 1
that 1
had 1
he 2
but 0
they 0
his 1
total 19
stopwords/example 19/16=1.18.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
182
fail
Cambridge
The reluctance of either side to compromise means that the talks are doomed to
fail.
You couldn’t fail to be saddened by the distressing reports on the famine victims.
I fail to see what you’re getting at.
I fail to see what this has to do with the argument.
Be there by ten o’clock without fail.
Every morning, without fail, she used to sit in the park and read her newspaper.
A lot of people fail their driving test the first time.
They had a track record of success and they never imagined the business could
fail.
a fail-safe device/mechanism/system
Collocate occ.
because 1
see 2
many 0
people 1
without 2
make 0
test 1
often 0
get 1
even 0
talks 1
meet 0
take 0
understand 0
might 0
too 0
safe 1
likely 0
never 1
succeed 0
total 11
collocates/example 11/9=1.2.
stopword occ.
to 4
if 0
they 1
that 0
will 0
you 1
we 0
but 0
would 0
not 0
total 6
stopwords/example 6/9=0.66
.
APPENDIXES
183
fail
Cobuild
He was afraid the revolution they had started would fail.
Some schools fail to set any homework.
We waited twenty-one years, don’t fail us now.
It’s the difference between a pass and a fail.
That’s how it was in my day and I fail to see why it should be different now.
He attended every meeting without fail.
On the 30th you must without fail hand in some money for Alex.
Tomorrow without fail he would be at the old riverside warehouse.
Collocate occ.
because 0
see 1
many 0
people 0
without 3
make 0
test 1
often 0
get 0
even 0
talks 0
meet 0
take 0
understand 0
might 0
too 0
safe 0
likely 0
never 0
succeed 0
total 5
collocates/example 5/8=0.62.
Stopword occ.
to 2
if 0
they 1
that 0
will 0
you 1
we 1
but 0
would 2
not 0
total
stopwords/example 7/8=0.87.
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
184
fade
Cambridge
You’ll fade that tablecloth if you wash it in hot water.
If you hang your clothes out in the bright sun, they will fade.
He had a lovely suntan when he got back from his holiday, but it soon faded.
They arrived home just as the light was fading.
After his girlfriend left him, Bill faded from the picture/scene.
The horse riders gradually faded from view/sight.
Day slowly faded into night.
The voice on the radio faded out.
The children’s memories of their fathers slowly faded away.
Hopes of saving the trapped miners are fading away fast.
He was wearing a pair of faded jeans and an old T-shirt.
A faded beauty is a woman who was beautiful in the past.
Collocate occ.
away 2
under 0
began 0
just 1
beginning 0
before 0
never 0
die 0
hopes 1
quickly 0
soon 1
begun 0
flowers 0
memories 1
begins 0
total 6
collocates/example 6/12=0.5.
Stopword occ.
to 0
and 1
will 1
as 1
out 1
they 1
into 1
or 0
then 0
total 6
stopwords/example 6/12=0.5.
APPENDIXES
185
fade
Cobuild
All colour fades – especially under the impact of direct sunlight.
No matter how soft the light is, it still plays havoc, fading carpets and curtains in
every room.
fading portraits of the Queen and Prince Philip.
a girl in a faded dress.
faded painted signs on the sides do some of the buildings.
Seaton lay on his bed and gazes at the ceiling as the light faded.
The sound of the last bomber’s engines faded into the distance.
They observed the comet for 70 days before it faded from sight.
They watched the familiar mountains fade into the darkness.
We watched the harbour and then the coastline fade away into the morning mist.
She had a way of fading into the background when things got rough.
The most prominent poets of the Victorian period had all but faded from the scene.
Margaret Thatcher will not fade away into quiet retirement.
Sympathy for the rebels, the government claims, is beginning to fade.
Prospects for peace had already started to fade.
fading memories of better days.
Jay nodded, his smile fading.
He thought her campaign would probably fade out soon in any case.
You’ll need to be able to project two images onto the screen as the new one fades
in and the old image fades out.
Collocate occ.
away 2
under 1
began 0
just 0
beginning 1
before 1
never 0
die 0
hopes 1
quickly 0
soon 1
begun 0
flowers 0
memories 1
begins 0
total 8
collocates/examples 8/19=0.42.
Stopword occ.
to 2
and 2
will 1
as 2
out 2
they 0
into 5
or 0
then 1
total 15
stopwords/examples15/19=0.78
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
186
Appendix 3 ‘Proposal’
Monolingual learner’s dictionaries
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dic-
tionary (Second Edition)
a proposal for peace
proposals for increasing trade be-
tween two countries
a girl who had five proposals in one
week
Oxford Advanced Encyclopedic
Learner’s Dictionary (Updated
Fourth Edition)
the proposal of new terms for a peace
treaty
a proposal for uniting the two compa-
nies
Various proposals were put forward
for increasing salaries
a proposal to offer a discount to
regular customers
She had had many proposals (of mar-
riage) but preferred to remain single
Cobuild I
There is controversy about a proposal
to build a new nuclear power station
The two governments discussed a
proposal for ending hostilities
I heard about some proposals for
cheaper flights to the United States
Cobuild2
The president is to put forward new
proposals for resolving the country’s
constitutional crisis
…the government’s proposals to abol-
ish free health care…
The Security Council has rejected the
latest peace proposal
After a three-weekend courtship,
Pamela accepted Randolph’s proposal
of marriage
Cambridge
Congress has rejected the latest eco-
nomic proposal put forward by the
president
There has been an angry reaction to
the government’s proposal to reduce
unemployment benefit
Have you read Steve’s proposals for
the new project?
There was anger at the proposal that a
UN peace-keeping force should be
sent to the area
She refused his marriage pro-
posal/proposal of marriage
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
187
Bilingual dictionaries
Hazon-Garzanti
English-Italian
the proposal was never carried out
to make a proposal
she had a proposal
Italian-English
proposal for the selection of an arbi-
trator
Collins-Robert
French-English (proposition)
propositions de paix/peace proposals
à la proposition de/on the proposal of
English-French
proposals for the amendment of this
treaty
Collins German
German-English
to make somebody a proposal
his proposal of this plan surprised his
colleagues
his proposal of John as chairman was
expected
English-German (Vorschlag)
nothing
Collins Spanish
English-Spanish
proposal of marriage
to make a proposal
to make the proposal that
Spanish-English
nothing
Oxford-Hachette
French- English (proposition)
faire des propositions concrètes: to
make concrete proposals
proposition technique/commerciale:
technical/business proposal
English-French
to make/put forward a proposal faire
a proposal for changes
a proposal for doing ou to do
the proposal that everybody should
get a pay rise
to receive a proposal
Oxford-Duden
English-German
make proposals for
make a proposal for doing sth or to
his proposal for improving the
draw up proposals/a proposal
proposal [of marriage]
he was interrupted in the middle of
his proposal to her/the committee
German-English
a conciliatory proposal
Oxford Spanish
DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS
188
English-Spanish
to put or make a proposal to sb.
Spanish-English
proposal of marriage
New Proceed
make a proposal for peace
His proposal to put off the meeting
was rejected
Reluctantly she accepted their pro-
posal that she should be operated on
He made a proposal of marriage to
her
Taishukan’s Genius
make [offer] proposals for peace
We accepted a proposal to repair [for
repairing, that we (should) repair] a
road
receive a proposal (of marriage) from
him
he made a proposal to her
BIBLIOGRAPHY
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II

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INTRODUCTION

III

PH ILI P P E H UM B L É

DI C T IO N A RIE S AN D L ANGU A G E LE A RN E R S

HAAG + HE RC HE N VE RLAG

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CIP-Titelaufnahme der Deutschen Bibliothek

HUMBLÉ, Philippe: Dictionaries and Language Learners/Philippe Humblé. – Frankfurt am Main: Haag und Herchen, 2001.

Johnson in the Preface to the English Dictionary. Voor Fernand Humblé. In memoriam . and even this negative recompense has been granted to very few.DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS V Every author may aspire to praise. the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach.

VI DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS .

.................................................................................. 61 4.................................................................. 81 ................. 38 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITTERATURE....... 36 4............................................................................. Encoding................ 50 3............................................... Bilingualised Dictionaries ...... 58 3......................55 1.. Types of Examples .......................................... 45 4...... Criticism of Questionnaires ................................ 55 2........................ The Defence of ‘Authentic Language’ ........................ Hilary Nesi’s Research on Examples... ....... 37 5... 41 1........................................................................... 43 3................................................ Decoding............................ Requirements for examples................................................ 61 2.......... Dictionaries and Computers .............. 55 1............................. 79 2......... Controlled Experiments............................................................................................... 62 1................. 81 4...................................................... 29 2.... Classification. Examples in Learner’s Dictionaries.... The Research on Examples............................................ 69 3..... 53 CHAPTER 3 EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY.........41 1.......... General Considerations ............................. Questionnaires ..............................................INTRODUCTION VII Table of Contents Introduction ....................... Cobuild and Authentic vs........................................ The Didactic Point of View ............................... 80 3.............................................. Made-Up Examples........................................... The Problem of Collocation and Syntax.............. The Function of Examples .................. Corpora.................. 63 3... 33 3............................. Examples for Decoding and Examples for Encoding... Dictionary Use and Users – Questionnaires and Experiments .......... HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS................................................ The Need for a New Kind of Research .. The History of Dictionaries ............................................ 62 2.......................................15 CHAPTER 1 DICTIONARIES.......................................... 65 4.....29 1..... The Longman Language Activator ......... Criticisms of Cobuild and the Authentic Examples Policy .. 78 1.................................................. 46 5......... 42 2............. Learner’s Dictionaries .. Bilingual Dictionaries .......................................................... 48 2.. Atkins and Varantola .

........ 123 1.... Decoding................... ........................ Polysemy................. 86 2................................ Morphology and Multi-Word Items ...... 97 1................. Idioms and Collocations ............................................................................................................................. 114 2.................. Introduction.........................VIII DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 4......................................... 84 1..... 124 3................. 131 CONCLUDING REMARKS .......... 106 4.......................... Including the Context: Two Experiments............................. 93 CHAPTER 4 AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY ..................................... Encoding for Advanced Learners ........ The Examples for Road in Collins Spanish-English .......... The Examples for Road in Oxford-Hachette............................................. 189 ................................................. 165 Appendixes ............ Encoding................................ 170 Bibliography ....... Examples in Bilingual Dictionaries.......................................................................... 103 2............................... Encoding for Beginners.............................................. 161 Glossary .......................................................................... 104 3..... 124 2... ...................... 100 1...............................................

..... ........... ............. 87 Fig.......... 17 Example grid of the entry lead in an electronic dictionary............................... 91 Fig............... 73 Fig..................................................... 18 Example grid of the entry break in an electronic dictionary............... 21 Words experienced as hard by the test subject in the first chapter of Don Quixote......... 68 Fig.............. ............. 108 Fig................. .................................... 30 Man in an L2 learner-oriented thesaurus............... 146 Fig.... 89 Fig........................................ ..... 102 Fig...... 31 Examples for house in the Oxford Wordpower... 22 Least frequent words in Herald Tribune article on Desert Storm.......... 66 Fig......... . 20 Unknown words in: ‘El robo de ordenadores portátiles aumentó de forma significativa....................... 1 Examples for road in Longman............................ .... 27 Illustrative table of a few word frequencies indicated in number of diamonds. 115 Fig................ 23 Semantic field of ‘modern warfare’ extracted from a Herald Tribune article on ‘Desert Storm..... 110 Fig... 14 Decoding problems of beginning learners............................................. 12 Classification of the road examples according to the audience (EnglishSpanish side)....... 7 Longman examples for indulge....... 137 Fig............ 13 Classification of the camino examples according to the audience (English-Spanish side). 16 Translations of lead according to co-text and context.............. 6 Cobuild2 examples for indulge............. ............................... 154 .... ..... 5 Cobuild2 examples for indulge................. 105 Fig.. ...... 116 Fig............. 72 Fig.. 10 Classification of the examples according to their literal or figurative use (the indications found in the dictionary are in parentheses)........ 26 Demander in Oxford-Hachette..................................... 8 Cambridge examples for indulge.......INTRODUCTION IX List of figures Fig........................... 4 Examples for take a stand retrieved from the Cobuild Collocations CD71 Fig.........................................’ ......................... ..................... ........................ . 123 Fig................................. 111 Fig....................... 15 Collocates of take on the Cobuild Collocations CD-ROM................. 11 Division of the examples according to their translatability.. 19 Collocation tree for break........................................ 90 Fig........... ............... .................... 141 Fig............................. and (between brackets) number of senses.. 135 Fig........... 3 Examples illustrating the literal meaning of road in Cobuild2..... 2 Examples for the first literal sense of road in Oxford Wordpower.............. 88 Fig..................... 120 Fig................. 29 Man in Webster’s Thesaurus..... 112 Fig........... .......... 28 Improve in Longman Language Activator................ 25 Construir in the Oxford Spanish Dictionary............... 73 Fig...’ ....... 9 List of the examples for road in Collins Spanish English Dictionary............ 119 Fig........ 24 Scheme of an encoding dictionary based on the sequence of a typical look-up.................. ...................... 145 Fig........................................ 72 Fig..... 67 Fig...... 138 Fig......

....................... ...... 34 Five examples for impetus in the Grolier Encyclopaedia...... .... 36 Five examples for impetus from the Cobuild CD-ROM.......................................... 35 Examples for impetus in Cobuild2......... 32 Cobuild2 examples for the first sense of house........155 Fig.....................................X DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Fig.156 Fig..156 Fig.... 33 Impetus in Oxford Wordpower................154 Fig.157 .........

INTRODUCTION

XI

Preface
In 1984, G. Stein stated that “Dictionaries are obviously written for their users. We therefore need much more research on the dictionary user, his needs, his expectations and his prejudices.” Adopting the user's perspective is indeed a praiseworthy undertaking, because it is all too often neglected.
With the publication of Dictionaries and Language Learners, we finally have an innovative manual of pedagogical lexicography, written by someone who is not only a theoretical lexicographer but also a practitioner and an experienced language teacher, thoroughly familiar with the problems and needs of language learners. Elaborating a new model for a foreign language learner's dictionary is not an easy task. To be able to conduct this research and “to play the role of interface between theoretically oriented lexicology and a more practically motivated lexicography,” as Hartmann puts it, one needs to combine several qualities: – A sound knowledge of lexicology and lexicography; – A rich didactic experience, which enables one to anticipate the user’s problems and needs; – A fair command of several and preferably very different foreign languages, as diverse as Spanish, French, Dutch and Japanese, for instance. One needs to have experienced what it means to learn a foreign language, to struggle with vocabulary, verbal forms, modes and tenses, collocations, idiomatic expressions, false friends or cases of "deceptive transparency,” to use B. Laufer's terminology; – A wide-ranging experience with dictionary and corpus use. It is also understood that a considerable and representative corpus is of paramount importance. In fact, even today too many dictionary authors are only, more or less commercial, dictionary compilers, with limited didactic and foreign language experience. In contrast, Philippe Humblé is an experienced teacher and researcher as well as a dictionary maker –he is at present developing a Dicionario de Uso Português-Espanhol. Unlike some well-meaning dictionary compilers, he rigorously considers the didactic and practical implications as well as the theoretical principles and models. This is why his work provides us with so many useful new insights and proposals. Of course, we all share the author's discontent with many current reference works. This "déficit dictionnairique" (dictionary deficit), as it is some-

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times called, inevitably leads the user to a "dépit dictionnairique" (dictionary discontent). Every attempt to improve dictionaries is therefore to be applauded. As Cowie points out, dictionaries should be designed “with a specific set of users in mind, for their specific needs,” and Humblé very rightly denounces the hybrid character of many existing dictionaries, which are often mainly commercial undertakings. This is why I think it is so helpful to make sound distinctions and innovative suggestions, as the author does. He also fully explores the practical consequences of his suggestions, both on the macrostructural and microstructural level, monolingual versus bilingual dictionaries, receptive versus productive functions of a dictionary, beginning versus advanced learners, authentic versus made up and controlled examples, the need for a good classification of examples, the role of definitions, examples, and translation, the need to find ways of exploiting the staggering potential of electronic dictionaries, which makes the traditional distinction between general purpose dictionaries, dictionary of synonyms etc. completely obsolete, the importance of the qualitative approach and the need to privilege introspection and close-reading, the need to explore metaphors, to devote more attention to collocations, among others. At the end of this book, the author states: “With this book I intended to make a contribution to improving dictionaries which I hope may have some practical consequence,” the author states at the end of his book. It indeed is a substantial contribution because quite a lot of these insights have already been applied to the semi- multilingual reception and production oriented dictionnaire d’apprentissage published recently (Dictionnaire d’Apprentissage du Français des Affaires DAFA) as well as to one currently under development (Dictionnaire d’Apprentissage du Français Langue Etrangère ou Seconde DAFLES) at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. For many other lexicographers and dictionary- makers this book will be an invaluable guide in exploring new horizons in the field of pedagogical lexicography. Jean Binon Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)
BIBLIOGRAPHY Binon J., Verlinde S., Van Dyck J., Bertels A. 2000 Dictionnaire d’Apprentissage du Français des Affaires, Paris, Didier Bertels A., Binon J., Selva T., Verlinde S., Dictionnaire d’Apprentissage du Français Langue Etrangère ou Seconde, electronic dictionary on line (to appear)

DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS XIII

Acknowledgements
When time comes to write the acknowledgements, one is surprised to see what an extraordinary number of people have in some way contributed to bring a relatively modest undertaking like this to a happy ending. First of all I would like to thank Prof. Malcolm Coulthard of the University of Birmingham, UK, who provided me with a few of the fundamental insights which lay at the basis of this research. I also particularly appreciated the help and criticisms of my former colleague in Belgium, Prof. Jean Binon of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in whom I found a kindred spirit, not only in terms of lexicography. I also want to specially thank Liz Potter from Cobuild for reading and commenting on the text of this book. Prof. José Luiz Meurer’s help of the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina was decisive in the later stages of my research. A number of people read all or parts of this book and assisted me with their criticisms. I would like to thank Gloria Gil, Silvana Serrani and Christine Everley. Special thanks go to my Japanese teachers, in Brazil and in Britain: Tsukamoto Chitose, Hukamachi Hideyo and Kimura Mutsuko. I am furthermore indebted to the people at Cobuild who assisted me so well during the fifteen months in which I had the pleasure to be their guest. Special thanks go to Gwyneth Fox who made my stay possible, to Rosamund Moon with whom I had many a fruitful discussion, and the whole Cobuild team now unfortunately scattered around the four corners of lexicography, particularly Ramesh Krishnamurthy, Ceri Hewit, Roz Combley, Laura Wedgeworth, Tim Lane, Gill Francis, John Todd and Mick Murphy. I am much obliged to Paul Meara whose hospitality and good advice I was able to enjoy while his guest in Swansea. I am also very grateful to Hillary Nesi who provided me with an electronic copy of several of her publications. I would like to thank my colleagues at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina for having taken over my classes while I was working on this research: Alai Garcia Diniz, Liliana Reales de Ruas, Luizete Guimarães Barros, Rafael Camorlinga, Vera Aquino, and Walter Carlos Costa. I would also like to thank the CNPq for the scholarship which allowed me to spend a year at Birmingham University in excellent conditions.

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Finally, the encouragement provided by Walter Carlos Costa, Werner Heidermann, Elena Langdon, Paulo Iervolino and my wife Silvânia Carvalho were decisive to see this book through completion.

trapped between some of the world’s major languages. Dictionaries were not as helpful as one would expect them to be.DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 15 INTRODUCTION This book was written as a response to a personal problem: my dissatisfaction with dictionaries in regards to helping learners to write and speak in a foreign language. But writing a dictionary is not an overnight task and for the last 50 years dictionaries have been evolving rather slowly. Languages were learned to be used passively. As a Dutch-speaking Belgian I have been teaching Spanish since 1984 at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Brazil). and practice applies to the present book. After WW II this trend was reversed and learners discovered new language teaching methods and new supporting materials such as dictionaries. Theirs was not so much a problem of decoding as of encoding. Lexicographers understandably have the tendency to improve on . Indeed. The reason for this is easy to understand. As a speaker of a minority language. They were perfectly able to make use of bilingual or monolingual dictionaries to solve problems of comprehension in Spanish. About eight years ago my Mexican colleague Rafael Camorlinga and I started compiling a Portuguese-Spanish dictionary that would help to solve our students’ problems. The burden of history and a reasonable resistance to change have undoubtedly played some part in this. I have always been obliged to express myself in a language that is not mine. Until the 1950’s people had little contact with foreign languages other than through books. but were much less successful when attempting to express themselves in this language. it was not until recently that dictionaries started to address the issue of encoding.

apart from this. The process consists of: translating the item. this research has been done by means of tests and questionnaires. There is a pressing need for a more qualitative approach. Decoding is fairly straightforward. yet there is no consensus on how to conduct such research. consisting of introspection on the part of the . but it has its limits. If they succeeded in discovering how and what words are looked up. However. research in the field of foreign language lexicography has involved a remarkable interest in dictionary users’ studies. The unconvincing outcome of some of the research already done might be one of the reasons why dictionaries have not drastically changed and why publishing companies. It involves a few mental operations after consulting the dictionary. Materially it is a one-step operation. Encoding. however. and learners. such as adapting a translational equivalent to the context in which the unknown word was found. still involves several material steps. Researchers have called for studying how dictionaries are used. Dictionaries are indeed an institutionalised tool. are reluctant to accept dictionaries that do not conform to their expectations. There is no question that this kind of research is valuable. These are operations which at present still imply looking for information in different places. This. having an idea of the register of the word and its syntactical. Research is required to understand the nature of all these processes in order to design a tool that adapts to them. on their part. Until now. The question is: how does one discover what the process of encoding implies? Over the last 30 years or so. on the other hand. I believe there is another reason why dictionaries are now quite similar to what they were some 100 years ago in spite of recent technological innovations: dictionaries have not yet solved the problem of encoding because their authors have no clear understanding of what encoding represents from the point of view of the user. such as a telephone list or a recipe book. are hesitant to embark on radically innovating projects. These are quantifiable and yield results that can be put into figures and statistics. they would be able to define a dictionary’s necessary characteristics that are currently absent.16 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS what already exists. with some exceptions. pragmatical and other constraints. which everybody expects to be able to use without any specific preparation. is not the lexicographer’s concern.

I suggest that the relative lack of understanding of the issue is due to inadequate research techniques. I state that foreign language lexicography aims at helping learners with decoding and encoding but that emphasis has now shifted from decoding to encoding. and a careful analysis of actual dictionaries in order to determine their flaws. First I make a basic distinction between the decoding and the encoding part of the dictionary. Here again examples play an important role. which I consider central in lexicography. I briefly review the literature on foreign language dictionaries. examples and definitions for the disambiguation of translation options in the decoding process. This book intends to be a sample of such qualitative research. In the second chapter. In the third chapter of this book. . these ideological elements infiltrated the field of foreign language lexicography. but are not dictated by them. I first discuss how learners can choose their item. In the fourth chapter. and in others. I situate foreign language dictionaries in a historical perspective. I analyse the question of authentic examples as opposed to made-up ones. Through learner's dictionaries.INTRODUCTION 17 researcher. Finally. The recommendations and suggestions I make take into account the capabilities of modern computers. I then consider both these activities from the point of view of beginning and advanced learners respectively. In order to adapt to this new trend. When I examine a set of different dictionaries no clear examples policy emerges from most of them. In the first chapter of this book. synonyms. In the case of encoding. examples are not utilised to their full extent. I present my own qualitative kind of research centred on the issue of examples. which serve ideological as well as linguistic needs. then how they can learn to use it. This is not the case of monolingual dictionaries. I discuss the utility of labels. which I consider more difficult. bilingual dictionaries still fulfil an obvious need. it is important to discover the precise needs of dictionary users. So much so that my suggestions can be of some use for compiling paper dictionaries as well. Although not very suited for encoding. I concentrate on the research done on dictionary use and users. In the final chapter I outline a new kind of dictionary.

Furthermore.18 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS The bulk of this book was concluded in 1997 as the result of a doctoral research project. I tested subjects at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina and at Cobuild. the learner. the suggestions I will formulate have some possible application to printed dictionaries as well. but the process only increased my lack of confidence in tests. and native speaker’s. For this edition. I reviewed more recent literature. whereas I include native speaker’s dictionaries mainly because of their relationship to learner’s dictionaries. My primary data are dictionaries. on one hand. on the other. updated the bibliography and changed the text incorporating quotations wherever I found it relevant. Objectives and Hypothesis The purpose of this book is to formulate suggestions to improve dictionaries for foreign languages learners by means of qualitative research that analyses existing dictionaries. where I spent a year of research. I decided to study Japanese so that I could personally experience what it is like to use a dictionary as an absolute beginner. While electronic methods of storage and data retrieval are constantly on my mind. I hope the outcome of my research will lead to an improvement of foreign language dictionaries. Nevertheless. I chose these dictionaries based on the languages of which I have at least a minimal command. as I am convinced that the future of the dictionary lies in the digital world. On a few occasions. I considered three main categories of dictionaries: bilingual. The first two categories are the ones most directly concerned with foreign language learners. Additionally. Accordingly. learner’s. some types of dictionaries only exist in English. of which a full list can be found in the bibliography at the end of this book. more people learn it and more people work on improving English dictionaries. most attention was dedicated to reference works in English since English is allegedly the most studied language in the world. and. Tests and Questionnaires After examining the literature on dictionaries I realized that there is currently no agreement on a proper methodology for the analysis of user .

Qualitative rather than quantitative methods may prove more appropriate for this purpose. and the subjects are either unable or reluctant to tell the truth1. sometimes one kind of research contradicts the other. In her own words: Further investigations of the value of examples in learner’s dictionary entries will need to develop a more sensitive method of measuring almost imperceptible developments in word knowledge resulting from dictionary consultation. D. 1991). 1992. When reading an article by Hilary Nesi “The role of illustrative examples in productive dictionary use” (1996). After coming to some very unexpected results with a test on dictionary examples. interestingly I was unable to find any concrete reference to this kind of qualitative research in Nesi’s latest book The Use and Abuse of Learner’s Dictionaries (Nesi. (Nesi. This is true for tests as well as for questionnaires. or what the researcher already knew they did. H. Researchers tend to ask questions that are either too obvious or too difficult. 2000).INTRODUCTION 19 needs. It is my experience that questionnaires tell us either what subjects think they do when they consult a dictionary. and therefore cannot have an entirely objective basis and yields only the forecast results. 1996:205) Still. most experimental quantitative research on dictionaries depends too much on personal decisions. At . 1 Malinowski’s ‘oral questionnaires’ in The sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia (1929) are both entertaining and instructive reading on the subject. a social science. to a large extent. which I will discuss later in detail. Indeed. contradicting Laufer. This seems to indicate that this approach has still not been undertaken. even if both seem equally well supported by statistics and percentages (Harvey and Yuill. it occurred to me that research in the field is so unconvincing because current research methods are flawed.. Several methods have been used in this area. none of them leading to very conclusive results. Nesi herself suggests that shifting from quantitative to qualitative methods could be a more reliable way of conducting research on the topic. little is gained by applying methods borrowed from the natural sciences to what is. and Long M. As is secondarily shown by research in closely related areas such as foreign language acquisition (Larsen-Freeman. I shall expand on this briefly. 1992). In my view.

… In the case of writing. (Laufer. So many variables must be taken into account that the results must be questioned. researchers have to make a number of more or less arbitrary choices according to the case.20 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Tests or controlled experiments. Malinowski was quite surprised to see that the woman in question had plenty of children. seem more objective. on the other hand. a word is looked up in the dictionary and related to the text. In her research on the efficiency of dictionary examples and definitions. in a real-life situation. their subjects have to work in situations which cannot adequately replicate a real life situation. Additionally. Particularly in the case of tests. however. In real life. Therefore. Tests are reliable only when asking specific and well-circumscribed research questions such as ‘can subjects notice the difference between made-up and authentic examples?’ Even in this case. A quote from Popper’s essay ‘The logic of social sciences’ corroborates my claim on the inadequacy of methods taken from the natural sciences to elucidate lexicographic problems. but some clarification is required in order to dispel doubts that may arise concerning the nature of my own research. but that is the only choice they have to make. Researchers are generally aware of this and frequently apologise. researchers still have to choose the examples. Laufer admits: But it should be remembered that the objectives of the experiment required an artificial situation of testing words out of context. people seldom learn words from monolingual dictionaries only. some point Malinowski wanted to find out what the Trobrianders’ concept of (female) beauty was. people rarely use words which are entirely new to them. it would be reasonable to expect better results than in the experiment. but their results are no more reliable because of this recognition. 1993:138) The debate on the use of experimental methods exceeds the boundaries of this book. (Malinowski 1929:246-247) . In the case of reading. The Trobrianders had at that time no idea that sexual intercourse could lead to pregnancy. look up words which are partially familiar to them. So he started a conversation with some men and all of them agreed that they would never have sexual intercourse with one particular woman because of her physical unattractiveness. but in fact they are not. They do.

since English is the language most research focuses on. not enough researchers seem to have experience with teaching a foreign language —which is different from ‘teaching one’s own language to foreigners’— and this leads to a false perception of where the possible difficulties for learners lay. begin by collecting statistical data. Consequently. so far as this is at all possible in the social sciences. 1994:67-68) It is true that a comparison with the social sciences to which Popper refers is relative. ‘to be value-free. despite the most scientific research methods and the best intentions. many researchers do not have much experience with using a dictionary for other than research purposes. this means. but they usually shed more light on what researcher and subjects want us to think they do than what they really do. next. All these factors can lead to biased research results. It is suggested that in this way you will approach the ideal of objectivity. Also. however. Lexicographers have opinions and these end up interfering in the design of any of the controlled experiments of which I am aware. For being objective demands that one is not biased by one’s value judgements – that is (as Max Weber called it). In tests as well as in questionnaires there is the possibility of interfering in the execution of scientific methods without acknowledging this interference. proceed.’ But only in the rarest cases can the social scientist free himself from the value system of his own social class and so achieve even a limited degree of ‘value freedom’ and ‘objectivity. the misguided and erroneous methodological approach of naturalism or scientism. Finally.’ For example. some researchers have close ties with publishing companies. leading them to formulate what I sometimes think are wrong research questions. The need to free themselves from a value system seems an irrelevant requirement for linguists. but there are existential aspects in the researcher’s situation that can be assimilated to this ‘value system. which urges that it is high time that the social sciences learn from the natural sciences what scientific method is. you ought to be conscious of the fact that objectivity in the social sciences is much more difficult to achieve (if it can be achieved at all) than in the natural sciences. for instance. by induction to generalisations and to the formation of theories.’ (Popper. which must make some conclusions more ‘desirable’ than others. . This misguided naturalism establishes such demands as: begin with observations and measurements. In so doing. for instance. When scientific methods borrowed from the natural sciences are applied to issues like dictionaries one does extract information from them. frequently Anglo-Saxon researchers investigate their own mother tongue.INTRODUCTION 21 There is.

Nonetheless. the old paradigm is evident through research questions such as ‘is grammar necessary in a dictionary?’ ‘how to classify multi-word items. The same thing applies to alphabetic ordering. 1970:49) ‘Rules’ are the methodology which current lexicographic literature seems to have lost. in my opinion.’ This paradigm is now being questioned as is illustrated by the fact that in the literature of the last 20 years articles on relatively minor topics. . however. the search for rules gains a function that it does not ordinarily possess. so characteristic of traditional lexicography. The current attempts to define ‘needs’ are a symptom of a much-needed ‘rationalisation’ of the area.’ In a computer programme all items of a dictionary are randomly accessible and programs (such as Euroglot and others) have solved this problem in a straightforward and simple way. and which has given rise to research topics such as ‘under what entries do learners look up the meaning of idioms.’ ‘translation equivalents in bilingual dictionaries. are on an equal footing with articles on more fundamental questions such as user needs. such as those above.’ These were the questions considered to be ‘relevant. In the case of lexicography. to borrow a concept precisely from the natural sciences. (Kuhn. 1970). Furthermore. The way dictionary research has been dealt with over the last 20 years gives the impression that the field is. but in this case the research is presented from the onset as the result of introspection and personal assessment. abbreviations. a number of dictionary features such as codes. are the result of the use of paper and consequent commercial considerations are no longer inevitable. which. While paradigms remain secure. belongs to the past. articles are still being published on the problem of lemmatisation. This is reminiscent of a paragraph in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: When scientists disagree about whether the fundamental problems of their field have been solved. seeking out a new ‘paradigm’ (Kuhn.22 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS The danger of the researcher influencing the results exist in the case of qualitative research as well. the nonseparation of encoding and decoding.’ ‘the inclusion of specialist vocabulary?’ ‘dictionary skills. Indeed. some of which have disappeared or become irrelevant. Dictionaries today are the result of material conditions and ideological considerations. they can function without agreement over rationalisation or without any attempted rationalisations at all.

1972). This system of ideas may give a more or less correct vision of society. computers have now made it commercially feasible to realise an old lexicographic dream: split up encoding and decoding. Firstly. Instead of having only a usage value. . which knows perfectly well what they mean. Because learner’s dictionaries were derived from native speaker’s dictionaries. and are not only the mere answer to a mere need. it is difficult to ignore any political motivation in its design beyond the one that is publicly admitted. A methodology which aims at delineating the needs of dictionary user’s should attempt to disperse a bit of the ideological fog2 which surrounds dictionaries and is responsible for part of their content. Dictionaries became an element of identification with a national creed. an item intimately linked with the shaping of the modern state. I hold a fairly Marxist view of ideology in the sense of a system of ideas. I see the influence of ideology in two ways. 1968. dictionaries also have a significant symbolic value. dictionaries helped to consolidate modern national consciousness. As such. In the case of a dictionary. They are also objects. Not an analysis of the needs was the starting point. As Baudrillard puts it: 2 The concept of ideology is a rather controversial one. which is why so much in a learner’s dictionary. I will not attempt to go into unnecessary detail here. Ideology I have already mentioned the ideological element in lexicography. which justifies the position of a particular class within society. 1970. warrants of distinction. Dictionaries are social objects. but it might just as well not. which have little to do with their declared purpose. seems ill adapted to its audience and their needs. emblems of literacy. they also have to respond to particular criteria. this ideological factor affected foreign language lexicography.’ There is indeed no need to explain the meaning of a word to an audience. and is used by a number of philosophical and sociological schools. but a pre-existing kind of book. which hold a place and function in the ‘système des objets’ (Baudrillard. dictionaries are not only tools. guardians of culture. and this affirmation of national consciousness has often been their main ‘raison d’être.INTRODUCTION 23 combining the solution of space and ordering. by standardising the language. Secondly.

24 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Aujourd’hui la consommation – si ce terme a un sens autre que celui que lui donne l’économie vulgaire – définit précisément ce stade où la marchandise est immédiatement produite comme signe. Learner’s dictionaries preserve many of their model’s characteristics and instead of adjusting to needs. Johnson writes in his Plan of an English Dictionary (1747): “The chief intent of it is to preserve the purity.’ The compilers of the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française were convinced that the French language had attained in their century the highest degree of perfection. the only reason why spanner is defined in a learner’s dictionary such as the Cambridge International Dictionary of English —‘a metal tool with a shaped end. Learners are attracted to monolingual dictionaries because it is seen as an ‘upgrade. (Baudrillard. the psychological value should not be underestimated. et les signes (la culture) comme marchandise.) In parallel. electronic edition) However legitimate. they have inherited part of the native speaker’s dictionaries’ function as symbols. no other raison d’être than its mere presence in the dictionary. no page number. “Il (le Dictionnaire de l'Académie) a esté commencé & achevé dans le siecle le plus florissant de la Langue Françoise…” (Introduction. One of the symbolic functions of dictionaries is to defend the language against ‘corruption. They are produced as a ‘signe.’— has no other justification. I am not claiming that dictionaries should shed their ideological . To quote an example. comme valeur/signe. 1972:178. electronic version. author’s emphasis) The reasons for the compilation of a native speaker’s dictionary are largely symbolic. It will not teach foreigners what a spanner is. used to turn nuts and bolts. in the case of learner's dictionaries. and ascertain the meaning of our English idiom…” (No page number. from the moment the preservation of the ‘purity’ of the language became the dictionaries’ main function. It might even induce them into thinking that it is a nutcracker. Similarly.’ as a cultural value.’ a sign that they have reached a near native status. It does not necessarily mean that it is the best dictionary for their purposes. It has to be there because this book can only be called a dictionary if it includes this word. they ceased being tools and became repositories.

