Dictionaries and Language Learners by Philippe Humblé

By Philippe Humblé

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It is surprising that other learner’s dictionaries have so far neglected this simple and useful device. 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. Despite all the praise they deserve, bilingualised dictionaries also suffer the restrictions I articulated for bilingual and learner’s dictionaries. For the purposes of decoding, these dictionaries do not have enough entries and are only helpful in the case of relatively easy texts.

It is essential to have a theoretical understanding 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 dictionary’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? ) when computers are involved. Should the integration of various lexicographic genres into one not be one of the starting points of a new electronic dictionary?

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 Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English.

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