Based on questions from 'Words & their Meaning' . Jackson.H. Longman (1988).


Dictionaries used:
Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (1990) OALD
Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary (1992) COBUILD
Collins English Dictionary (1991) CED
The Collins Spanish-English Dictionary (1992) SPANENG

Inflectional ("variant") forms are NOT examples of polysemy and dictionaries do not enter them under different senses.
A "lexeme" is a word as an item of meaning and is represented as a different headword in dictionaries.
"Citation forms" of lexemes are the base forms and are normally used as the headword. For example 'sing' NOT sings.
Irregular word forms often have separate entries. e.g. 'sung', 'feet', 'wore' etc.
Homograph = same spelling, different pron. and meaning. (e.g. bow)
Homophone = same pron., different spelling and meaning. (e.g. feet/feat)
Homonym = same spelling and pron., different meaning. (e.g. bank, ear). These are 2 different entries / headwords in dictionaries.
Polysemy = a word with a number of different senses of single meaning. (e.g. grow, foot). These are two variants / senses of the same headword in dictionaries.
The difference between homonyms and polysemous meanings is usually decided on by etymology (i.e. where the words come from).
The craft of the lexicographer is primarily the writing of definitions.
Dictionary definitions are forms of paraphrase (i.e. putting a word into other words)
Definitions can use:
1. Hyponomy.
e.g. Cutlery has the hyponyms knife, fork and spoon.
Spoon in turn has the hyponyms teaspoon, tablespoon etc. ( = the hierarchial relationship between meanings of lexemes.)
2. Synonymy.
e.g. purpose - intention - reason. ( = same or similar meanings).
Strict synonymy does NOT occur within a language.
3. Denotation.
e.g. caviar : the salted roe of a large fish. ( = description with attempted objectivity)
4. Connotation.
e.g. caviar : luxury, high living and sumptuous food. ( = association which is necessarily subjective)
5. Componential Analysis.
e.g. girl is [+Human] [-Adult] [+Female].
( = meanings of lexemes are analysed into components which are compared across groups).
It is, however, a limited form of analysis.
6. Collocation.
This is the combination of words that have a certain high mutual expectancy.
Polysemous meanings are often related to the different collocations.
e.g. strong in: strong tea, a strong man, a strong personality.
There is collocational restriction imposed on some words. e.g. rancid with only butter or bacon.
However, collocation does not seem to be important in dictionaries as it is not used systematically.
7. Antonomy.
e.g. opposites.
3 types:
i) Gradeable antonyms - these are not absolute.
They are relative/comparable.
(e.g. narrow / wide)
ii) Complementary antonyms - either one or the other.
(e.g. alive / dead)
iii) Converses / Relational opposites - a converse relation.
(e.g. husband / wife, give / receive, over / under)
Definitions can also be subdivided as follows:
analyses words into their classes and attributes / constituents.
e.g. bowed, stringed, wooden, etc.
states what is typical about the word.
i.e. How it is used. Its function.
e.g. to play music.
Substitutable Synonymy.
The use of synonymic paraphrases.
give examples of use.
But uneconomical on space. Need to attempt to use simpler language than the lexeme being defined but this is very difficult for simple words like 'flower'.
put into relation with other entitities.
Lexeme is viewed as part of the whole.
define how the lexeme is used grammatically.
as in an encyclopaedia.
i.e. giving information.

Continuing Samuel Johnson's tradition, today's dictionaries are comprehensive. But surely there is a modern need for a dictionary of "hard words"? i.e. those words most people would NOT know rather than all words. A dictionary "is an alphabetical listing of words with descriptive information about them, intended to be used for reference purposes."

Types and Sizes of Dictionaries.
1. General purpose dictionaries.
2. Specialist dictionaries.
i) Information
a) Spelling. (Duden Rechtschreibung)
b) Pronunciation.
c) Etymology.
d) Names. (e.g. people, places)
e) Fields. (e.g. slang, botany, medicine.) etc.
ii) User
a) Children.
b) Foreign learners.
c) Crossword enthusiasts. etc.
1. Library dictionaries.
2. Desk dictionaries.
3. Concise dictionaries.
4. Pocket dictionaries.
5. Compact dictionaries.
6. Gem dictionaries.