I find it preferable for researchers with experience in the matter to question their own practices. the strength of the dictionary’s symbolic value is one of the elements which has prevented researchers from approaching the question in a more fundamental way.INTRODUCTION 25 function. which are then examined by the researchers. Over the centuries. 3 Even recent articles on the subject remain remarkably superficial because there is still very little fundamental research on the subject to fall back on. As Krashen (1996) shows in his account of a very proficient language learner. This is. As it is. But the objective veneer on tests and questionnaires is thin. There are perhaps at present more electronic dictionaries on the market than research articles published on the subject3. Remarkably. New criteria The task of defining new criteria appears to be a huge one. The techniques borrowed from the natural sciences have proven insufficient4 for a tabula rasa. (Leech and Nesi. In the words of Rousseau: ‘La réflexion jointe à l’usage donne des idées nettes…’ I propose to submit dictionaries to an ‘analyse de textes’ which is indeed more typical of literary studies and bears some relationship to structural methods as applied by Barthes (1957) and Baudrillard (1968. 1999) Nesi (1999) undoubtedly knowing her (lexicographic) audience. Until now. again. lexicographers have produced a large amount of fine work and a mere reorganisation of this material would already be a huge step forward. illustrated by what occurs in the area of second language acquisition. still feels rightfully compelled to ‘introduce’ the electronic dictionary. ideology only stands in the way. At the least a sound analysis of the learners’ needs and a consequent reshuffling of the different components of existing dictionaries should be carried out. However. with regards to the part of these tools that is dedicated to solving linguistic problems. publishers are now the ones launching new trends. 4 . since ideologies do have a reason to exist. Of course every researcher dreads the accusation of being subjective. An identification of the ‘bare’ facts of the problem with a humane minimum of ideological biases is essential for research to be productive. more can be learned from the experience of successful individuals than from socalled scientific tests. a qualitative approach has hardly been attempted.

I analyse the look-up process as an expression of the user’s needs. But the examination of these convinced me that the confrontation with the different aspects of the problem would inevitably produce a less homogeneous picture than if I had worked on secondary sources.’ The pronunciation is included for speaking purposes. the grammatical information is included for speaking or writing purposes. as will be seen in my analysis of dictionary examples (in Chapter 3). To do this. writing and reading audiences. In this particular case. que lorsqu’on l’invente soi-même. In this book I have examined all publications which were within my reach. in the course of this research I had the feeling that I benefited most of all from my own consulting of dictionaries and from monitoring myself. which some may object to be somewhat episodic. one can ask what is the purpose of ‘/’mIdZIt/noun [countable] a very small person. the use I made of dictionaries to write this book. and it is easier to write a philosophy of dictionaries than to attempt to improve them. lorsqu’on l’apprend de quelque autre.26 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 1970). What is qualitative lexicographic research? The issue can be approached through two different points of view. The first one is to look at what has been produced and ask oneself: what purpose does this production serve? For instance. I draw on my experience as a routine dictionary user and. I look for the implicit criteria which guide lexicographic practice. and the definition is included for reading or listening purposes. As Descartes put it: “non pas qu’il ne puisse y avoir au monde plusieurs esprits incomparablement meilleurs que le mien.” A last hedge regards the form in which this book was written. why not admit it. taking the entry for midget in the Oxford Wordpower. one can claim that there is too much information for anyone who only wanted to pro- . Indeed. It is surely easier to weave a perfect web when one remains distant from the facts. On the other. mais pource qu’on ne saurait si bien concevoir une chose et la rendre sienne. On one hand. This may be because the bulk of this research consists of an observation of the facts and not of what has been written on them. One can then go a step further and see if the information directed at the speaking audience is sufficient and adequate and do the same for the information intended for the listening.

I hope I have not deceived myself the whole time. I may have deceived myself more than once. Another kind of qualitative approach starts not from the product. in turn. The pronunciation. This kind of approach implies analysing the behaviour of specific dictionary users: the researcher her/himself. is useless to the writing user and the space could have been filled with an example. . or a third person. Doing this kind of exercise one slowly becomes aware of dictionaries’ shortcomings. but from its intended user.INTRODUCTION 27 nounce the word. I did this with myself for a few years.

28 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS .

Its purpose was clear: to make possible at least a rudimentary communication between two people who spoke different languages. These were the first monolingual dictionaries. an Italian-German word list was compiled for travelling . They registered Sumerian words and their Eblaite translations. In the first century AD. In 1447. In the Middle Ages this practice of explaining hard words was expanded and the wordlists became independent of the books they were found in. This time the purpose was to make possible a diachronic form of communication. HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS 1. Hard words were intralingually translated from old Greek into Modern Greek. such as communicate with people who spoke a different language. Dictionaries were tools created to respond to some obvious needs of a particular audience. The first dictionaries were bilingual. T HE H ISTORY OF D ICTIONARIES Until recently “user needs” were not a lexicographic issue. HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS 29 CHAPTER 1 DICTIONARIES. the Greeks found it increasingly difficult to understand the versified account of their mythical ancestors’ eventful travels. some nine hundred years after the Iliad and the Odyssey were written.DICTIONARIES. and scholars had the idea to compile commentaries on the hard words in Homer.

the first time the purpose of a dictionary became unclear. according to Hale: From the 1480s. What they were interested in was the ‘toscanizzazione. from the mid-century they broadened to satisfy those who wished to learn a foreign language in some depth. of course. Astonishing is the fact that words like involve. to my knowledge. By the end of the fifteenth century. From the early sixteenth century. 1983) which gave rise to new monolingual dictionaries. The real turning point in lexicography came in 1612. education. Because of this return to the roots and general rise in civilization level in Europe. (Hale: 1994. Italian. mainly from Latin and Greek. a scholarly collector and dealer in antiquities whose portrait was painted by Titian. Greek and Hebraic bilingual dictionaries went to press. a whole range of Latin. Polyglot vocabularies were published with increasing frequency from 1477. activity. Spanish and German proved so popular after its publication in Venice in 1526 that by the 1546 edition it had been extended to cover eight languages. and ‘wrong’ was whatever others spoke. dies in 1588 while working on an eleven-language dictionary. exactly. considered to be authentically Italian.30 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS purposes. were coined single-handedly by Thomas Elyot (Green. French. which is considered the oldest ‘modern’ bilingual dictionary. 1996: 87). In addition. the crusconi. sincerity and society. 159) During the revival of classical Latin in the Renaissance. This was the Italian they themselves spoke. to name but a few. dictionaries had become a relatively common tool. when the Florentine Accademia della Crusca published a comprehensive list of all the words that its members. and the less-knowing men’ (Osselton. Jacopo Strada.’ The Crusca Vocabolario is generally regarded to be the first modern monolingual dictionary since it sought comprehensive coverage for its own sake. The new words had to be explained to the ‘more-knowing women. these dictionaries assisted students eager to study classical Latin. François Garon’s Vocabulary of five languages: Latin. In the words of the presentday crusconi: . They responded primarily to a need for decoding classical and biblical texts. languages expanded their vocabularies through the borrowing of words. multi-lingual conversation and phrase books started to appear as simple aids for merchants abroad. This is. travellers had begun to include glossaries of useful foreign words as appendices to their narratives.

Boccaccio. opera concepita come uno strumento dedicato ai letterati e fondata sulla lingua fiorentina fattasi "classica" per il tramite delle opere dei grandi autori del Trecento. just as the possession of a Bible meant until recently adherence to Christianity. from functional to emblematic. e assurta a lingua letteraria degli scrittori non toscani. desiderosi di abbandonare. Petrarca. from then on only bilingual dictionaries could claim to have this exclusive purpose. and they simply defined cane as ‘known animal’ (Lepschy.cnr. Scholars were quick to recognize that the compilation of a reliable and comprehensive dictionary was one sign of the achievement of their country’s maturity. Monolingual dictionaries have become ‘treasures. 1530-1600). this trend had begun early: Trésor de la langue française (Nicot. (Collison. HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS 31 .DICTIONARIES. 1982. not to explain it. and illustrates the capacity of the language to represent nationhood. 5 The Vocabolario is. etymology.18) The crusconi seemingly had no problem in admitting this. 1984:174). nei generi più elevati. 5 6 At the Accademia della Crusca Site: http:// www. Whereas formerly their aim was to assist communication. Its purpose was to draw a political and sociological line. which had little to do with the primitive function of the dictionary as an aide to communication. just as the lack of grammars and dictionaries indicated the dominance of a foreign power or the weakness of a truly national feeling.’ intended primarily to be owned and not to be used. and they include as much information on words as can be gathered about them —meaning. Dante. a thesaurus6. il loro dialetto per una lingua d'arte comune. in its original sense. The intention of the members of the Accademia was to exalt the Florentine language. as well as the Latin word commonly used for dictionaries: thesaurus. The Crusca dictionary represents a remarkable shift in the purpose of dictionaries. The Dutch and German words for vocabulary –woordenschat and Wortschatz– reflect this. 1611). . Hence.csovi. Tesoro de la lengua castellana (Covarrubias.fi. synchronically or diachronically. grammar. In addition. the purpose of dictionaries changed from practical to symbolic. It collected words as for a treasure. Quite sensibly they assumed there was no point in explaining to an Italian audience what a dog was. As Collison puts it: The spirit of nationalism has often proved a driving force in the making of dictionaries. from La Crusca onwards dictionaries start to embody literacy and culture. intralingually or interlingually..it/crusca If we look at the titles..

the project of the Grimm brothers’ dictionary was intimately linked with the linguistic unification of a highly dialectal Germany.32 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS synonyms. just as the state was being centralised politically. I have a copy of the Dutch Van Dale and the French Robert. I have never used them once. Spain was unified at the end of the 15th century. The Tesoro is still much of a hard words dictionary. The centralisation of power and the construction of a sense of nationality demanded a unified language. I have been living in Brazil for almost 20 years. antonyms—. learned mind. Johnson published his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. France would define its present day borders only under Louis XIV. Cardinal Richelieu founded the Académie Française with the objective of compiling a French national dictionary. As a result.’ In Germany. eventually to be published in 1694. Colleagues at the university tell me they use their Aurélio frequently. Covarrubias published his Tesoro de la lengua castellana. *** In 1610. regardless of the usefulness of such information or what audience this information has to serve. Known for his shrewdness as well as for his interests in the arts. Due to the nature of the Reconquista. This was not the case of France. at that time attempting to reach its political unification. Reaching a cultural apex around mid-17th century. struggling at the time to hold its various pieces together. To standardise means to unify. almost casual manner in which the dictionary was written may well be related to the fact that language was not at that time a political issue in Spain. but they are unable to tell me what . Why does one have a monolingual dictionary? For example. complemented by the private intellectual pursuits of a brilliant. Johnson wanted to protect the English language from ‘corruption. Spain has no dialects until this day and Catalan and Basque nationalism are a 19th century phenomenon. which I consider my two mother tongues. it had a similar goal as its French and Italian predecessors: standardising. The nonnormative. the moment seemed ripe to stabilise and unify the French language under one centralising power. Although Johnson’s dictionary was a private undertaking. the primary function of a monolingual dictionary became blurred. In 1634. Richelieu’s intentions were first political.

Some might find the apparently modest use people make of such voluminous volumes hard to admit since it implies that a considerable piece of work and scholarship can be replaced by a simple list of words. and spelling is the second reason. secondarily and at best serving an intralingual translation purpose. However. However. if one recalls that Wittgenstein compiled such a list there should be no dishonour in admitting this.DICTIONARIES. Nevertheless. from the moment people like Hornby started using monolingual dictionaries in foreign language teaching. The line between these two kinds of dictionaries became blurred. followed by meaning only. “When they are planning to write an article. to see what a word exactly means. If learner's dictionaries had started from scratch by analysing the needs of the target audience. They use their mother tongue’s dictionary like a philosophy handbook. Yet. resulting in dramatic changes in language . 2. however. once again these results are based merely on the respondents’ opinions. According to my own observation. it was the Second World War which gave this tendency a decisive impetus. However. with a new kind of dictionary as a result. L EARNER ’ S D ICTIONARIES At the end of the nineteenth century. This is certainly not the case of bilingual dictionaries. Indeed. the main reason why native speakers look up words in a dictionary is spelling.” one sometimes hears. their features would be entirely different today. dictionaries are written by people who have certainly less philosophical qualifications then university lecturers. HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS 33 they look up. in 1947 Hornby published The Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English. in the case of infrequent words. which involve little symbolism and have a clear objective. Surveys report that meaning is the first reason why people reach for a monolingual dictionary of their mother tongue. Monolingual dictionaries are primarily symbols. of course. The learner's dictionary tried to give back to the monolingual dictionary a function which it had at that point only kept in name: explain words. the design of the monolingual dictionary was not adapted to this task and learner's dictionaries were to inherit the ballast of their models. the focus of language teaching started changing slowly from merely understanding to producing a foreign language.

Compared to normal monolingual dictionaries. However. Learner’s dictionaries are like universal ‘bilingual’ dictionaries. It bears indeed many resemblances to children’s dictionaries. The task was less difficult than starting a completely new bilingual dictionary from scratch. it remains possible that the design of the first learner's dictionary was a result of its inventor’s ignorance of its audience’s mother tongue rather than of an analysis of their needs.34 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS teaching and learning pedagogy in the sixties (Rivers. Hornby’s dictionary remained. Hornby made no serious attempt to learn the language. Hornby had worked for 12 years in Japan and it is likely that he had a Japanese audience in mind.” (Cowie. . but not the necessary foreign language skills. The eighties’ ‘communicative approach’ made it clear that the emphasis was now on production. It therefore does not surprise me that the authors of learner's dictionaries were themselves surprised that by 1981 the ad7 It seems appropriate here to mention Oxford’s Bilingual Spanish Dictionary. 1975). independently of the user’s first language. not because they are necessarily better7. And he did invent a new concept of dictionary. the number of entries and senses was smaller. The first thing one would think of to help one’s students would be a bilingual dictionary. the language used by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary was simpler than that of traditional monolingual dictionaries. This is generally true only because the main task of monolingual dictionaries is to be exactly that: complete. It is my experience that a great many foreign language teachers think that monolingual dictionaries are necessarily more complete than bilingual ones. however. The traditional monolingual dictionary was transformed to be acceptable to users less familiarised with the language than native speakers are. Apparently. and there were more examples. Hornby had the courage and the knowledge to compile a dictionary. since they translate hard English into easy English. in many aspects more comprehensive than some of its numerous prestigious Spanish monolingual counterparts. As we learn through Cowie: “unlike Palmer and Gatenby (…) both of whom spoke Japanese to a high standard and showed a deep and informed interest in the local culture. his intention was most likely to help his students with whatever means he had available. a monolingual dictionary whose general form and content was derived from the monolingual dictionaries for a native speaker audience. 1999:9) Yet.

Dogs and cats keep on wandering through the pages of learner's dictionaries because these dictionaries inherited them from native speakers dictionaries designed for ideological purposes. in ‘Lexicography and its pedagogic applications. learners do not understand the words used to explain them. One of the easiest learner’s dictionaries. the reduced number of entries and senses in learner’s dictionaries represents a drawback. However. most owners of learner’s dictionaries. (Cowie. I am sure. until quite recently there was no correspondingly widespread understanding among teachers that the scale and character of the information provided in a general EFL dictionary was radically different from that to be found in works intended for the native user. i. First. In particular. The learner’s dictionary is then used to double-check what was found in the bilingual dictionary. People often keep cats as pets. will still be hard-pushed to say what the difference is between this kind of dictionary and a normal monolingual dictionary. If learners do not understand words such as cat and dog.’ illustrates the attitude towards learner’s dictionaries: Yet. including teachers.DICTIONARIES. it was not generally understood that the learner’s dictionary was designed to help with production as much as interpretation. which transmit . HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS 35 vantages of the learner's dictionary were not yet entirely clear to the main target audience. This means that in most cases learners will have to consult a bilingual dictionary prior to the learner’s dictionary. As for the hard words. syntax and collocations. it is useless for them to look them up in a learner’s dictionary. From a decoding point of view. defines cat as “a small furry animal with four legs and a tail. Looking at learner’s dictionaries from an encoding point of view. It are precisely the least frequent words that cause most trouble to non-native readers. Cowie. learner's dictionaries presuppose a sufficiently good command of the language to understand the definition. In 2001. one has to know what to look up. This means that examples.e. In addition and still from a decoding point of view.” On the one hand. learners do not look up easy words because they know them from other sources. they too have weaknesses. the Oxford Wordpower. anyone with a sufficiently good enough command of English to understand a definition will be primarily interested in usage information. 1981:203) I know from my own college experience that learner's dictionaries were simply the kind of monolingual dictionary you would find abroad.

which are not strictly speaking ‘examples. Learner's dictionaries still have few of them. and too scarce for the other. fixed expressions. It has to be mentioned that recent joint ventures. An encoder needs a very large amount of information in order to feel rightfully secure. One expects bilingual dictionaries to be used not only as decoding but also as encoding tools. Moreover. However. This does not always work out. and the results doubtful. the ideal amount of information is immense. It is true that 17th century dictionaries were astonishingly good. since it appears that. there is still room for improvement. There is surprisingly little difference between present-day and 17th century bilingual dictionaries. Furthermore. Hence. If one compiles a French-English dictionary supposed to be equally useful to English and French users. As long as decoding was the main concern. This makes the search cumbersome. bilingual dictionaries do not appear to be flexible enough to meet the current encoding needs. have done much to change this situation for the better. Moreover. Oxford-Duden or Collins-Robert. useless to one audience. paradoxically. learner’s dictionaries place no priority on syntax or collocates information they are not the ideal tools for encoding or decoding. traditional bilingual dictionaries were perfectly up to the task. Bilingual dictionaries are most frequently produced by ‘mononational’ publishers and they give tacit preference to the national audience. and until recently there was not much reason for change. B ILINGUAL D ICTIONARIES So far. the order of the information within the entries is generally based on the division in senses and not on usage. except maybe the first edition of Cobuild on CDROM. 3. The idea behind this is that the decoding information of one audience is the encoding information of the other. the customary lack of balance between the two halves of this kind of dictionary in mere number of pages. such as the Oxford-Hachette. However. . are extremely important.36 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS this kind of information. since the main encoding aids –examples– are still rare. their target audience is hybrid as it is composed of native speakers of two different languages.’ take up most of the examples’ space.

The constantly reprinted Longman English Dictionary for Portuguese Speakers is a good example of this kind of dictionary. users will turn immediately to the translation and not waste time reading both. but since the difficult word was found in a context – the text which the learner is reading – . Therefore it is likely that even in dictionaries that provide a translation alongside a definition.’ They look up words because they are reading. For most hard words. these dictionaries do not have enough entries and are only helpful in the case of relatively easy texts. and completes this definition with a translation. It is surprising that other learner’s dictionaries have so far neglected this simple and useful device. For the purposes of decoding. for learners who read the whole entry. or listening. one could say this formula is an improvement. This technique has the apparent advantage of settling the question of whether it is better to give learners a definition or a translation. learners still have to consult another dictionary. the criticisms that apply to learner’s dictionaries apply to bilingualised dictionaries as well. however. HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS 37 The Oxford-Hachette and Collins-Robert are admirable achievements. Despite all the praise they deserve. Bilingualised dictionaries presently exist only in versions with a reduced number of headwords. Indeed. bilingualised dictionaries also suffer the restrictions I articulated for bilingual and learner’s dictionaries. This translation might not give an exact idea of what the word means. As a mix between a bilingual and a learner’s dictionary. The fact that it would imply writing a different dictionary for every single language is probably the reason why this has not been done yet. B ILINGUALISED D ICTIONARIES A relatively recent phenomenon in foreign language lexicography is the bilingualised dictionary. Sometimes only the definition text is translated. The en- .DICTIONARIES. Thanks to a simple Portuguese wordlist at the end. A dictionary is a tool. and the main activity of learners is not ‘looking up words in a dictionary. but they are cumbersome to use and yet still incomplete. writing. a bilingualised dictionary defines words in the same manner as a learner’s dictionary. Seen from the angle of encoding. 4. this will help the learner make the necessary adjustments. this kind of bilingualised dictionary comes close to an ideal encoding tool for beginners.

1996). There are not enough examples and. The information is identical to that found in the Cobuild Student’s Dictionary. there might be too few entries for advanced learners. maintaining the entry words in English. the result was of course a net increase in information. a problem these dictionaries do not resolve unless they have a list at the end. the authors intended to compile a dictionary that made a bridge between a bilingual English-Portuguese dictionary and an English learner’s dictionary. its innovations and its size are. the most successful lexicographic undertaking of the last few years is the Longman Language Activator. . você sente que essa pessoa não merece isso e sente inveja dela por tê-lo. since only the most frequent superordinates were included. find overdo by looking for exaggerate). The knowledge in the L2 that users are supposed to have before using the Activator is the superordinate of the word they are looking for. As the name Bridge suggests.38 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS coder still has to know which word to look up. The result is a considerable leap forward. it should not surprise us that in a test conducted by Batia Laufer (1994). the dictionary leads the learner to an alternative item that expresses their thought more adequately (e. modest. but translated into Portuguese. subjects equipped with a bilingualised dictionary scored better than others who had only a bilingual or a monolingual dictionary at their disposal. se você begrudge someone algo. 5. overall. A criticism one can make of the Activator is that.g. Since these dictionaries are often learner’s dictionaries with a translation added. In this case. T HE L ONGMAN L ANGUAGE A CTIVATOR From a strictly encoding point of view. Probably the purpose was to show the syntactic constraints of the word in the L2. the authors started from scratch in trying to match a product to the needs of the user. From there on. Cobuild’s Student’s Dictionary definitions were translated into Portuguese. A somewhat different kind of bilingualised dictionary is the Cobuild English-Portuguese Bridge Bilingual conceived by John Sinclair. Here is an example: begrudge. but it is doubtful whether this is effective (Humblé. However. in spite of its 1600 pages.

In spite of its obvious benefits. Learners are demanding efficient encoding tools. However. One can only regret that in a time when paper dictionaries are being put on CD-ROM as frequently as they are. lexicography has as yet made little use of computer technology. monolingual dictionaries began to assume a symbolic function. With the advent of modern states. since this requires more information than decoding. Alternatively. even though improvements can always be suggested. a number of bilingual and monolingual dictionaries are already perfect decoding tools. To know what an encoding dictionary should be like. but it could be a close word in the L2. the Activator is a large volume and the fact that it was printed on paper must have limited the inclusion of more entries and examples. Through learner’s dictionaries. the problem is reduced to knowing what an ideal encoding dictionary is. Once it is accepted that decoding and encoding have to be separated. As will become clear in my review of the literature on the subject. and this confuses the relationship between the dictionary and the user. Technology offers a solution to lexicography’s oldest problem: space. over the last few years much research has concentrated on discovering the answer to the question: What do learn- . one has to become aware of the sequence that learners have followed when they succeed in using a new word correctly. Solving this question implies researching the kind of dictionary learners need for encoding. they may start from the right L2 word and want more information on its usage. Longman printed a dictionary that has all the characteristics of an electronic dictionary. because no one has a precise idea of what has to be done. HISTORY AND LEARNERS’ NEEDS 39 Even so. dictionaries were compiled with a precise purpose in mind: to make possible communication in the same or between two different languages. The question lexicographers are now faced with is how to combine needs and the technological means to meet them. A possible starting point is the L1. *** At the beginning of their history. Nowadays the needs of foreign language learners are changing and foreign language lexicography is seeking ways to adapt.DICTIONARIES. To succeed in mapping the learner’s look-up sequence means deciphering the structure of the ideal dictionary. a part of foreign language lexicography also participates in this symbolic function.

.40 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS ers do when they consult a dictionary and what helps them best? Once this question is answered. a new kind of dictionary can be designed.

I will discuss Sue Atkins’s article (1996) ‘Bilingual dictionaries: past. Over the past 20 years. Atkins.REVIEW OF LITERATURE 41 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITTERATURE 1. while the latter test users and dictionaries via controlled experiments. researchers have used mainly two techniques: questionnaires and tests. D ICTIONARY U SE AND U SERS – Q UESTIONNAIRES AND E XPERIMENTS In what follows I review some examples of research carried out mainly by Tomaszczyk. and interest in the subject is growing. so does the need to reconsider the way in which dictionaries are compiled. Moreover. Next. The former ask users what they use their dictionaries for. in order to discover the needs of the target audience. present and future’ to examine the potential of new technologies for foreign language lexicography. as encoding becomes increasingly important. a relatively great number of articles have been published on the subject of dictionary use. A full critical account of the literature on the subject can be found in Dolezal (1999). . Nesi. So far. Laufer and Béjoint on dictionaries and their users.

mainly to look up meaning. The subjects are typically ESL students. His main conclusion was that students preferred bilingual to monolingual dictionaries. Béjoint devotes the introduction to his report to a succinct but keen analysis of the needs of the foreign language learner. He asked 122 subjects 20 questions ranging from ‘Do you own a monolingual English dictionary?’ to ‘Which types of information do you look up?’ According to this survey. One inevitably has to conclude that Béjoint knows obviously more about dictionary use than his subjects. Béjoint’s questionnaire was pioneering. Some 50 % of the students thought their dictionaries were too simplified while 45% thought they were just right. 77% claimed satisfaction. and foreign language students at a Polish university. He questioned foreign students at American and Polish colleges. and 24% used the pictures. Béjoint tried to discover how French students of English used their monolingual English dictionaries. In 1981. etymology or grammar. do they use it to look up meaning. Half of the students said they sometimes browsed through their dictionary without a special purpose. but when looked at from a . half of the students used their monolingual English dictionary once a week. spelling.42 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 1. and that meaning and spelling were the main reasons for using a dictionary. 89% admitted they had read the introduction to their dictionaries ‘less than thoroughly. and his thoughts on the topic exceed by far the results of his survey. do they use it for reading or writing. yet less comprehensive in terms of subjects. while 70% affirmed they used examples and quotations.’ More than half responded that they never used the dictionary codes. The first comprehensive questionnaire on dictionary use was elaborated by Tomaszczyk (1979). Questionnaires Questionnaires ask users questions of the kind: do learners use a monolingual or a bilingual dictionary. 68% used the synonyms. He stresses the difference between encoding and decoding and sums up the matter: ‘the best dictionary for decoding is the one that contains the largest number of entries’ and ‘the best dictionary for encoding is one that provides the most detailed guidance on syntax and collocation’ (1982:210). Béjoint conducted a more detailed survey.

if one does not know the purpose of the look-up. presenting in the same article the results of one of his own questionnaires. He mentions the need for a homogeneous subject sample. He does not fundamentally criticise the method. sums up his criticism as follows: Research into dictionary use still tends to be small-scale. synonyms and spelling when they encode. however. it is likely that students look for meaning when they decode and for syntactic information. non-comparable (even contradictory!). Criticism of Questionnaires Bogaards (1988) voices a number of criticisms on questionnaires. often nonrepresentative. non-correlational. First. and 5% for etymology. or the answer is difficult to interpret.REVIEW OF LITERATURE 43 distance of more than 20 years. Bogaards also laments that questions often suggest the answers. Do they know what an ‘idiom’ is? Do they really. look for ‘syntactic information’ in more than half of the cases. 1987:27) In my view. The question ‘Which types of information do you look for most often in your dictionary?’ is difficult to answer. and non-replicable. 53% for syntactic information. when the survey indicates that 87% of the interrogated subjects claim they look for meaning. This partly explains the tentative nature of many of the findings. which frequently have the status of ‘informed opinion’ rather than valid generalisation. questionnaires are to be used with caution for two reasons. himself the author of a questionnaire (1983). as Béjoint claims. Furthermore. 2. one is astonished that the questions make little use of the decoding/encoding distinction when the author’s analysis shows a clear awareness of how this affects dictionary use. or is this what they think they do … or remember they did? Do they know what ‘syntactic information’ is at all? Do 68% look up idioms ‘very often’ or . the lack of depth of some analyses and the scarcity of interesting answers due to the vagueness of the questions. Hartmann. one assumes the subjects have a knowledge of linguistic concepts and a lexicographic awareness which I think they generally lack. In 1987. 52% for synonyms. (…) (tests) are more difficult to devise and possibly therefore rarer… Even more complex techniques like controlled experiments have not been used at all. 25% for spelling and pronunciation. (Hartmann.

then what is the use of going through the trouble of devising a survey? Questionnaires were the first indication of a changing relationship between the lexicographers and their audience. The only practical conclusions to be drawn from them are what dictionary features learners use (and should be maintained). synonyms but remember idioms as something special? Second. one can understand Glynn Hatherall’s question: “Are subjects saying here what they do. and what features they do not use (and should be eliminated). or . Second. Nuccorini’s research (1992) on dictionary use among students and teachers is an example of how difficult the issue of survey reliability is. If researchers themselves have to pick out the “right” answers. and answer what they think the teacher wants them to answer. Questionnaires only investigate what is and not what should be or could be. even if they were not so at the time. learners prefer bilingual to monolingual dictionaries. the use of questionnaires assumes that subjects are being honest.44 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS do they not remember when they looked up. concluding blandly that teachers’ forms are much more reliable than students’ forms. All of these studies come to similar conclusions.. Most of them consist exclusively of questionnaires but a few have a test element. the results of these first questionnaires seem obvious. In a simple questionnaire I personally devised some years ago. I required the subjects to write down the name of their dictionary without looking at it. or what they think they do.g. First. it seems logical that controlled experiments. Repeatedly she catches her subjects’ contradictions. Battenburg (1991) lists 11 research projects carried out between 1979 and 1990. e. which increases the risk that subjects will take it as an exam. Examined 20 years later. Consequently. or indeed a mixture of all three?” (Quoted by Hartmann 1987:22) In an overview. Surprisingly almost all of the subjects appeared to be able to answer this question! Often a teacher administers the questionnaires. or what they think they ought to do. Since questionnaires depend heavily on what subjects consciously know or think they know. they should be taught more dictionary skills. It would not be surprising if more recent questionnaires only confirmed the conclusions of the first ones. One can safely assume that this research method has by now yielded all its possible results.

In 1992. 1994:139) Finally. an example alone will be just as efficient as a definition alone. bilingual and bilingualised dictionaries. did not improve learners’ performance. since such dictionaries are most often used by adolescents and adults.REVIEW OF LITERATURE 45 tests. Laufer asked 43 first-year Hebrew university students for the translation of 18 words. In 1993. Some had the help of a definition. combined entries worked best. would at some point take over. in a research project I previously mentioned. Two groups of EFL learners totalling 123 subjects were tested on their decoding and encoding abilities. In addition.133) In her test. unlike in comprehension. 3. “… the understanding of new words improves more when a definition is added than when an example is added (…) in production. Results indicated that the innovative ‘authentic examples’ as used by Cobuild. some of an example. The results were that for decoding.” (Laufer. Batia Laufer tested the efficiency of corpus-based versus lexicographer examples in the comprehension and production of new words. (p. Sim and Weiss (1984) carried out a pioneering experiment on dictionary use. It dealt with the impact of bilingual and monolingual dictionaries on reading comprehension through a multiple-choice EFL reading test. Although there were differences depending on the . while the older ones (ages 10-14) tend to define words in abstract and generic terms… These findings would suggest that it is the definition rather than the example that is most beneficial to the average user of the monolingual dictionary. they detected no noticeable difference between the results of those students allowed to use a bilingual dictionary and those working without any dictionary help. Laufer and Melamed (1994) compared the efficiency of monolingual. the same researcher investigated ‘The effect of dictionary definitions and examples on the use and comprehension of new L2 words. Lexicographers’ examples appeared to be more efficient. but examples on their own seemed to be worse than just a definition. some of a definition in combination with an example. using 15 low frequency words.’ She started from findings in first language research that showed that: … children below puberty define words by describing and using them in sentences. Surprisingly. Controlled Experiments Bensoussan.

It would have been interesting to know this in a more objective way. The result of the experiment was a written account of no less than 1. For the 32 students in Tampere this language was Finnish. It would also have been interesting to know if the dictionaries had supplied the correct information. finally. one of the problems of this test was that the evaluation of the success rate of the look-ups was entirely left to the discretion of the subjects. these results are not exactly surprising. advanced students use the dictionary more than beginners. one of the subjects would use a dictionary and the other one would write down what the first one did.000 dictionary lookups. In Oxford. and if the users had been able to retrieve it. In spite of the test’s comprehensiveness and large number of subjects. Their aim was “to monitor the dictionary look-up process in as natural a situation as possible (1997:2).46 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS activity. Atkins and Varantola Atkins and Varantola (1997) illustrate lexicographers’ attempts to develop new measuring methods. in the case of translating into English as an L2. 90% of the look-ups are related to encoding tasks.” The researchers asked 103 people (71 in Oxford and 32 in Tampere) to carry out a translation task to and from their first language. users first look up the word in a bilingual dictionary and afterwards in a monolingual one. Without this knowledge it becomes difficult to agree with statements like: ‘The fact that in 59% of the cases the dictionary users pronounced themselves satisfied with the results of their search is encouraging’ (p. the students were of mixed linguistic origin. 4. Additionally. and as the researchers themselves observe. They themselves had to decide whether their use of the dictionary had given the expected results. advanced learners were less easily satisfied with their dictionary than beginners. the overall conclusion was that bilingualised dictionaries were the most effective. English being the first language for 38 of them. The conclusions of the researchers were as follows: subjects prefer bilingual to monolingual dictionaries.24). Atkins and Varantola claim that ‘the failure rate of 40% (of the total number of look-ups) cannot be due only to some inadequacy on the part of the dictionaries involved: inadequate . Moreover. Working in pairs.

in the case of questionnaires. there is no limit. their authors frequently insist on the importance of teaching ‘dictionary skills’ (Béjoint. rather than the dictionaries.’ (p. they were probably considered too ‘small-scale’ to be worthy of much attention. massive.’(p. Not surprisingly. and hints to improve the dictionaries used in the experiment. The main criticism one can make of this otherwise incredibly interesting piece of work is its nearly exclusive use of quantitative data analysis. Another flaw of Atkins and Varantola’s test is that. . collocations are such a vital piece of information that it would be worthwhile to let other kinds of information out instead of limiting the number of collocations. 8 On page 9.’ they do not take this into consideration. leave no doubt about this when they state: “The purpose of this research project is to discover how effective a learner the student of English as a foreign learner is when working with a bilingual and/or monolingual dictionary” (1987:29). and even if there were. In reality.27) This gives the impression that the authors were very committed to awarding dictionaries a 100% satisfaction rate. However. The few qualitative analyses of specific look-ups are far more appealing than the overall. Accordingly. 10 and 11. one knows that collocations are not widely present in great numbers in dictionaries because. they are extremely laborious to discover. questionnaires typically conclude that learners do not make proper use of the tools at their disposal. second. When they respond to an alleged lack of information on collocates they reply: ‘there is a physical limit to the amount of information which a bilingual dictionary can contain.REVIEW OF LITERATURE 47 strategies and unrealistic expectations on the part of the user must also contribute to this figure. although the authors admit that ‘the situation will change when new dictionaries are compiled for electronic access only. first. Atkins et al. 1981: passim. Nuccorini 1992. the authors give an account of a number of look-ups that could lead to exciting conclusions.31) The truth is that with present electronic storage capabilities. In conclusion. who are being evaluated. there is no clear awareness of their importance for learners and.8 The accumulated material of Atkins and Varantola’s test should be a gold mine for anyone tackling user needs through qualitative research methods. statistical conclusions. it is the learners.

