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English lexicography through the ages. A case study based on four dictionary entries
GRIN Publishing
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24 pp.
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English lexicography through the ages. A case study based on four dictionary entries

Seminar paper from the year 2015 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics, grade: 1,7, University of Bonn, course: English Words: Structure, History and Usage, language: English, abstract: The history of the English lexicography offers through its numerous works that have survived up to our days a great opportunity to observe not only the semantic development of words, but also their layout in a page, from their fonts' styles and sizes to the structure of their meanings and the later acquisition symbols and abbreviations. Online availability of historical dictionaries enables us to study comparatively and diachronically the curriculum vitae of words, through which we can reconstruct a morpho-semantic overview that links past with present usages and meanings including their semantic development (e.g. polysemy, shifted meanings etc.), spelling variations, etymological suggestions and other valuable pieces of information. In many cases, due to the scientific achievements and rapid changes that occur in the human societies, it is possible to observe how social and cultural changes may have been captured within a particular definition or an etymological explanation. The current study focuses on the analysis of four dictionary entries. How do the meanings of the selected words evolve semantically and what does each lexicographer offer to the reader as we approach modern times? Due to the restricted length available for this paper, the early seventeenth century has been set as starting point for this work; more precisely Robert Cawdrey's Table Alphabeticall (1604), a most well-known work regarded today as the first monolingual English dictionary. A total of ten important dictionaries up to the digital OED will be used. The aim is to demonstrate through a comparative approach what semantic changes have taken place throughout the definitions, what has survived or become obsolete over time and what is the semantic status of today's definitions within the selected headwords.
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