No etymological information. No etymological information.
Translation in mind L2 glosses Detailed syntactic information (but coded!!??)
One mother tongue assumed No particular mother tongue assumed!?
Often word word translations used as a form of synonymy or antonomy. Exemplification (strong) and meaning (simple). Restricted vocabulary used for definitions.

Layout and content reflect the lexicographer's idea of centrality of needs of a dictionary and not the needs of the users.
1. Alphabetical.
2. Stem lexeme - alphabetical
- e.g. hand with subcategory: manual.
3. Lexical / semantic fields
- e.g. fabrics. - i.e. shared meaning / superordinate to hymonyms.
But how do we define the lexical fields? (Overlapping?)
Examples include the famous "Roget's Thesaurus" which has no definitions and Longman's "Lexicon of Contemporary English" (T.McArthur. 1981) which does include definitions.

Dictionary Compilation:
1. Amass the data.
a) Lexicographer's knowledge and intuition.
b) Previous dictionaries.
c) Original source - text material.
d) Concordance of representative corpus.
2. Selection and Presentation.
Should selection occur before or after collection of data?
Cobuild's corpus questions the inclusion of many lexemes in other dictionaries.
The use of the computer in lexicography has become mandatory in many areas:
a) The reading of large texts for necessary citations.
b) The compilation and sorting of citations.
c) Typesetting.
d) Checking.
e.g. that words used in definitions are defined elsewhere.
3. Dealing with Meaning.
Lexemes: How many senses? The Cobuild question again!
Which order?
Polysemy or homonymy?
Analytical, synonomy or full sentence definitions?
Paradigmatic (vertical) lexis = substitution
Syntagmatic (horizontal) lexis = collocation
Lexicology = a branch of linguistics concerned with the study of words as individual items. Deals with formal amd semantic aspects of words and their etymology and history.
Lexical semantics = a branch of linguistic semantics, as opposed to philosophical semantics, studying meaning in relation to words. It can be considered a branch of lexicology.
Lexicography = the process, the profession and the principles of editing, writing and compiling dictionaries.

Try doing the following 17 exercises with 4 of your own dictionaries. It'll give you the best possible insight into the work of the lexicographer.

1. How do different dictionaries treat derived lexemes?

Choral / choir Choir is in the def. of choral but there is no reference of choral in choir. Separate entries in English. Same word in Spanish = 'coral' Choir is in the def. of choral but there is no reference of choral in choir. Choir is in the def. of choral but there is no reference of choral in choir.
Signify / sign Sign is in the def. of signify but there is no reference of signify in sign. Separate entries in Eng. with seperate meanings in Spanish. Sign is in the def. of signify but there is no reference of signify in sign. Sign is in the def. of signify but there is no reference of signify in sign.
Friend / befriend Friend (v.tr.) = archaic form of befriend. Befriend = to be a friend to. Separate entries in Eng. 'Amistar'= make friends of, befriend. Friend is in the def. of befriend but there is no reference of befriend in friend. Friend is in the def. of befriend but there is no reference of befriend in friend.
Close / enclose Enclose is in the Law sense and Latin etymology of close. Close is given as a hymonym of enclose. Separate entries in Eng. and Spanish. Enclose in def. of close around (phr v). No reference of close in enclose. No reference of enclose in close. No reference of close in enclose.
Friend / friendly Friendly is the entry after friend. Eng.:Friendly is 2 entries after friend. Span.:Separate entries Friendly is the entry after friend. Friendly is 2 entries after friend. Friendless is a separate entry.
Close / closure In the 10 senses of closure, close is only used in the fourth. No reference of closure in close. No reference in either Spanish or English and no cross reference. Close is used in second
of two senses of closure =shutdown No reference of closure in close.
Close is only in the third sense def. of closure=seal. No reference of closure in close.


