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DICTIONARY KNOWLEDGE WHEN AND HOW TO USE

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DICTIONARY KNOWLEDGE

DICTIONARY KNOWLEDGE WHEN AND HOW TO USE

MEANING of DICTIONARY

A dictionary is a book that gives a list of the words of a language in alphabetical order and explains what they mean, or gives a word for them in a foreign language.

It is a book that explains the words that are used in a particular subject

The theory and practice of writing dictionaries is called lexicography. A person who writes or compiles and edits a dictionary is called a lexicographer

All the words and phrases used in a particular language or subject; all the words and phrases used and known by a particular person or group of people are called lexicon.

TYPES OF DICTIONARIES

i. Monolingual dictionaries – dictionaries explain words of the same language.

ii. Bilingual dictionaries –  dictionaries give translation from one language to another.

iii. Some dictionaries give explanations about words of a special discipline/field. E.g. Biology, Linguistics, Law etc.

PARTS OF A DICTIONARY

A dictionary is usually divided into three parts.

  1. The Front Matter
  2. The Alphabetical Listing
  3. The Back Matter

1. The Front Matter

The front matter differs in each dictionary but generally it contains the preface giving some important information about the dictionary, key to entries, and notes on how to use the dictionary etc.

2. The Alphabetical Listing

This is the largest and the main section of every dictionary. It has entries that tell how the word is to be pronounced, spelt, and used. Some good dictionaries include such other important information as stress, grammatical function (noun, adjective, adverb, preposition etc) history of the origin of the word, etc.

3. The Back Matter

This is the last part that may include information such as a list of weights and measures, list of irregular verbs, notes on punctuations, glossaries of foreign words, etc.

USING A DICTIONARY

Most dictionaries are abridged. For a dictionary to fit a lot of information into a small space abridged dictionaries use a system of symbols, abbreviations and different type of face.

Each dictionary uses a slightly different system so you should consult the front matter of the dictionary to determine how its system operates.

SYMBOLS AND ABBREVIATIONS USED IN A DICTIONARY

As stated above abridged dictionaries use symbols and abbreviations to in order to economise space and use as little space as possible in giving as much information as possible.

The following are the common symbols and abbreviations used in the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary.

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SYMBOL
MEANING AND USAGE
EXAMPLE
1Shows new part of speech in an entry. E.g. the word ‘report    Noun

verb

2Indicates derivatives of words affirm

affirmation

3The tilde

~

Is used in the place of a headword, in phrases, sentences, derivatives, compounds and idioms. This is used when the headword has more than three lettersAffix

~sth to (sth)

4 Slant mark /Used to show an alternative wayFor sb/sth
5(    )      bracketsIndicate optional words or phrasesMake (both) ends meet
6Cross referenceIt guides from one part of a dictionary to another. In other words it means look underSang         sing
7-ier, iest

-er, -est

Indicates that the word forms its comparative and superlative forms of adjectives without using more or most.Smart, smarter, smartest
8-nn- double consonantsIt means that the last consonant is doubled when an end suffix is added.Begin

(-nn-) beginning

9sbSomebodyGive sth to sb
10sthsomethingSay sth
11[C], [U]It shows whether the noun is countable or uncountableWater [U]
12IDMIdiomIDM  not hold water
13SYNSynonymAgree     SYN approve
14OPP/ANTOpposite, antonymImport OPP export
15/  /Pronunciations eg Mother/ˈmʌðər/
PHRVPhrasal verbGet PHRV get about
16sl,

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Taboo !

Used to indicate a slang or an offensive word that is not good to be pronounced in public.Fuck! (taboo/sl)
17AWLAcademic Word ListConference AWL
18AmEAmerican EnglishCone /kəʊn, AmE koʊn/
19BrEBritish EnglishConductress (BrE, old-fashioned)
20Pl.pluralMan (pl men)
21Sing.singularThe New testament (sing)

USES OF A DICTIONARY

(INFORMATION WE GET FROM A DICTIONARY)

A good dictionary must show the following information.

1. Meaning of a headword.

This is a primary function of a dictionary. It shows what the word means either in the same language or in another language.

2. Spellings of that word.

Nowadays we have spellcheckers on our computers to help us with our spelling, but a dictionary is still a useful tool, as spellcheckers are not always reliable! A good dictionary shows the spellings for AmE and BrE.

3. Pronunciation of the headword.

The pronunciation of English words is shown in the dictionary after the headword, inside the slashes //. A good dictionary shows the alternative spellings for AmE and BrE.

4. The word classes/parts of speech of the headwords

E.g., noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, interjection, conjunction,

5. Etymology/origin of the word.

This is the origin and history of a particular word.

Babbitt/bæbɪt/n aperson who is satisfied with a narrow set of values and thinks mainly about possessions and making money. ORIGIN From the name of the  main character in the nove Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

6. Examples of usage in a sentence

School/skuːl/ n [c] a place where children go to be educated e.g. My brother and I went to the same school.

7. Currency

Not all words and meanings are in general present day use. Certain words like gramophone are used by old speakers but not by younger ones. These words are labelled (old-fashioned). Others are; thou, thee, ye, art (be)

8. Region.

Some words are restricted in particular areas and a good dictionary will show this. AmE, BrE, AustrE, NZE, IndE, SAfrE, CanE etc e.g. boomerang/ˈbuːməræŋ/ noun,a curved flat piece of wood that you throw and that can fly in a circle and come back to you. Boomerangs were first used by Australian Aborigines as weapons when they were hunting.