Nesi. or even dictionaries tout-court.) . Meara and Nesi: 1994). (1999:48) In the case of tests. 1994). In many cases. Additionally. and apply the so-called ‘kidrule strategy. 1994. however. Laufer. pointing out a new way of tackling the problem. unlike questionnaires. 1981. 1994). It is therefore interesting and encouraging that over the course of time emphasis has shifted from questionnaires to tests. Nesi (1996b) published an article in which she gave an account of an experiment she carried out with forty EFL learners to discover to what extent dictionary examples were helping them to produce sentences featuring words previously unknown to them.” (Rundell. using entries taken from the second version of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE).‘ looking only at the first sense they come across (Meara and Nesi. authors of tests are also convinced that dictionary users are slightly naughty (Nuccorini. example sentences and phrases for half the target words were removed. and whose content is presented in such straightforward terms that users will have no difficulty in grasping it. 1992. In version A examples for the first nine target words were removed. but examples for the last nine words were retained. 1996). at the same time. Hilary Nesi’s Research on Examples I believe Hilary Nesi’s research on examples shows the limits of the natural sciences method as applied to dictionary research while. In each version. users are undoubtedly unable to find the information in the dictionary when it is there. In a great many cases. In version B examples for the first nine target words were retained.. the information is not there or lays buried under loads of unwanted information. make little or no difference (Bensoussan et al. However.48 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 1994. 5. On the other hand. Jain. it is primarily the dictionary which is being evaluated. As Rundell puts it: “A more realistic strategy is to aim for dictionaries whose structure is so transparent that students do not need to learn how to use them. these same tests often conclude that lexicographic innovations. In 1996. electronic version. 1984. but for the last nine words were removed. Two versions of the test were prepared. Tests tend to blame the dictionaries for the bad results of the learners and question the dictionaries’ effectiveness.’ (No page number. to recommend the teaching of dictionary skills always sounds a little like trying to adapt the user to the washing machine instead of the opposite.

and that produced without access to examples. civic. Was it possible to know what their knowledge was and if the sample was homogeneous? Although a specific test was carried out to have an idea of the learners’ background in terms of previous vocabulary knowledge. The first choice concerned the subjects. Let us take the sentence selected in the LDOCE to illustrate perpetrate: ‘It was the managing director who perpetrated that frightful statue in the reception area.) Western learners of a certain age and experience will have no difficulty in identifying the irony in this example and it may even have some use for them. and invite us to have a critical look at the method used in this experiment.’ (The researcher herself has doubts on the appropriacy of this example. it is difficult to know what a particular dictionary example means for each of the test students in particular. Consequently. this example is meaningless. This is an extreme case. At several stages of her research. not in the least for the researcher herself. collide. Secondly. Inadvertently9. Furthermore. I think most foreigners would disagree with this. intersect. No significant difference in appropriacy was found between language produced with access to examples.REVIEW OF LITERATURE 49 The results of the test were surprising. and not in terms of the more general awareness that supports the lexical knowledge. symptom. (…) These results are important because they seem to challenge lexicographers’ beliefs regarding the value of examples. it is difficult to say what was the impact on their learning. version. rudimentary. agitate. but it is difficult to say what happened with any of the test examples in the heads of the subjects. gravity. . clarify. involving opinions and a particular understanding of the facts. another choice which Nesi had to make was the selection of the words the subjects would be asked to use in their sentences. to know what ‘shot’ means is a different kind of knowledge for a medical student than for a drug addict or a police man. however. For other learners. retard. (Ibid. perpetrate. Surely.) The fact is that these results challenge the beliefs of anyone who ever studied a foreign language. Indeed. all of the 18 9 This may have been because English native speakers tend to find words of Latin origin more difficult than others. Nesi had to make choices. interact and interlude. this knowledge is only measurable in terms of number of words. compute. err. It eventually became: enlighten. controversy. incorporate.

electronic version. The Longman Interactive Dictionary (1993). With regards to tests. The variables are countless. Along the same line of thought. intellectual. D ICTIONARIES AND C OMPUTERS Nesi wrote an account of three electronic learner’s dictionaries. analytic. First. for reasons I can only guess at. to grasp the meaning of these words would be an utterly simple task. in my experience for Western and non-Western learners alike Latin words of this kind are easier to learn than Anglo-Saxon words. the results often contradict common sense. apart from that. Not everyone recognises this as clearly as Nesi: Further investigations of the value of examples in learner’s dictionary entries will need to develop a more sensitive method of measuring almost imperceptible developments in word knowledge resulting from dictionary consultation. hopefully marking a turning point in lexicographic research. In one case. incorporating. nonfiction). She claims the following are the ‘areas in which electronic dictionaries can excel’: . this means these are all words that are typical of a particular kind of discourse (written. The results are then what was expected. In this case.50 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS words are of Latin origin.) It was this last reference to qualitative instead of quantitative research which seemed to me of the utmost interest. In another case. or inflectional. we could even consider the difference in impact of examples on learners coming from different language families: agglutinative. a circumstance not revealed in the article. researchers have a precise idea of what they want to prove and they devise their tests accordingly. the subjects had themselves a Neo-Latin background. Second. there are apparently two possibilities. 2. (…) Qualitative rather than quantitative methods may prove more appropriate… (1996: no page. however. If. The Electronic Oxford Wordpower Dictionary (1994) and Collins Cobuild on CD-ROM (1995). they sincerely want to understand the process and they devise the test in a random way as to be sure they are not prejudiced and forecasting the results.

Atkins sums up the most important features that an electronic dictionary could have: . Finally. Atkins claims.REVIEW OF LITERATURE 51 They can cross-reference within and between sources published separately in book form. existing dictionaries ‘may even come to you on a CD-ROM rather than in book form. These defects. current bilingual dictionaries lack information on collocations and synonyms. . they can provide direct links to other computer applications. Apart from that. these dictionaries show gaps in the coverage of neologisms and polysemous words.large scale user customisation. as Sue Atkins states. (No page number. Additionally. . She mentions. the high level of redundancy which makes bilingual dictionaries cumbersome to use for decoding. for instance. but underneath these superficial modernisations lurks the same old dictionary.hypertext functionality eliminating linear text restrictions and opening the way to new types of information by offering new ways of presenting it. She claims that technological advances have made it possible to meet the needs of foreign language learners much better than before and that. electronic version. because of the target language: particular senses of a word are grouped only because they happen to be translated by the same word. . can be corrected by means of a ‘multilingual hy- . she claims. and she sums up a few of their defects which could be remedied in electronic versions. there is at times distortion of the source language part. although electronic dictionaries have been published in a number of languages. however. .flexible compiling liberated from alphabetical order.rapid access to large amounts of lexicographical evidence in corpora. they can enable ‘fuzzy’ and complex searches. .no space constraints other than the need to avoid swamping the user.’ (Atkins. (1996:527) The scope of Atkins’ research is limited to bilingual dictionaries.alternative ways of presenting the information.no distortion of the source language description by the needs of the target language. the computer’s potentialities have hardly been exploited. 1996:515) A research project by Atkins (1996) is one of the few that take computers into account. . and they can interact with users to help develop vocabulary and dictionary skills.) Until now electronic dictionaries have exploited only a few of these possibilities and. as for example graphics.

etc.’ the semantic theory used to design Atkins’ electronic dictionary.52 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS pertext lexical resource’ using databases in several languages. It is essential to have a theoretical understanding of the area one is dealing with. This is my conclusion after looking at the model entry crawl on the dictionary’s homepage. bilingual. However. to let this theory be the guiding principle for compiling a dictionary is a different thing. still looks like a traditional dictionary (http:// www. First. A new electronic dictionary should take advantage of the almost unlimited capacities of electronic storage and put to use all the different 10 Atkins’ model is complex and ambitious and she doubts if an editor will take the risk to compile it. encoders use several dictionaries to obtain a single piece of information. However. I am not sure if Fillmore’s ‘frame theory. If so. . etymology. (p. synonyms. linguistics. In this ‘resource. thesaurus. Should the integration of various lexicographic genres into one not be one of the starting points of a new electronic dictionary? This does not mean putting all the different dictionaries on one CD-ROM. but integrating them into a single tool.’ the monolingual databases are real. It is of great linguistic interest and shows clearly how the word relates to others. As Atkins herself established in her survey (Atkins and Varantola. links (including metalanguage and instructions) between database items are real. The sample on the web site. 1996). this prevents the lexicographers from tackling the problem at its root and building up the solution from there. I am not sure if this new model. the dictionaries themselves are virtual.edu/hyperdico/). instead of starting from the needs of the dictionary user. did not put a burden on the dictionary right from the start. 531) Atkins admits there are practical and commercial obstacles to this project10.) when computers are involved. yet there is no technical reason for maintaining the boundaries between different lexicographic genres (monolingual. however. Additionally. does the mind of the intended user operate this way? Another criticism I have of Atkins’ plan is that she limits her proposals to bilingual dictionaries. berkeley. it has a few other flaws as well. does not start from the bilingual dictionary as it is today. In my opinion.

merging a number of search utilities regardless of what they were originally designed for. lexicographers have been studying intensely the lack of correspondence between dictionaries and their users. Methods such as questionnaires make an epistemological leap from behaviour to needs. When not predictable. Investigating the link between needs and habits is useful only to find out how learners at present tackle the problems which current dictionaries are expected to solve. technological innovations make it feasible to disregard any restrictions caused by lexicography’s traditional hindrances: lack of space and linear ordering. From an electronic point of view. Paradoxically. T HE N EED FOR A N EW K IND OF R ESEARCH There are two direct routes to more effective dictionary use: the first is to radically improve the dictionary. the main one being questionnaires and tests. The problem has been tackled in several ways. In the case of questionnaires and tests. with the different steps of a learner’s query. These have by now brought forth all the information they could possibly produce. 3. Questionnaires always work within the realm of what is possible. They reveal what the needs are . nor that it is the learners’ most urgent need. one investigates what is apparent. If we are to do either of these things – and obviously we should try to do both – the sine qua non of any action is a very detailed knowledge of how people use dictionaries at present. 1997:1) Over the last 30 years or so. the second is to radically improve the users.REVIEW OF LITERATURE 53 kinds of lexicographic and encyclopaedic knowledge accumulated over the centuries. (Atkins and Varantola. this does not mean dictionaries should specialise in spelling. indeed of several dictionaries. Some of this material will be ready for immediate incorporation into some new structure. the results are often doubtful. solutions often have preceded problems and the software industry of the last few years –as the invention of printing– has clearly demonstrated this. If a survey concludes that spelling is why learners use a dictionary most frequently. other elements will have to be adapted. At the same time. in the history of mankind. Needs exceed this realm and point to what is not yet existent. several sources of information can be available at the same time. It is possible to match the different parts of a dictionary.

54 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS to the extent that they are soluble by already existing means. phonetic alphabet. I chose examples as the topic of this research since I think they are one of the most important and least studied elements of foreign language lexicography. the place where learners look up multi-word items. the need for synonyms. I give an idea of how qualitative research can be carried out. and others. It is rather labour intensive. number of examples. If qualitative research results fed this technology. but it gives a clear overview of the issues under investigation. If we succeed in using computers adequately for lexicographic purposes this will render obsolete a large number of research publications on grammar codes. In the following chapter. a blueprint could be drawn up and give rise to a major revolution in the world of lexicography. . the need for encyclopaedic information. classification of fixed expressions.

” or “translational equivalents. In addition. The Research on Examples Before Cobuild started using its corpus to retrieve dictionary examples in 1987. the problem of examples had been virtually ignored and it was presumably considered minor when compared to topics such as the “definition of meaning. the learner’s option . In native speaker’s dictionaries.’ (draw in the Random House Webster’s). not much effort had been spent on this question. not to produce them. they are linked very closely to semantically related items. In learner’s dictionaries. little had been published on the subject. Traditionally. the lexicographer makes up the examples. since until recently dictionaries were primarily used to understand texts. their length is kept to a minimum. G ENERAL C ONSIDERATIONS 1. Up to then. The native option gives examples like ‘The sale drew large crowds.” Choosing an example to illustrate the meaning of an item for decoding is probably not as difficult as choosing one to show how an item can be used productively.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 55 CHAPTER 3 EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 1.

Avoid examples which are long e. Batia Laufer conducted an experiment at the University of Haifa on ‘The effect of dictionary definitions and examples on the use and comprehension of new L2 words. the user is offered an example of how the item can be used.. Avoid examples with a complex structure d. Fulford and Rogers published an article titled ‘The elaboration of special language terms: the role of contextual examples. Although the area of Ahmad. Laufer . Avoid examples containing more than two other technical terms c. Favour examples where the term appears early on rather than late (Ahmad et al. Whether this option was the most sensible one will be discussed later in this chapter. but Cobuild deserves credit for putting examples at the forefront. Since I have discussed a number of articles published on the subject in Chapter 2. In both cases. length. which will be discussed below.’ (142) The fact that in the lexicographers’ answers no reference was made to the distinction encoding/decoding indicates that. Fulford and Rogers is specifically terminology. naturalness. the issue was not a priority.56 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS ‘She hammered the nail into the wall. 1992:146) Also mentioned in this article are the criteria which lexicographers themselves felt to be important for the choice of examples: ‘typicality. In 1992. usefulness of syntactic information provided by the example. representative samples and normative requirements. Cobuild first gave encoding learners authentic examples that were thought to be more adapted to encoding needs. Avoid examples containing pronouns referring outside the example b. at the time.’ Apart from the results of a questionnaire conducted among lexicographers on the perceived function of examples.’ (hammer in the Oxford Wordpower). these criteria are worth quoting: a. the authors mention a series of criteria they claim should inform the choice of examples. I will limit this overview to a few highlights. semantic complexity of the example. without much information about how it should be used. Favour examples which are a complete sentence f.’ As was mentioned before. Ahmad. In 1993. This concern became important only when dictionaries started helping learners to produce in a foreign language.

combined entries were better than a definition alone and a definition alone was better than an example alone. 64% of the students said they had been taught in class how to use example(s) of a given word for reference in their own writing (Q. and Yuill D. given who commissioned the research.10) Not surprisingly. but worth keeping in mind. but the results are worth considering. In the case of using dictionaries for examples. combined entries were better than a definition or an example alone. Here too. Less astonishing. Maybe the subjects were still unsure as to the meaning of the item. a view questioned by Laufer. at least to a certain extent. it is contrary to my personal experience that in the case of encoding a definition alone is better than an example alone. For decoding purposes also. it should not be surprising that learners who had access to combined entries had the best results. an example would be just as efficient as a definition. the research team acknowledges defects inherent in the research method. Yet. or whether definitions are particularly bad at it. 1993:140) I already pointed out my reservations regarding this kind of research. Harvey and Yuill conclude that learners prefer to turn to the examples rather than to the definition in order to work out the meaning of a word (Harvey K. definitions and examples were equally efficient. Harvey and Yuill defend the use of authentic examples. This leaves us wondering whether the examples are particularly suited to explain meaning. examples came . 1992:20). 1992) contradicts Laufer‘s conclusions. This research was based on an ‘introspective’ questionnaire given to 211 informants after a production test. When used separately. Since Cobuild commissioned the project. In Hong Kong.18) when in fact. (Laufer. Since access to both a definition and an example increases the net amount of information. some subjects reported that they found a particular piece of information in places where this information had not been provided! (p. a great deal of attention was given to examples. An internal Cobuild paper (Harvey and Yuill. Amy Chi and Stella Yeung (1996) carried out a survey in which they reached the same conclusions as Harvey and Yuill. Indeed.. Learners said they preferred to use the examples in an entry to understand the meaning of a word.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 57 found that for encoding purposes. is the fact that in the case of decoding.

and fixed expressions. electronic version. idioms. Moreover. distinguishing free associations. and fixed expressions11. . collocations. However. and she herself points out some of its possible flaws. throughout) and subdivide examples into those that abide by the open-choice principle. I will illustrate this briefly be means of a few examples taken from the entry for road in the Collins Spanish Dictionary. The open-choice principle. surprisingly. One could question the overall validity of the results of Nesi’s experiment. Since the mind is lazier than the body. one can expect a learner to prefer a concrete example to a definition which is always a micro exercise in philosophy.16) (Appendix VIII). but. Hausmann (1979) comes up with definitions for these types. 2. over half of the students said they would use the example(s) given to decide which explanation is most appropriate.) According to my own research. this apparent lack of policy is widespread and not simply a LDOCE characteristic. these findings coincide with one’s own experience. In Chapter 2. no apparent policy seems to account for this variation. (No page number. Types of Examples Several different types of utterances are traditionally considered appropriate dictionary examples. I tend to agree with her when she claims that: The number of example sentences provided by LDOCE for each target word ranged from none (for compute) to five (for version). The results of this experiment show how little examples have been examined and how surprising the results can be when they are. I would reformulate his distinction in terms of Sinclair’s theories (1991: Chapter 8. I discussed Nesi’s research on examples in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE).14. However.58 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS fourth in the ranking we set for Q.) Since this survey consisted of a questionnaire. I think the results should be treated with some caution. when students were asked ‘How do you usually decide which one best explains your words?’ (Q. electronic version. An example such as the road to Teruel 11 The terminology of this chapter is explained in the Glossary at the end of the book. (No page number.

html) As Sinclair convincingly states. we call it a collocation. one can only get this show on the road or get the show on the road or get someone’s show on the road. there must be a road to Teruel. According to the Cobuild corpus. Given these few possibilities. illustrates the difficulties surrounding idioms. At present. the line between them is not clear. The idiom principle. Idioms overlap with collocations. the meaning which people intuitively give to a word is a criterion for distinguishing parts of text created on the basis of the open-choice principle and parts created on the idiom-principle. etc. because they both involve the selection of two or more words. The Brazilian translator and critic Boris Schnaiderman told me that Nabokov was considered a fairly traditional writer in Russia. at. apart from when it is used independently. In principle. from. (Website ‘Corpus linguistics.bham. When a word in a text cannot be taken in its core meaning. a word acquires a new meaning. rarely chunks of words. The example to get a show on the road.’ http:// clg1. because the whole idiom is required to produce the meaning. to name only the prepositions). off. If we interpret the occurrence as the selection of two related words. to get a show on the road qualifies for the title of idiom. but in chunks. 12 Verbal artists choose words. along.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 59 shows the target word road used in its core meaning: ‘the most frequent independent sense’ (Sinclair 1991:113). On each side of road a number of lexical items can be filled in: the road to Teruel goes that way.uk/ glossary. In an idiom. we call co-occurrences idioms if we interpret the co-occurrence as giving a single unit of meaning. Therefore. listed under road in the Collins Spanish Dictionary. There are evidently limitations as to what kind of words can abut the target word (on. not words.ac. each of which keeps some meaning of its own. while ordinary people do not usually speak in words. does not seem to be acceptable. but their possibilities of variation are restricted. Get a show on the road. across. Idioms are more flexible than fixed expressions. up. then it is part of an idiom12. down. it would be better to find the road to Teruel. as Collins Spanish claims. When writing in Eng- . into. Though undoubtedly a cautious lexicographer. the person in charge of the entry road took a few liberties with to get a show on the road. contrary to what people thought of him in the West. people speak and write mainly by combining chunks of language. In the words of John Sinclair: The individual words which constitute idioms are not reliably meaningful in themselves. but it is still a large list.

The essential difference between idioms and fixed expressions is the possibility or not of altering the order of the elements or squeezing an element in between. In one for the road. since his command of English was not perfect. to a lesser degree. they are chunks acting as large single words. nor can one speak of one ‘on’ the road or one ‘off’ the road. On the other hand. one cannot be normally replaced by two or any other number. They are traditionally stored in the examples section of a dictionary entry. They show the application of the rule by which the word road is governed in contexts in which it does not depend on other words to convey its meaning. Fixed expressions are a more familiar concept. even when they do not allow for variation. In the case of road this is exemplified by the main road is very busy at times or you must take compulsory basic training before you are allowed to ride on the road (taken from The Bank of English). In the case of one for the road. examples that show the constraints on the word in an open-choice environment are more useful. This was his guarantee of originality. ce n’est point avec des idées que l’on fait des vers. their meaning cannot be deduced from the sum of the elements. unless jokingly. Furthermore. Nabokov was thinking in words.’ and only afterwards the ones for ‘road. This sentence can be regarded as a single choice to which firstly apply the rules for ‘one for the road.’ he unknowingly referred to the idiom principle. The closer the item is to a fixed expression. when Mallarmé said: ‘Mais. For decoding. fixed expressions and. the less its overall meaning can be deduced from the sum of the meaning of its separate elements. C’est avec des mots. For encoding. Likewise. there is less possibility for variation than in the case of idioms.60 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Fixed expressions. one for the road on the other and the idiom get the show on the road in between.) lish. Fixed expressions do not allow any creativity on behalf of the speaker.’ The kind of example users are interested in depends on the activity they are pursuing. In conclusion. Degas. chosen by the speaker as wholes. Fixed expressions and idioms are. . (I will come back to this in Chapter 4. I define examples in the strict sense of the word as all utterances that do not show the target word in a fixed environment. the different kinds of examples can be put on a cline with the road to Teruel on one side. examples such as one for the road are entities in their own right. idioms are extremely useful. to a variable extent.

To indicate appropriate registers or stylistic levels. (1992). to amplify and clarify definitions. to show typical collocations. and Yuill D.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 61 3. To show other typical collocations. however. 3. This is interesting. Examples for Decoding and Examples for Encoding For the problem at hand – the choice of examples. 4. to provide usage evidence. To supplement the information in a definition. – the distinction between encoding and decoding is of great importance. 1996. One might fail to see how to ‘show the entry word in context’ would not be some sort of superordinate for all the other features. it remains surprising that learners prefer to use them instead of the definitions. these criteria still agreed with those of the lexicographers themselves.. 5. To illustrate grammatical patterns. The Function of Examples For all the doubtfulness of their methodology. 4. It is true that these criteria are rather vague. To show the entry word in context. surveys show that in the case of learner’s dictionaries. K. A decoding learner is interested in the meaning of a lexical item.’ (1992:142) I have not found much more precise information on what purpose examples are supposed to serve. This is surely something dictionary compilers do not have in mind when they write a dictionary. lexicographers declared that examples were ‘to enable the user to distinguish between senses. In the previously mentioned survey by Ahmad. Not much research has been done on them and I know of no study on what requirements they should fulfil depending on what activity they are involved in. To distinguish one meaning from another. 6. because even if fleshing out the definition may reasonably be regarded as one of the examples’ functions. et al. Similarly.’ In 1992. whereas an encod- . users see the function of examples as an aid to working out the meaning of a hard word. Harvey K. 1992:20). They prefer to read the examples instead of trying to decipher the definition (Chi. to show typical use of words. there does not seem to be much of a difference between ‘to supplement the information in a definition’ and ‘to distinguish one meaning from another. Drysdale (1987:215) sums up what he sees as the functions of examples as follows: 1. 2.

Examples were chosen to satisfy native and non-native speakers involved in both encoding and decoding. What is the classification of the examples in these dictionaries? 13 1. T HE P ROBLEM OF C OLLOCATION AND S YNTAX . 2. In order to see what logic underlies the choice of examples in learner’s dictionaries. some people were still complaining that the made-up examples in learner’s dictionaries were part of the definitions and that the main purpose of examples was to ‘clarify the explanations’ (Sinclair in Cobuild I. I examined the entries for road in Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary 1 (1987) and 2 (1995). the classifying principle of the examples for the entry road is meaning. I chose road simply because. E XAMPLES IN L EARNER ’ S D ICTIONARIES . Classification In all five dictionaries.62 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS ing learner is interested in a word’s syntactic features and collocates. 1987:XV). Oxford Wordpower has both long and short examples. no special policy for choosing examples for encoding is perceptible. Overall. How can one example satisfy these divergent needs. while Longman. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1995). since it is a very frequent word. whereas the OALD gives only short strings of words. with a clear emphasis on the latter. Cobuild has more and longer examples. Even in the more advanced and clearly encoding Longman Language Activator. a wealth of examples are listed under this entry. It is no surprise that around 40 years after Hornby’s invention of the learner’s dictionary. how can one example serve such different types of users? This question had not been properly addressed until recently. all five dictionaries follow roughly the same pattern. Cobuild and Longman tend to give full sentences. Oxford Wordpower and Cobuild concentrate on nonidiomatic uses. All entries are subdivided according to the dif13 Appendix 1 lists all the examples. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (1989) and Oxford Wordpower (1993) . The OALD has a higher percentage of sayings and fixed expressions. .

I do not think that examples in a learner’s dictionary are the most adequate decoding aids. 2. In other places the information contained in the examples highlights some sort of syntactic particularity (‘If you get onto the ring road you’ll avoid the town centre.’ Oxford Wordpower). this is . all dictionaries list more examples for literal senses than for figurative ones. there are further minor subdivisions. In Cobuild1’s third subdivision and Longman’s first. Yet. This is an easy task for a dictionary. way or course). The most logical thing for a reader to do is to look up the hard word in a bilingual dictionary and then let the context correct any inaccuracies. but since learner’s dictionaries aim at helping learners with both processes. It is impossible to avoid transmitting this kind of information while conveying meaning. the examples show a list of prepositions commonly used with the word road. Within this classification into senses. Yet.e. Additionally. Any example transmits information on meaning. Decoding The classification of examples that I described is one to which dictionary users have become accustomed and which seems self-evident. This appears to be a common rule. Apparently. Personally. or a multi-word item (‘he was killed in a road accident. The first senses in the entry always have the greatest number of examples. within the classification based on meaning. but not every example transmits adequate syntactical or collocational information. I will discuss both encoding and decoding. When decoding – reading – one is dealing with the meaning of a lexical item.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 63 ferent senses which road can have.’ Longman). piece of ground between two places) over the figurative one (i. there is precedence of the literal sense (i. Fixed expressions – not examples in the strict sense of the word – come at the end. This is not in accordance with the truth. a collocate (‘a busy road. I question its worth. respectively. and quite a few learners maintain they use examples to work out the meaning. This suggests that there is a link between a particular sense of road and these prepositions. a syntactic organisation tacitly takes over. I shall now look at the road examples from the point of view of their use for a decoding and for an encoding learner. but there are differences in emphasis.e. Within this general classification.’ Longman).

The first Cobuild2 example. few other words can replace roads. this could be done more effectively if examples did not have to illustrate other features of the lexical item (collocates. to locate road in an unequivocal traffic. ‘She hammered the nail into the wall’ can clarify the meaning of hammer and nail. There was very little traffic on the roads. of course. For comparison purposes. as Sinclair criticises. through an example. In both cases. the intention was probably. it clarifies the meaning of the word more effectively. It is difficult to transmit the meaning.) apart from its meaning. help to successfully circumscribe the word. This does not mean that these examples are not useful for other purposes. When the example repeats the definition. The best one can do is attempt to not suggest a false meaning. and since no syntactic intricacies render the understanding of the example difficult. As an illustration of the meaning. These features inevitably make the comprehension of the example more difficult since they make it more complex. Jain (1981) did some interesting research on this point. it is possible to infer a more or less correct meaning from the example. but they do not work for decoding. This problem is difficult to solve since few words are easier than road. this example is one of the best ones. etc. In this sentence. prepositions. other problems which any lexicographer will be hard-pressed to solve and which derive from the flaw in conception common to all learner’s dictionaries: the fact that traffic is a less frequent word than road. There are. In Longman. showing that dictionary examples often induce exactly this: the wrong meaning. transmits the meaning of road efficiently since traffic situates the word in a precise co-text and on limits the kind of words by which roads is followed. Supposing that learners should use learner’s dictionaries to find out the meaning of a word. but it remains doubtful if it is a very natural sentence to say. all clear. but it is necessarily unnatural. first. particularly of very frequent words. but it also highlights the problem in its entirety. In this case. the example a busy road does not give any conclusive information about the meaning of the word and the intention was . if road were replaced by another word both these sentences would still make sense. The rest of the examples in this entry.64 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS not everybody’s standpoint. we can look at the Cobuild I examples: There is an antique shop at the top of my road and the quiet Edgbaston road where he had lived for some thirty years.

it could well be the wrong meaning. If not.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 65 obviously to show a significant collocate. learners dealing with a more specialised kind of vocabulary will necessarily have to use a monolingual dictionary. I am aware of the fact that this is an extremely difficult task. examples should be chosen with this goal in mind. play down can be replaced by take interest in. Both London and Dublin are playing the matter down. When encoding . given current practices. bilingual dictionaries would be more suited if they had the same coverage as monolingual dictionaries. Either learners have to be advised to switch to bilingual dictionaries again. *** Examples play a role in the elucidation of a word’s meaning and this is a declared intention of the dictionaries under investigation. He plays down rumours that he aims to become a Labour MP. In these sentences. Encoding An encoding learner needs much more information than a decoding learner and the information is of a different nature. 3. This means that while a learner would surely extract a meaning from these examples. and with teachers advising their students to use monolingual dictionaries instead of bilingual ones. or reject. or some other verb. The following Cobuild2 examples for play down are an illustration of this: Western diplomats have played down the significance of the reports. Moreover. but that in reality means something different. Because of the very nature of language. I am not aware of any research claiming that learners get more information from a dictionary definition than from a translation combined with the context in which the word was found. I think that for decoding purposes. At the end of the road does give information about the meaning and We live just down the road fulfils both the conditions of conveying the meaning adequately by using more frequent words than road. learners may replace the target word with a lexical item that has a roughly similar syntactic behaviour. and transmitting a useful collocate (live just down…). If so. Since this is not the case. or lexicographers should consider this point and choose examples which transmit the meaning of a word unequivocally. the meaning transmitted by examples continues to be crucial. This example ought therefore to be placed first.

8. They may want to confirm this meaning. However. Particularly in the case of grammar. the classification of examples is anything but adapted to queries about usage. Examples are the way in which learners expect to find this kind of information in the dictionary. for instance. It takes three hours by road. 3 and 4 give syntactic information on prepositions. The entry was obviously compiled in a very orderly fashion. However. less likely to be known by the learner. 7. 6. but their main interest is usage. a busy road 2. and 6. a combination of syntax and collocation. an example is more significant than the cryptic rules we find in current dictionaries. 4. A road safety campaign. Bristol road as well as the road to Bristol. Fig. This can be seen in the first subdivision of the Longman entry. 1. Examples 2. by means of grammar formulas and lists of collocates. encoding information has been classified entirely according to decoding needs. Kids of that age have no road sense. We live just down the road. 7 and 8 show collocates which amount to multiword items. The first example gives us a collocate that can help to understand the word’s meaning. These examples are aimed at encoding users who would like to know if one can say. or indirectly by means of examples. This kind of information can be transmitted directly or indirectly: directly. as we saw in the previous section. Example 5 gives the learner a collocate (main). allowing for the fact that busy is a less frequent word than road. which deals with the main literal sense of road.66 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS learners look up a word they already know its meaning to some extent. Take the main road out of town and turn left at the first light. making it tiresome for encoding users to retrieve it. 5. at the end of the road 3. Who benefits from these examples? I am not sure if encod- . In the unlikely case that learners look up road for decoding purposes in a monolingual dictionary and understand the meaning of the word by reading the definition ‘way between places’ (OALD) they will not bother to see their view confirmed by the examples the road to Bristol/Bristol road (OALD) or There was very little traffic on the roads (Cobuild). 1 Examples for road in Longman. He was killed in a road accident.

EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 67 ers will benefit from the syntactic information. Is this the right road to Beckley? 2. If you get onto the ring road you’ll avoid the town centre. The criterion could be frequency. major/minor roads 5. important) road. The multi-word items. but that would be a miscalculation.’ ‘take. but do they do anything else? The first three examples all refer to the same activity: showing the way. 3. indeed. 2 Examples for the first literal sense of road in Oxford Wordpower. important) yet the learner is left without any help as re14 a road safety campaign . inevitably. find the phrase in the dictionary. but it remains difficult to deduce from this list of multi-word items what was the real selection policy.’ ‘main. the entry does not present a comprehensive list and one can ask why the authors picked out this particular item. Yet. They can suspect that one can say ‘just down the road’ and. Turn left off the main (= big. they will rightly suspect that a road safety campaign is the right translation. encoding learners will see their assumptions confirmed and their doubts dispelled. although one would expect them to be part of a dialogue in a course book. The examples show a few significant basic collocates: ‘right. since there is no explanation of what they mean. rather than examples in a dictionary. What then is the purpose of these multi-word items? It can only be to show that they exist. At most. Road sense is especially difficult to grasp. They are probably useful. If encoders have to translate uma campanha pela segurança no trânsito . 14 The following are the examples for the first literal sense of road in Oxford Wordpower: 1. These examples all illustrate. Unfortunately. Perhaps the lexicographers thought that the multi-word items’ meaning could be derived from the meaning of the individual words which comprise them. 4. some meaning of the word road. road signs 7. Fig. a road junction. Take the London road and turn right at the first roundabout. on the other hand. this will seldom be more than a happy coincidence.’ The latter is explained between brackets (=big. 6. are intended for encoders and not for decoders. since the list is anything but comprehensive.

If they currently consult examples for information on meaning. it would be better for learner’s dictionaries to focus on helping learners with encoding and not decoding. *** As things stand now. Strictly speaking.’ ‘come down’ and ‘travel by. Yet. the possibility of quickly recognising sought out information is fundamental. it does not prove that examples are the best way to understand what a . one sees that the policy for the choice of examples is not fundamentally different. decoding learners do not need examples. It is. Buses carry 30 per cent of those travelling by road. and the examples are all grouped. In the Cobuild entry for road this task has been made easier because there is only one section dedicated to the literal use of the word. Yet. Fig. He was coming down the road the same time as the girl was turning into the lane. but as before there is no indication as to what these multi-word items mean. The following is the first section of the entry. the Cobuild authors boast that their choice of examples reflects their corpus. A good bilingual dictionary solves their problems. this might indicate the doubtful usefulness of definitions. 6. 3 Examples illustrating the literal meaning of road in Cobuild2. 2. in most dictionaries this information is scattered all over the sometimes very long entries. Examples 5. You mustn’t lay all the blame for road accidents on young people. strange to find the multi-word item ‘road accident’ in this same location. If one examines the authentic language examples in Cobuild2. illustrating the literal meaning of road: 1. however. There was very little traffic on the roads.’ Especially for encoding learners. The reasoning must have been that an accident takes place on a ‘literal’ road.’ Example 4 gives collocational information useful for encoding in the likely case that dictionary users recognise major/minor roads as the item they were looking for.68 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS gards the phrase ‘turn left off. 5. 4. We just go straight up the Bristol Road. and 7 seem intended to show a few multi-word items with road in them. These five examples show the most common preposition for road – on – and three significant collocates: ‘go straight up. 3. One would tend to classify this as decoding information.

etc. but the dictionary is the place where learners look for information on particular grammar items such as syntactic constraints. Decoding learners do not always find examples that clarify the meaning. Brazilian students have the same difficulties with gustar as British ones.. a pronominal verb which makes the item one likes become the subject of the verb (I like books/me gustan los libros). The latter do not always find a sufficient amount of collocates or syntactic information and have to wade through information unsuited to their needs.’ (Béjoint: 1981:210) Next. They should be general because there are difficulties common to all nouns. verbs. because here the syntactic construction is the same as in English (I hate books/detesto los libros). Grammar rules in dictionaries should therefore be both general and specific. Syntax Strictly speaking. the Cambridge International Dictionary of English. The consequence of a classification which attempts to fulfil the needs of both decoding and encoding audiences is that neither of them will easily find what they are looking for. English-speaking students may experience difficulties using gustar.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 69 word means. Béjoint claimed: ‘the best dictionary of encoding is one that provides the most detailed guidance on syntax and collocates. I will analyse to what extent four learner’s dictionaries. adverbs. Cobuild I and 2. Spanish gustar is a case in point. and consequently the number of examples needed. is proportional to the difference that exists between this word’s behaviour and that of its equivalent(s) in the learners’ L1. Requirements for examples In 1981. It is not the task of dictionaries to teach grammar in a comprehensive way. and the sequence of the examples does not take into consideration the needs of encoding learners. for the same reason. These same students have few problems using its antonym detestar. the difficulty involved in using a lexical item in a foreign language. deal with this issue. and the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. A definition is necessarily more abstract than an example and it has to be fleshed out with nouns and verbs to become understandable. they should be specific because every . 4.