2. List five compounds from newspaper headlines and see if they're treated as a single lexeme in any of the dictionaries.

Star Attraction
Short Cuts
YES (Under cut)
YES (Under cut)
YES (Under cut)
YES (Under short & cut)
Massacre Toll
NO (but in example of toll)
Discrimination Suit
Trade Ties


3. How do the dictionaries deal with these idioms (e.g. under which headword)?

hand in glove
spill the beans
No ref.
let the cat out of the bag
get the wrong end of the stick


4. Take one page at random from your dictionary.
How many words are derived from Old English (OE)?

From CED:
Page starting gazehound and ending in Geiger counter
= 44 entries minus the abbreviations.
Only one from OE = gear from OE gearwe.

5. Compare the front matter of the four dictionaries:

1 List of abbreviations. Abbreviations. Field/style labels Key to Phonetic symbols. Editorial Team. Foreward.
2 Consultants.
Editorial staff.
Collaborators. Acknowledgements. Abbreviations. Contents.
Guide to the use of dictionary (5pp)
3 Foreward.
Contents, preface. Introduction.

Key to entries (5pp)

Pronunciation and key.
4 Guide to use of dictionary (9pp) Graphic guide to layout. Using the dict.- pract.guide(7pp) Special entries
5 Pron key (x2) Using the dictionary (6pp)   Introduction (7pp)
6 Essays:
a) The pron. of English. b) The development of Eng. as a world language.
Pronunciation and orthography:
a) Euro.Span.pron.
b) Amer.Span.pron.
c) Spanish orth.
d) Pron.Ing.Brit.
e) Pron.Ing.N-Am.
f) Orth. Ingles.
  Corpus Acknowledgements (3pp)


6. Compare the appendices of the four:

(Table of weights and measures inside back cover)
The Spanish Verb
(10pp including conjugations)
El Verbo Ingles(4pp) Aspects of Word Formation in Span.(7pp) Numerals/Numeros Calculations/Calculo Weights & measures/ Pesos y medidas Time,dates/Hora,fecha Language in use
Lengua y uso Functions,writing,tel: Eng-Span. (32pp) Span-Eng. (34pp)
Appendices Contents Abbreviations
Appendices Contents
Labelled diagrams (17pp) Irregular Verbs
Numerical Expressions Weights & Measures Geographical Names
Common Forenames
Family Relationships
Military Ranks
Chemical Elements
The S.I. Units
Using the dictionary - a detailed guide to the entries (35pp)
Noun & Adj. classes
Verb Pattern Scheme


7. What pronunciation systems do the four use?
They all use the IPA except OALD which uses phonetic symbols except /e/.

8. How many headwords, senses and subsenses do the dictionaries have for 'cock'?

2 headwords:
a) 12 senses
ii) 3 subsenses =male species
v) 2 subsenses =firearm b) 2 senses
1 headword
2 senses
i) 3 subsenses (n)
ii) 2 subsenses (vb)
4 headwords
a) 3 senses+1 phr. =animal
b) 4 senses+1 phr. =tap/faucet/penis
c) 3 senses+2 phr. =verb
d) 1 sense = straw
1 headword
10 senses


9. How do the four dictionaries denote the following?
(i.e. Which is the primary/first definition?)

1. Salt n. a white powder. ........ used for seasoning food. (1 of 20) 1 word translation = 'sal' n. common white substance ........... sprinkled on food.
(1 of 5)
N UNCOUNT ** is a bitter-tasting ...... in sea water. (1 of 6)
2. Decorate vb. to make more attractive by adding ornament, colour etc.(1 of 3) 1 word translation = 'adornar', 'decorar' v.[Tn, Tn.pr] make s/t (more) beautiful by addin ornaments to it. (1 of 3) V+O
improve =adorn.If you ** s/t .ornament to it.
(1 of 3)
3. Astute adj. having insight or acumen (1 of 1) 1 word translation = 'listo', 'sagaz', 'inteligente'.

adj. clever and quick ..... shrewd.
(1 of 1)

ADJ. QUALIT. =canny,shrewd. s/o who is ** is clever ..... for their own advantage. (1 of 1)
4. Offhand adj. without care .. ...ungracious.
(1 of 2)
1 word translation ='informal 'brusco' 'descortes', 'poco ceremonioso.' adj.(of behaviour, speech etc.) too casual, abrupt......
(1 of 1)
ADJ. QUALIT. casual=perfunctry If s/o behaves in an ** way they are not friendly.. show disapproval
(1of 2)
5. Abuse (v) vb. to use incorrectly ........ misuse.
(1 of 10)
3 subsenses.
a) = revile 'injuriar' 'maltratar de palabra' + 2.
v [Tn] make bad or wrong use of (sth).
(1 of 2)
use=misusetakeadvantage of. If you abuse s/t you use it in a wrong way .... bad purpose
(1 of 3)
6. Gratification the act of gratifying or the state of being gratified. (1 of 2) a) = reward. 'gratificacion' 'recompensa' (tip) 'propina' (1 of 2) n (fml) [u] gratifying or being gratified ... sexual gratification. (1 of 2) N UNCOUNT
EG. Dull, repetitive work gives no gratification (subsense)
(1 of 2)


10. Check the standard dialect synonyms of these regional phrases:

1. culch refuse / rubbish NO NO NO
2. mullock mess / muddle NO NO NO
3. pawky having a dry wit NO drily humorous NO
4. stob a post / stump NO NO NO


11. How are synonymy and antonymy used in defining the following?

1. chancy Ant: of uncertain outcome
Syn: risky
Syn: 'arriesgado', 'dudoso'. Syn: risky, uncertain. Syn: rickety, dicey.
2. elapse Syn: (of time) to pass by Syn: 'pasar', 'transcurrir' Syn:(of time)pass Syn: go by
3. ordinary Ant: uninteresting unexceptional
Syn: familiar commonplace
Syn: 'corriente', 'comun', 'normal' Ant: nothing special Syn: normal, usual. Ant: unusual, rare
Syn: normal, usual, pedestrian.
4. unkempt Syn: uncombed, dishevelled, ungroomed, slovenly, crude, coarse. Syn: 'desaseado', 'descuidado', despeinado'. Syn: not kept tidy, looking dishevelled or neglected Ant: not looked after carefully or kept neat. Syn: untidy, neglected.


12. Which of the following show evidence of componential analysis in which of the dictionaries?

1. alligator vs. crocodiles snout=[+broad] [+short] No evidence [+croc family] [+rivers] [+lakes] [+animal] vs. crocodiles jaws =[+short] [+rivers] [+lakes] [+U.S.] [+China]
2. litotes No evidence No entry No evidence No entry
3. pewter [+copper] [+tin] [+antimony] [+lead] [+alloy] [+peltre] [+metal] [+tin] [+lead] [+grey] [+metal] [+tin] [+lead] alloy
4. tortuous No evidence No evidence No evidence No evidence


13. Which entries show collocational possibilities in which dictionaries of the following?
*** indicates the headword position.

1. elect *** s/o Mayor *** a member President *** ***a new President to Parliament
President ***
*** s/o Chairman
*** a President President ***
*** a Mayor
**s/o toParliament
*** to the Council
+ many others too numerous to list.
2. accuse *** a person with a(n) offence/crime stand ***ed of ***s/o of cheating, cowardice, theft *** of killing, incompetence, murder.
3. drive *** a hard bargain whist ***
***a car
***a hole in the wall *** shaft
***to despair
go for a ***
take s/o for a ***
a long ***
*** home
the *** to power
sex ***
***a taxi
***to victory
***s/o mad
***a post into the ground
*** a taxi, a car, cattle, a stake into the ground, someone crazy, the ball, home, -in
+ many others too numerous to list.
** a vehicle, home learn to ****
take for a ****
a private ****
front wheel ****
sex ***
+ many others too numerous to list.
4. betray *** one's country
*** oneself
his accent *** him
his face *** his surprise
***state secrets, one's country, one's principles, our trust. His eyes/accent
***ed him.
feel ***ed
I'll never *** you.
5. utter ** a growl/slander ***fool /bliss / limit *** a word ***nonsense, ***disaster, ***depression *** a sigh, threats,
a cry of pain,
a word, slanders.
*** a sound, an unkind word, fool, conviction, disregard, amazement.


