Hitchings (4) elucidate that the well-established dictionaries produced by lexicographers in English are within the inner circle depicting England, America, and Australia. The Oxford family, Cambridge family, and Collins family dictionaries are popular in Britain and Commonwealth countries. Recently, the American Heritage, Webster family, and Macquarie family of dictionaries from Australia appear to shelve the major bookstores in many countries. Currently, Lynch (7) observes that there is a global competition in the lexicographic market place where people embrace dictionaries and find it hard to work without them. The English dictionaries base on the traditional canon that helps in the development of other dictionaries in the second language contexts. Kachru says that the global spread of diffusion of English is due to Second Diaspora of English in the classical sense, multi-identities, and faces of the language. Kachru suggests that the duo-centricity of English succeeds beyond expectations that depict a shift of interlocutors and a shift in cannon. In addition to that, Kachru says that norms and standards in English documentation have become the new focus of study before matters of codification. This paper will discuss the development of dictionaries as well as contextualize the English language.
A history of English language is in four periods: Old English (400-100A.D), Middle English (1100-1500A.D), Early Modern English (1500-1800A.D), and Modern English. The dialects of English have diverse geographical boundaries. The Medieval authors lack the notion of prestige form of English. In the middle Ages, all the English dialects had a written equivalent. The period has questions of dialect versus standard, regional versus social dialects that create controversies in a diverse political and economic landscape. After codification of English, the locals continued to speak and wrote it in their language. That has led to many regional dialects in English spoken in the modern world. Some of the communities trace their history in Middle English dialects, and they continue to use syntactic forms, pronunciation, and vocabulary. At the end of Middle English period, English language did not have an official, standard form while many Renaissance writers refer to English as a common dialect or common language. De Maria (22) utter that common language preoccupies the Early Modern English period. Beginning 1500s, the East Midlands selected an elaborate form that codified the English language. East Midlands region enjoyed political, economical, and intellectual stability to shape the emerging cultural identity of the English nation.
The first dictionary in the seventeenth century contains hard unusual words that draw on the classical languages so as to provide assistance to the less privileged for them to understand their language. The first group of Inner English users has to cope with an enlarging vocabulary that will match the geographical and scientific advances of the Renaissance.
Lynch (5) asserts that Samuel Johnson dictionary of the English Language is among the famous dictionaries in the history. The dictionary that took eight to publish an effort by six people was ready for publishing in 1755. The entire reference book had a listing of 40,000 words where every listed word has a definition and illustration. The Samuel Johnson turned French Dictionary takes 55 years to compile with the effort of 40 professionals. The Johnson dictionary had 114,000 quotations and was the first English lexicographer to use citations, a method that other later dictionaries follow. Johnson collected the literal work of 1500s linguistics such as Shakespeare and Milton. The quotes reflect the literal taste together with Johnson’s political opinion. Johnson twists and turns around quotations to ensure it conveys the intended meaning. Reddick (42) reiterate Lynch by stating that Johnson’s habit of scribbling over books to either highlight, correct material from books. A group of London booksellers commissioned Johnson’s dictionary with the hope the dictionary would stabilize a governing rule in English language. Johnson perception of English language is that previously the language was chaotic, confusing, and messy. The process of compiling the dictionary according to Johnson would provide regulation bearing in mind that language is hard to fix due to its constant changing nature. Johnson considers his role as that of recording the language of the day. Reddick (62) believes that Johnson is humorous person that depict a personal touch in all definitions. Many of the words included are incomprehensible to the average reader. Some of the long words recorded in the dictionary include adontalgick and de-osculation. Some scholars believe he makes up some words in the dictionary. The Johnson dictionary definition of oats does not auger well with Scots. The definition of oats in the dictionary is grain, while in England the grain is fed to horses. Critics cite that Johnson impose his personality on the book while the dictionary is popular and considered a prestigious book for its epic description in that time.
Hitchings (45) claims that Standard English is not a language since it is less than a language and has only one variety. Standard English is the most important variety in all sorts of ways. English language associates with the education system in all English-speaking cultures in the world. It is the language spoken by the educated people and teaches the language to the non-native learners. Trudgill and Chambers (1997) observe that English is nonstandard variety since it consists of autonomous concepts. One can distinguish standardization of language in a literal and poetic. England in the historic view managed to write the literal language rather in any other form as a basis for its codification. The codification process entrenched a link between English and the social class where it demanded a degree in literacy that was not available in the vast majority of the working population. Education plays a pivotal role in the standardization process to enable its reproduction and maintenance. Once scholars selected and elaborated Standard English, the process of codification in dictionaries and grammars began. The social institutions came to use English with the aim of identifying and disseminating the best forms of English. The 1755 Samuel Johnson Dictionary had the aim of making pronunciation in the language to facilitate preservation and ascertainment of language (Lynch 56).