Speakers of different languages have each different problems and need different examples. Most dictionaries do not give any indication of these uses. for). only Cambridge makes a modest use of contrastive information for a number of words identified as false friends. They even show secondary syntactic information. The information a learner needs may be more readily supplied by a series of examples rather than by an abstract and abbreviated rule. – INFLECTS. as used in Cobuild’s ‘extra column. The information in the ‘extra column’ repeats the information given in the examples under the form of codes. Since dictionaries do not usually give discursive information about syntax. Take a stand To take a stand is a frequent but difficult expression. In order to choose truly useful examples. a syntactic construction is rarely neutral with regard to collocations. Although the first method. of gustar and so on. In a Spanish-English dictionary. In addition. If the number of possible collocates is small. I analyse the case of take a stand and indulge from the viewpoint of syntactic information and as conveyed through examples in a learner’s dictionary. there are two ways of conveying this: codes and examples. English speakers need a large number of examples showing the use of ser and estar. Yet. but this is neither very clear nor attractive to the common user. it might not be as effective as to put in more examples. in terms of learner’s dictionaries. If they are too numerous. as in the Cobuild Dictionary on CDROM based on Cobuild1. The list of collocates would then also give the list of possible syntactic constructions. A look at the Cobuild Collocations CD yields a wealth of examples displaying a variety of syntactic structures for take a stand.’ is more direct and saves space. or followed by a number of adverbial phrases. an appropriate grouping will reveal the regularities. It can be used on its own. In what follows. against. When they do.70 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS word has its own syntactic particularities when compared to its equivalent(s) in another language. such . they mention rather enigmatic formulas such as PHR: VB. it should be easy to list them all. dictionaries should ideally pay attention to the specific problems arising from the contrasting of two languages: the language it is supposed to elucidate and the language of the audience. with different prepositions (on.

and sort at their leisure. When using a corpus. even worse. it can be translated by a single verb with the same syntactic particularities as in English. its abbreviated form. The following table shows examples retrieved from the Cobuild Collocations CD. Still. It has at least two possible constructions and. This makes the use of grammar rules superfluous altogether. one has to start the struggle to get the syntax right. from the moment one is sure that indulge is the right word to use. A French speaking learner could be fairly sure that indulge is the verb which best translates s’adonner à. in none of the languages with which I am familiar. as other dictionaries suggest – is the most frequent preposition. a large number of examples. Indulge Indulge is another illustration of the problem of conveying syntactic information. it’s time to take a stand on the movement to take a resolute stand against Iraq felt it was important to take a stand against Souter Law Lords yesterday failed to take a stand against that moral decline by failing to take a strong stand against the students to take such a stand attacks the credibility of the FASB Joanna decided to take a stand herself believe that he will take a tougher stand in negotiations with the Chinese I wouldn’t expect him to take a stand like that against Jews or blacks government finally decided to take a stand not because it believed to take a more principled stand the group insisted he take a stand to overturn Amendment 2 doesn’t know whether to take a stand Fig. They were mechanically retrieved from a corpus and listed in a random fashion. Consequently. and that against – and not on. learners are able to retrieve. 4 Examples for take a stand retrieved from the Cobuild Collocations CD The examples above were not carefully chosen. irony and slight formality. the information they provide is much richer than the dictionary entry. It also guarantees learners to reach information of which the lexicographer is often not even aware. It is also much more accessible to the learner than an abstract rule or.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 71 as the fact that the infinitive form is by far the most common one. Still . taking into account the possible pragmatic implications such as the pejorative connotation of the word.

but not nearly enough to allow a learner to use the word productively. which is the reason why it is treated in exactly the same way as most other verbs. The constructions which convey the first meaning are: indulge in + a noun. the lexicographers should have been aware of the difficulty of this verb for a learner because of the number of its possible constructions. and two illustrate the second one. even if this is not good for them. 2. indulge + a noun. However. Two of the examples illustrate two possible constructions corresponding to the first meaning. He did not agree with indulging children. without even trying to translate it. unless there is an equivalent in the learner’s first language with the same syntactic behaviour. you let them have or do what they want. the problem is that a general rule of thumb – one example per construction – was applied to a particular case. Longman’s examples are less satisfactory than Cobuild’s: . If you indulge in something or if you indulge yourself. instead of tailoring rules to specific verbs. but for a learner. Fig. Two examples is probably what a native speaker finds more than sufficient. The chosen examples are excellent. He returned to Britain so that he could indulge his passion for football. These entries seem to indicate that there was no awareness that indulge is a difficult verb. If you indulge someone. this is not enough. Is it indulge in or indulge with or by? Is it indulge oneself in or indulge oneself without any preposition? To what extent do examples help the learner with this dilemma? These are the Cobuild2 examples for indulge: Only rarely will she indulge in a glass of wine. 6 Cobuild2 examples for indulge. Cobuild mentions two senses for indulge: 1. 5 Cobuild2 examples for indulge.72 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS one can have doubts about how to use this verb with such a difficult syntactic pattern. In the case of the Cobuild entry. You can indulge yourself without spending a fortune. Fig. you allow yourself to have or do something that you know you will enjoy.

self-pity). She was furious with her boss and indulged in rapturous fantasies of revenge.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 73 Most of us were too busy to indulge in heavy lunchtime drinking. For indulge. However. ‘indulge their patriotism’ is a slightly ironic use unlikely to be grasped by the average learner. the compilers were either unaware of the difficulty of the item or assumed that the learners had sufficient ‘dictionary skills’ to retrieve the information by themselves. to use the verb four times out of five in the infinitive form gives the learner the erroneous impression that ‘to + indulge’ is the verb’s normal construction. which is indeed a likely question for a learner. waving flags and singing songs. 8 Cambridge examples for indulge. Fig. This suggests once again that one of the drawbacks of existing dictionaries is that they are in most cases compiled exclusively by native speakers who are understandably yet unforgivably unaware of the difficulty of their own language. giving the learner the impression that this is a typical construction. a single example is not sufficient to retrieve this information correctly. Cambridge gives the following examples: The soccer fans indulged their patriotism. the . especially skiing. The children indulged me with breakfast in bed. however. I love champagne but it’s not often I can indulge myself. With his friend’s family he was able to indulge his passion for the outdoors. indulging his every whim. I haven’t had strawberries and cream for a long time. at the same level as indulge in. First. Here and in other dictionaries. This last one. two with in. features with in bold. Fig. Furthermore. Ray has enough money to indulge his taste for expensive wines. nothing in the examples will prevent a learner from saying *Most of us were too busy to indulge ourselves in heavy lunchtime drinking if this information is not given in some other way. Eva had never been one to indulge in self pity. This was a deliberate decision by the company to indulge in a little nostalgia. one pronominal and one with a pronoun. In addition. so I’m really going to indulge myself. There is an indication in the examples that the construction with in can apply to concrete as well as abstract activities (drinking. Cambridge gives a few more examples than the other two dictionaries: two with the noun construction. 7 Longman examples for indulge. His mother pampered and spoiled him.

dictionaries lack examples to highlight syntactic constraints. users will at least be given the option of classifying the examples according to either meaning or syntax. In this section. should not be maintained in an electronic dictionary. It is true that encoders want to transmit a message and that this message is meaning.’ and ‘rapturous fantasies’ may be a little farfetched for a beginning second language learner. Since the dictionary of the future will be electronic. However. . a learner needs fewer examples for a noun than for a verb. if learner’s dictionaries are to help learners with encoding. a classification according to syntactic patterns is more useful. even if syntax and meaning are inevitably intertwined . *** As a rule. 15 Collocations Together with information on syntax. collocations are the main reason why encoders use dictionaries. A flexible examples policy should be applied. (These codes. the selection and sequence of examples should obey a logic of possible syntactic constructions and not of senses. I will show the results of 15 As research by Gill Francis and her team (1996) has demonstrated. for instance.) The above analysis reveals a deficient identification of what the difficult features of the language are –target language for the learner. Frequently advanced learners are fairly sure of what lexical item they should use because their passive knowledge of the language is much greater than their active competence. but source language for the lexicographer. Instead. supposed to indicate how words are used. they use codes. However.74 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS ‘company’ indulging in ‘a little nostalgia’ is not what one would call a ‘typical use. In these cases. Finally. probably justifiable in a printed dictionary. Often the problem refers purely to arbitrary syntactic constraints. One has the impression that a uniform guideline for the number and type of examples is applied regardless of the difficulty of a specific item. perhaps merely to save space. adapting the number and kind of examples to the item under analysis. there is a stage in the encoding process when dictionary users know what lexical item encodes a specific meaning and where the problem is purely formal.

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some research I did on the subject with both monolingual and bilingual dictionaries. First, the issue of collocations receives surprisingly little attention. Dictionaries provide quite a bit of information on exceptional uses of lexical items but very little on common usage. Fixed expressions are generally well represented, whereas little attention is given to everyday use, as if exceptional use were more difficult. The OALD lists 14 typical expressions with cat (it rains cats and dogs, let the cat out of the bag, etc.), but gives no indication on collocates such as feed the cat, let the cat out/in, stroke the cat, etc. The reason is the same as before: learner’s dictionaries were fundamentally designed to serve decoders, not encoders, even if their authors state the opposite. Fixed expressions are useful for decoders, much less for encoders. Besides, it seems to be easy for native speakers to think of fixed expressions when asked for them. Normal uses, however, are so much a part of everyday life that native speakers are not aware of them in such a way that one can only retrieve these normal uses with the help of a corpus. Face, fact, failed, fail, and fade In some research I did on collocations, I compared the presence of collocates in Cobuild2 and the Cambridge International Dictionary of English for the randomly chosen items face, fact, failed, fail, and fade (full details in Appendix 2). Although Cobuild I produced the Collocations CD from where I took my information, this dictionary scored only slightly better than Cambridge. Of the 66 Cobuild examples for face, only 4 contain a collocate; in Cambridge’s 12 examples there are no collocates at all. One wonders why Cobuild, which signalled its awareness of the importance of collocations by producing a Collocations CD and whose theoretician John Sinclair wrote extensively on the subject, dedicated so little attention to this feature. In one case – fact –, Cambridge even scored relatively better than Cobuild, even though Cambridge had much fewer examples. This makes it seem that when Cobuild got it right, it was not because of a specific policy but due to a lexicographer’s intuition. In the case of fail, Cambridge manages to show nine significant collocates in nine examples. In the overall evaluation, Cobuild scores better only because it features a greater number of examples.

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‘Criteria’ In another short research project, I looked at the word criteria, the use of which had caused me problems. According to the Cobuild Collocations CD, the most common collocate for criteria is meet. I looked at the following dictionaries: Collins German, Collins Portuguese, Collins Russian, Collins Spanish, Collins-Robert, Collins-Sansoni, Hazon-Garzanti, New Proceed, Oxford Spanish, Oxford-Duden, Oxford-Hachette, Taishukan –all major bilingual dictionaries– along with Collins (monolingual), Oxford Wordpower, Longman, Cambridge and Cobuild1 and2. Only Cobuild2 and Oxford-Hachette feature an example with meet. These same two dictionaries, however, did not have any examples with other high frequency collocates such as set or apply. This is a surprising result since it seems such an obviously useful piece of information that is also easy to provide. There are only a limited number of actions to which criteria can be subjected: set, meet, use and apply, or fail to do these things. In dictionaries designed with the encoding user in mind, this kind of information should be included. ‘Proposal’ According to the Cobuild Collocations CD, the most frequent verbs collocating with proposal are: reject, put forward, make, support, accept, and consider. In Appendix 3, I list the examples for proposal in five monolingual learner’s dictionaries and nine bilingual ones. OALD. The second edition of the OALD (1963) paid little attention to collocational information and concentrated on the preposition required for proposal. The 1992 (encyclopaedic) edition shows no systematic change in this policy. There are more examples, one with put forward, but the focus remains on illustrating the use of the preposition. It is remarkable, however, that from one edition to the other there is a tendency to increase the length of examples. Again, this might indicate a welcomed shift in the function of examples from illustrating the meaning to showing how the item functions within a sentence. Cobuild. An evolution took place between Cobuild1 and Cobuild2. Although the example-like definition used put forward, Cobuild1 examples did not contain a single typical collocate. Cobuild2, however, has three: put forward, reject, and accept. An obstacle to more collocational

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information may have been the Cobuild ‘authentic example’ policy. The need to find ‘typical,’ ‘relevant ,’ and ‘authentic’ examples may have proved difficult. Cambridge. Cambridge successfully concentrates collocational information in an example such as: Congress has rejected the latest economic proposal put forward by the president (the underlining is mine, bold is original). Reject is as much a collocate of proposal as put forward but only the latter was highlighted. This might indicate that the presence of this collocate was coincidental rather than resulting from a policy. Unfortunately, as the list bears out, there is no indication of the fact that one can ‘refuse’ a marriage proposal but not, for instance, a peace proposal. Overall, it seems difficult to discern a rationale behind the choice of examples. There are a few collocates, a few prepositions, and a few typical constructions present, but none of these areas has been given extensive treatment. *** There are indications that lexicographers are becoming increasingly aware of the need for dictionaries to become tools for encoding and not only for decoding. However, this switch is still not apparent in the section which is the main aid for encoders: the examples. My analysis suggests that there is some concern with syntax, but much less with collocates. There seems to be at present no genuine policy regarding these issues. The main reason for this is that dictionaries do not choose between encoding and decoding. Decoders should turn to the examples when they are unable to deduce the meaning of a lexical item from the definition. Otherwise, examples should concentrate on giving information on syntax and collocation.

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3. C OBUILD AND A UTHENTIC VS . M ADE -U P E XAMPL ES
The authentic vs. made-up debate became a focus of attention when the first Cobuild dictionary was published in 1987, and authentic language was first directly used as a means to supply examples for dictionary entries. Using authentic language was not in itself a novelty. In the field of native speaker’s dictionaries, Dr. Johnson used authentic language in his Dictionary of the English Language (1755) and present-day lexicographers use ‘citation files’ with authentic language to compile their dictionaries. However, there are a few differences between traditional lexicographers and Cobuild. Before Cobuild, ‘authentic’ language had never been tried out on learners. The difficulties in terms of vocabulary and syntax were considered too great. The first edition of the Cobuild dictionary was highly criticised by people like Hausmann and Gorbahn (1989) and to a lesser degree by Fillmore (1989). In reality, the level of EFL learners has probably improved due to globalisation and the dominant role of English as a koine. Cobuild offered the first response to this trend. The second difference between Cobuild and traditional dictionaries is that, until recently, citation files were used as a source of inspiration rather than to provide on-hand examples. Cobuild takes its examples directly from the corpus and puts them into the dictionary with little or no modification. Finally, Dr. Johnson, the ‘canonical critic proper’ as Harold Bloom calls him (1994:183), would never have dreamt of using sources other than ‘canonical’ authors, the reason for which his dictionary is still as pleasant to read as a dictionary of quotations. Cobuild uses a corpus that also includes literary authors, but consists of non-fiction, newspapers, magazines, and speech examples. From Johnson’s dictionary’s aim –to fix the standard of English–, Cobuild has moved on to a more modern linguistic conception of describing the language instead of being strictly normative.

” (Fox 1987:138) According to John Sinclair. traditional lexicographers. it would be misleading of a dictionary to present that word in a very simple clause or sentence with easy vocabulary. The Defence of ‘Authentic Language’ The concept of ‘authentic language’ is not as plain as it may seem. the fact that a native speaker produced an utterance does not render it ‘authentic. metalinguistic utterances of this kind can be ‘grammatical. each sentence carries with it the characteristics of the text from which it was extracted. but because their intention is not to communicate anything other than information on a lexical item.’ but they are not ‘natural. claims: “If a word typically occurs in a sentence which is grammatically complex or alongside vocabulary items that are infrequent. that the collocates are wrong.’ The Cobuild undertaking ends up generating indirect criticism of other learner’s dictionaries for making up samples of language whose main purpose is to clarify meaning. According to the Cobuild team. To use John Sinclair‘s (1988) terminology. Sinclair states: . Fox. this information is. a senior member of the former Cobuild team.’ and therefore not ‘authentic. In other words. in these made-up examples.’ but they are not ‘natural’ and it is not enough for learners to be able to produce sentences that are grammatically well formed. Therefore. They can be ‘grammatical. make up examples that are grammatically acceptable. specifically in dictionaries. thus misinforming the learner. being native speakers. strictly speaking.’ This is even less so if this utterance was produced to illustrate a grammar item or to show the meaning of a word. there is a chance that the words carry unwarranted negative connotations.” (1993:7) Consequently. made-up examples are deceptive since the lexical or grammatical choices made in them do not depend on any text whatsoever. They must also be recognised as ‘natural’ by native speakers (Fox 1987:139). and that the syntactic construction is correct yet unusual. According to those who defend the use of ‘authentic language’ in pedagogic materials. He calls this phenomenon ‘encapsulation.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 79 1. According to the Cobuild team. this practice gives an incorrect idea of the language. a made-up example has no validity as a model. incorrect.’ In Sinclair’s opinion. “a text is represented at any moment of interpretation by a single sentence… each new sentence encapsulates the previous one by an act of reference.

Cobuild was the first attempt at renewing foreign language lexicography. Even so. related not so much to the theoretical premises. 1992). Criticisms followed and people like Della Summers (1996) (from Longman) popularised a distinction between corpus-based and corpus-bound examples. after Cobuild all dictionaries started to use a corpus and to emphasise such practice. Cobuild was the only dictionary to use an all-encompassing electronically accessible corpus.80 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS [made-up examples] have no independent authority or reason for their existence.. learner’s dictionary publishers seem to have been unaware of a change in the public’s attitude and needs. much criticism has been raised. In reality. and they are constructed to refine the explanations and in many cases to clarify the explanations. Yet. (…) Usage cannot be invented. the technical side of the problem is not at the heart of the matter. discussed in Chapter 3. making the search for and retrieval of examples in large databases a difficult task. confirm this. *** The debate on authentic examples can be subdivided into two sections: the problem of corpora. 2. but to their practical implications. it can only be recorded. They give no reliable guide to composition in English and would be very misleading if applied to that task. the technical means were hardly available. It was also thought that there would be too much interference from an absent co-text. and the didactic implications. (Sinclair 1987:XV) Most people will not doubt the exactitude of most of the theoretical premises on which the choice for authentic examples was based. but not be bound to it. The results of the questionnaire distributed among lexicographers (Ahmad et al. . Probably the main reason why traditional lexicography did not use authentic language was its lexical and syntactic difficulties. Until then. singled out by the lexicographer and concocted with this feature in mind. In practice. Criticisms of Cobuild and the Authentic Examples Policy At the time of its first edition. stressing that lexicographers should find their inspiration in the corpus. check frequencies and collocations. whereas examples were supposed to teach a particular feature.

this part of Sinclair’s theory is not really convincing. Batia Laufer concludes that native speakers are unable to distinguish between authentic and made-up examples. This. Other parts of Sinclair’s theory. Moreover. have not been as widely accepted. it means that this difference is not immediately apparent even in the eyes of native speakers. however. The Didactic Point of View Cobuild’s claim that learners should learn natural and not grammatical language is controversial. This does not necessarily mean there is no difference between authentic and made-up language. 4. the question remains whether corpus samples should become dictionary examples without any previous adaptation. all lexicographers now agree that the non-corpus based dictionary belongs in the past. Corpora The idea that a corpus is a valuable aid for the compilation of dictionaries has been generally accepted and currently. When comparing contemporary examples to those of a few decades ago. Although there are still differences of opinion as to the management of a corpus or its representativeness. since dictionary examples fulfil a didactic function. If . I myself did a similar experiment with native speakers of Portuguese that confirmed Laufer’s results.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 81 3. that there is a distinction between the two kinds of language. and this applies particularly to making up examples. If authentic language has an unconscious salutary effect. even if one makes allowances for this unproven distinction. but if native speakers mistake made-up examples for authentic ones. even without any empirical proof. The authentic/made-up distinction has been empirically questioned. It is probably because of Sinclair that lexicographers have acquired a sound distrust of their own intuitions. however. The idea of ‘encapsulation’ sounds attractive. One can accept. all learner’s dictionaries stress the fact that they use one. One might contend that made-up examples only contain information which the lexicographer has put in them whereas authentic examples carry data of which the lexicographer is unaware. one notices that an effort has been made to make them sound less contrived. this has not been established. In an experiment conducted in 1992. is hard to prove and does not necessarily mean an improvement for the learner.

Still. In an article I have already commented on. Authentic language examples are much harder to control in terms of syntactic and lexical intricacies. the different possible syntactic structures of indulge– and unknowingly transmit other information along with it. This leads her to conclude: . one wonders if natural language is more suited for teaching than grammatical language. even without this knowledge. The fact that a sentence is unnatural does not mean that it is not instructive. In fact. Secondly. There are several stages in learning a foreign language. each characterised by a particular form of expression. and this is usually not the case. it means that it very well can be. but it teaches a basic English grammar: NP-VP-AP. Laufer (1992) reports on an experiment which tested the efficiency of authentic examples as opposed to made-up ones in comprehension and production tasks. ‘colourless green ideas sleep furiously’ may well be meaningless to native and non-native speakers alike. Undoubtedly. Grammatical language is only one step away from natural language and many advanced learners should consider themselves fortunate if they ever get near it. An unnatural sentence such as ‘this is a pencil’ can make a grammar point more clearly than an authentic example. It could be argued that grammatical language can best be taught with sentences made up by a native speaker with a specific purpose. Even very advanced L2 speakers use a language that is different from a native speaker’s language. they allow a lexicographer to point out specific features to the dictionary user. does this mean that this unintended information is not conveyed when a lexicographer made up the sentence in order to underline a particular aspect of a word’s use? In other words. This does not mean it has to be made-up and unnatural. this would only really work if lexicographers had a contrastive knowledge of the audience’s language. To put it in an extreme way.82 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS natural language is more valuable because it conveys intended and unintended information.g. a lexicographer could concoct a sentence to demonstrate a particular aspect of a word –e. It all depends on what is being taught. grammatical analysis should lead a lexicographer to an awareness of the important features a learner should know.

(…) The findings suggest that lexicographer-made examples are pedagogically more beneficial than the authentic ones (further studies would be useful to substantiate this claim). then a number of subjects whose previous knowledge was difficult to measure. they feel like they are already a part of it. If one looks at it from a cultural point of view. lexicographer’s examples are also more helpful but not significantly so. as Jean Binon pointed out to me. Language is culture. therefore. it can be argued that there is a psychological factor which critics rarely or never discuss. of course. Since language learning remains a largely mysterious psychological matter.’ is an asset. Furthermore. and dictionary examples may not be the best place for providing cultural information. If this is so. references to proper names and dates of events are rapidly outdated and can make a sentence difficult to understand. can they be considered as unacceptable on the grounds of lack of naturalness? (1992:75-76). the Cobuild team took special care to avoid this kind of reference. the lexical density of authentic examples is often so high that understanding them becomes a problem in itself. the results of this survey depended on a range of more or less disputable decisions. should be considered with caution. to eliminate cultural information entirely is difficult. Finally.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 83 Lexicographer’s examples are more helpful in comprehension of new words than the authentic ones. and the latter should be transmitted to the learner. In production of the new word. As is the case with a number of experiments conducted in the field of language learning. but not everything has to be learnt at the same time. In the second edition of their dictionary. However. and eventually she had to write a test which conceivably could have been written in various other ways. Learners seem to tell me that the feeling of being in direct touch with ‘authentic English. this factor –impossible to measure– should be taken into consideration. it still seemed to be missing insight on foreign language teaching and learning. In fact. Laufer had to choose a set of examples. in defence of authentic examples. particularly if you are a member of this culture and unaware of what others do not know about it. the Longman Language . These results. *** As innovative as Cobuild was.

we still do not know whether this knowledge can be conveyed more clearly if one uses raw material. However. the Collins Spanish Dictionary. Nevertheless. one expects these dictionaries to pay special attention to examples and to follow a particular policy in this respect. For foreign language learners. for decoding there is no need for examples in the strict sense of the word. the lack of distinction between decoding and encoding is the main impairing factor. However. Current bilingual dictionaries attempt to meet the needs of both decoding and encoding learners. It is one thing to analyse the language and realise that.84 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Activator might be the only dictionary capable of escaping this criticism. Once again. while ‘blatant’ means ‘obvious. No one today denies the validity of using a corpus to analyse language. I will analyse the choice and ordering of examples in the case of an advanced traditional bilingual dictionary.’ no native speaker would speak of a ‘blatant choice. Decoding and encoding. T HE P ROBLEM OF C LASSIFICATION . Because of this. the context in which the word was found will elucidate any doubts. the needs in terms of examples for decoding and encoding are very different.’ But another thing is to teach this to learners. E XAMPLES IN B ILINGUAL D ICTIONARIES . If a collection of utterances taken from a corpus reveals a particular usage pattern for a particular lexical item. but the most efficient way to transmit the knowledge obtained via this analysis is still up in the air. this time with a focus on bilingual dictionaries. In a subsequent section. In a sentence like ‘Ni la solitude ni les épreuves n’avaient pu venir à bout de cet homme dont l’énergie n’avait . 4. Even if a source word can be translated by several different words in the target language. In what follows I will illustrate what I think is the distinction between encoding and decoding examples. particularly in the case of encoding. A SpanishEnglish dictionary is supposed to help Spanish speakers with the understanding and production of English while at the same time assisting English speakers with the understanding and production of Spanish. this is not always the case and the choice of examples often seems rather random. Indeed. the bilingual dictionary is still the main reference tool. this knowledge is certainly worth transmitting to the learner.

Paris. print. in the case of encoding. The first function is of great importance. I monitored my own look-ups in Japanese as a beginning learner. there can be no doubt that the correct translation is ‘ordeal. In English. however small. in two different languages. particularly in the case of beginning learners. on the other hand. Albin.’ An example in the dictionary would have been superfluous. learners will choose a possible translation guided by a label. but more modern. Only advanced learners will want to translate fixed expressions. 1965 Les Terroristes. The kind of examples decoding and encoding dictionary users need are very different.32) any French-English dictionary will tell us that épreuve can mean test. Since the translation of a word depends on the context. in the equally outstanding. more briefly. Given the context. . examples are of the utmost importance. In the case of encoding.’ (Gaucher R. a language in which I have had to express more complex ideas and use more infrequent words. it is difficult to meet these needs in a satisfactory manner. Decoders are exclusively interested in examples in the broad sense of the word. This is what I will show in the following analysis of how examples are handled in the entry for road in the excellent Collins Spanish-English Dictionary and. or by comparing the source sentence to the example sentences. Oxford-Hachette French-English Dictionary. on the other hand. I may say. since they help with the choice of the item and show its use. My quest for examples. Since traditional bilingual dictionaries cater to both kinds of audiences at the same time. Thus. To understand what the possible problems were. and ordeal. In both cases I looked up high frequency words more than anything else –words with a large range of meanings and therefore more likely to be ruled by the open-choice principle. has been tireless.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 85 d’égale que l’insensibilité. p. the learners will need examples in the strict sense of the word. and in Italian as an intermediate learner. whereas encoders need more common uses (see Chapter 3). my lookups concerned collocations and syntax and I have instinctively been looking for examples.

the selection and ordering of examples should be guided by what functions these examples are supposed to perform. there was a privileged audience. or at least clearly separated from the rest. starting with the one distinguishing literal and . if not listed as separate entries. It is important to point out that the Collins Spanish does not mention whether it used a corpus. In an ideal dictionary. preference should be given to examples showing the word first in open-choice contexts. In what follows I look at the examples for the entry road and try to find out why they were selected or made-up. the lexicographers had no other choice than to make a random selection of examples without considering their purposes. at least not how a corpus is currently defined. the analysis of the examples revealed that this was a practically untenable position and. each with possibly two different aims. which makes me assume that it did not. however. in fact. For commercial reasons. then in contexts where a collocation was required. Order of the Examples As it was immediately evident that there was no clear-cut classification for common uses. A necessarily heterogeneous product is the eventual outcome. and finally in fixed expressions.86 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 1. If the purpose is encoding. I tried out a number of alternative classifications. should be at the end of the entry. I look at what their sequencing criteria are and who is their intended audience. In addition. The original hypothesis of this analysis was that. If the main purpose of the dictionary is to help with decoding. Initially a monumental piece of work by a single individual. in order to discover what is the rationale behind the examples policy in an average traditional bilingual dictionary. Multiword items. this kind of bias can never be admitted and the needs of this ‘secret’ privileged audience cannot be fully met. The Examples for Road in Collins Spanish-English The Collins Spanish Dictionary is a typical example of the more traditional kind of dictionary. the latest editions have benefited from the support of an extended group of lexicographers. idioms and fixed expressions. the fixed expressions should be listed first. since bilingual dictionaries had to meet the needs of two different audiences. The hypothesis appeared to be true.

minus roads. the dog was wandering on the road. then an idiom (the road to success). to take to the road. road safety. across the road. continues with three examples of open-choice (the road to Teruel. my car is off the road. 2. road test. here too. road trial. road construction. to take the road. to hold the road. to be on the road. . she lives across the road from us. to be on the right road. road narrows.). road traffic. we are left with 22 examples. If we keep only the examples listed under number 1. road junction. road up. the road to success. we’re on the road to disaster. to get (or take) a show on the road. the road to Teruel. If the dictionary is really intended for speakers of both languages. my car is on the road again. Below are the examples in the order in which they appear in the dictionary. Somewhat surprisingly. This makes a comparison with the Spanish part of the dictionary fairer. Although they are all listed under the same entry. 1. The list starts with two fixed expressions (road narrows. road vehicle. the criterion was not applied very openly. A first attempt at classification according to the ‘open-choice vs. This classification is the one traditionally used. road haulier. Collins Spanish-English enumerates 38 ‘broad sense’ examples. road sense. roads as a nautical term heads the list. he’s on the road to recovery. road tax. these examples are very different in character. roads (naut. road up). one for the road. at the 23rd kilometre on the Valencia road. and ends with a typical preposition (by road). It continues with a fixed expression (one for the road). road accident. road hump. yet. road transport. 9 List of the examples for road in Collins Spanish English Dictionary. to get out of the road. words with a relatively equal frequency and with a comparable semantic distribution should receive a comparable amount of attention. It is used literally as well as figuratively and there is a Spanish equivalent –camino– whose semantic range for the most part covers that of road. by road. she lives across the road from us). Group 2 shows multi-word items that are only listed under the entry because of their spelling. Road is a very frequent word. road racer. at the 23rd kilometre on the Valencia road). road haulage.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 87 figurative. our relationship has reached the end of the road. gives another example of openchoice (across the road. idiom principle’ shows that this was not the criterion used. Fig.

I listed the examples for road according to this criterion. the way in which these same words are used to express concepts may well be very different. I know this is one kind of subdivision into which learners expect the examples in a dictionary to be classified. the comparison with the actual order in the dictionary makes it clear that this distinction was not the guiding principle for classifying the examples. From my experience as a language teacher. Even allowing for a few doubtful cases. I checked to see if this was the rationale behind the selection of the examples. Literal the road to Teruel at the 23rd kilometre on the Valencia road across the road she lives across the road from us the dog was wandering on the road to be on the right road (in one sense) to be on the road (in one sense) Figurative road narrows road up the road to success by road my car is off the road to be on the road my car is on the road again he’s on the road to recovery we’re on the road to disaster to get (or take) a show on the road to be on the right road (in one sense) (also fig) to get out of the road (fig) one for the road our relationship has reached the end of the road to take to the road to hold the road to take the road (to X para ir a X) Fig.88 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Literal/figurative Since the distinction literal/figurative is used by the dictionary itself and explicitly added to two examples (‘to be on the right road and ‘to get out of the road’). 10 Classification of the examples according to their literal or figurative use (the indications found in the dictionary are in parentheses). an ordering in literal and figurative uses has the advantage of facilitating access to information. Whereas the literal meaning of a word travels easily from one language to another if the same extra-linguistic reality exists in both languages. A more sophisticated classification . Although not always satisfactory.

they could use this knowledge to categorize examples according to some kind of helpful classification such as the examples’ ability to be literally translated. the road to Teruel. to take to the road. either because of syntactic intricacies (‘the road to Teruel/la carretera de Teruel’) or because they would be simply unintelligible. to be on the right road. Introducing this classification first would not necessarily speed . to hold the road Fig. Literally Translatable/Not Literally Translatable Bilingual dictionary compilers have a contrastive knowledge of the two languages they are working on. the road to success. to get out of the road. the literal/figurative distinction is a classification level prior to the literally/not-literally translatable one. my car is on the road again. road. across the road. I draw mainly on Halliday’s definition of metaphor to make this distinction (Halliday 1994. Literally translatable Not literally translatable at the 23rd kilometre on the Valencia road narrows. I considered ‘not literally translatable’ those examples that would not be acceptable in Spanish in the case of a word-for-word translation. she lives across the road from us. to be on the road. to take the road.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 89 might even take into account that a number of figurative uses of words are common in different languages. road up. throughout). our relationship has reached the end of the road. hence. Since learners do not know beforehand if the item that they are looking for can indeed be literally translated. This list does not seem to have any relation to the original ordering either. he’s on the road to recovery. one for the road. Chapter 10. the dog was wandering on the road. 11 Division of the examples according to their translatability. we’re on the road to disaster. by road. to be on the road. to get (or take) a show on the road. my car is off the road. The following listing undertakes this classification by comparing each example to its equivalent in the target language.

which I will discuss below. the compilers of the Collins Spanish did not seem to have this classification in mind. however. on the other hand. the. . Any Spanish speaker who understands the English words at. This example is therefore intended for an English speaking audience. For English speakers. It is useful for Spanish speaking learners because even if they know what road and up mean this is not sufficient to understand road up. Road up and one for the road.90 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS up the search. 12 Classification of the road examples according to the audience (English-Spanish side). and those that were useful for both English and Spanish audiences. on the other hand. English speakers (encoding into Spanish) Examples useful for both (encoding into Spanish or decoding from English) road up one for the road to get (or take) a show on the road to take to the road the road to Teruel road narrows at the 23rd kilometre on the Valencia road the road to success across the road she lives across the road from us by road my car is off the road to be on the road my car is on the road again he’s on the road to recovery we’re on the road to disaster the dog was wandering on the road to be on the right road to get out of the road our relationship has reached the end of the road Fig. Spanish speakers. classifying the examples into two categories: those that were useful for an English audience. I looked at the examples for road from the audience’s point of view. this example is useful because it shows that road up cannot be translated by camino arriba. 23rd. on. kilometre. but it would have a pedagogical impact. would immediately understand these same examples. This kind of classification gives us the following list. The Audience Finally. are examples intended for a Spanish and English audience alike. Yet. and road understands at the 23rd kilometre on the Valencia road. The useful examples for the English speakers would be those that originally caused difficulty. The item has to be translated as a whole.

Classifying the examples according to this criterion confirms a tendency to favour the English needs. 13 Classification of the camino examples according to the audience (EnglishSpanish side). . so the guiding principle was clearly not the audience. the list of examples intended for English speakers is much longer than the one intended for both English and Spanish speakers. it can only be regretted that this tendency was not implemented more thoroughly by cutting out the examples useless to them (and that potential Spanish buyers were not informed of this bias on the cover). camino. However. Since this makes the dictionary more effective for these users. The next figure classifies the examples for camino in the same way as the examples for road were classified in the previous figure. A look at one of the most likely translations for road. Canales y Puertos vamos camino de la muerte a medio camino de camino tienen otro niño de camino está en camino de desaparecer traer a uno por buen camino abrirse camino allanar el camino echar camino adelante ir por su camino partir el camino con uno quedarse en el camino camino de mesa Fig. the examples’ order does not coincide with the original list. makes the degree of this bias crystal clear. or had no specific audience in mind and chose their examples randomly. The lexicographers either tried to satisfy both audiences simultaneously.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 91 What conclusions can be drawn from this list? Again. Examples useful for Spanish speakers (encoding into English) camino de acceso camino de entrada camino forestal camino de Santiago camino de Damasco camino de peaje camino de tierra el camino a seguir el camino de La Paz es el camino del desastre el camino de en medio camino de Lima en el camino después de 3 horas de camino nos quedan 20 kms de camino es mucho camino ¿cuanto camino hay de aquí a San José? por (el) buen camino ¿vamos por buen camino? errar el camino todos los caminos van a Roma llevar a uno por mal camino ponerse en camino Examples useful for both (encoding into English and decoding from Spanish) camino sin firme camino francés camino de herradura camino de ingresos camino real camino de sirga camino trillado tener el camino trillado camino vecinal Caminos.

there’s a baker’s over or across the road. then the phrase después de 3 horas de camino is easy to understand. I will spare the reader more details. my car’s off the road. as well as for an encoding Spanish speaker. but these have been ordered roughly into common uses and fixed expressions16. the people from over the road. all roads lead to Rome. this comes down to one subdivision into examples useful for encoding Spanish speaking users. a dirt road. These examples include multi-word items such as camino de acceso. road narrows. by road. five miles down the road. the house is set back a mile or so from the road Fixed expressions: a major/minor road. it’s good road all the way now. These same examples are of little use to English speakers. which cannot be translated as after 3 hours of road. to have one for the road. acceso. and another one for both audiences. which a Spanish speaker might be drawn to translate literally. road closed. Unfortunately. the Cambridge road. No audience –nor particular activity– has been chosen to classify the examples. to take to the road.92 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS The examples which I consider useful for (encoding) Spanish speakers are those which would offer some difficulty if these users had to translate them into English. . one notices some evolution. 16 Common uses: is this the road to Boston?. which confirms the bias encountered on the English-Spanish side. In practice. The choice of examples still seems a little fortuitous and many of the collocates of road which the Cobuild Collocations CD-ROM presents as the most common ones (run down the road. this was not totally carried through. después and hora means. It is striking that the list of examples useful for speakers of both languages is longer on the SpanishEnglish side of the dictionary. but if one compares the Collins entry to the corresponding entry in the Oxford English-Spanish. tienen otro niño de camino will prove difficult for a decoding English speaker. continue down the road. and sentences like después de 3 horas de camino. head down the road. walk along the road) have been left out. Regarding the examples that are useful for both audiences. a factory just down the road (from here). If one knows what camino.

One can lament. however. which will instantaneously take him to the fixed expression. the classification of examples continues to be a problem. the search facility will not provide an example if the morphological form of the search string is not identical with the form in the example – it will not recognise j’ai mis as a form of mettre. When translating mettre la main sur quelque chose. most of the time. particularly in the case of bilingual dictionaries. First. This fact. it certainly will not recognise analogous structures. This semantic subdivision amounts to the traditional subdivision of literal and figurative since. Secondly. but their number is reduced when compared to the examples abiding by the open-choice principle. This emphasis on encoding is new. even though its authors do not clearly state this purpose. however. The entry for road lists a large number of examples classified according to their possible translations in French (mainly rue and voie). It will not indicate the example avoir une brûlure à la main if the user searches the . one for the road). route and rue are used literally. three fixed expressions are listed at the end (any road (up). there is another subdivision according to the preposition required. Its features confirm the upcoming trend of more encoding-oriented dictionaries. The Examples for Road in Oxford-Hachette The Oxford-Hachette has been acclaimed as one of the most advanced bilingual dictionaries. Classifying the examples according to a semantic criterion implies that the lexicographers are thinking of users that have an idea of the meaning. Finally. and voie figuratively. It is now possible to search for a word that customarily accompanies the word looked up to get to the idiom. that this is not a solution to the classification problem as the result of a reflection on the needs of the users and the way these users proceed when using a dictionary. even if a number of search-engines included in the electronic version of the Oxford-Hachette provide an immense improvement. Indeed. characterises the Oxford-Hachette as preponderantly aiming at an encoding audience. together with the type of classification. Despite these innovations. There are a few more examples scattered over the rest of the entry. which means they are encoding. in this case the example loses its function of ‘exemplifying’ since it only represents itself. Within this first subdivision. let’s get this show on the road!.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 93 2. the learner can go to the entry for main and search for mettre.

(m) that have just broken the vase. but this is not certain. This discourages learners from using a dictionary altogether. (j) innumerable. (i) moving restlessly. The lack of organisation –caused in turn by a lack of definition of the audience and its needs– has a direct impact on the way users can profit from their dictionary.) . since no feature has been exploited in full. The necessity for a sensible classification of examples is therefore still deeply felt. since dictionaries do not separate decoding and encoding. The only order is perhaps an alphabetical one following the prepositions. nor according to their possibility for literal translation. (k) drawn with a very thin camel hair brush. I could discover no user-oriented logic governing the classification of examples for road in Collins English-Spanish. Conclusion Dictionaries are tools. For an encoding audience more examples of common usage should be included. the look-up process is slowed down since the answer to a learner’s question might be found more or less anywhere. Secondly. (e) sirens. (h) included in this classification. (c) trained. In his famous story on a Chinese encyclopaedia. This means they should be as efficient as possible. As I have suggested before. nor to their usefulness for one audience or another.” (Borges: 1980. Vol2. and a sensible classification of the examples is one way to achieve this. this adjustment is difficult to implement. not books for reading. Borges17 jokingly shows how a classification is dependent on the classified information’s intended function. tatouage. and therefore nothing can be skipped. whereas for a decoding audience the list of fixed expressions should be allinclusive. (b) embalmed.94 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS examples using an alternative such as blessure. there is no guarantee that users will find what they are looking for. They are not grouped according to figurative uses. (d) piglets. (g) loose dogs. (n) that from a distance look like flies. 17 “In its remote pages it is written that the animals can be classified as: (a) property of the Emperor. even in the age of computerised dictionaries. (f) mythical. etc. 223) (My translation. Efficiency implies adjusting means to purposes. First. (l) etcetera.

the task is relatively simple. In my experience. As with all innovations. the result was a predictable radicalisation of the Cobuild team and a renewed insistence on ‘orthodoxy’: no tampering with real examples! Meanwhile. Until now. the Collins-Robert and the Oxford Spanish Dictionary testify to a forward shift in the conception of dictionaries.EXAMPLES: THE CORE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 95 Finally. The use of authentic language was a radical innovation. If it is on encoding. *** Despite all possible criticisms and with all due respect to those who execute the Sisyphean task of compiling dictionaries. It is true that the problem of classification remains intact and will become ever more pressing with the increasing use of corpora. Unfortunately. such as giving contrastive information. this information can best be presented in the form of examples. . and which is becoming a basic tool for language learning and teaching. When encoders turn to a learner’s dictionary. it is necessary to describe what the needs of the encoding learner are. However. In Collins English-Spanish it would have made sense to contrast examples where road is translated as camino with examples where road is translated as carretera. and use adapted authentic or authentic examples in the dictionary. The area of examples in learner’s and bilingual dictionaries has still some way to go and a few problem areas have been identified. Most dictionaries now have a corpus and the Cobuild Collocations CD is freely available on the market. capable of supplying an unlimited number of examples. the tools are at hand. the Oxford-Hachette. There is a relationship between the choice of examples and the task one assigns to dictionaries for foreign language learners in general. other possibilities that examples offer. they are less likely to have a problem with meaning than with syntax and collocates. either no choice has been made in favour of decoding or encoding. competitors have adopted an intermediate position that I think is likely to become standard: interrogate the corpus for evidence. The information simply has to be made accessible to the learner in a systematic way. are not exploited. If the emphasis is on decoding. or there is only a patchy awareness of how these goals can be fulfilled. and integrated with the other dictionary elements. it had to be defended.

care has to be taken to deal with each word as an entity. it is probable that in the near future more target-conscious encoding dictionaries will be put on the market with examples chosen accordingly. made-up debate. as a result of my analysis of existing dictionaries and my own experience as a user. I will present an approach to dictionary compilation which I think introduces some new elements. However. however. It is clear. since every word class is characterised by particular difficulties. . In the next chapter. This is true from the viewpoint of a native speaker. it is reasonable to think that in the future learners will have at their disposal both made-up and authentic examples integrated into the same tool.96 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS In doing this. and it is even truer when one puts the lexical item in contrast with the learner’s first language. Probably a mixed form of modified authentic examples will be the eventual outcome of the authentic vs. Since English is becoming a most necessary second language with a high number of potential dictionary buyers. Some dictionaries such as Cambridge International Dictionary of English have gone some way in modelling their work according to the first language of their audience. since electronic dictionaries are most likely to be the future of lexicography and space will no longer be a problem. Whether these examples will be authentic or made-up seems to be of less concern than was initially thought. that these are first attempts and that the research underpinning these projects is still in its infancy.

DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 97 CHAPTER 4 AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY In this chapter I describe what I see as the foreign language dictionary of the future. Because of their technical nature I shall not discuss aspects such as customising possibilities. I take it for granted that the dictionary of the future will be electronic. These will all considerably improve the life of language learners. Thus. What an electronic dictionary allows us to do is to reshuffle the information in a dictionary in such a way that it is presented to the learner in different ways according to what the activity is. hyperlinks and others. Considering the chronic need for space in traditional dictionaries. but speed and random access are equally important. unlimited storage capacity is the most obvious advantage of a computer. Its main feature is a clear separation between encoding and decoding. In what follows I consider the practical consequences of such a distinction. decoding or encoding. anyone who uses electronic dictionaries on a regular basis does not need to be persuaded of the advantages which computers offer in this area. While I will not go into details about software. many of the problems and current possibilities of separating the two dictionary functions (encoding and de- . compiling personalised dictionaries. new search features. as the reader will notice. but I believe they fall outside the scope of my research.

(Berkov. It is rather easy to think of a few commercial reasons why Sjtsjerba’s proposal was never put into practice. Encoding vs. It is no coincidence that both a new proposal and the means to implement it emerge at the same time. Computers just happen to meet these needs better. hampering the lookup process. The first request for a different set of dictionaries for decoding and encoding dates back to the 1930s. what I put forward is not dictated by what computers can do. but is submerged by decoding information. decoding Asking for separate encoding and decoding dictionaries is basically asking that the encoding parts of dictionaries be emancipated from the decoding tool that current dictionaries still basically are. and the other for users who translate from their mother tongue into a foreign language. but is based on an analysis of learners’ needs. and A!B and B!A for users with the mother tongue B. Since I am not proposing a different kind of definition. As I suggested in previous chapters. On . nor different kinds of translational equivalents. even though one of the main characteristics of computers used for reference works is allowing a user random access to the information. quatre dictionnaires’ (Bogaards. without any practical consequence. I basically propose to break up in parts much of what has been achieved all along the history of lexicography and restructure this material. the more they burden the decoders with unnecessary information. often the encoding information is present in the dictionary. the reader will notice that this new dictionary does not presuppose a large amount of work at the microstructural level. On the other hand. 1990) was afterwards periodically repeated by a number of researchers. according to Sjtsjerba. there is no doubt that the more dictionaries attempt to meet encoders’ needs.98 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS coding) are respectively solved and wide-open with electronic dictionaries. In spite of this. Therefore. when Lev Sjtsjerba: launched the idea that two types of dictionaries have to be compiled – one type for users who translate from a foreign language into their mother tongue. 1996:547) This idea of ‘Deux langues. for a particular pair of languages it was necessary to have four dictionaries: A!B and B!A for users with the mother tongue A. An important part of this work is related to defining the order in which a search is carried out and what kind of tools are necessary to make this search successful.

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the other hand, it should be noted that Sjtsjerba’s proposal is a typical encoding user’s demand and that when he made it dictionaries were still predominantly used for decoding. In 1983, Cowie outlined the problem as follows:
Some foreign learners may be more concerned with interpretation than production – they may use the dictionary primarily for quick retrieval of individual items or meanings when reading – but no general dictionary for the advanced student can afford to neglect one need in favour of the other. (Cowie, 1983:136)

The essence of the problem had by then long been understood. Apparently, however, it seems like there would still be no majority in favour of a change.
I wish to suggest as a general principle that the interpretative function places a high premium on ease of access and thus on the strict alphabetical ordering of entries. The productive function, on the other hand, places a high premium on the clustering of derivatives, compounds, idioms, phrasal verbs, and so on around the simple lexemes (or particular meanings of those lexemes to which they are related). (Cowie, Ibid.: 141)

But however obvious these claims for separating encoding and decoding seemed to many, to others they seemed to amount to a rather superfluous demand. In 1983, Zgusta was not convinced of the necessity of separating encoding and decoding:
The reason for this overlapping (of decoding and encoding dictionaries) is clear: the statistically ‘normal user’ does not wish to buy several dictionaries of the same language, and therefore many dictionaries are designed to serve more than one purpose. Observably, one of the purposes taken care of in such a multi-purpose dictionary usually enjoys a degree of preference; nevertheless, the chance of being useful to more sets of users and therefore appealing to a broader public (i.e. more buyers) proves to be attractive to many editors and to most publishers. (Zgusta, 1983)

Of course, Zgusta wrote this 20 years ago, when the separation of decoding and encoding dictionaries would mean an enormous pile of paper. The prospect of having to print four dictionaries in the place of one could not have appealed to most commercial publishers. Apparently, it was not the time for dramatic changes in dictionary conception. But with the advent of the computer era needs changed, and so did the means to meet them.

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As a language learner and teacher, I am personally convinced that the main transformation dictionaries have to undergo is the separation of encoding and decoding. Today, of course, the information needed to compile a decoding dictionary can be put to use in an encoding dictionary and both can be part of one and the same electronic dictionary. In what follows, I will deal with the decoding and the encoding part of the dictionary separately, in the same sequence that learners follow when they look up a word. Since an electronic dictionary can be randomly accessible, this sequence is not a necessary ingredient of the dictionary I propose. It would only be a path for users if they so wished. As the reader will observe, the part of the section dealing with decoding is much shorter than the part dealing with encoding. As I made clear before, I consider decoding to be a lesser problem than encoding.

1. D ECODING
Decoding can be understood in two ways: decoding to understand and decoding to translate. The latter usually implies the former, even if there are cases, such as simultaneous translation, in which translators translate the words of a message which they themselves often don't understand. But these are clearly exceptions. One usually wishes first to understand to be able to translate. In both cases one goes from a language that one knows less well to a language that one knows better. This means, in most cases, going from a foreign language to the mother tongue. In the first case, a dictionary user is reading a text, or looking up a word she or he heard, merely in order to understand a message. This situation will by far be the most common one and corresponds to the primary task of a dictionary. Translation, on the other hand, involves a process of encoding which follows the process of decoding. It is as much because of this encoding part, as of the decoding part, that translation gave rise to a separate discipline of ‘translation studies’ with its linguistic as well as broad cultural and literary considerations. A number of distinguished authors
18

18

Jakobson, 1959; Mounin, 1963; Catford, 1965; Steiner, 1971; Basnett-McGuire, 1991

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make it clear that translation is a complex process, so complex that some authors have come to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible. However, as Mounin sharply states:
Si l’on accepte les thèses courantes sur la structure des lexiques, des morphologies et des syntaxes, on aboutit à professer que la traduction devrait être impossible. Mais les traducteurs existent, ils produisent, on se sert utilement de leurs productions. On pourrait presque dire que la traduction constitue le scandale de la linguistique contemporaine. (Mounin, 1963:8)

It seems to me that native speaker’s dictionaries should tackle the demands translation places on dictionaries in the decoding and subsequent encoding sense of the word. Even if in the future nothing prevents elaborate native speaker’s synonym dictionaries and thesauruses from being included on a CD-ROM together with a foreign language dictionary, thus merging native speaker’s and foreign language lexicography. Decoding is at any rate easier than encoding. Particularly for advanced learners, most of the existing reference tools will be adequate, even if open to improvement. This does not mean decoding is easy, but it is on the whole a smoother process than encoding because the learner usually has more resources in the language she or he knows best. Decoding always consists of some form of translation, be it interlingual or intralingual (Jakobson, 1959), and can be assisted by either a bilingual or monolingual dictionary. Advanced learners in particular can choose between a bilingual, native speaker’s, synonym, learner’s, or bilingualised dictionary, at least for a few languages. As a number of surveys show (Tomaszczyk, 1979; Baxter, 1980; Bensoussan et al., 1984) and common sense dictates, bilingual dictionaries are in most cases the obvious choice. If advanced learners often prefer a monolingual reference work, this is probably because current monolingual dictionaries still cover a broader area of the lexis than bilingual dictionaries. This does not necessarily mean that an intralingual translation is better than an interlingual one. But whatever kind of dictionary advanced learners prefer, the existing tools are usually sufficient. Even when the dictionary lists more than one translation or definition for a word, its context can guide the learner. Beginning learners, on the other hand, cannot but use bilingual dictionaries and I analyse their problems with this limitation in mind. In

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figure 14 I list different kinds of items beginners may have trouble looking up in a dictionary.
Example 1. found/find tabemasu/taberu (to eat in Japanese) omoshirokunai/omoshiroi (not funny/funny, in Japanese) jemandem/jemand (someone, dative and nominative in German) 2. road block swimming bath swimming pool swimming costume 4. at first glance at great length in zeven haasten (in a hurry, in Dutch) de uma cajadada só (to kill two birds with one stone, in Portuguese) 5. wie laatst lacht best lacht (he who laughs last laughs longest, in Dutch) muita esmola o santo desconfia (too much effort makes one suspicious, in Portuguese) 3. in aanmerking komen voor (qualify for, in Dutch) dar uma esperadinha (to wait, in Portuguese) 6. lead break Fig. 14 Decoding problems of beginning learners. Type morphological problem

multi-word item

fixed expression

proverb

idiom polysemy

Assuming that the information which learners are looking for exists in the dictionary, their failure to retrieve it can be traced back to three problems. The first one occurs when the dictionary form is different from the looked-up form. The second, when the word is part of a multiword item not recognised as such. The third, in the case of polysemy. I will now deal with each of these problems separately. I will tackle the issue of different word forms and multi-word items together in one section.

However. and so on. they are automatically referred to fazer. users had to look up these items under one of the expression’s words. Electronic dictionaries’ ability to present the information on successive screens prevents the user from feeling overwhelmed and put off by the sheer excess of information. In an electronic dictionary. but it is for all those with which I am familiar. When users type fiz in the Brazilian Aurélio Eletrônico XXI. Secondly. all that is needed is to include all forms in the dictionary. swimming costume. learners looking up levée who are unaware that levée de terre was a single item. swimming pool. a fixed expression does not have to be classified anywhere in particular and it is possible to access it through any of its component . This may not be possible for all types of languages. at great length. When looking up swimming. What has to be included depends on what the morphological modifications of each language are. and in a few electronic dictionaries where this feature is easier to implement. the solution is relatively simple. in zeven haasten and de uma cajadada só do not allow any variation in their sequence and function as single words. the words bath. For instance. which will automatically draw their attention to the multi-word item. At first glance. fixed expressions can be considered multi-word items at the same level as proverbs. Morphology and Multi-Word Items The easiest problem to solve is that of learners unable to find the right entry because they do not know the dictionary form of the item which they are looking for. at least for verbs. In a traditional dictionary. bath. Including all word forms may result in large lists. should be confronted with terre. there was always a danger that the learner would miss the item.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 103 1. and the like. pool or costume should lead the learner to all possible combinations. including an agglutinating one like Japanese. but this is not a problem for electronic dictionaries. In this case. pool and costume could pop up and would trigger a reaction from the learners if the same word(s) were part of their context. as is already a common practice in a number of English paper dictionaries for foreigners. Because of lack of space they were not included under all of the entries involved. In an electronic dictionary. Since some of these entries would end up being very long. The problem of multi-word items is harder to tackle. looking up swimming. in the case of long recognised multi-word items such as swimming bath.

In French. Yet dictionaries should deal with them. The second kind of idioms is the one Sinclair exemplifies through phrases such as set one’s eyes on and it’s not in his nature to. Again. just as in Portuguese (faz sobre tua mente). Several are commonly listed in an entry under one form or another. In of course. But even in Dutch. These idioms allow for lexical. and in two words (bien sûr) in others. Idioms and Collocations Sinclair defines idioms as ‘semi-preconstructed phrases that constitute single choices. for most idioms a word-forword translation does not make any sense. Indeed. This has already been implemented in the Cobuild Dictionary on CD-ROM and other electronic dictionaries such as Euroglot. I prefer to categorise into two groups. two words are intimately linked forming virtually a single lexical item translated by one word in many languages (claro. making them much harder for a dictionary to handle (Sinclair 1991:112. although it depends on the target language. The fact that even native speakers are often not aware of the fixedness of these chunks of words and their changeable nature makes it difficult to solve this problem in a dictionary. have never been identified as idioms. even though they might appear to be analysable into segments. syntactical and word order variation. a Sinclair example.” yet not all idioms are recognised as such. but on successive screens. the information is not presented to the learner all at once. 113).104 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS words. such as it’s not in his nature to. These fall under the previous heading. natürlich). maak op uw verstand. In addition. for lexicographic reasons. will lead only very clever Dutch speakers to understand this as beslissen. but others. the literal translation is total gibberish (fais sur ton esprit). The first group consists of rigid constructs which I consider multiword items. 2. a language closely related to English. the challenge for the lexicographer is not so much to translate these idioms as to make learners aware of the fact that they are dealing with an idiom and that their quest for understanding . Sinclair classifies a number of items which. Dictionary compilers have been aware of an “idiom problem. a word-for-word translation of make up your mind. natuurlijk.’ (Sinclair 1991:110) Under this heading.

(take) more than. take. supuesto could lead to a screen where all the possibilities are listed and a click on these items would yield a translation. (take) some time. (take) legal action. a corpus allows for making a list of all possible variations – an otherwise difficult task. (take) years. Even for highly frequent words such as take this is quickly done with the help of a simple tool such as the Cobuild Collocations CDROM: part in. idioms can be classified either under their first word. months. In the case of rigid constructs such as of course or de graça or por supuesto a dictionary should simply place all possible idioms of which a word can take part before the learner’s eyes. (take) full advantage of. (take) care of. (take) account of.’ ‘towel. weeks. (take) into account. In the case of less evident idioms. fresh. 15 Collocates of take on the Cobuild Collocations CD-ROM. Fig. hard. (take) (too) long. Since an idiom is a mutable construction. Not all of these orders can be used at the same time. . under the word which is considered most important. mind. plus the intercalation of other optional items which can result in phrases like ‘make your own mind up. at least in English. it is a challenge for lexicographers to pin it down. which makes cross-referencing difficult. (take) place. A search for course. but I have never seen them put into practice.’ are all possible. this project is under way. (take) advantage of. The main reason why this problem is nevertheless difficult to solve in traditional dictionaries is that these dictionaries must necessarily choose a single classification order. One way of making idiom decoding easier is to draw the attention of the dictionary user to the most frequent combinations in which a word can appear. throw. (take) any chances. the dictionary should allow users to input all the words they suspect form one unit: ‘up. This presupposes there is a list of all possible idioms and. or according to the semantic field. (take) off. (take) a (very) long time. (take) a (quick. the variations in word order.’ These are rather simple solutions. However. hard) look. according to Sinclair. long. In a traditional dictionary. but they have limited ways of making it accessible. days. detailed. Thus traditional dictionaries often have the right information. With make up your mind the morphological variations of the verb and the possessive pronoun. graça. (take) some kind of.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 105 will be useless if they limit themselves to translating each word separately.

which I will refer to as external 19 This is exactly what has been implemented in the 1998 Collins Cobuild Edict. legal action. chances. Even so. life. first. a dictionary should rank the likelihood of a given word combination. long. the most likely combination is take. looking up take would bring up other possible collocates: part. any. but not on a CD-ROM. play. In the first case. years. world. also. Surprisingly. time. off. most. The second kind of polysemy. account. the same information could be used in several different places at once. produced after the bulk of this book was finished. 19 To speed up decoding. Undoubtedly the listing of all possible idioms would take up much space in a paper dictionary. advantage. I do not know of any dictionary where this has been systematically undertaken. as a part of a gun. together with time. take would also be one of the possible directions in which to proceed. not even in dictionaries which profess to work with a corpus. 3. large. weeks. The current programmes designed for searching a corpus automatically detect this sequence. look. because. a word refers to two or more different entities (hammer as a tool. which I would call internal polysemy and in which the various senses of the word will frequently be metonymically related to each other. Taking advantage of the sequencing possibilities of the computer. days. or simply limitations of the CD-ROM as a medium. care of. place. failure to recognise mechanically the morphological variations of the idiom. it is a start and it makes looking up the collocates easy. If a word can form idioms. When looking up part.106 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS This list is probably incomplete because of possible flaws in the construction of the corpus. country. kind. work. or only when looked at from the point of view of a foreign language. Even ignoring the fact that the word they look up is part of a larger item. important. Polysemy Words can be polysemous within a language itself. as a device on a piano). months. It should be easy to take advantage of this capability. . there is a fair chance it will form more than one and in this list of combinations one collocate will be more frequent than another one. become. In the case of place. a glance at the possible collocates would quickly make learners aware of the fact that it is . In addition.

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polysemy, only appears in translation. The average language user is unaware of it. Native speakers of French do not normally know that quelque chose can be understood in two different ways, reason why it can be translated in English by anything or something. Another example is esperar in Portuguese, which can be translated by expect, hope, or wait. It is the first kind of polysemy which is troublesome for decoding, whereas the second kind is a problem for encoding. For foreign learners, most words are polysemous, since high-frequency words –particularly verbs– have easily more than one possible translation. When looking up a word in a bilingual dictionary, the user will frequently find that more than one translational equivalent is suggested. This is, mutatis mutandis, also true for definitions in a monolingual dictionary. Cases of polysemy are elucidated by taking into account the context. Choosing between the various meanings of a word will be easy for advanced learners, since they understand the context from which they retrieved the word. It is more difficult for beginning learners. A solution, therefore, would be to amplify a ‘word’ to some sort of larger lexical item containing the context of whatever nature this context may be. This is what a dictionary should endeavour to do. I will explain this now in more detail.

Lead
The Random House Webster’s College Dictionary lists 62 different meanings for lead. A number of them mean roughly the same, but quite a few have different translations, depending on the language. According to my calculations, there are at least 30 different translations for lead each Spanish, Portuguese, and French (for instance in Spanish: plomo; balazos; sonda; escandallo; excusas para no trabajar; mina; lápiz; emplomado; cabeza; primer lugar; ejemplo; iniciativa; pista; correa; traílla; cable; papel principal; protagonista; solista; principal; artículo principal; introducción; mano; llevar; guiar; conducir; etc.) The right translation depends in some cases on the immediate context of lead, in others on its broader context, in still others on whether lead is a verb or a noun. The procedure for describing a word in terms of context –how to build up a lexical item by broadening the boundaries of a word– is closely related to that of looking up a word in a corpus. When one

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knows how to look up a specific meaning of a polysemous word in a corpus, one has described it as a lexical item. If I know the specific characteristics of a word I have to mention in order to retrieve only those instances in which it has a meaning X, and not Y, I know everything that is necessary to disambiguate it. However, current programs for analysing a corpus, such as LookUp at Cobuild, are only partially satisfactory since they limit searches to a nine-word span. They are not able, for obvious reasons, to pick out the pertinent words from the rest of the text which, in some cases, determine its meaning. Words which determine the sense of a polysemous word may not be syntactically related to it. If one takes the case of lead and parses it out by translating it into Portuguese, one comes to the following figure:
If lead occurs together or in the context of: I, you, she, he, we, they lead I, you, she, he, we, they lead + life lead + to lead + noun (story, singer, etc.) lead + swing Translate it as: liderar, encabeçar levar uma vida levar principal inventar desculpas de chumbo

of lead (but not followed by a noun: story, singer, etc.) ‘s lead (but not followed by a noun: story, singer, liderança etc.) to lead guiar will lead levará/levarão would lead levaria point lead vantagem [auxiliar] + lead levar the lead a liderança lead +[química] [exploração de minas] chumbo lead + [cachorros] corrente Fig. 16 Translations of lead according to co-text and context.

The figure above gives an overview of how lead is translated into Portuguese, depending on the co-text and the context. It is a partial description which demonstrates that describing the whole lexis of a language in this way is a huge task. It might, however, be worthwhile. This

AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY

109

figure shows how easy it is to help a beginning learner determine the meaning of a word by means of another word or an indication of the general topic of the text. This might seem a bit laborious to an advanced speaker, but beginning learners are more willing to put some effort into their search since they cannot cheerfully skip words and continue to understand the text. When looking at a corpus it is astonishing which elements, and how few elements, characterise a specific meaning of a word. These elements, unfortunately, do not necessarily belong to a neat ‘nine-word span.’ In the case of lead and unless lead is followed by a noun, all combinations with ‘s automatically rule out any other translation if not liderança. Similarly, the presence of of indicates the cases in which lead means chumbo20. This is also the correct translation if the topic of the text is mines or chemistry or a related area. This analysis of lead, which should of course have a more user-friendly aspect in an electronic dictionary, deals with the question in a pragmatic and not in a scholarly way. Hence the motley aspect of the figure. The purpose is to help the learner by any possible means. The way in which the data are presented here is not the way in which they should appear on a screen. The intention is only to give an example of how a polysemous lexical item can be disambiguated by adding succinct pieces of information, possibly of very different kinds: syntactic, semantic, morphological. It is indeed a mixture of formal information (co-text), meaning information (context) and grammatical information (e. g. ‘auxiliary’). A possible way of presenting this information is in the form of a grid, comparable to the ‘picture’ of a word in a programme such as Cobuild‘s Look-Up. Users would click on any word in the grid which they would recognise from their context and the translation would pop up. It could be something like the following figure.

20

Looking at it from another angle, of lead and ‘s lead can be considered multi-word items just like, e.g., railway-track or road block.

110 Would the point will would lead

DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS

to singer story

int o ‘s auxiliary personal pronoun música

exploração de mijornalis- polítinas mo ca química cachorros Fig. 17 Example grid of the entry lead in an electronic dictionary.

Break
The case of break is slightly different from lead. Break is even more polysemous than lead. It is also more devoid of meaning, which means its sense is less dependent on the context and almost exclusively on the co-text. Apart from more traditional types of co-text such as prepositions or objects in the case of break as a verb, less expected words like came indicate in what sense break is being used. The grid below is only an indication of what an entry could look like and is by no means comprehensive. A great number of occurrences of break, in all its forms, should be translated into the target language and in each case it should be established what words determine a particular translation.
break descanso (substantivo) ou quebrar (verbo) a/the take a descanso, pausa descansar, fazer uma pausa From Assaltar

interromper para descansar

+ into + car house home building

dissolver-se 111 cortar + out começar + free libertar-se de libertar-se de + glass + up + marriage + protests demonstrations we. interromper + diplomatic relations negotiations dialogue Rebentar. The grid above is based greatly on an analysis of the ‘collocations tree’ of break as taken from the Bank of English. 18 Example grid of the entry break in an electronic dictionary.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY + away big + + bones + off Desprender-se. brotar + fighting disturbances epidemic fights conflict war row Libertar-se + from + of Quebrar partir-se. desistir. The original collocations tree looks like this: . they + + with the break-up of + came + ranks + record + even + rules + law oportunidade sair de forma quebrar um recorde sair sem perder ou ganhar violar as regras violar a lei fracassar dissolver separar-se separar-se de dissolução Fig. libertar-se Grande oportunidade Quebrar Separar-se.

122338 2.959329 3.977855 2.331762 2.177460 3.485047 2.112 Collocate down up out after record into a in his rules when silence the off had away leg tax through free marriage lunch war before bones glass over law during big talks try tie since laws taboo deadlock trying taking ranks news heart fighting diplomatic ago Frequency of collocates in 1000 sentences in which break occurs 91 71 67 43 22 38 239 201 66 16 41 14 525 24 50 16 10 12 19 13 10 9 14 19 8 8 23 10 12 11 8 9 6 12 6 5 5 8 8 5 9 7 6 5 9 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Statistical significance of the collocate (over 2 is significant) 8.003254 2.641007 3.180300 2.151499 2.259616 2.177877 2.231458 4.087023 Fig.990364 2.813841 2.158782 2.808706 2.125252 2.025647 3.217709 2. 19 Collocation tree for break.094875 2.583217 2.701246 3. .652114 3.810485 4.145142 3.379298 2.769681 2.250825 2.587004 2.815851 3.364512 4.914527 3.396905 2.603870 2.956224 2.322514 6.157161 3.573706 3.222910 2.381263 2.845882 2.189736 4.823179 6.

in the case of decoding this would probably not be necessary.” I realise that presenting the hypertext reality of a computer screen in two dimensions demands a lot from the reader’s imagination. Words like during. The translation of very polysemous words tends to depend on the words found in the traditional nineword span. If this did not make sense. . In the eventual dictionary. Learners should not have to enter more words beyond the word they are looking up. They should be prompted to look for suggested words in the surroundings of their hard word if the core translation does not make sense. they determine the meaning. Users would also personalise the grid’s appearance. users could click on one of the words which they recognise in the context. As can be noticed for break. Indeed. which does not feature in the list of most frequent collocations for break. but only on the co-text. users would have the possibility of calling up a definition in the target language or a set of examples. since. If still not satisfied with the translation. The behaviour of most polysemous words should be carefully studied. However. off.. Decoders do not know what are the words that change the core meaning of the hard word. users could go on clicking on other words which would be part of their text and end up finding começar. e. a number of these collocates have to be eliminated since they do not influence the translation of break. but this is not enough to know what break means in these cases. some words which co-occur with high frequency polysemous words are themselves not extremely frequent and do not even appear in the collocations chart.g. This is the case of came. In the grid above it is understood that decoders can stop their search whenever they think they have sufficient information. and these must be suggested to them. and it is not sufficient to include the words which appear in the collocations frequency chart. But when these words appear within a nine-word span of the polysemous word. but when it appears in conjunction with break. the columns in the grid of figure 17 and 18 should be displayed in separate windows or in boxes popping up at the click of a mouse. the translation of the word does not depend on the broader context. Apart from a translation.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 113 Clearly. Typing in break would give the user quebrar and descanso. before or ago show that break is often used with an indication of time. it most likely means opportunity: “But the break for Southampton came in the 74th minute when Le Tissier sent former Arsenal reserve Neil Heaney off through the middle.

they would certainly have understood what the topic was. If the dictionary could establish what the general context of the hard word is. I concentrated on the co-text. Looking up the meaning of a word in a dictionary would be greatly facilitated if the search area were not usually so broad. In the case of some words. But one can either make the pond smaller or the fish bigger. one starts from a book which contains a fair part of the whole lexis of a language to find one single word. 4. I was rather pleasantly surprised. As things stand now. the meaning of a word depends on the broader context. nevertheless. but it may be easier to proceed via the context: martelo if the text is on metallurgy. in which they wanted to understand the message. others to proceed gradually. The task of the decoding dictionary is to give users the right meaning of a hard word by whatever means. and as quickly as possible. This gave a number of lists for every article with the words the students thought they would need to look up. What follows is an account of two experiments aiming at trying to make the fish look bigger. I asked a group of English students learning Spanish to read a number of short newspaper articles from the Catalan newspaper El Mundo. martelo again if on pianos. The articles were on different subjects. Some users would prefer to see the whole picture.114 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS The users themselves would decide on how much of all this would be visible on the first screen. Including the Context: Two Experiments. Had the students failed to look up these words. one student took on the first Chapter of Don Quixote. percussor if on guns. The translation of hammer can be deduced from its co-text in some cases. In other words. In the preceding section. First experiment In the first experiment. but only those which they would look up in a normal reading situation. They might find it more practical to have just the prompting words or concepts first and the mouse to click on them. In addition. When I realised that these lists contained the stories’ new information. it would be able to immediately suggest to the user the most probable translation. but not what was newsworthy. the hard words justi- . Their task was not to point out all the words that were hard to understand. ranging from international politics to computing.

20 Unknown words in: ‘El robo de ordenadores portátiles aumentó de forma significativa. this part of the article would be largely missed out by learners without access to a dictionary. This is the list of words which the student who read the first chapter would have looked up. I tried to imagine what questions the hard words were an answer to. Hard word Ordenadores (3 times) datos (de las compañías de seguros) Question (it is an answer to…) What is being stolen? Where does the information come from? How many? Alrededor (de 208. Without them. In the case of the learner who took on the first chapter of Don Quixote (1900 words). the story is devoid of interest.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 115 fied why an author had written on the subject. which is something everybody would expect.000 ordenadores robados) Fundas y bolsas How do the thieves go about it? Suelen dueño (del ordenador) How do the thieves go about it? pertenencias What is being stolen? piezas metálicas How do the thieves go about it? se apodera (el ladrón) How do the thieves go about it? formar cola (en la línea del detector) How do the thieves go about it? sustraído (por el ladrón) How do the thieves go about it? funda How do the thieves go about? Fig. A telling example of this is the following list which shows the hard words in an article of approximately 180 words on the increasing number of computer thefts (‘El robo de ordenadores portátiles aumentó de forma significativa. 2. This means that.5 % of the entire text) are like a summary of the chapter and indeed of the book as a whole. The easy words carried the information generally known on the subject. most of the unknown words are an answer to the question ‘How do thieves go about stealing a computer?’ This is the newsworthy part of the article. .’ As can be deduced from this figure. allowing for some information obtained by induction from the context. the unknown words (app. and not so much the fact that robberies are increasing.’) In the right-hand column. Seven of the twelve unknown words are directly related to this topic.