9. Register

Some words reflect a special relationship between speakers or special occasions. A good dictionary will indicate this e.g. Fuck! (taboo/sl)

10. Specialist usage

A good dictionary will also indicate specialised terms used in a particular field or discipline e.g. poetry, linguistic, anatomy,

11. The meaning of symbols and abbreviations.

As shown above.

12. Syllabic division (syllabification)

This helps to know the division of words into syllables.

Example syl•labi•fi•ca•tion

Study the dictionary extract below and Write 5 [FIVE] information we get from the dictionary by citing examples from the extract .

Agree                                                                                                 water

Agree /əˈgri:/v. to have the same opinion as sb; to say that you have the same opinion. When he said that, I had to agree. OPP disagree SYN approve

Amerasian/əmereɪʃn ;- reɪʒnn. a person with one parent from Asia and one parent from the US. Amerasian adj

Babbitt/bæbɪt/n aperson who is satisfied with a narrow set of values and thinks mainly about possessions and making money. ORIGIN From the name of the  main character in the nove Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis.

Casa•nova /ˌkæsəˈnəʊvə/n BrE a man who has sex with a lot of women ORIGIN From Giovanni Jacopo Casanova, an Italian man in the 18th century who was famous for having sex with many women.

Chancy /ˈtʃɑːnsi/  adj. involving risks and uncertainty SYN risky.

Convenient /kənˈviːniənt/    adj. useful, easy or quick to do, not causing problems. OPPINCOVENIENT

Debate /dɪˈbeɪt/n [C,U] 1. a formal discussion of an issue at a public meeting or in a parliament. 2. an argument or discussion expressing different opinions.

Deathless /ˈdeθləs/ adj. never dying or forgotten  SYN IMMORTAL

difference /ˈdɪfrəns/ n. [C,U] (between A & B) the way in which two people or things are not like each other; the way in which sb has changed. OPPSIMILARITY

fuck /fʌk/  v (taboo, sl) 1. to have sex with sb. 2. a swear word that many people find offensive that is used to express anger, disgust or surprise. IDM fuck me! used to express surprise. Eg. Fuck me! Have you seen how much this costs?

game /geɪm/n.[C] (pl  games). an activity or a sport with rules in which people or teams compete against each other. egwe are going to the ball game.

goose / gu:s /n, (pl. geese)[C] a bird like a large duck with a long neck.

keep / ki:p/ v. (kept, kept). to stay in a particular condition or position; to make sb do this.

uninspired /ˌʌnɪnˈspaɪəd/adj. not original or exciting SYN DULLOPP   INSPIRED

water  /ˈwɔːtə(r)/ n, v. [U] a liquid without colour, smell or taste that falls as rain, is in lakes fivers and sees and is used for drinking, washing etc.

13. PRONUNCIATION

In many dictionaries you will find the pronunciation of a word written using special symbols inside the slanted marks / / usually soon after the headword.  The system used to show pronunciation of the words is the IPA system. (International Phonetic Alphabets)

For example pro·nun·ci·ation / prəˌnʌnsiˈeɪʃn/

Your dictionary shows the pronunciation for English words, and this includes the stress. Stress is very important, because it is hard to understand a word pronounced with the wrong stress.

Primary stress (main stress) is indicated by using a high mark (‘)

The secondary stress in the word is indicated by using a low mark (,) . In compound headwords, the stress is also shown with these marks.

Phonetic symbols

The following are the phonetic symbols accepted as the RP (Received Pronunciation) which are not associated with any particular region of the English speaking community. They are the most general and acceptable throughout the English speech community.

Consonants                                                            vowels 

sound
 word
pronunciation
sound
 word
pronunciation
ppen/pen/
Monophthongs
bbad/bæd/i:see/si:/
tten/ten/ɪsit/sɪt/
dden/den/emen/men/
kcome/kʌm/æban/bæn/
ggo/gəʊ/ɑ:heart/hɑ:t/
ʧchain/ʧeɪn/ʌcup/kʌp/
ʤjug/ʤʌɡ/ɜ:sir/sɜ:/
ffan/fæn/ɒgot/gɒt/
vvan/væn/ɔ:saw/sɔ:/
θthin/θɪn/u:new/nju:/
ðthis/ðɪs/ʊput/pʊt/
ssay/seɪ/əago/əgəʊ/
zzoo/zu:/
Diphthongs
ʃshoe/ʃu:/
ʒvision/vɪʒn/say/seɪ/
hhen/hen/my/maɪ/
mman/mæn/ɔɪboy/bɔɪ/
nno/nəʊ/ɪədear/dɪə/
ŋsing/sɪŋ/chair/ʧeə/
lleg/leg/ʊəsure/ʃʊə/
rring/rɪŋ/əʊ(oʊ)no/nəʊ/AmE/noʊ/
jyou/ju:/about/əbaʊt/
wwin/win/

Now use the above sounds to read the following paragraph.

/jɔ:  ˈdɪkʃənri  ʃəʊz  ðə  prəˌnