Variants and dialects of the English language. American English. Lexicography. Types of Dictionaries
Overview of the field of research of territorial varieties of English. The notion of literary forms dialects. Essay on the history of lexicography. Typology and range of public information applied in the preparation of American English dictionaries.
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Variants and dialects of the English language. American English. Lexicography. Types of Dictionaries
For historical and economic reasons the English language has spread over vast territories. It is the national language of the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zeland and some provinces of Canada. Besides, it used to be a state language in the former colonies of the British Empire: in Asia, Africa, or in countries which fell under US domination in Central and South America.
The key terms in studying the territorial varieties of the English language are: Standard English, variants, dialects.
Standard English is the official language of Great Britain taught at schools and universities, used by the press, the radio and the television and spoken by educated people.
Local dialects are varieties of the English Language peculiar to some districts and having no normalized literary form.
Regional varieties possessing a literary form are called variants.
In GB there are two variants: Scottish English and Irish English, and five main groups of dialects: Nothern, Midland, Eastern, Western and Southern. Every group contains several (up to ten) dialects.
Among the regional varieties beyond the borders of GB American English is the most important, as it has its own literary standards, i.e. its own generally accepted norms of speaking and writing. american English can not be called a dialect since it has a literary normalized form called Standard American, while a dialect has no litrary form.
Canadian, Australian and Indian English can also be considered regional varieties of English with their own peculiarities.
The differences between British English (BE) and American English (AmE) are observed in the vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and spelling.
There is a number of differences between British and American lexicons. There exist words which belong only to American vocabulary and constitute its specific feature.
These words are called Americanisms (the term was introduced by Sir John Witherspoon, rector of Princeton University).
Among Americanisms the following major groups of words are distinguished: historical Americanisms, proper Americanisms and borrowings.
The examples of historical Americanisms are the words: fall (autumn), to guess (in the meaning “to think”), sick (in the meaning “ill, unwell”). In BE their meanings have changed, while in AmE these words still retain their old meanings.
Proper Americanisms are words that are specifically American. They denote American realia, objects of American flora and fauna: Congress, House of Representatives, District Attorney, forty-niner (золотоискатель 1949 года), prairie scooner (фургон переселенцев), jump a claim (захватить чужой участок), drugstore, blue-grass, catbird (американский пересмешник), bullfrog, etc. They are also names of objects which are called differently in the US and in GB: store - shop, baggage - luggage, subway - underground, railroad - railway, gasoline - petrol, department - faculty, etc.
AmE is rich in specifically American borrowings which reflect the historical contacts of the Americans with other nations on the American continent. Among such borrowings are Spanish borrowings (ranch, sombrero, canyon, tornado), Afro-American borrowings (banjo), German borrowings (lager beer and black beer, frankfurter) and especially Indian borrowings (the words wigwam, canoe, mocassin, tomahauk, racoon, skunk, names of places, rivers, lakes and states: Mississippi, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky.
The differences between Canadian and BE are concerned mainly with intonation. As for the vocabulary, some words do not differ from their British counterparts while others are the same as in AmE: to guess (“to think”), rooster (“cock”), sidewalk (“pavemant”), store (“shop”).
Australian English, too, differs from BE mainly in phonetics: the pronunciation is characterized by the nasal twang (is nasalized), like that of Americans, by indistinct pronunciation of the consonants p, b, w, n (the so-called American lip-laziness), Australian speech is somewhat slow, lengthy and monotonous. In the vocabulary there is a number of typically local words like coala, dingo, bandicoot (сумчатая крыса) and various placenames borrowed from the native inhabitants. Indian English differs from BE in pronunciation (take - (tek), young - (o), etc.) and vocabulary. It contains a great number of words taken from the native language: curry, bandana, khaki, sari, sahib, bundgalow, etc. Some of them have become international.
The mass media, constant international contacts facilitate the levelling of differences between variants and dialects of the English language.
Lexicography. Types of dictionaries.
Lexicography is the theory and practice of compiling dictionaries. The term dictionary is used to denote a book listing words of a language and dealing with their meanings, pronunciation, origin, or other aspects.
The history of English lexicography dates back to the Old English period when religious books were translated from Latin and lists of selected Englisn-Latin equivalents - glossaries - were made up. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissanse appeared Latin-English and English-Latin dictionaries based on the alphabetical principle. The first monolingual dictionary - A Table Alphabetical (A Table Alphabetical, containing and teaching the true writing, and understanding of hard English words, borrowed from Hebrew, Greek, Latin or French, etc.) - by Robert Cawdrey was published in 1604. Among the earliest dictionaries we also find John Bullokar's An English Expositor (толкователь) (1616), Henry Cockeram's The English Dictionary (1623). The latter was the first to use the word “dictionary” in its title. The turning point in the history of English lexicography was achieved when Dr Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1747. It was the most comprehensive dictionary of the language with etymologies, complete and clear definitions, commentaries as to the usage of the words and illustrative quotations from English fictions.
Notwithstanding certain demerits this dictionary marks the beginning of English lexicography as a science. It served the foundation of the most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of the English language - The Oxford English Dictionary, compiled by the English Philological Society (1888 - 1928) and aimed at the objective recording of the language.
The first American dictionaries of English were based in British dictionaries of the 18th century. A truly Anmerican dictionary - American Dictionary of the English Language - was compiled by Noah Webster and published in 1828. It contained the specific words of American English and a number of encyclopedic supplements.
All dictionaries are regularly revised and also appear in abridged versions.
Modern dictionaries are divided into types according to their contents.
There are general and special dictionaries. General dictionaries deal with the words of a language as a whole. Special dictionaries cover only a specific part of the vocabulary.
General dictionaries may be subdivided according to the language of description into monolingual and bilingual (bai) or multilingual. To monolingual we refer all types of explanatory dictionaries. Learner's dictionaries (e. g. Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English by A.S. Hornby) may be considered a special type of monolingual dictionaries for general use. They are characterized by simplicity of definitions, information on the usage of the listed words.
We also refer to general dictionaries translating dictionaries, such as English-Russian, Russian-English and others which do not define the words they list.
Special dictionaries may be subdivided according to the sphere of human activity in which they are used or the functional variant of the language: technical dictionaries, medical dictionaries, dictionaries of law terms, etc; dialect dictionaries, dictionaries of slang. Another criterion of division is the unit of description. We distinguish dictionaries of foreign words, phraseological dictionaries, dictionaries of new words, of obsolete words, dictionaries of synonyms, antonyms, abbreviations, proverbs, quotations, surnames, dictionaries of collocations, etc. According to the aspect of the word described special dictionaries are also subdivided into pronouncing dictionaries (orthoepic dictionaries), etymological dictionaries, spelling dictionaries (orthographical dictionaries), dictionaries of frequency, etc.
Encyclopedic dictionaries have entries for the names of individual people and for places as well as for common words. They give a wide range of general information (great inventions, names of highest mountains, exotic animals, political doctrines, etc. They do not define words but give background information about them. language dialect lexicography
Dictionaries also differ in the number of units they list (there can be big academic dictionaries, medial-sized and small dictionaries (in one volume)), in the order of units (alphabetical and non-alphabetical (thematic)).
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