Some of the unknown words in this list are . Basically this first chapter is about who Don Quixote is. podadera. what he looks like. what his habits are. ratos. 21 Words experienced as hard by the test subject in the first chapter of Don Quixote.116 Hard word astillero adarga rocín galgo corredor olla vaca carnero salpicón quebrantos lentejas palomino de añadidura velarte vellorí ama frisaba recta enjuto de rostro desatino requiebros desafío fermosura desvelábase heridas rostro darle fin al pie de la letra melindroso no le iba en zaga turbio DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS What it refers to knighthood knighthood knighthood knighthood habits of Don Quixote habits of Don Quixote habits of Don Quixote habits of Don Quixote habits of Don Quixote habits of Don Quixote habits of Don Quixote habits of Don Quixote habits of Don Quixote who lives with Don Quixote appearance of Don Quixote appearance of Don Quixote appearance of Don Quixote knighthood knighthood knighthood knighthood lack of sleep knighthood appearance books knighthood knighthood lack of sleep which typifies Don Quixote knighthood pendencias OTHERS: acabar. ensillaba. Fig. enflaquece. muy acomodada situación. competencia. who he lives with and his obsession with books and knighthood. sacara. inacabable.

The conclusions to be drawn from this experiment are. unless the author of the text wanted to make a pun. if on clocks as remontoir. electronic dictionaries could guide learners more directly to the meaning of the word if they had at least a rough idea of what the text was about. liste. capital. if key is followed by issue. car– . or a morphological feature since there is a fair chance that the plural keys refers to clefs.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 117 clearly not ascribable to any special feature of Quixote. desafíos (challenges). In the case of a polysemous word such as drive. Second. it is unlikely that the meaning should be anything else but dirigir/unten suru/besturen/lenken/manejar/conduire if the text is on cars. that since the hard words are the less frequent ones. Unfortunately I do not have any 17th century Spanish corpus to confirm this. clavette. touche. tonalité. all on the hard word list. Depending on the situation. first. if on language textbooks as corrigé. remontoir. but it is something dictionary design could take into account. Key can be translated in French by clé. heridas (wounds) and requiebros (flatteries addressed to women). . This means that in the case of polysemous words. since otherwise there would be a limited number of texts. house. This may seem obvious. A label could solve this problem. secret. This can also be illustrated by the word key. preceded by master. key should be understood as tonalité. the list of hard words would give the (electronic) dictionary an idea of what the topic is and lead the learner to the right translation of a polysemous word. the learner’s look-ups shed light on this topic. taking out the more frequent words leaves us with a summary of the text. These words are extremely frequent in Quixote. solutions. that the difficult words of a text are responsible for the important part of its content. corrigé. essentiel (Oxford-Hachette).g. légende. However. the topic of the text might lend a hand as well. but what if the reader has only a vague idea of the topic of the text. a learner will retrieve the right translation by means of a collocation –e. but are relatively rare in the language in general. or if the label is not easy to tell? In this case. the learner need not know what he drives me mad means. but the nice thing is that so many are. There are maybe no four words that characterise Don Quixote better than pendencias (fights). Consequently. If the text is on music. If the topic of a text resides in the less frequent words in the lexis of a language as a whole.

very frequent within the text itself. I took a series of articles published in the American Herald Tribune and filtered out the words included in a list of the 600 most frequent English words. an article on the operation Desert Storm.118 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Second experiment To check this hypothesis on frequent and infrequent words. This left me with skeletons of the articles which still had enough function words to be roughly understandable. I reached the number of 600 words empirically. in fact. according to the Bank of English.) Smart Arms In Gulf War Are Found Overrated Pentagon’s Reliance On High-Tech War Questioned in Review Gulf/Pentagon dramatically oversold/effectiveness/expensive -tech aircraft/missiles/thorough independent study/date / Pentagon/principal contractors claims/precision/impressive/weapons -/Stealth fighter jet/Tomahawk land-attack missile/laser-guided ''smart bombs''/overstated misleading inconsistent/data/unverifiable/study/non-partisan Accounting / accounting concluded/costly ''smart'' weapons systems/necessarily perform/Gulf/fashioned cheaper ''dumb'' ones/wisdom/plans/depend increasingly/weapons/extend/art/tens/billions/dollars/accounting analyses programs/Congress/secret -/study/conducted Operation Desert Storm/detailed analysis/ million pieces/: Defence Department databases compiled/commanders intelligence/analyses/contractors/accounting/interviewed/100 Desert Storm pilots planners/battlefield commanders / unclassified summary/250-page secret/scheduled/published// commissioned/1992/Senator David Pryor Democrat/Arkansas/Representative John Dingell Democrat/Michigan/Congress decide/weapons/buy / secret contains facts/figures/buttress/13-page unclassified summary/official familiar/lying / Pentagon briefers treated/videotapes showing/smart bomb diving/shaft/Baghdad/anecdotes/extraordinary accuracy/Tomahawk missiles launched/afar/study concluded/stories/true/truth / . The experiment with the Herald Tribune confirmed my hypothesis that the information of a text lies in its infrequent words which are. In the figure below. The original article consisted of 846 words. I list the words retained after taking out the words that are amongst the 600 most frequent words in English. (Including repetitions. I will limit myself to one example. the sifted one of 585. Leaving out more than 600 the text became incomprehensible.

aircraft/ summary / Nor smart bombs necessarily deliver bang/buck/summary / 8 percent/bomb tonnage dropped/Iraq/smart bombs/guided munitions/accounted/84 percent/munitions/summary/ campaign data/validate/purported efficiency/effectiveness/guided munitions qualification/summary/-target/-bomb' efficiency/achieved smart bombs built/Pentagon/planned/estimated/$58/triple/spend/FBI/drugs immigration customs federal courts/prison construction / guided munitions/ summary concluded/limitations/effectiveness demonstrated/Desert Storm/addressed/Department/Defence / praise/Pentagon weaponry/flush/victory/Gulf/questioned/1991 George Bush/Patriot missile/nearly perfect shooting 41/42 Iraqi missiles aimed/Israel/Saudi Arabia / Defence/Patriot/perfect knocking/40 percent/Scuds aimed/Israel/70 percent/aimed/Saudi Arabia / Fig. all included in the list of the 600 most frequent words21. But in this case we are dealing with problems which precede these considerations.laser electro-optical/infrared systems/clearly clouds rain fog smoke/humidity/ sleek F-117 Stealth fighter jet/highly touted ability/target evading detection/necessarily outperform older cheaper aircraft claimed/80 percent success/bombing runs/Stealth fighter/reality/closer/40 percent / inappropriate aircraft perforce/effectiveness demonstrated/Desert Storm/characterise higher. very frequent words are the first thing one learns in a foreign language. Undoubtedly. Furthermore. This experiment supports the hypothesis that a text’s new information lies in its less frequent words. then come the less frequent ones. the problems I am trying to deal with regard the content –and not the presentation– of . 22 Least frequent words in Herald Tribune article on Desert Storm. and eventually one has to start all over again and learn the true significance of the most frequent words once more.aircraft/generally/capable/lower. it is noteworthy that 21 Literature teachers may claim that very important information lies enclosed in these function words and in the way they are combined. and even in a newspaper article these very frequent words inform us about a possible hidden agenda. that this new information does not lie in the function words.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 119 Pentagon/dispute/conclusions/April 28 letter/accounting/Defence Department/acknowledges/shortcomings/ precision-guided munitions/aircraft/carry/ Tomahawk missiles/department/ability/assess/effectiveness/bombing campaign/Gulf / shortcomings/improved smart weapons studying whether/mix/weaponry/arsenal/proposing/ways/locate/destroy targets / overwhelmed/Iraqi/1991 Gulf/deployed nearly 1000 combat aircraft/unleashed nearly/tons/bombs/dropped/Gery/Japan daily/ superior technology pilots/whether/presumed target/tank/truck/whether/destroyed/sensors . However. It also suggests. as is natural.

presumed target. ways. thorough independent study). destroyed. aircraft.000 combat aircraft. tons. generally. plans. secret. Pentagon weaponry. provide us with a syntagmatic –in some sense ‘onomasiological’– map of the language instead of a more traditional one. Finally.’ Naturally. bombs. scheduled.’ Stealth fighter jet. intelligence. laser. unclassified summary. secret. tank. fog. effectiveness demonstrated. deployed nearly 1. These semantic maps. Fig. destroy targets. aimed. if the aim were to document exhaustively the semantic field of warfare this list should be completed and adapted manually. but even this rather crude catalogue shows the possibilities of the technique. a secondary result of this procedure is that we can now build an important portion of the semantic field of the topic of the article.120 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS many of the collocations were not affected by leaving out the 600 most frequent words (depend increasingly. sleek F-117 Stealth fighter jet. Tomahawk land-attack missile. perform. claimed. conducted. guided munitions.aircraft.’ costly ‘smart’ weapons systems. target evading detection. inappropriate. Effectiveness. smart bombs built. laser guided ‘smart bombs. costly ‘smart’ weapons systems. Here is a list of these words extracted from the same article on Desert Storm. shooting. highly touted ability. together with their translations. guided munitions. bombing campaign. . In other words. guided munitions. pilots. figures. clouds. depend increasingly. overwhelmed. arsenal. lower. in which a word is related to its messages communicating states of affairs. electro-optical. planners. bombing runs. higher. precision weapons. Operation Desert Storm. sensors. campaign data. shaft. improved smart weapons. precision-guided munitions. carry. expensive. infrared systems. necessarily outperform older. dropped. smoke. missiles. Stealth Fighter jet. Tomahawk missiles launched. extraordinary accuracy. nearly perfect. validate. including the collocations. target. 80 percent success. Patriot missile. accounted. weaponry. cheaper aircraft. Congress. fighter. commanders. unleashed nearly. superior technology. munitions. capable. humidity. rain. laser-guided ‘smart bombs. aircraft. effectiveness. purported efficiency. modern warfare. truck. Defence Department. locate. cheaper ‘dumb’ ones. 23 Semantic field of ‘modern warfare’ extracted from a Herald Tribune article on ‘Desert Storm. taking authentic texts as a starting point. assess.aircraft. the structure of the text as a construction of chunks was left surprisingly intact. bomb tonnage dropped. enabling one to draw semantic maps. missiles. battlefield. videotapes. high-tech aircraft.

largar and not abaixar. It would be sufficient to link words or items and their translation: if in the same text an item x is proven to have a translation x1 and an item y a translation y1. a round will mean cartucho in Portuguese and not série or volta.). but also within these bigger groupings themselves. In a text containing the words aircraft. deduce from what is left what the topic of the article is. music. Most newspapers and other magazines are nowadays published on the Internet. on aborde un thème. at least in the case of printed dictionaries. guns. the electronic dictionary would be able to identify the matter of the text and direct all further searches accordingly. Similarly. football. then sort the order of the senses according to the senses the words can have in texts on this topic. the various meanings of a word are listed together. En effet pour le décodage la consultation d’un dictionnaire a lieu au gré des lectures et des occurrences. in Portuguese. On ne parle. bombing. In current dictionaries.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 121 synonyms and not to the words with which it is likely to occur in a normal text22. 1995. nautical. In the case of polysemy. yet less practical. It is when the text ends that another sense can be chosen for the same word (lead refers to the mineral in an economic survey.” (Binon. on n’écrit pas alphabétiquement. all the lexical items can be classified alphabetically with their various meanings one after the other (lead. the meaning of drop would probably be related to bombs and thus the French translation would be larguer and not baisser. As Jean Binon puts it:” De nombreux arguments militent en faveur d’un classement onomasiologique lorsqu’il s’agit d’encoder. electronic version) Here is just one practical application of this. etc. An electronic dictionary could sift the 600 most common words out of an article. 23 In an electronic dictionary. z3 etc. than the translation of z is likely to be z1 as opposed to z2. de passer à la mise en discours. together with the words they normally occur with. This means that texts come more often to the reader in a machine-readable form. d’une idée. Lors de la production en revanche on part d’une intention de communication. no page number. This classification has the advantage of being more rational. boxing. 23 . de produire. Fields would not have to be formally delineated. etc. As soon as a user had looked up a handful of words. and to play first violin in an article on music). this means that the dictionary programme would go first to the meaning most likely to appear in a text on gardening. In an electronic 22 It is this kind of consideration which induces some lexicographers to apply this classification to the whole dictionary. but it is highly unlikely for a same word to be used in more than one sense in one and the same text.

122 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS dictionary a polysemous word can be stored in both classification systems: in the alphabetical as well as the semantic grouping that gives it its sense. .

) CHOICE of the ITEM (meaning/appropriateness) Via the L2 (synonyms) 'intelligent' thesaurus Fig. E NCODING labels Via the L1 bilingual dictionary examples synonyms definition (syntax) grammar rules explicit (collocations) list USAGE made-up examples implicit (examples) selected real examples 'controlled' examples from example texts (encyclop.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 123 2. . 24 Scheme of an encoding dictionary based on the sequence of a typical look-up.

All three problems will occasionally trouble the foreign language learner of any level. Encoding for Beginners I will illustrate the problems of beginning language learners by means of two examples in Japanese. 2. learners are concerned with expressing simple messages on everyday matters. I would suggest that there is no need for that much differentiation. Introduction As was the case for decoding. grammatical metaphors and pragmatically appropriate language. however. a distinction is traditionally made between beginners. 2. When encoding.24 For compiling a dictionary. learners can express anything they want by means of congruent language. it has been poorly described and is generally taken for granted. the first kind of difficulty is encountered more often at the beginner’s level and will have specific consequences for the design of a dictionary.124 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 1. Seen from a different angle and in accordance with Sinclair‘s terminology. but cannot recall it actively. to use Halliday’s nomenclature. 3. Advanced learners aim at a native-like fluency and they use idioms. intermediate and advanced. The second and third kinds of situation are more typical of an advanced level and will be dealt with separately. intermediate learners are able to express themselves well grammatically. one knows the word but is unsure of its collocates or its syntax. They are aware of the limitations placed on their communication capacities by their lack of knowledge and their queries aim at diminishing this lack. They only use grammatical metaphors sporadically. one does not have any idea of what the word is in the target language. one can have the following problems: 1. one knows the word superficially and could recognise it. but not naturally. At an intermediate level. it is necessary here to make a distinction between beginning and advanced learners. From an encoding point of view. According to my own experience as a language teacher and learner. this distinction exists. However. Japanese dictionaries are specially suited for 24 Although this distinction is well established. At a beginners level. It is sufficient to distinguish between beginners and more advanced learners. .

. Needless to say. This gives the following basic pattern to be translated: Flower-wa table on be. this is not an entry which is particularly helpful in our case. hiragana.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 125 this kind of demonstration since any Westerner who has a command of only European languages is a true beginner in Japanese. katakana. First test sentence To make my point. however. Indeed. and not of English. that the word order is the inverse of English. Chinese characters. If this information is meant for Japanese learners decoding an English . are intended for Japanese or very advanced learners.   Fig. It is therefore easy to choose precisely those designed for learners of Japanese. Lexicographers working on Japanese dictionaries for foreigners clearly conceive their dictionaries with true beginners in mind. can only be meant for Japanese. The kanji character for ue.. and roman characters. the romaji part is useless. Martin’s Concise Japanese Dictionary is a small dictionary with an English-Japanese and a Japanese-English part. For these users. It uses kanji. I chose to translate a typical beginner’s sentence: The flowers are on the table. are designed for a non-Japanese audience. but are in practice only a way to simplify the localisation of words for Japanese learners. The dictionary entry for on is: On … de…  (located) … ni…  (atop) …no ue (de/ni) . Beginning learners of Japanese will at least know that there are no articles in Japanese. The Japanese writing system leaves no doubt as to the intended audience of each dictionary. Using this dictionary allows us to translate our sentence into: Hana wa teburu on desu. As for dictionaries written in hiragana. whereas those written in romaji. the romanised alphabet. and that the theme of the sentence is indicated by the particle wa. they can be considered to be half way between kanji and romaji. Then for whom is this information intended? The romaji part was certainly intended for a non-Japanese audience. 25 Entry for on in Martin’s Concise Japanese Dictionary. since there is no indication of what the differences are between the different translation options. since the Introductions to these dictionaries are written in Japanese only. no plurals. no verb inflections which depend on the personal pronoun. dictionaries using kanji. on the other hand.

then the dictionary should give these three possible translations in kanji or hiragana. one will most probably remember them without a dictionary.. on the other hand. If. not in a Western writing system. then they must be capable of distinguishing between these three options for on. a whole section is dedicated to its various senses with examples to help beginners with their choice. (no ue) ni (de) on the wall  kabe ni it's on the table .. This is not exactly beginners’ knowledge. if one feels unsure about the usage of each on. only examples or a grammatical explanation can help. one is advanced enough learner to know how to use the different on’s in Japanese. Yet nobody can tell what it is good for either. The dictionary tells dictionary users that there are three possible translations. If this information is instead intended for English learners of Japanese. ()[] .. and that they are indeed incapable of telling the difference.126 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS text and not knowing what on meant.. on [a:n] prep 1 (indicating position) . Collins-Shubun tackles the problem of function words like on in a different way. In the concrete case of on. Nobody can claim that the information is not included. this information is not meant for advanced learners either. but merely makes them aware of this piece of information. Not a very refreshing pedagogical experience. Moreover. I suspect this is another example of the emblematic information all dictionaries include to a certain extent. None of these is present in the entry. Consequently.

 () téburu (no ue) ni arimasu on the left  hidari ni the house is on the main road .

be) . ... method. condition etc) .de on foot (go.. ie wa kafisendoro ni me shite imasu 2 (indicating means..

aruite on the train/plane (go)  [ !]  de. (be)  [ !]  "#.

$-. terebi) de she's on the telephone +. ()*] denwa (rajio. densha (hikoki) ni notte on the telephone/radio/television $ [%&'.

[$.] kanojo wa denwa ni dete imasu (denwachu desu) I heard it on the radio /saw him on television /%&'0 12 [()*  +342] watakushi wa rajio de kikimashita (terebi de kare wo mimashita) to be on drugs 5637#.

 mayaku wo yatte iru .

AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 127 to be on holiday 89. kyuukachuu de aru to be away on business :.-<=.

ni on Friday >?@ kinyoobi ni on Fridays >?@ kinyoobi ni. AB>?@ maishu kin-yoobi ni. concerning) . >?@A  kinyoobi goto ni on June 20th 6 C20 C rokugatsu hatsuka ni on Friday..  .... June 20th 6 C20 C>?@ rokugatsu hatsuka kinyoobi ni a week on Friday DB >?@ raishuu no kin-yoobi ni on arrival he went straight to his hotel EF G+H#I J(KL 12 toochaku suru to kare wa massugu ni hoteru e ikimashita on seeing this MN34Gkore wo miru to 4 (about.. O.. shooyoo de dekakete iru 3 (referring to time) .

ni kan shite information on train services PO QR ressha ni kan suru joohoo a book on physics. STU butsuri no hon  adv 1 (referring to dress) VW=.

mi ni tsukete to have one's coat on X'Y3F.

Z3F. kooto wo kite iru what's she got on? +.

\]^ 3_2 [`a3b2. cd3[ #2] kanojo wa buutsu wo haita (tebukuro wo hameta.[ . kanojo wa nani wo kite imasu ka she put her boots/gloves/hat on +. booshi wo kabutta) 2 (referring to covering): screw the lid on tightly e23#[ fb.

gh futa wo shikkari shimete kudasai 3 (further. continuously) i=.

1] i= aruki (kuruma dè hashiri. iki) tsuzukeru to read on kli= yomitsuzukeru  adj 1 (functioning. in operation: machine) m. tsuzukete to walk/drive/go on 1 [j.

TV. (:radio. light) W. ugoite iru.

 tsuite iru. (: faucet) no-.

(:brakes) [[#. mizu ga dete iru.

 kakatte iru. (: meeting) i.

(not cancelled) qrstuv7w[ kaigi wa yotei doori ni yarun desu ka there's a good film on at the cinema xyz{xy37#. tsuzuite iru is the meeting still on? (in progress) pqr.[ mada kaigichuu desu ka.

three hundred ‘keywords.’ function words and other very frequent words like ‘have’ and ‘be. In the Collins-Shubun. The flowers are on the table.’ In the case of our test sentence. Collins-Shubun gives the example It’s on the table (teburu ni arimasu) which immediately reminds us of our test sentence. eigakan de ima ii eiga wo yatte imasu 2: that's not on! (inf: of behavior) |N}=~w sore wa ikemasen Fig.’ were given the same ‘extended treatment. 26 Entry for on in Collins-Shubun. The trans- .

This is where the romanised Japanese-English part of the Martin’s dictionary comes in hand.128 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS lation is given both in romaji and in Japanese characters. with the help of Collins-Shubun. Since the example sentences do not include fixed expressions or idioms. Going back to our test-sentence. =. More likely. it confirms the information retrieved from Collins-Shubun. they are to convince Japanese learners of English that this dictionary was also intended for them. open 1. Since it mentions ‘it is (located)’ as one of the possible translations of arimasu. having to look up basic information of this kind. Open is more of a problem. the first tentative translation can be corrected into Hana wa teburu ni arimasu. however. Second test sentence Another Japanese example illustrating the dictionary problems of beginners is the sentence Is the bank open? Martin’s provides the translation for bank: ginko. akete) =. although it is not entirely clear what the kanji characters are for. I am afraid that is not true. they were obviously intended for non-Japanese who. will not be able to decipher the kanji anyway. learners could still doubt if arimasu is the right verb in this case. (=. One could argue that they accustom the user to these characters and add to the Japanese flavour. However. opens it akemasu (akeru.

.). hiraite) €1 (€. (opens it up) hirakimasu (hiraku.

(begins it) hajimemasu (hajimeru. ‚b. (‚b.). hajimete) ‚b.

.) 2. it opens akimasu (akui. . aite) 1.

‚#. hajimatte) ‚ (‚. (it begins) hajimarimasu (hajimaru..

shite) '–ƒ„ (.). . an event) opun shimasu (suru. a place.

kaijo shimasu (suru. .). shite) … (.

shite) †  (.). (a shop/business) kaiten shimasu (suru. .

(Strangely. mouth etc) 2 aita. eígyoochuu no. this dictionary does not mention open as an adj. . 27 Martin’s entry for open. (: shop.) Collins-Shubun tackles the problem as follows: open [ou'pen] adj. museum etc) ‡ˆ.) Fig. (not shut: window. door.

(unobstructed: road) v. aite iru.

(view) =2. hiráku . manner. (fig: frank: person. land)‰Š. debate. championship) Œ  vt =akéru. (not enclosed. (unrestricted: meeting.  kaítsuushite iru. face) ‹IŠ sótchoku na.

No indication is given as to the difference between these two possibilities. open can be translated by an adjective as well as by a transitive or intransitive verb.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 129 vi (flower. and studies an agglutinative language for the first time. . In the case of shops and museums. hiráku. Aite. shite). a way of avoiding the use of transitive and intransitive. however. eyes. This is not that much of a problem if one stays within the same family of languages. door. one can only venture to follow Collins-Shubun which results in: Ginko wa eigyochu no desu ka or Ginko wa aite imasu ka. According to Collins-Shubun. In order to confirm this. on the other hand. says the dictionary. but it might be very intricate indeed if one is accustomed to. the suitable form. 25 25 I have written some more on the case of Japanese in Humblé (1999). debate etc: commence) ‚hajaru in the open (air) Ž yagá ni an open car '„‘– ópùnkaa Fig. This shows clearly the fundamental importance of simple examples. This gives a new translation: Ginko wa aite imasu ka which is indeed the correct translation. shop) akú . the other by it opens. The main problem I had with translating Is the bank open? came down to knowing in what way open was lexicalised in Japanese. Since what we want to ask is not if the bank opens but if it is open. one headed by the expression opens it. which makes the information anything but helpful. A further subdivision leads to: “(a shop/business) kaiten shimasu (suru. All this shows a typical beginner’s problem: uncertainty as to what has to be looked up. since the dictionary does not show this possibility. inflectional languages. is eigyochu no or aite iru. (book. in great quantity. we go back to the Japanese-English part of Martin’s which tells us that eigyo means (running a) business! This seems to mean that eigyochu no does not apply to our case. appears to mean coming open and iru is the dictionary form of imasu (is or stays). for the beginning learner . for example. 28 Collins-Shubun’s entry for open  Martin’s entry for open has two sub-sections.” This entry induces learners to believe that the fact that something is open should be expressed by a verb and a complement and not by an adjective.

in. I’ll go without you. he gave it to me as a present Fig. (referring to manner) do as you wish. The example phrases are almost exclusively of the open-choice type and allow dictionary users to fill in the pattern with the words of their own message. since it is perfectly understandable if one knows what he. as from tomorrow 2. as much money/many books as. Secondly. There is indeed not much chance that a Japanese learner will look up (to decode) a sentence like he came in as I was leaving. 1. (concerning) as for/to that 6. The separate grammar part in Collins-Shubun at the end of the vol- . all things considered. he looked as if he was ill 7. (in the capacity of) he works as a driver. it appears that all beginners’ problems are somehow related to grammar: grammar at a macro level –the verb system in Japanese–. This is particularly useful for beginning learners who will seldom recognise the target item and will often learn it through a dictionary. as much/many as. as soon as 3. the examples are as follows (in the dictionary these examples are followed by their translation in Japanese. (in comparisons) as big as. a rather straightforward problem. (referring to time) as the years went by.130 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Function words A first conclusion that can be drawn from these experiences is that a beginning learner has to go back and forth a number of times to retrieve the information necessary to solve. since labels are unavoidably more abstract than examples. In terms of the micro level. he came in as I was leaving. both in kanji and romaji). showing that this dictionary. as chairman of the company. These examples contain only a few fixed expressions. as she said 5. if we look at these experimental look-ups. he…. and leaving mean. or at a micro level –function words. Collins-Shubun is admirable in its treatment of 300 keywords. targets English-speaking beginners. was. The adding of labels would in this particular case be superfluous. he left early as he had to be home by 10 4. I. in themselves clear enough. 29 As in Collins-Shubun English-Japanese Dictionary. because) as you can’t come. In the case of as (in English). The Martin’s team did not do enough research as to how the dictionary would be used in practice. (since. as. in fact. came.

*** Learners have modest aims when encoding into a language they have just started to study. i. but also by the use of the appropriate sequence of words. In an attempt to satisfy both encoders and decoders. Examples. they want to use grammatical metaphors. commercial considerations get in the way.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 131 ume is clear. This means they have modest demands in terms of content words and a pressing need for information on function words. In addition. from a pragmatic point of view. the appropriate expressions. The analysis of two Japanese dictionaries for beginners suggests that even in cases when it is obvious that a particular audience should be chosen. advanced learners have no morphological problems. a compromise was made. mean. This results in a lack of examples and poor treatment of very frequent and difficult words such as think. clever lexicographic projects are imperfectly carried out. 3.e. the information was not included in the appropriate spot. as a result. particularly for function words. an excellent concept was only partially carried out. The present dictionary contains 30. know. Collins-Shubun aimed at being ‘useful to the language student and the native speaker alike’ and. but since it is a print dictionary. etc. This dictionary could have been an ideal beginners’ paper dictionary had the lexicographers been allowed to concentrate on the English speaking audience. Encoding for Advanced Learners Ideally. the correct collocates and. far too many for (encoding) learners of Japanese and not enough for the (decoding) Japanese learners of English. without the flexibility of an electronic dictionary. they will proceed by comparing their sentence in their L1 to the ones listed under the form of examples.000 headwords. Advanced learners aim at a na- . Unfortunately. idioms and fixed expressions. Unfortunately. the highest stage in language learning is characterised not only by the use of the appropriate word. When choosing between several alternatives for a word. are of the utmost importance in this kind of dictionary since an encoding learner does not always have a clear idea of what is the item to be looked up.

false beginner.132 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS tive-like command of the foreign language. In others. the look-up process can be subdivided into the choice of the item and its usage. the possibility should not be excluded that a learner accesses the dictionary at any of these stages.e. Choice of the Item The process of choosing the appropriate equivalent in the target language will usually start by looking up the item in a bilingual dictionary. Japanese. learners may skip the choice stage if they are only interested in usage.e. What kind of dictionary would help them with this? Basically. an example. examples and definitions. Spanish.. In the second section. There are traditionally four ways to distinguish between various options: synonyms. modern and ancient Greek. Italian. German. random access to any of its component parts is taken for granted. i. i. As I have not found much literature on this subject. advanced. at least one is suited for each particular kind of item.. the odds are that the learner will be confronted with more than one translation option. In other words. Via the Source Language When proceeding via the source language. absolute beginner. I myself wrote down a number of my own look-ups in as many languages as I could handle. English. This will be the subject of this chapter’s first section. through a bilingual dictionary. Although all four have advantages and disadvantages. These stages will normally follow each other chronologically and in my argument I assume they do. I will concentrate on users who already have an idea of the target item and have the possibility of proceeding via the target language to refine their choice. and Danish. 1. Portuguese. intermediate. To be . or almost ignorant. a synonym in the source language will help the learner out. Latin. labels. French. Since I start from the presupposition that the dictionary of the future will be computer-based. proceed via the source language. These include Dutch. However. 1. These are languages in which I am a native speaker. In some cases. what follows draws basically on my own experience as a dictionary user and the experience of fellow dictionary users whom I have observed and interrogated over the last few years.

while the meaning of a function word depends on the cotext. the function word at has a dif- . value (Taylor. In English. of whatever kind. is decided on by referring to a semantic field. Portuguese-English Dictionary. synonyms and labels do. Examples. on the other hand. In dictionary terms. particular function words. in a broader sense. a stage for which most of the observations I formulated for decoding are valid. This is what examples and definitions and. the distinction between function and content words is again of some utility. the dictionary should propose the most adequate option first. Labels are often more abstract than the looked-up word when they give information on the semantic field to which the word belongs. there is a stage of decoding within the operation of encoding. even if the lexicographers choose to offer more than one. The moment users have located their item in the dictionary. as a whole. in order to enable users to make their choice. are highly complex and can be translated in a variety of ways. If the word to encode is avaliar and the dictionary suggests appraise. in a label. such as prepositions. The meaning of a content word tends to depend on the context. The two extremes of the spectrum are occupied by labels and by examples. what the dictionary has to do is to provide one. evaluate. The difference here is that encoding is. They all attempt to connect the unknown word with something the learner knows. The translation of a content word. give concrete information by providing users with a type of context which they will or will not recognise as the one they had in mind. or a synonym in the source language. 1963). a much more precise activity. such as pronouns. Since in a dictionary the particular context of the user is of course not included – while decoding users have their own text – . In Collins-Shubun. The information for the dictionary user can be of two kinds: abstract and concrete.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 133 effective. They can be of various degrees of abstraction. this means that the correct translation of a function word can be selected by putting it in an example followed by its translation. depending on the words which immediately follow. In order to distinguish between different lexical items from an encoding point of view. Others. encoders will have to decode these translations to see which one fits their context. on the other hand. are generally quite straightforward.

) are superfluous. etc. the greater the chances are that it can be translated in many different ways. sense disambiguation of function words can be attempted fruitfully by means of examples. ressort moral) go a long way towards disambiguating the possible translation options. In particular cases. rates. it is not clear at all in which language the synonyms should be. The labels which in this case accompany the examples (referring to position. each item should be examined in itself but. dossier. at 4 o’clock. as a rule. one can say that the more frequent a word is. at school. Linguistically. fermeté. related languages have a greater likelihood of being partially isomorphic. where the label refers to machinery – has some characteristics of a disambiguation 26 Hartmann (1981. medical). time. and of content words by means of labels. not much has been written on labels26 and I know of no publication which considers the matter for the specific case of foreign language lexicography. . 1983) and Osselton (1996) discuss related areas. In addition. etc. Another way of looking at the problem is by means of the item’s frequency. two encoding ones and two decoding ones. However. and culturally. micro.134 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS ferent translation depending on whether the co-text is: at the top. chauffage]” (Oxford-Hachette). the number of possible translations of a word depends on the target language. this is at present rarely done. but since current dictionaries have four possible audiences. This last modality – as in “régler (ajuster) to adjust [hauteur. or by means of another word which refers to it. a definition can help by stressing the specific features of a word as opposed to its synonyms. Labels I will call a label anything between brackets giving an indication of the meaning or the pragmatic appropriateness of a word. but the synonyms used in Collins-Robert (force physique. Synonyms in the source language are often useful. Clearly. agricultural. Allowing for a number of exceptions. to look at something. A content word like French énergie can be translated in several different ways into English. While they are extremely common. Meaning labels situate the item in a semantic field: directly (maritime.

half way towards an example. etc. the same dictionary separates the various senses by means of the following labels: indicating location. concerning. occupied with. at least formally. some kind of classification for the high number of examples in the entry. In the Oxford Spanish Dictionary. 25 Construir in the Oxford Spanish Dictionary. One can construir un edificio. and are rather straightforward. Seen from a grammatical point of view. (aviat. with measurements. construir una figura geométrica. In this case. (Ven). position. among others. the user was directed to four alternatives by an indication of the semantic field.). classification by means of labels has no other purpose than to provide..). Yet most users will simply go straight to the examples ignoring the labels. etc. (BrE). a noun to which the target adjective can apply.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 135 by means of an example. These labels are very effective at disambiguating the translation of a content word. In the case of function word at. Labels can be of various kinds: a reference to a semantic field. Labels of the pragmatic type indicate the word’s register by naming it: slang. indicating direction.). indicating state. construir un nuevo mundo to build a new world Fig. the following labels: (naut. the labels here are the direct objects of the translational equivalents in question. a verb which can be used with the target noun. archaic. The Oxford Spanish Dictionary uses. formal. (AmE). with superlative. etc. the two possible translations of construir (build and construct) were distinguished by means of the following labels: a ‹ edificio/barco/puente › to build b ‹ figura geométrica › to construct c ‹ frases/oraciones › to construct d ‹ sociedad/mundo › to build. (astrol. a noun which can be used with the target verb. rates. (Ven . because of. It is the type of example that learners have to ‘assemble’ themselves by using the label word in a made-up sentence. These are a few of the many other kinds of labels found in the Oxford Spanish Dictionary. In this case. and which are familiar to most people who have ever dealt with dictionaries: “(Teatr). numbers. The same technique would be useless if applied to a function word. indicating time.

these labels look somewhat like a scholastic exercise. Indications such as ‘de un árbol. personne. as practical as possible. (para la ropa). among others: anatomie.136 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS fam). or an organ of communication. Any disambiguation which requires from the user a supplementary effort of abstraction contradicts the dictionary’s aim of being a mere tool. (argot). comme organe de communication. One should question whether users in search of a translation for oreille will start asking themselves if in their case oreille refers to something anatomical. a faculty of hearing.’ arg. are intended for encoding Spanish speakers. (colloq). The entry for demander (in its transitive sense) in Oxford-Hachette gives an example of a pragmatic approach. the indications sl (slang). They are almost the same as in Oxford-Hachette: anatomie. labels which are intended to help with decoding have been mixed with labels intended for encoding. should therefore prevail and publishers should let lexicographers be guided more by Hermann Rorschach than by Saint Thomas Aquinas. (crit). This is one type of incoherence that results from targeting more than one audience. concretising should be preferred. which is the reason why they are in Spanish. some to what the word applies to. and some indicate the level of formality. (Dep). (Ven arg). Strangely enough. concrete and abstract. labels come in two varieties. (BrE sl). This is mostly a word related to the field they are dealing with. (en costura). they look for something they recognise that is connected to what they want to express. (AmS vulg). ouïe. They orient the user not only to the right translation in terms of meaning. I will illustrate this ex absurdo by means of an example of the opposite.. Whenever possible.” Some of these labels refer to a geographical area. although English speakers of the kind who use dictionaries should know if the English word is slang or formal. and crit (criticised usage) are in English. ouïe. When users are in search of an item. Any reference that ‘rings a bell’ has been used: . but also of appropriateness. (Méx). Unfortunately.’ ‘del queso. (para el pelo). Concrete and abstract As I stated. (AmE sl). A practical approach which gives the user supplementary information. of any kind. In the entry for oreille in Collins-Robert the labels are. colloq (colloquial). In this case. (de un cangrejo).