14. How do each of the four dictionaries order the senses of each lexeme?
OALD NOT EXPLAINED. It seems to be most common first but you'd have to draw your own conclusions.
CED First, "most common in current usage" or, if different, "core meaning, which illuminates the meaning of other senses.
COBUILD "by consideration of several criteria, including frequency, independence of meaning and concreteness." "Wherever possible the first sense is a common one, and a fairly easy one." "... because the commonest meaning is often not a clear and independent one, it is not always put first." "The first sense is a common one and a concrete one; also an independent one and if possible it is concrete."
SPANENG "basic and concrete senses first" "figurative and familiar ones later."

15. How many different senses of "see" (v) do each of the dictionaries realise?
CED 16

16. How do the four dictionaries mark the word classes and subcategorisations of the following?

Meat 1 headword (n)
5 senses,
2 phrases
1 headword
2 senses:
a. (n)
b. (attr.)
1 headword n. [U,C] 3 senses,
1 phrase
1 headword.
1 sense. N. MASS food
Asleep 1 headword.
(adj. postpositive)
4 senses. Last=Euphemistic
1 headword. (adj) 1 headword. (adj.[pred])
2 senses.
1 headword.
5 senses.
1. ADJ.CLASSIF. PRED. awake.
4. ADJ. CLASSIF. PRED. = numb.
5. ADJ. CLASSIF. PRED. inattentive Other 2: phrs vrbs.
Mere 5 headwords
1. adj. superlative
2. n. - 2 senses
a) Dialect/archaic
b) Obsolete
3. n. Archaic.
4. n. N.Z.
5. n. combining form.
2 headwords.
1. (n) 1 sense.
2. (adj) 1 sense.
1 headword (adj.[attrib])
2 senses
b) ( idm.)
1 headword.
3 senses.
1. ADJ. CLASSIF. ATTRIB. = simple
usu a + ADJ. = bare.
Personally adv. 1 headword.
4 senses.
b) (sentence modifier)
1 headword. (adv)
2 senses.
1 headword (adv)
3 senses + 1 idm.
1 headword.
2 senses.
b) 4 subsenses
i ) ADV SEN.
ii) ADV with VB.
Therefore 1 headword.
sentence connector.
2 senses
1 headword.
1 sense. (adv)
1 headword.
1 sense. (adv)
1 headword.
Us 1 headword.
pron (objective)
5 senses.
e) chiefly U.S.
1 headword.
1 sense.
(pron) 'nos'
(after prep) 'nosotros'
1 headword.
1 sense. (pers. pron) used as the object of a V or of a prep
Also independently and after be.
1 headword.
2 senses
a) PRON. pl used as O.
b) not pl.


17. How do the 4 dictionaries mark the following for formality of context?

1. fucking Taboo slang Danger- offensive avoid as non-nat. speaker. Taboo slang "extremely rude ... offensive" "swear words"
2. bastard Informal;
1. offensive
2. often humorous or affectionate
1.'cabron'- careful only if confident. 2.'hijoputa' = Danger Slang derogatory "insulting ... very offensive"
3. heretofore Formal or Law (liter)ery Formal "a formal word"
4. ain't Not standard Careful.
non-nat. speaker only if confident and sure of company.
Not standard or jocular. "non standard spoken English"
5. pussy (i.e. female sexual parts) Taboo slang Danger - 'conio' Taboo slang "a rude use"