Oxford uses different consideration in its decisions on including words in the dictionary. Every age presents the emergence of new words and expressions as scholars keep track of them and choose the ones to add in our dictionaries. Oxford University Press has one of the largest language programs in the world that has the following resources The Oxford English Corpus and the Oxford Reading Program. It is based on the contributions on the network of readers in the international circles as they lookout for instances of new words. The reading program tracks new words that come in the language once the Corpus has evidence that the term applies in different sources it becomes a candidate for inclusion in the dictionaries. Additionally, Oxford Dictionary makes an assessment on recent terms to select those that stand the test of time. For a word to have inclusion in the dictionary that must be supportive, evidence such as recordings on print media and online sources other than their use in conversation. Lynch (74) says that for a word to have consideration of inclusion, the term should be in use for two to three years. The situation is different in the contemporary world where the term can attract a wide audience in a short time.
Collins dictionary provides a guide it follows when considering inclusions of words into its dictionary. The dictionary limits on the use of slang and other gratuitously offensive terms. The dictionary attempts to strike a balance on the amount of slang. The dictionary team is circumspect on the inclusion of sexual nature terms that appear gratuitously offensive. The dictionary lists names of commercial brands, places, and organizations that meet a set criterion. Brand names inclusion criteria are a common name that appears generic. The dictionary will only add names of organizations and places with special cultural significance. The dictionary has interest in multi-word phrases that are idiomatic and have their literal meanings. Words and phrases meet the set criterion when they easy to understand meanings. The dictionary will not include words from other languages that are often in use by English speakers. The dictionary will not enter the Latin words or scientific classification of plants and animals in its entries. The dictionary adds a limited number of words every year. The physical size of the book has limitations in the number it can add. The process of inclusion of new words in the dictionary is gradual. Lexicography is not a scientific study while editors look at the objective evidence and consider the frequency, breadth of use and ephemerality.
De Maria (14) describes prescriptivism as an assertion and enforcement that concerns a specific set of rules. In the perspective of dictionaries, prescriptivism is a dictionary means to explain the guidelines of language and forms to avoid. The prescriptions and proscriptions depict received wisdom in the historic world passed from a teacher to student. Descriptivism entails a lexicographical context of language behaviors and the usage of language examined by publishers. In some instance, descriptivist can explain prescriptivist as elitists and snobbish since they apply circular logic. The prescriptivists will describe descriptivists as people with no standards and allow morons to spoil the language. According to prescriptivists, the descriptivist fails to adhere to examples set by the professional experts. It is wrong to permit the common people influence how everyone should speak. The prescriptivist cannot start a sentence with hopefully. Anyone that uses the word to mark the beginning of a sentence appears uneducated. The person attempts to use logic to prove that English does not permit it. The descriptivist observes that historical tests have many writers and speakers of English that can begin a sentence with an operative mood. One must avoid using a skunk words since they tend to criticize an individual’s ideas. A skunked word is a word derived for a long time and to some people it is a legitimate word while others precipitates controversies. According to Hitchings (61), some of the debates of prescriptivist and descriptivist controversies include legalization of marijuana, potency of abortion, and gun control debate. A descriptivist observes the mass behavior speakers, writers, and editors as they engage in professional or personal work. The person uses own behavior to guide own writing and speaking habits. The prescripts tend to focus on the latest information in modern dictionaries where they frame better questions in respect to that.
Lexical innovations in the linguistic process will introduce changes in the word-stock of language. The common processes such as affixation, compounding, clipped forms, backformations, and blending. In a multilingual context, borrowing is a productive process since languages are in contact on the long-term basis. In Singapore for instance, the country offers spontaneous daily interaction among speakers with different languages that leads to lexical innovations processes. In that perspective, it is vital to construct different kinds of dictionaries for second language contexts.
De Maria, R. (1986). Johnson’s Dictionary and the Language of Learning. Oxford. Clarendon Press.
Hitchings, H. (2005). Defining the World: the Extraordinary Story of Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary. New York. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Lynch, J (2002). Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary: Selections from the 1755 Work that Defined the English Language. New York. Walker and Co.
Reddick, A. (1990). The Making of Johnson’s Dictionary 1746 – 1773. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
Johnson, Samuel, and E. L. McAdam. Johnson's Dictionary: A Modern Selection. New York: Pantheon, 1963. Print.