Thus synonyms should be used according to each case and not applied to every entry as a rule. tâche] [effort. médecin. prêtre]. texte] (…) 7. However. I do not think orthodoxy agrees well with the diversity of lexis. obliging them to apply the same rule to each and every word. (solliciter) [conseil. the user finds: plain synonyms.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 137 1.(enjoindre) (…) 3. droit [tribunal] [peine. aide. (interroger sur) (…) 5. They are difficult to use in the case of subtle differences. contrastive information is the key to a learner-oriented dictionary. souhaiter. list. the object of what can be asked for (conseil. expertise]. and dictionary users will find it hard to decide in which category their intended meaning falls. the circumstances (tribunal). [attention]. faire venir. 26 Demander in Oxford-Hachette. A flexible kind of approach such as the one applied in Oxford-Hachette and others. (dans une offre d’emploi) (…) 2. (faire venir) [médecin. animal]. (souhaiter) (…) 4. In this entry. . this may require a considerable effort of reflection from the user. qualification]. argent. permission]. interroger sur. [sujet. The entry for demander in OxfordHachette lists the following synonyms: solliciter. It should go as far as adapting the treatment of a word to the language to which it is translated. and if the problem item refers itself to an abstract entity and is also a verb. (nécessiter) [travail. as in all other aspects of dictionary making. enjoindre. Here. The limits between these distinctions are tenuous. etc. these synonyms will necessarily have to be superordinates. the type of labels has been adapted to the item in question. Synonyms Another way of differentiating the possible translations of an item is through synonyms in the source language. Synonyms are quick and efficient ways of distinguishing senses when these are as clearly distinct as in table: piece of furniture. [dommages-intérêts] (…) Fig. nécessiter. [plante. (dans son bureau) (au téléphone) (…) 6. attention. The lexicographers were not guided by any kind of orthodoxy. Remarkably.). [personne] [divorce]. should inform all dictionary making.

I will here limit myself to highlighting the main features of their disambiguating function. internal polysemy does not necessarily mean external polysemy. This will not be so easy for external polysemy – quelque chose as anything or something – in which native speakers are generally not aware of the different senses of the word. in the case of beginning encoders.138 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS This brings us back to the phenomenon of internal and external polysemy. . examples are vital and should consist of frequent phrases. the situation is different. ‘diamonds’ indicate the frequency of a word. impudent (1) terse (1) dispersion (1) mod (1) ellipse (1) shirk (1) As this list suggests. however. To distinguish between the various translations of form in Portuguese (20 senses in Cobuild2. or sentences with frequent words. In the following list. When native speakers are aware that a word has more than one meaning – table (and chairs) vs. 53 possible translations in Houaiss’ 27 In Cobuild2. 27 Illustrative table of a few word frequencies indicated in number of diamonds. As I have already spent a few pages analysing the problem of examples. the more ‘diamonds’ the more frequent the word. no diamond27 1 diamond seducer (1) raven (2) pristine (1) orchard (1) 2 diamonds ratio (1) Carve (5) covering justified polite (2) (1) (2) 3 diamonds justify (1) massive (2) neutral (9) pipe (7) prior (4) 4 diamonds finger (16) indicate (6) liberal (4) movie (2) print (20) 5 diamonds form (20) half (16) go (49) nothing test (13) (18) Fig. but it is a strong indication that a word has more than one translation. (time) table – translation disambiguation by means of synonyms will be successful. Examples Examples direct learners towards a particular translation by putting the word in a co-text which they can compare to their own. As I argued before. For advanced learners. I give a random sample of words with their frequency (according to Cobuild 2). Between brackets is the number of senses listed for each word in the dictionary. and (between brackets) number of senses.

The less frequent a word is. The more the meaning of a word depends on the co-text. dependency on the co-text to indicate the meaning of a word is directly proportional to its possibility of appearing in an idiom or a fixed expression. and the context. This is the wordiest way of proceeding and should therefore be reserved for particularly intricate cases such as words for which there exists only one equivalent in the source language. examples might help but will be far less effective than a label. However. For instance. . in the case of raven (two possible translations: ‘corvo’ and ‘cabelo preto’). the more examples will help to distinguish different options.28 The ability of examples to distinguish between different meanings of words is directly proportional to their frequency. Here again the link between audience and content of a dictionary emerges clearly: beginners need the translation of frequent words differentiated by means of examples. In these cases the difference has to be explained and cannot always be glossed over with a label or a synonym in the source language29. Japanese college dictionaries have been doing this admirably for many years and Cambridge Word Selector does something similar. sustituir can be translated by substitute and replace. This of course regards the differentiation of translation equivalents and does not mean advanced learners do not need examples. Indeed. the more it has a meaning independent from the co-text. Definitions A fourth possibility of distinguishing between various translation equivalents is through a definition. In practice. The more frequent a word is. The difference between substitute and replace does not coincide with sustituir and reemplazar. advanced learners need infrequent words differentiated by means of labels or synonyms. the more it tends to rely on the co-text to acquire meaning and the greater is the probability that an example will be able to give an idea of its meaning. Spanish cambiar can be translated by alter or change. examples would be very effective since the meaning of form will depend to a large extent on the co-text. advanced learners get used to looking up a word in a 28 29 This is fully discussed in Chapter 4.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 139 Dicionário Inglês-Português).

between job and post. lugs. for instance. VB com OBJ Se você lug um objeto pesado. for instance. A reminder of how the Portuguese-English Bridge Bilingual uses both English and Portuguese: lug. However. the Activator makes the following introductory distinctions. lugging. it is predictable that other learner’s dictionaries will start adopting similar strategies in the future. Cambridge International Dictionary has been criticised for the way in which it introduced contrastive information in its first edition. lugged. . there is a possibility that it will not be entirely understood by the learner. The dictionary exhibits explanations of this kind on every page. all in Japanese. and many others. The Activator tackles the task of defining each alternative quite well despite occasional unhelpful abstractions. Proceed Japanese-English Dictionary explains the differences between declare.140 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS bilingual dictionary and then looking for additional information in a monolingual dictionary. somewhat along the lines of the Portuguese-English Bridge Bilingual . She lugged the suitcase out into the hallway. but one can imagine a bilingual dictionary using its type of definitions in order to distinguish between translations. proclaim and pronounce. A definition in the source language could be more helpful in cases of subtle differences and where the distinction made in the target language does not exist in the source language. and dictionaries will have to adapt to this . this would be more effective if both were in the same volume and if the definition followed the translation. In the case of improve. 30 Longman Language Activator is a monolingual dictionary. uso informal. It is different to learn English if you are Brazilian or Malay. If this definition is in the target language. What enables the Proceed’s authors to do this with so much conviction is that they know precisely who their audience is and what their problems are with very specific items. você o carrega com dificuldade. However. 31 30 31 Nesi (1994) refers to this issue.

In this case.’ but streamline is not contrasted with upgrade. but they will probably split up into minor areas and focus more on specific languages. to make a situation. Streamline is defined as ‘to improve a system or process by…. less difficult etc. The advantage of a bilingual dictionary would be the smaller number of synonyms from which to distinguish. 6. it seems rather unlikely that learners will choose their particular sense of improve from this rather abstract list. On must admit that the task is hugely difficult since the differences between make something better. The concept is excellent and really thought out with the users’ needs in mind. they should only in specific cases be used to disambiguate synonyms. for lexicographer and learner alike. more enjoyable etc. brush up and clean up (among others) are evident for native speakers. quality. The Activator perpetuates a tradition of “English dictionaries for speakers of any language” that has been useful until recently. to become better in standard or quality 2. Definitions are useful distinguishing synonyms (modernise/upgrade). a change or addition that improves something Fig. more enjoyable. to make something better by making changes. In these sections. but difficult to master for learners. or someone’s life better and more interesting. . fine-tune. One of the problems is that the different alternatives are defined in relationship to the hyponym. the definitions of the synonyms themselves that render the idea of improvement are as clear as humanly possible. Even so.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 141 IMPROVE 1. not to the other synonyms. In this case. ways of saying that a situation or someone’s life becomes better. If a Brazilian learner wanted a translation for aprimorar she or he would have to choose between refine and perfect and would not have to start from the hyponym improve. working harder etc. 3. On the other hand. the alternatives correspond each to a different section. to keep improving something that is already good until you make it perfect 5. several synonyms are suggested. 4. except when different translation options are the result of polysemy (lead (metal) and lead (guide)).’ upgrade is defined as ‘to improve something such as machinery …. a simple translation would mean much less work. in which the equivalents in the target language are completely different. Since definitions place more demand on the learner’s powers of abstraction. 28 Improve in Longman Language Activator.

indeed bear the subtitle A Dictionary of Synonyms. elements of a definition. number of syllables. or a fixed expression. or by using an idiomatic expression. A thesaurus presupposes that there is already a word in the mind of the learner.’ combined with an indication of its semiotic meaning ‘dis32 In the Hallidayan sense of the word (Halliday. lack of precision. A learner should be allowed to input ‘generous’ and ‘fight’ as a collocate and be presented with the word magnanimous. such as the Concise Oxford Thesaurus. 32 Some of the publications now on the market which are termed ‘thesaurus’ could just as well be called synonym dictionaries and some. Furthermore. or want to turn their passive knowledge active. Advanced learners often have a good idea of what they want to say in the target language. In what follows I consider a thesaurus to be any book which lists synonyms together with some supplementary information. without knowing the word itself. they will necessarily start from some kind of target language input.142 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 2. For a number of advanced learners the ideal dictionary may be an improved kind of thesaurus. This information can be in the form of an example. regional variant. learners may have an idea of the definition of the word they are looking for. Finding a Word Starting from its Definition Let us imagine a situation in which learners have an idea of some of the components of the definition of a lexical item they are looking for and of the words they collocate with. but that this word is inadequate for some reason: register. or a combination of these elements. gestures (‘something you do with your fingers to show approval’). a metaphor. These input words could include descriptions of physical gestures such as ‘forward. In this case. Via the Target Language More advanced learners may prefer to obtain their information directly via the target language. or a nonalphabetical classification. sounds. This can be of various kinds: a superordinate. but may want to express themselves either in a more formal way. To be able to do this kind of search would be particularly useful for advanced learners who only have difficulty remembering an item. congruent . a label. or ‘abundant’ and ‘give’ as a collocate and get lavish. 1994) . metaphorical.

verb. or your bottom lip. however. not include very infrequent words. this means one has to use the phrase not pleased instead of discontented. .. etc. The difficulty is. inspired by the French expression ‘être d’une grande utilité’ and the Dutch ‘een grote hulp zijn. congruent definition for the word like the one Oxford Wordpower gives for pout: “to push your lips.” The electronic Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus and Random House Webster’s have a feature which allows users to search the definitions for specific words. and be given a list of possibilities. go to movement then to forward. In a computer based dictionary this could rather easily be remedied since a synonym dictionary can be used to reduce the user’s needs for a particular definition.’ There must be a way of saying this in English along the lines of: — are of great help — are of great use — are of great utility — are a great help — are a big help Learners should be allowed to look up ‘help’ + ‘utility’ for the dictionary to give them the right expression under several forms: formal.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 143 content’ and the search should yield pout. i. the definition stored in the dictionary/thesaurus should be of a kind learners themselves would be able to formulate. Of course this presupposes that there is some kind of simple. that the learner has to use exactly the same words as those that were used in the definition. for instance. Using the same principle. Suppose that a learner. informal.’ wants to express the ill-formulated idea: ‘the encyclopaedias are of great help. a learner could find the right collocate. then to irritation or discontent or not pleased. metaphor. In the case above with Oxford Wordpower.e. Additionally. A typical learner’s question could be: ‘Does one really say draw the curtains?’ It would be useful to be able to click on the word curtain. Next is another example of a problem which a thesaurus could solve. then to choose between adjective. On the other hand. etc. a more analytical and even playful method would be to start from lips. plain. vulgar. forward to show that you are not pleased about something.

one has to be entirely sure of the implications of the alternative option. Collins Thesaurus offers the following alternatives: ‘bloke (Brit. If native speakers are targeted here. The result is a very clear overview of all . For most learners. One could contrast the Collins Thesaurus with Roget’s.). translating cara in Portuguese. How do native speaker thesauruses tackle this question? In the case of a word such as man. however. Learners often know the formal. For a non-native speaker in search of a more informal way of referring to a man –for instance. they might find a particular alternative in the thesaurus of which they were at first unable to think. the latter is well adapted to their specific needs: not to learn the word. The Random Webster’s Thesaurus is meant for native speakers but is helpful for L2 learners because it is a thesaurus that separates the senses by means of an example. this list will surely help. word for what they want to say. only to recall it starting from the idea. Foreigners using informal expressions in formal contexts and vice-versa are a frequent source of jokes in academic circles. to be sure whether the register of the word they are about to use is right. gentleman. mec in French.). guy (Inf. Specifically in English. chap (Inf. it is unclear whose problem this indication of “informal” is supposed to solve. before doing so.” Once again. inf.’ If the learner had a memory laps. a thesaurus user is an encoding user and she or he has to be very sure that the word she or he is going to use is the right word. bloke and chap remains hazardous if no supplementary information is supplied. It is a typical task for a thesaurus to eliminate this kind of confusion. and inf. a learner would often prefer a phrasal verb rather than Latin equivalent. But in this case the indications Brit. Published several times and directed exclusively at native speakers. Typically. or neutral. the precise difference between a bloke and a chap will not be clear if the only supplementary information they get is the indication “informal. are superfluous since a native speaker knows if they are informal or typically British. However. tío or tipo in Spanish. and so on– the choice between guy. male. even advanced ones. but would like to sound more vernacular. This supplementary information would have to be looked up in another dictionary.).144 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Varying the Register It is extremely difficult for learners.

anyone. 300 entries cover between 1500 and 1600 synonyms. 34 for Mann. male retainer. When appropriate there is a clear explanation of each word’s register. worker. spouse. Every man must follow his own beliefs: individual. human beings. male follower. husband.“ There are 6 examples for Mannsbild. waiter. human being. take one’s place at. liegeman. Although the Thesaurus does not contain any register indications sufficiently explicit to help out L2 non-native speakers. employee. equip. Homo sapiens. gentleman. subject. Slang guy. Man cannot live by bread alone: mankind. The average man is taller than the average woman: male. Native speakers use a thesaurus to recognise words. day laborer. making this thesaurus exemplary as a learner’s thesaurus. person. Fig. someone. v. boy. Mannsbild. somebody. helper. Rudolf Meldau recognised and successfully tackled this problem in his thesaurus Schulsynonymik der deutschen Sprache. and in computer . The information for Mannsbild. soul.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 145 the possibilities. Its design shows that the author had a clear idea of his audience’s needs. 1. It does this more effectively than a definition would. staff. meist abschätzig. Hire a man to take care of the garden: handyman. supply with hands. The crew was ordered to man the lifeboats: attend. Kerl. The minister pronounced them man and wife: married man. for instance. right-hand man. assistant. living soul. To be really practical. people. humankind. fellow. is: “fig. there is a wealth of examples that help situate the word in its register. selten bewundernd. still something can be learned from it: man n. the human race. 3. footman. one. 4. 5. 6. Umgangssprache. living being. take up one’s position in. male servant. people. These kinds of examples –common to a number of dictionaries– does not give the meaning of the word but only help to disambiguate its various senses. workman. get to one’s post. humanity. 2. hired hand. chap. for the indication slang for guy and gent is too vague for L2 learners and hence superfluous. men and women. henchman. a comparable number for Herr and Kerl. Apart from this. laborer.. fit out. 29 Man in Webster’s Thesaurus. masculine person. furnish with men. manservant. outfit. Under Mann one finds Herr. hand. while still proving that native speakers are the intended audience. butler. Informal hubby. human. gent. and learners use them to learn new words. garrison.

One would start from man and ask for something “less formal. 30 Man in an L2 learner-oriented thesaurus.” etc. provided there is a huge number of instances. Advanced learners. and examples would complement the information. is often not enough. Although metaphors are language specific. working class) ! modern ! guy ! critical ! fellow ! slightly old-fashioned ! chap (middle and upper-class) Fig. on the other hand. even if well chosen and translated. Changing from Congruent to Metaphoric The main task of an advanced learner’s dictionary is to help learners ‘complicate’ their messages. Beginning learners have limited ways of expressing themselves and tend to adapt their message to what they are able to say. Making their messages less congruent is one way of doing this. each of them mentioning one of its different lexical realisations. Only a corpus can provide this. ! formal !common The difference between a native speaker’s and a learner’s thesaurus resides in the amount of information necessary to distinguish between several options. a superordinate should be surrounded by boxes on which to click. One example illustrating an option. Advanced learners are able to evaluate the tenor of a word by its context. It would look like this: man ! gentleman use ! scientific (human beings) ! male ! as a type ! male ! informal ! American ! guy ! British ! modern ! bloke (esp. but they cannot give a correct idea of a word’s use for advanced learners. Native discourse is pervaded by metaphors. have a message and study its most adequate wording. The area of metaphors is virtually unexplored in foreign language lexicography.” or ”more scientific.” ”vulgar. languages often use metaphors for the same phenomena and there are certain areas which are more susceptible to being encoded by means of a metaphor . Made-up examples are certainly justified in the case of beginners. Here the use of authentic material seems to be the best choice since it is precisely in the area of register that made-up examples are weakest.146 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS terms.

Halliday calls expressions such as ‘use one’s mind. turn over in the mind. no veo ni gota. make the subject of one’s thought.’ ‘a des maux de tête.’ ‘apply the mind. keep in mind. no available dictionaries which do this kind of translation. but one has to pick them out individually. although the elements to compile one are already contained in the many native speaker’s thesauruses currently on the market. me importa tres pimientos. use one’s wits. contemplate. these expressions are essential for anyone aiming at native-like proficiency in Brazilian Portuguese and a learner’s thesaurus can give the user easy access to this information. ‘talking’ (falada/faladinha). ruminate. ‘Not to see anything’ is an example of a universal metaphorisation (I can’t see a thing.’ ‘dar uma esperadinha.’ ‘aan de beurt zijn’ (‘to be one’s turn’) grammatical metaphors.’ ‘my head hurts. remember. (my emphasis) Fig. recollect.’ ‘take a walk. They are essential for anybody aiming at a native-like fluency since they are the normal native speaker’s way of talking. However. ponder. Grammatical metaphors. 31 Think in Webster’s Thesaurus.’ etc. dwell on. passim) would call grammatical metaphors. advanced learners feel the need to use grammatical metaphors.).’ ‘heeft hoofdpijn.. There are. I do not know of any language apart from Portuguese where you can ‘give a (little or normal size of) waiting’ ‘holding’ (dar uma esperadinha/esperada).’ ‘hat Kopfschmerzen. meditate. Ch. Here is the entry for think: reason. In addition to metonymies. In a learner’s thesaurus one should be allowed to input the congruent expression and get the metaphorical one. etc. ‘not to care about something’ (I don’t give a damn. het kan mij geen barst schelen. Likewise. je n’y vois goutte. cogitate. recall. . não estou nem aí).AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 147 than others. unlike metaphors in the strict sense of the word. might not exist in every language for the same activities. There are certain areas for which one instinctively feels there must be a metaphorical and thus more natural expression. ik zie geen fluit. One ‘has a headache. (segurada/seguradinha). rack one’s brain. je m’en fous. não vejo bulufas. have in mind. Webster’s Thesaurus dedicates special attention to metaphorical expressions. but in Japanese the more common way to say it is ‘atama ga itai desu. mull over. deliberate.’ even if the metaphorical way exists. 10. to the best of my knowledge. reflect. including what Halliday (1994. brood.

and say black as pitch and lively as a cricket. are rather well documented because they are so obviously typical of each language and are recognised as such by its speakers. e. Similarly. a learner will consult a dictionary. Nevertheless. The ideal thesaurus should allow a learner to find a fixed expression by inputing a few words. which we can consider a kind of fixed expression. There is no reason why think hard should mention eyebrows as in quemarse las cejas. It presupposes listing the fixed expressions of a language and defining them in terms of words which would be used to call them up. by using fixed expressions. .g. The problem with finding fixed expressions in a monolingual dictionary is that. Current idiom dictionaries – as fixed expressions are also called – list the idioms according to their components. This procedure is not very different from finding a word through its definition. probably the entry mill.. parking one’s car. Similes. which makes these dictionaries useless for learners. Previously. defeat to meet your Waterloo and disagree should lead to be at odds with. although the ideas which can be expressed in this way often coincide. or through a sticky patch. The fact that such an evidently useful and easily realisable tool is not yet on the market is indicative of the lack of research into the needs of advanced learners. yet I know of no electronic dictionary which has even begun to develop this feature. or neurones as in queimar neurônios. To understand what go through the mill means. What is lacking is a dictionary allowing the learner to encode go through difficult times as go through the mill. English-speaking people are aware that not necessarily everyone on this planet thinks of pitch as the epitome of black nor of a cricket as the quintessence of liveliness. Formulas There is a long-standing tradition of dictionary appendixes that deal with another kind of fixed expressions which could be classified as formulas and are a kind of idiom in the Sinclairian sense of the word. and indeed all the bilingual dictionaries I consulted mentioned the expression. not their meaning. there is a fair chance that a language has a fixed expression for think hard as opposed to the activity of.148 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Fixed Expressions Non-native speakers can sound less congruent when communicating in a foreign language. Yet the English do. In my experience. their lexicalisation is different.

In its appendix. Although it is now generally accepted that lexis and grammar are a whole which . Starting from the source language. the problem here is the user interface. a more realistic option could be to include these formulas in the body of the dictionary where the input of two or more words would lead the dictionary to suggest the rest. Offers. but this section has been expanded lately to fixed expressions based on an analysis of the functions of language. if any. Usage of the Item Once the item is selected. which learner will think first of the statement they want to produce as an expression of the ‘mechanics of argument. exactly as current electronic dictionaries with a browse-feature. for instance. There is a strong possibility that. The list of functions and their wording as they appear in Collins-Robert is the most complete one I know and is very valuable. Yet. For instance. 2. In order to retrieve the information in the dictionary she or he has to elevate that level. Collins-Robert lists Suggestions. attention must be paid to its usage. which I call the ‘triangle problem.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 149 dictionaries would limit themselves to formulas used in letters. il semble cependant qu’…’? This is a recurring problem in lexicography. Requests. of the kind learners aiming at a native-like fluency should try to master. unless there is no other way of doing it or skipping it.’ then pass on to the section ‘moderating a statement’ to find ‘Sans vouloir critiquer cette façon de procéder. to the level of abstraction she or he started from. there is no reason why the formula cannot be included under the entry for think. To find the correct translation that has the same level of abstraction (chat). say. Advice. only to come back down afterwards. alongside more conventional items like Correspondence and Announcements. communicate verbally in an informal way. a learner has in mind the Portuguese verb papear. However. The problem could be dealt with as Sinclairian idioms. given in Collins German Dictionary as a way to Argumente abschwächen (soften arguments). since this is what these formulas are. this learner has to raise the level of abstraction to. allows very few variations. Instead of this. in the other language. This is a mental operation which most encoding learners are reluctant to perform.’ The dictionary user has in mind an expression at a certain level of abstraction. No doubt this is very valuable information.

I see two possibilities. combining various types of information. and this information can be transmitted implicitly or explicitly depending on the case and on the learner’s personal preferences.150 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Halliday qualifies as a lexico-grammar. and I will now give a few examples of each together with how I think the dictionary should handle each of these problems. choosing the item and learning how it should be inserted into a text has purely formal aspects which the dictionary should teach. The explicit way to transmit collocational information is to list all the lexical items that combine with the item in the target language. 1. This is a pattern which may have some meaning within the context of the Japa- . Different kinds of examples. The implicit way of transmitting this information is through examples. These rules intertwine to various degrees with the meaning of the item and I am aware of Sinclair and Francis’s work on this issue (Francis. Explicit Information Syntax For the purpose of this book. syntax is a set of rules which governs the use of a lexical item within a sentence. These formal aspects of encoding refer mainly to syntax and collocates. 1996). the pattern ‘because followed by a verb’ is translated by the formula [nazenara … <verb in dictionary form> kara desu]. *** In Japanese. The explicit way to transmit information on syntax is to list with every word the ‘formula’ of its use – the constraints to which it is subjected. I will discuss the advantages of a few of them for the purpose of encoding. meaningful and meaningless syntax. whereas in other cases these rules may be arbitrary in themselves. In some cases they are likely to appear to a learner as arbitrary and simply typical of a particular language. although intimately meaning-related. I suggest that the way in which the dictionary should handle each of these cases will depend on the category to which these items belong. were described above.

indulge means something different and. that this is a strong case in favour of the use of authentic examples. on the other hand. So much so. s’offrir. however. In the second situation. se faire plaisir. this is of little concern to encoding dictionary users and this sort of information should not hamper their queries. and pronominally. verb + noun. se livrer à. ‘meaningless’ question. but only secondarily. but for the learner it is a purely technical. a simple formula should orient the learner. but examples are much more important.g. e. in French the translation equivalent for each of these patterns is a different word : céder à. The information conveyed by syntax is so subliminal and subtle that no lexicographer is capable of grasping it in all its complexities. Examples are needed here. or particular information concerning specific items under the appropriate entries. this is essential information. and in large quantity. the dictionary should explicitly provide the ‘formula. boire de l’alcool. donner libre cours à.’ along with a few illustrative examples. If the dictionary only gives a number of examples of the Japanese construction for because. authentic. se faire une gâterie en faisant….AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 151 nese language. the cotext reveals this. Although there is a remote connotation of ‘unreality’ involved in the use of the subjonctif. In other cases. examples are still important. syntax is intimately intertwined with the word’s meaning. these might not make the learner aware of the fact that the verb has to be in the dictionary form (and not in the -masu. I am very much in favour of considering a dictionary a word-based tool in the sense that every word –it should ideally be . nai. indulge is used in the patterns: verb + in + noun. a dictionary should provide explicit information. when syntax conveys meaning. *** Information on syntax is typical of production dictionaries and can be found in two forms: general information in a separate part of the dictionary. In this case as well. which should be given explicitly. Yet. meaning which would emerge if one did a special research on the subject. In this case.. explicit information can be given. or -ta form). In English. se laisser tenter. In the case of items of arbitrary syntax. gâter. An example in French is the use of the subjonctif after verbs expressing will. such as in the case of indulge. -te. Indeed. In each of these constructions.

lack of space. they will recognise the one that goes with it and applies to the context at hand. which lists 4000 nouns with their possible adjectives. The understandable reason for this is. show in which con- . this is: when a word’s syntax has no bearing on its meaning (as in the syntactical constraints of because in Japanese). when the syntax indications are not followed by an illustrative example. and not under other headings. Mikhail’s Dictionary of Appropriate Adjectives. can be highly effective. concentrating everything in the entries. particularising all the information so as to fit specific lexical items. This is likely to change with electronic dictionaries. although the ones published to date still follow the print tradition. Collocations Collocations are a neglected problem. Although the advent of corpora should have made it easier to deal with the issue. Advanced learners often have a vast passive knowledge and simple solutions as E. Examples could additionally dispel any doubts. by definition.152 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS ‘every word-form’–. H.e. This explicit way of giving information on collocates can be even more helpful than examples. Explicit syntax indications in a dictionary are controversial because of their necessarily abstract and compact character.. 1. there does not seem to be much awareness of its importance. Collocates consist. Syntax indications should therefore not be used indiscriminately but only when they really help and are vital to show how a word must be used. dictionary users are instinctively put off by grammar because it demands a fair amount of mental effort and one cannot always be sure it is the best way of coping with a specific item’s problems. implicit syntax information in the form of examples will be more efficient than a grammatical formula. Implicit Information: Examples Examples are a key feature for encoding learners. as always. Furthermore. They can make the explanation of the meaning of a word more precise. (as in the case of indulge). If not. some users will not consider it worth the effort. It is therefore likely that if advanced learners want to use a word. i. and abbreviations are partly to blame for some of the dictionary’s unpopularity. of the words which occur most often with the target word. However.

aimed at intermediate students. authentic.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 153 texts it is used. As I said before. At the same time they also taught something about the syntax of the word. does not give more than three examples per word. In chapter 3 I discussed the current situation of examples and established a few criteria. a learner needs an enormous number of examples to be able to use a word correctly. but perhaps not for the rest of the lexis. The distinction between made-up and authentic is clear. House and home are frequent words translated by casa in Portuguese. However. and controlled. in this sense. I will now concentrate on how different kinds of examples can specifically assist encoding. made-up examples presume the lexicographer knows the learners’ problems and what learners should be taught. Below are the examples for house in the Oxford Wordpower. The first examples of the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary were supposed to confirm and corroborate definitions. They were. This may be true for the most frequent senses of the most frequent words. which claims to concentrate on encoding. authentic examples Made-up examples are the most common type and until recently they were the only ones available. Made-up vs. . It is unlikely that these words will be looked up more by advanced learners than by beginners. Even the Longman Language Activator. For the purpose of encoding I distinguish three kinds of examples: made-up. and this is often not enough. what the collocates are and what its syntax is. ‘Controlled’ examples are those retrieved from publications such as encyclopaedias and other reference works which target not only a native-speaker audience. decoding aids.

You may rent a house from somebody or let it out to somebody else. at least not if the dictionary is aimed at beginning students. meagre is. a onediamond frequency word and live off is probably not more frequent. In the first example. it fulfils the function that paradigmata fulfil in traditional Latin grammar teaching. in Cobuild‘s own classification. The example We’ve only just moved into our new house and it doesn’t feel like home yet reinforces this teaching point. The example Let’s go home to my flat is better because it illustrates the helpful comment on the distinction house-home. Cobuild2 includes the following ones for the first sense of house: She has moved to a small house and is living off her meagre savings. 32 Cobuild2 examples for the first sense of house. allowing learners to make grammatically correct if not very natural sentences. . 31 Examples for house in the Oxford Wordpower. A house is just a building: We’ve only just moved into our new house and it doesn’t feel like home yet. cottage and flat. 2[usually singular] all the people who live in one house Don’t shout. authentic examples do not fulfil any immediately evident purpose. …her parents’ house in Warwickshire. clearly the lexicographers’ intention. Particularly in the case of very frequent words like house. Fig. Your home is the place where you live. do up. This is not a very natural sentence either but it shows the distinguishing features of the words home and house. The examples for home counterbalance this with the example That old house would make an ideal family home. However. The first example seems rather inadequate. Fig. It is presumably not a very natural example. even if it is not a house: Let’s go home to my flat. Your home is also the place where you feel that you belong.154 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 1a building that is made for one family to live in Is yours a four-bedroomed or a three-bedroomed house? Note: Look at bungalow. redecorate or extend a house. The word bedroomed is more difficult than house and the structure Is yours a…? must sound a bit strange even to intermediate students. If learners learn by heart Let’s go home to my flat. You can build. You’ll wake the whole house up. If you want to move house you go to an estate agent. it is unlikely they will ever say Let’s go house to my flat.

Moreover. Encyclopaedia examples have the advantage of being authentic while also providing a broader context for the word at hand. the language used in this kind of example is midrange. that the superiority of authentic examples shows clearly. 33 Impetus in Oxford Wordpower. Any foreigner looking up impetus for encoding reasons supposedly knows what the word means. fresh. Fig. they are a fast way of providing a great number of examples. and an example illustrating only what the definition says is not of much use. sustain. No reference is made to home and none of the examples make clear the difference between house and home. The entry in the Oxford Wordpower is: impetus noun [uncountable] [singular] something that encourages something else to happen I need fresh impetus to start working on this essay again. The following are only five of the 140 examples which the Grolier Encyclopaedia came up with for infrequent impetus: . but can be found by means of several CD-Rom encyclopaedias. Impetus is a very low frequency word.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 155 The second example is too short to be helpful. both from the point of view of the register and the difficulty of the language. strong. not on meaning. This example has probably been made up. which should be utterly simple– . They are not being used by any dictionary –or CD-Rom with a dictionary coupled to an encyclopaedia. etc. It is when made-up examples are used for less frequent words. I find ‘controlled examples’ to be very useful. add. Although not conceived for this purpose. and at the most wants to confirm this knowledge. This kind of learner needs information on syntax and collocates (gain. Controlled examples As a kind of authentic examples. An authentic example would inevitably carry that sort of information and an authentic corpus has lots of them for most words.).

If a learner has any doubt about the meaning. 34 Five examples for impetus in the Grolier Encyclopaedia. there is not much chance a learner would make a regis- . The first one reads like a newspaper article. the examples themselves are not learner-friendly since there is no way a learner can gauge with any certainty the type of publication – or speech – these examples come from. Although Bacon was not a great scientist. we can compare these examples to the two Cobuild2 impetus examples. learners will have difficulty finding out whether impetus is a suitable word for their particular context. provide. which they would have difficulty collecting from learner's dictionaries. In the wake of the abortive coup d’etat attempted by hard-line political elements in the USSR in mid-August 1991 the three Baltic States received new impetus in their struggle for independence. he gave impetus to the development of modern inductive science. They are of course authentic as well. a cylindrical balloon driven by propellers. by the first primitive airplanes gave impetus to the development of military air forces. and more important. Apart from the fact that two examples may be too few to start using any new word with sufficient confidence. or the range of applicability of the item. whereas the second one sounds like fiction. (Francis Bacon) Fig. which can monitor external conditions and make appropriate adjustments to a system. (Automation. add further. as I hope to show below. added further impetus to the applications of automation.156 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 1. (Baltic States) 5. (Asian Americans) 3. 35 Examples for impetus in Cobuild2. uncomplicated syntax. By contrast.) 4. she or he can read as much of the context as required (and consult the built-in dictionary). use an advanced type of vocabulary and provide learners with a number of collocates (give. The development of digital computers. The California GOLD RUSH of the 1850s provided the impetus for the initial wave of immigrants from China. receive new). (Air Force) 2. These five randomly chosen examples all obey a regular. In spite of this and because impetus happens to belong to a rather formal register. This decision will give renewed impetus to the economic regeneration of East London… She was restless and needed a new impetus for her talent. but of a totally different character. Fig. The introduction of powered flight by means of the dirigible. Yet with so little information.

AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 157 ter error taking the Cobuild examples as a model. and the speed drops off quickly and the nose pointed upwards. on the other hand. But you have to dive at a spectacular angle to gain sufficient impetus for a loop or roll. This is not the case with corpus examples. (newspaper) Fig. (magazine) 3. The committee agreed. the collocates appear immediately. However. this kind of uncontroversial style gives learners a trustworthy model. at least in the way they are presently made available. I do not think this kind of example is particularly useful. 36 Five examples for impetus from the Cobuild CD-ROM. the good deed was done. It is unlikely that learners want to use a word in a very original and experimental way right from the beginning. Example 4 gives too little information on the context. the use of we indicates a rather informal setting and the words within the nine-word span (of our slides) are clearly not regular collocates. there is no way for learners to know what these collocates are. What they need are examples showing how the word is used. From these examples they can only deduce that give. and example 5 includes two proper names. presupposes a lot of general knowledge. Whispers that the committee had been wanting to name Arnie for years. the suitable collocates for impetus are not clear. (magazine) 4. need and new can safely be used with impetus. (magazine) 5. and its metaphors make the sentence simply hard to understand. Whatever the impetus. making it hard for the learner to understand what is meant. With the examples retrieved from the Cobuild CD. renewed. In the first example. The following are the first five examples from a total of 14 retrieved from the corpus of the Cobuild Dictionary on CD-ROM: 1. From a quick glance at the examples from the Grolier Encyclopaedia. in a comprehensible style. There were growing fears that the rift would sour the annual Group of Seven summit and prevent the leaders of the West from providing fresh impetus for the long-running Gatt round. Examples 2 and 3 present a peculiar syntax which might even be considered wrong in the mouth of a foreigner. not whether they are particularly frequent. learners benefit . Moreover. waiting impatiently for Jack to reach the same conclusion. the control forces becomes (sic) high. 5 per cent and that provided the impetus for an upward surge in trading at the St Leger Sales after a series of disasters had set the market back a full decade. (ephemera) 2. Since there is no repetition. This weekend is our reunion when we meet again to reflect upon the tour with the impetus of our slides and photographs to invoke memory.

on the other hand. *** Encoding is for advanced learners as difficult a problem as for beginning learners. or they can jump to the next example to solve their problem. learners can read as much of the context as they want. A way in which a personality expresses itself is by infringing the rules. a metaphor. These two steps are more clearly distinguishable in the case of advanced learners because in many cases they are almost certain as to which item they want to use. by dashing if only slightly the reader’s expectations with the use of an unusual piece of syntax. Beginners have difficulty producing easy sentences. it means that the learner will not feel confident to deduce them from the examples because the source is not totally trustworthy. all seem to be written by one and the same person. Still. An encyclopaedia might not reflect the whole of the language in all its intricacies. which provides them with some supplementary pragmatic information. As for the choice of the item. This is why dictionary definitions. are not immediately clear. somebody expressing his or her personality. newspaper or any other book. what stands out from these examples is that they have an author behind them.158 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS from the identification of their sources. If some of the Grolier examples. The tools for both can be improved. advanced learners have difficulties producing difficult sentences. what is probably welcomed in a magazine. and are only unclear as to its usage. is supposed to be avoided in a reference work. since there are so many of them. Advanced learners’ look-up problems can be subdivided into two stages: the choice and usage of the item. beginning as well as advanced learners may want to solve their lexicographic problem in two different ways: via the source language or via the target language. apart from the sometimes difficult vocabulary and the problem of grasping the text’s topic on the basis of only one sentence. or a surprising collocate. However. but since it was not written to illustrate the use of particular words. The result is a number of sentences that are not always very clear for a foreigner. the danger that these examples were made up only to suit a lexicographer’s argument is inexistent. This does not mean that no collocates can be deduced from these Cobuild examples. If they start from the . which should be impersonal.

changing expressions from congruent to metaphorical. For advanced learners. and facilitating the use of fixed expressions. This is an appropriate method when the item’s grammatical structure has no influence on its meaning. it will be easy for them to recognise the collocates they are looking for. infrequent words depend less on the co-text to be disambiguated. Authentic examples have the advantage of combining several kinds of information but are sometimes confusing. accustomed to expressing themselves and thinking in the target language. an example is a more appropriate procedure. They have the 33 I wrote some more on controlled examples in Humblé (1998). A dictionary should allow them to find an item starting from a few elements that are part of its definition. but not when different translation options are the result of one word possibly indicating two completely different entities [lead (metal) and lead (guide)]. They are my personal preference. since advanced learners have an extended passive knowledge. made-up examples are not very adequate since they mostly teach one specific point. One of the main challenges of an encoding dictionary is to turn passive knowledge into active knowledge. this means to provide the learner with sufficient information on an item’s usage. if these are listed. Examples are less appropriate for distinguishing various translation options for the kind of word which advanced learners need. It should also offer the possibility of varying the register of a given word. . ‘Controlled’ examples can be found in encyclopaedias and similar reference works33. As for the issue of collocations. Labels are best suited to disambiguate content words. they will use a bilingual dictionary and will need some help in choosing between the different alternatives. Indeed. authentic and ‘controlled. will have a fairly good idea of the lexical item they need. If not. Finally. Another way of learning about the usage of a word is by means of examples. or only illustrate the definition. I distinguish three types: made-up. Explicit information on usage consists of grammatical information in its crudest form: rules. advanced learners. This information can be given in two basic forms: explicit and implicit. Not infrequently. definitions are useful to distinguish synonyms (modernise/upgrade).’ and they each have their own uses.AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEXICOGRAPHY 159 language they know best. In practice. Synonyms are able to distinguish quickly the different translations for a word if these refer to clearly distinct entities.

guaranteeing the register. . and being written in a clear and uncontroversial manner.160 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS advantage of being authentic. providing the entire context.

instead of tools directly modelled on the analysis of learner’s needs. and that every object also functions in a symbolical circuit in which the token value predominates.DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 161 CONCLUDING REMARKS In this book I have addressed a number of issues which I think are essential for improving dictionaries for foreign language learners. Over the centuries. In order to better gauge these needs and the methods used to discover them. learner's dictionaries. They are still adaptations of the original native speakers’ dictionaries. but when I situated foreign language dictionaries in the broader field of historical lexicography. have inherited some of the latter’s defects. the relationship between needs and the tools supposed to meet them showed that this relationship was no longer as clear as when dictionaries were first invented. An analysis of learners’ needs is an essential ingredient for any project that aims at improving the efficiency of foreign language learning tools. the needs of present-day foreign language learners have changed. I realised . I resorted to specialised literature on the subject. I argued that needs should drive the conception of a tool such as a dictionary. Bilingual dictionaries still fulfil an obvious need. which have come to assist non-native speakers in learning a foreign language and were derived from native speaker’s dictionaries. monolingual native speaker’s dictionaries were greatly influenced by ideological considerations and this has muddled the relationship with their audience. As a result. This change consists basically of an interest switch from merely understanding texts written in a foreign language. to expressing oneself in that language. but Baudrillard convinced me that not everything has necessarily a usage value. At the same time.

Since their results are not entirely satisfactory and sometimes do not agree with my own experience. When possible. I realised that theoretical lexicography lacks a clear awareness of the discipline’s foundations. were gained with a second method – examining dictionaries myself – . Indeed. This reflected secondarily the questionnaire situation and confirmed to me that this methodology was indeed often unsuitable. Another part of it dealt with what I considered to be the right questions. I asked learners about their experience with dictionaries. In my research this expressed itself in two ways. in my opinion. but research on the matter did not seem to come to entirely convincing conclusions. This was.’ Additionally. This was not always a rewarding exercise.’ In one particular case. in an attempt to solve specific problems. It was only by ‘cross-examining’ my subjects –asking questions about what they effectively did– that I obtained a few interesting answers. However. I set out to analyse qualitatively a feature which I deem to be of the utmost importance in foreign language lexicography: examples. I figured a qualitative approach was a better way to deal with this kind of research. the two methods used by researchers to discover learners’ needs in terms of dictionaries are questionnaires and tests. Reading Kuhn (1970). a few ‘idées nettes. I hope. either by me or by society. and that the techniques used to acquire new knowledge were epistemologically flawed. I decided therefore to privilege introspection and close-reading.162 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS that part of this literature dealt with problems that modern technology had almost rendered obsolete. however. largely due to the application of inadequate research methods. 1995) convinced me that methods borrowed from natural sciences – currently the norm – were inappropriate. no agreement exists as to the best kind of example and over the last few years the issue has generated some controversy. This dispute was launched with the publication of the first Co- . More results. I concluded the matter should be tackled differently. It also meant that there was no consensus on what exactly had to be discovered. It is in these moments of ‘réflexion jointe à l’usage’ that I had. Popper’s work (1994. It is not enough to study ‘habits.’ if you want to discover ‘needs. Agreeing with Hilary Nesi (1996). since a number of learners would answer the way they thought they were expected to answer.

The case of decoding is easier because the context in which a hard word is found always helps comprehension. As for encoding. and generations of lexicographers have dedicated themselves to perfecting them. Finally. Starting from this distinction. In terms of collocates and syntax. made-up examples may be more suited. synonyms. examples and definitions. Several expedients have been invented over the centuries to assist learners with encoding. but that their use should not become preached across the board. their choice remains rather random and learners miss out on one of the main forms of help a dictionary can provide. the main reason being that no clear distinction is made between encoding and decoding. I also took a critical look at the treatment given to examples in traditional and less traditional foreign language lexicography. I sketch what I would consider to be the ideal foreign language dictionary. no conclusive results–. In both cases. In the last part of this book. bilingual as well as learner's. Furthermore. In this research. Because of the issue’s controversial nature – many tests. concluding that they were certainly useful and indeed a revolution in the world of foreign language lexicography. examples do rather poorly in all of the dictionaries I investigated. I took a closer look at authentic examples in connection with the Cobuild experience.CONCLUDING REMARKS 163 build dictionary in 1987. all convey a particular kind of information but. Depending on the case. this is clearly a more difficult undertaking. The typical requirements of encoding learners are still not given due consideration and suffer from a seemingly haphazard treatment. Labels. In the absence of any clear idea of what examples are supposed to do. it is necessary to make a distinction between the en- . Even so. Polysemy is one of the most important ones and I hope to have made a few helpful suggestions. I discuss several aspects of both processes. All this material should be re-used in a way that is more adapted to present-day needs. I had to conclude that example policies still suffer from a few shortcomings. I discuss some problems that can arise in the course of a decoding process. An essential characteristic – and basic requirement – of this new dictionary is the distinction between encoding and decoding. depending on the item. I investigated the nature of examples and their possible characteristics. I thought it was an adequate topic to demonstrate how qualitative research could be carried out. one is more useful than the other.

164 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS coding problems of beginners and of advanced learners. and they often do not know exactly what to look up. Whereas it is the task of language classes to teach macro-grammatical concepts. IndoEuropean. Beginners have a great number of grammatical problems which must be addressed. Function words are in this aspect the most complex items and examples are the most suitable way to teach them. it is the task of the dictionary to show the grammatical constraints of specific words. In order to have this kind of outcome. which I recommend. a particular interest of mine. I am aware that much additional research needs to be carried out. Many of the insights I personally had on lexicography were due to this experience of dépaysement. as well as on the relation frequency/polysemy. Encoding learners have at their disposal several different ways of obtaining the item they need. Encoding learners of an advanced stage. It is clear for me that there is still much to be done in the field of dictionaries. In the section on advanced encoding I have analysed a few of these needs and have suggested ways of meeting them. More research is needed as to an item’s frequency and its best-suited kind of example. With this book I intended to make a contribution to improving dictionaries. studying Japanese has convinced me that a number of problems go unnoticed if we are familiar with only one type of language –in my case. on the other hand. are constantly in search of the right collocate. An ideal reference tool could integrate various approaches and incorporate flexibility. This work must be based on an analysis of advanced learners’ needs. Moreover. which I hope may have some practical consequence. . and are often in the dark as to the appropriateness of the item they want to use. greatly enhanced with electronic dictionaries.

Depending on who is the user. The context includes the co-text insofar as it is specifically relevant to understand the meaning of a particular lexical item. In contrast with the normal bilingual dictionary. . • Context. A bilingual dictionary translates lexical items from one language into another. It necessarily includes information in two languages without being a bilingual dictionary in the traditional sense of the word. the definition is translated into the language of the learner. In some cases. There are hybrid forms such as the Cobuild English-Portuguese Bridge Bilingual Dictionary. In other cases. in terms of meaning and not only of words. A collocate is a word which occurs very frequently with another word so that the chance of both occurring together is very high. the bilingualised dictionary has a clearly defined audience: those who speak the language into which the headwords or the definitions were translated.” • Collocate. The context does not have to be linguistic and can include the kind of medium in which a text was published or uttered. A bilingualised dictionary is a kind of pedagogical dictionary. Often bilingualised dictionaries are a partial or total translation of a monolingual learner’s dictionary. • Cobuild. Context is the surroundings. • Bilingualised dictionary. A normal bilingual dictionary has two possible audiences: the L1 of one audience is the L2 of the other. a bilingual dictionary translates from an L1 into an L2 or from an L2 into an L1. the definition of a word in a foreign language is given in the foreign language and a translation in the language of the learner is added. Abbreviation of “Collins Birmingham University International Language Database. where the definition is partly in Portuguese and partly in English.GLOSSARY 165 G LOSSARY • Bilingual dictionary. of a lexical item.

or include both the source (L1) and the target (L2) language. four words on each side of the word under consideration. I will refer mainly to the Bank of English. usually the mother tongue. . In this book. written or spoken. I avoid using idiom in this sense. in the context of this book. I understand all types of language reference works target non-native speakers as their audience. (See also idiomatic expression. Often this co-text will indicate a nine-word span. A series of words people feel belong together and express one concept.html). These reference works can be written in the target language (L2). corpus of Cobuild. This does not mean that when somebody speaks or writes another language. they are decoding. they are encoding. A corpus is ‘a collection of naturally-occurring language text’ (Sinclair on the “Corpus Linguistics Homepage” http:// wwwclg. source language. Encoding is the process of producing a text. One is only decoding when one does not spontaneously understand the word in the L2 and has to look it up or go in search of some kind of linguistic information in order to understand the message.166 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS • Corpus. target language or foreign language. One is only encoding when one does not spontaneously know the word in the L2 and has to look it up or go in search of some kind of linguistic information to be able to do so. although this term is widely used to indicate a fixed expression. By foreign language lexicography.) • Foreign language lexicography.ac. To encode is to translate from an L1 into an L2. Decoding is. It does not mean that when somebody reads or hears another language. It is a commonly used term in lexicography and does not imply any specific linguistic theory on language as a code. • Encode. To decode is to translate from an L2. the process of understanding a (usually) written text in a language which is not the decoder’s L1. • Decode.uk/glossary. in a language that is not the encoder’s L1. into an L1. • Fixed expression. • Co-text is the immediate linguistic surroundings of a lexical item.bham.

because they both involve the selection of two or more words.’ (Sinclair. There exists no consensus on this terminology and I give preference to the term fixed expression. Spanish and German. Idioms overlap with collocations. Idioms are sometimes called fixed expressions or idiomatic expressions. • L2. The L1 is the source language. because the whole idiom is required to produce the meaning. A group of words whose meaning cannot be predicted from the meanings of the constituent words. If we interpret the occurrence as the selection of two related words. 1991:172) • L1. usually the learner’s mother tongue. Idioms are ‘semi-preconstructed phrases that constitute single choices. at the moment in which they consult a dictionary. the line between them is not clear. • Learner. • Learner’s dictionary. At present. as for example (It was raining) cats and dogs (Collins English Dictionary). • Idiom (Sinclair). The L2 is the target language. A learner’s dictionary defines the words of a particular language in that same language for people for whom this language is a foreign language.GLOSSARY 167 • Idiom (traditional definition). A learner is someone who is in the process of mastering an L2. French. each of which keeps some meaning of its own. although these . 1991:110) ‘The individual words which constitute idioms are not reliably meaningful in themselves. Learner’s dictionaries only exist for the languages most studied by foreigners: English. consequently.’ Even if people who consult dictionaries are not always doing this with the conscious purpose of learning. even though they might appear to be analysable into segments’ (Sinclair. they are learners. we call it a collocation. Any person using a dictionary in order to obtain information on a language other than his or her mother tongue is a ‘learner. In principle. usually a foreign language that a learner is in the process of mastering. we call co-occurrences idioms if we interpret the co-occurrence as giving a single unit of meaning. A learner’s dictionary aims at giving a more extensive treatment to the most frequent words of a language. the fact is that they do learn and.

I use the term when I refer either to items including one or more words.168 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS ‘most frequent words’ may include up to 90. .000 most frequent words are used in the definitions. • Source language.g. Pedagogical dictionaries are primarily teaching materials and secondarily reference works. They are not intended to be used by native speakers. pedagogical dictionaries are often published together with exercise material.. As a consequence. in the anthropological sense of the word. has its own dictionary. • Multi-word item. Learner’s dictionaries have a negatively defined audience.’ They often concentrate on one particular area of the lexis of a language (e. Every complex society. • Native speaker’s dictionary. Usually the vocabulary used in this kind of dictionary is ‘controlled.’ Only. They are different from other kinds of dictionaries in that they are as much ‘tool’ as ‘study material. the 2.000 lexical items (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English). business French). 1991:109) • Pedagogical dictionary. found and at first glance are all single lexical items. A lexical item consists of at least one word but can consist of more than one. I consider two kinds of monolingual dictionaries: native speaker’s dictionaries and learner’s dictionaries.g. almost any word can occur after any word. Swimming pool. • Lexical item. • Lexis. The L1. According to this principle. respecting syntactic constraints. A multi-word item is a group of words that refers to a single reality (e. (Sinclair. The normal way of seeing language according to a ‘slot and filler’ principle. A native speaker’s dictionary defines the words of a particular language primarily for native speakers of this language. usually the learner’s mother tongue. All the word-forms of a language. • Open-choice principle. or forms of words. operating table). In this research. • Monolingual dictionary. say.

A user is a learner using a dictionary. usually a foreign language that a learner is in the process of mastering. • User. A word is anything between two white spaces. . The L2.GLOSSARY 169 • Target language. • Word.

They crossed the Yugoslav border on the Budapest-Zagreb road. This is the first step on the road to victory. 5. 3. She was well on the road to recovery. . and the Watford road turns off to the right. There are shops just down the road. There was very little traffic on the roads… We just go straight up the Bristol Road… He was coming down the road the same time as the girl was turning into the lane… Buses carry 30 per cent of those travelling by road… You mustn’t lay all the blame for road accidents on young people. . Let’s have one for the road before we go.159. I was talking to Mr Marks from along the road. again at the wheel of the old blue sedan. The ancient ruins were accessible by road. The number of road accidents was greatly reduced.the quiet Edgbaston road where he had lived for some thirty years. then go on down the lane to the village. 4. They took the road that led up the hill. 2. We have science and technology to help us along the road to peace and plenty. New information is probably the surest road to new ideas. It could well be the only one of its type still on the road. 8. . I was stiff after seven hours on the road. She was studying a road map when I got back into the car. There is an antique shop at the top of my road. We’ll take the play for a few weeks on the road before it opens in London. The museum was in a side street leading off from a road of shops. The hotel was just a little farther along the road. I was again on the road.170 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS A PPENDIXES Appendix 1 ‘Road’ 34 Cobuild I 1. . Cross the main road. 11. 9.her cousins from across the road. 7.the road from Belfast to Londonderry. This is the Oxford road. 34 Bolds and italics are mine. London Road. By road Luxembourg is about 225 miles from the ferry. Cobuild2 1. 6. . even if it’s only as head of department. Surely you’re on the road to recognition. 10.Janet from down your road.

2. It was this deal that set him on the road to his first million. I’ve been on the road since 5:00 a. 10. 3.APPENDIXES 171 2. 3. one for the road. He still hoped someday to get a new truck and go back on the road. The road to Bristol/the Bristol road main/major/minor roads a quiet suburban road 2. 5. hit the road. It takes three hours by road. 11. 13. You could move your pension to a private scheme. He was killed in a road accident. The government took another step on the road to political reform. It costs a lot of money to keep these old cars on the road. 4. 5. a busy road at the end of the road We live just down the road. 4. The band has been on the road for almost a month. A road safety campaign. 8. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. but I wouldn’t advise going down that road. I was relieved to get back in the car and hit the road again. Kids of that age have no road sense. London SW16. …the stunning fashion pictures which launched unknown teenager Jane March on the road to stardom. 4. 3. get the show on the road. the road to success/ruin. Oxford Wordpower 1. Maple Road. Longman 1. all roads lead to Rome. take to the road. the Southampton Roads. 35 York Rd. 7.m. We are bound to see some ups and downs along the road to recovery. a road-map of Scotland be considerate to other road-users. Take the main road out of town and turn left at the first light. 6. 9. 5. 12. Is this the right road to Beckley? . It’s a long way by road – the train is more direct It’s cheaper to ship goods by road than by rail. this morning. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 1.

road signs. important) road.172 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Take the London road and turn right at the first roundabout. We were on the road for 14 hours. . London. London. major/minor roads. Turn left off the main (= big. a road-map of England. It’s going to be a terrible journey by road – let’s take the train. a road junction. 60 Marylebone Road. Bayswater Road. If you get onto the ring road you’ll avoid the town centre.

collocate occ. They gave him the title of company president as a face-saving gesture.APPENDIXES 173 Appendix 2 ‘Collocates in Cambridge and Cobuild2’ face Cambridge They face/are faced with financial penalties. He thinks he would lose face if he admitted the mistake.91 . She tried to save face by inventing a story about being overseas at the time. down 0 now 0 let 0 value 0 look 0 smile 0 changes 0 man 0 see 0 problems 0 turned 0 eyes 0 across 0 back 0 off 0 hands 0 put 0 still 0 made 0 looked 0 total 0 collocates/example 0/12=0 stopword occ. I can’t face climbing those stairs again. We’ll have to face her with this new information and see what she has to say. although he no longer had any power. We’ll have to face the facts and start cutting costs. The hospital charges £4000 for a full facelift. The bank is planning to give its 1930s building a complete facelift. They agreed that there should be no attempts at face-saving. the 2 to 4 of 0 a 3 and 1 in 0 his 0 ‘s 0 her 1 on 0 total 11 stopwords/example 11/12=0. He’ll have to face the music when his parents find out he’s been missing school. Their houses face each other across the street.

. I was gradually being brought face to face with the fact that I had very little success. Scientific principles that seem to fly in the face of common sense. To cancel the airport would be a loss of face for the present governor. We were strolling into the town when we came face to face with Jacques Dubois. He was going red in the face and breathing with difficulty. If a nuclear war breaks out. No human being on the face of the earth could do anything worse than what he did. But the figures don’t add up. Charles laid down his cards face up. He scrambled 200 feet up the cliff face. Eventually. A strong wind was blowing right in my face. England doesn’t want a war but it doesn’t want to lose face. but you’ll never change his personality. Katrhyn pulled a face at Thomasina behind his back. Children have an almost obsessive need to save face in front of their peers. We can’t keep them in custody. The changing face of the British country side. Brothels. Harrer was one of the first to climb the north face of the Eiger. The priest frowned in the light. On the face of it that seems to make sense. she insists. This would change the face of Malaysian politics. Roosevelt was defiant in the face of the bad news. Can’t you see this could blow up in your face? You can criticise him until you’re blue in the face. The Prime Minister has called for national unity in the face of the violent antigovernment protests. He said that the decision flew in the face of natural justice. They just laugh in your face. Opening the door. his face puzzled.174 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS face Cobuild He rolled down his window and stuck his face out. It was the first face to face meeting between the two men. the ugly face of capitalism to some extent is appearing again. there’s little we can do. With the collapse of communism. she made a face at the musty smell. every living thing will be wiped off the face of the Earth. He came to me with a very long face. are the acceptable face of prostitution. All the time Stephen was lying face down and unconscious in the bath tub. he came face to face with discrimination again. He was walking around with a sad face. She had a beautiful face. With juveniles under eighteen.

I couldn’t face the prospect of spending a Saturday night there. Stand up. so I decided to press on. I felt I ought to show my face at her father’s funeral. difficult to see how the West could radically change its position. What went through Tom’s mind I can’t imagine. Relief and gratitude were written all over his face. He accused the Government of refusing to face facts about the economy. You have to wonder how anyone could say that seriously and with a straight face. He was hauled in to face the judge. I have grown up now and have to face up to my responsibilities. They were having to face up to the fact that they had lost everything. Face the wall.APPENDIXES 175 It is. but I can’t face it. but he did manage to keep a straight face. you must face the truth that a relationship has ended. If she shows her face again back in Massachusetts she’ll find a warrant for her arrest waiting. Scientists are putting a good face on the troubles. I couldn’t face seeing anyone. But. let’s face it. My children want me with them for Christmas Day. . This Government has set its face against putting up income tax. on the face of it. who is not? Nothing gives a room a faster facelift than a coat of paint. The decision seems to be a face-saving compromise which will allow the government to remain in office. I could just see the pain written across her face. Her opponent called her a liar to her face. She was always attracted to younger men. Although your heart is breaking. Friends will see you are putting on a brave face and might assume you’ve got over your grief.

48 .06 the 31 to 14 of 14 a 11 and 6 in 10 his 4 ‘s 0 her 3 on 5 total 98 stopwords/example 98/66=1. DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS stopword occ.176 Collocate occ. down 1 now 0 let 0 value 0 look 0 smile 0 changes 0 man 0 see (1) problems 0 turned 0 eyes 0 across 1 back 1 off 1 hands 0 put 0 still 0 made 1 looked 0 total 4 collocates/example 4/66=0.

In fact. Have you always lived here? As a matter of fact I’ve only lived here for the last three years. and hopefully make a decision. despite 0 matter 1 no 0 very 0 only 1 some 1 many 0 people 0 most 0 think 0 life 1 even 0 much 0 (erm) 0 never 1 quite 0 both 0 finding 0 remains 0 women 0 total 5 collocates/example 5/8=0. We are getting some facts and figures together and we will then have a full board meeting. Going bald is a fact of life.75. I’ve never had a job. . No. The fact is that they are the stronger team and are sure to win.APPENDIXES 177 fact Cambridge I’m not interested in hopes and plans.62 the in 1 that 1 is 2 it 0 was 0 I 6 he 0 they 1 are 3 total 14 stopwords/example 14/8=1. Can I regard what you have just told me as fact? The play was closely based on fact. I don’t work. stopword occ. I just want you to tell me the plain/bare facts. Collocates occ.

In fact he left school at 16. but in fact it’s very difficult. we very nearly split up this time. I have. she reminded herself. We’ve had a pretty bad time while you were away. but the fact remains that he did so by exploiting an illegal situation. meeting him every morning. His opponent swamped him with facts and figures. In fact. The fact is blindness hadn’t stopped the children doing many of the things that sighted children enjoy. the local people helped the victims of these deportations. The lorries always left for China in the dead of night when there were few witnesses around to record the fact. But the fact of the matter is that they’re not terribly interested in this election. My family now accepts the fact that I don’t eat sugar or bread. The local people saw all the sufferings to which these deportees were subjected. The fact remains. treatment is still far from satisfactory. I found that election rallies were being very poorly attended. No amount of encouragement can hide the fact that talking about very personal issues with a stranger is intimidating. A statement of verifiable historical fact.’ said Hunter. His admirers claim that he came to power perfectly legally. I know for a fact that baby corn is very expensive in Europe. He apologised as soon as he realised what he had done. There is so much information that you can almost effortlessly find the facts for yourself. he soon became aware of the fact that Erter was ill. The fact that he had left her of his own accord proved to me that everything he’d said was true. is unacceptably high. Why had she ever trusted her? In point of fact she never had. he wrote a nice little note to me. In Rome. ‘I guess you haven’t eaten yet. In actual fact. I know for a fact that Graham has kept in close touch with Graham. . but in fact most were seen escaping over the adjacent roofs to safety in nearby buildings. How much was fact and how much fancy no one knew. Mr Major didn’t go to university.178 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS fact Cobuild His chances do not seem good in view of the fact that the Chief Prosecutor has already voiced his public disapproval. That sounds rather simple. They complained that they had been trapped inside the police station.’ ‘As a matter of fact. And as a matter of fact. Despite the fact that the disease is so prevalent. however you measure it.

APPENDIXES 179 We aren’t playing well as a team. collocates occ. He’s a dull writer and that’s a fact.’ A UN fact-finding mission is on its way to the region.96 .51 the in 6 that 11 is 4 it 0 was 2 I 4 he 3 they 0 are 0 total 30 stopwords/example 30/31=0. ‘I’m still staff colonel. despite 1 matter 3 no 0 very 3 only 0 some 0 many 0 people 0 most 1 think 0 life 2 even 0 much 2 (erm) 0 never 1 quite 0 both 0 finding 1 remains 2 women 0 total 16 collocates/example 16/31=0. There comes a time when children need to know more than the basic facts of life. stopword occ. Stress is a fact of life from time to time for all of us.’ — ‘Is that a fact?. and that’s a fact.

but I failed. to 6 the 8 have 1 has 0 that 0 had 0 he 6 but 5 they 0 his 0 total 26 stopwords/example 26/20=1.’ I passed in history but failed in chemistry. She failed to reach the Wimbledon Final this year. The brakes failed and the car crashed into a tree. I failed. Her parents failed to understand that there was a problem. but he failed to arrive on time. He failed her when she most needed him.3. ‘Did you pass?’ ‘No. Collocates because coup make last get any government win reach attempt take find far also having tried test occ. 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 yesterday 0 again 0 even 0 total 7 collocates/example 7/28=0. The examiners failed him because he hadn’t answered enough questions. He never failed to take a disapproving stand at people who got divorced. When I looked down and saw how far I had to jump. The club had been promised a grant from the council. stopwords occ. but the money failed to materialize. . She moved to London in the hope of finding work as a model.25. her voice failed. The wheat failed last year because of the lack of rain. He promised to help. After two failed marriages. The two sides in the negotiation have failed to come to an agreement. He’s a failed writer. He failed dismally/miserably in his attempt to break the record.180 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS failed Cambridge I tried to persuade him to come. After talking non-stop for two hours. She has been given the task of sorting out the government’s failed taxation policy. he is planning to marry for a third time. but failed. my courage failed me.

Their courage failed a few steps short and they came running back. I’m a failed comedy writer really. He failed in his attempts to take control of the company.18. Collocates occ. In fact many food crops failed because of the drought.APPENDIXES 181 failed Cobuild The Worker’s Party failed to win a single governorship. So far this year. and we stumbled around in complete darkness. to 4 the 7 have 2 has 1 that 1 had 1 he 2 but 0 they 0 his 1 total 19 stopwords/example 19/16=1. We tried to develop plans for them to get along. The bomb failed to explode. The truth is. Many of us have tried to lose weight and failed miserably. a failed hotel business. Here in the hills.5. . 104 banks have failed. Stopwords occ. After a failed military offensive. the artist’s fertile imagination failed him. communities who feel that the political system has failed them. The lights mysteriously failed. For once. all government troops and police were withdrawn from the island. because 1 coup 0 make 0 last 0 get 0 any 0 government 1 win 1 reach 0 attempt 1 take 1 find 0 far 1 also 0 having 0 tried 2 test 0 yesterday 0 again 0 even 0 total 8 collocates/example 8/16=0. the light failed more quickly. He failed to file tax returns for 1982. which all failed miserably.

I fail to see what this has to do with the argument.2. . 1 2 0 1 2 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 never 1 succeed 0 total 11 collocates/example 11/9=1. to 4 if 0 they 1 that 0 will 0 you 1 we 0 but 0 would 0 not 0 total 6 stopwords/example 6/9=0. a fail-safe device/mechanism/system Collocate because see many people without make test often get even talks meet take understand might too safe likely occ.66 . They had a track record of success and they never imagined the business could fail. stopword occ. without fail.182 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS fail Cambridge The reluctance of either side to compromise means that the talks are doomed to fail. A lot of people fail their driving test the first time. I fail to see what you’re getting at. You couldn’t fail to be saddened by the distressing reports on the famine victims. Every morning. she used to sit in the park and read her newspaper. Be there by ten o’clock without fail.

don’t fail us now. Tomorrow without fail he would be at the old riverside warehouse. Stopword occ. Some schools fail to set any homework. That’s how it was in my day and I fail to see why it should be different now. We waited twenty-one years. Collocate occ. because 0 see 1 many 0 people 0 without 3 make 0 test 1 often 0 get 0 even 0 talks 0 meet 0 take 0 understand 0 might 0 too 0 safe 0 likely 0 never 0 succeed 0 total 5 collocates/example 5/8=0.87.62. . It’s the difference between a pass and a fail. He attended every meeting without fail.APPENDIXES 183 fail Cobuild He was afraid the revolution they had started would fail. On the 30th you must without fail hand in some money for Alex. to 2 if 0 they 1 that 0 will 0 you 1 we 1 but 0 would 2 not 0 total stopwords/example 7/8=0.

He had a lovely suntan when he got back from his holiday.5. away 2 under 0 began 0 just 1 beginning 0 before 0 never 0 die 0 hopes 1 quickly 0 soon 1 begun 0 flowers 0 memories 1 begins 0 total 6 collocates/example 6/12=0. If you hang your clothes out in the bright sun. They arrived home just as the light was fading. Collocate occ. The children’s memories of their fathers slowly faded away. He was wearing a pair of faded jeans and an old T-shirt. to 0 and 1 will 1 as 1 out 1 they 1 into 1 or 0 then 0 total 6 stopwords/example 6/12=0. Stopword occ.5. The horse riders gradually faded from view/sight. Day slowly faded into night. they will fade. Bill faded from the picture/scene. but it soon faded. . A faded beauty is a woman who was beautiful in the past.184 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS fade Cambridge You’ll fade that tablecloth if you wash it in hot water. Hopes of saving the trapped miners are fading away fast. After his girlfriend left him. The voice on the radio faded out.

The most prominent poets of the Victorian period had all but faded from the scene. You’ll need to be able to project two images onto the screen as the new one fades in and the old image fades out.78 . is beginning to fade. away 2 under 1 began 0 just 0 beginning 1 before 1 never 0 die 0 hopes 1 quickly 0 soon 1 begun 0 flowers 0 memories 1 begins 0 total 8 collocates/examples 8/19=0. fading carpets and curtains in every room. Sympathy for the rebels. Prospects for peace had already started to fade. the government claims. No matter how soft the light is. They watched the familiar mountains fade into the darkness. Margaret Thatcher will not fade away into quiet retirement. faded painted signs on the sides do some of the buildings. fading portraits of the Queen and Prince Philip. to 2 and 2 will 1 as 2 out 2 they 0 into 5 or 0 then 1 total 15 stopwords/examples15/19=0. Stopword occ. The sound of the last bomber’s engines faded into the distance. fading memories of better days. Jay nodded. his smile fading. She had a way of fading into the background when things got rough. They observed the comet for 70 days before it faded from sight. Collocate occ.42.APPENDIXES 185 fade Cobuild All colour fades – especially under the impact of direct sunlight. Seaton lay on his bed and gazes at the ceiling as the light faded. He thought her campaign would probably fade out soon in any case. a girl in a faded dress. We watched the harbour and then the coastline fade away into the morning mist. it still plays havoc.

186 DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS Appendix 3 ‘Proposal’ Monolingual learner’s dictionaries Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (Second Edition) a proposal for peace proposals for increasing trade between two countries a girl who had five proposals in one week Oxford Advanced Encyclopedic Learner’s Dictionary (Updated Fourth Edition) the proposal of new terms for a peace treaty a proposal for uniting the two companies Various proposals were put forward for increasing salaries a proposal to offer a discount to regular customers She had had many proposals (of marriage) but preferred to remain single Cobuild I There is controversy about a proposal to build a new nuclear power station The two governments discussed a proposal for ending hostilities I heard about some proposals for cheaper flights to the United States Cobuild2 The president is to put forward new proposals for resolving the country’s constitutional crisis …the government’s proposals to abolish free health care… The Security Council has rejected the latest peace proposal After a three-weekend courtship. Pamela accepted Randolph’s proposal of marriage Cambridge Congress has rejected the latest economic proposal put forward by the president There has been an angry reaction to the government’s proposal to reduce unemployment benefit Have you read Steve’s proposals for the new project? There was anger at the proposal that a UN peace-keeping force should be sent to the area She refused his marriage proposal/proposal of marriage .

DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS 187 Bilingual dictionaries Hazon-Garzanti English-Italian the proposal was never carried out to make a proposal she had a proposal Italian-English proposal for the selection of an arbitrator Collins-Robert French-English (proposition) propositions de paix/peace proposals à la proposition de/on the proposal of English-French proposals for the amendment of this treaty Collins German German-English to make somebody a proposal his proposal of this plan surprised his colleagues his proposal of John as chairman was expected English-German (Vorschlag) nothing Collins Spanish English-Spanish proposal of marriage to make a proposal to make the proposal that Spanish-English nothing Oxford-Hachette French.English (proposition) faire des propositions concrètes: to make concrete proposals proposition technique/commerciale: technical/business proposal English-French to make/put forward a proposal faire a proposal for changes a proposal for doing ou to do the proposal that everybody should get a pay rise to receive a proposal Oxford-Duden English-German make proposals for make a proposal for doing sth or to his proposal for improving the draw up proposals/a proposal proposal [of marriage] he was interrupted in the middle of his proposal to her/the committee German-English a conciliatory proposal Oxford Spanish .

that we (should) repair] a road receive a proposal (of marriage) from him he made a proposal to her . Spanish-English proposal of marriage New Proceed make a proposal for peace His proposal to put off the meeting was rejected Reluctantly she accepted their pro- DICTIONARIES AND LANGUAGE LEARNERS posal that she should be operated on He made a proposal of marriage to her Taishukan’s Genius make [offer] proposals for peace We accepted a proposal to repair [for repairing.188 English-Spanish to put or make a proposal to sb.

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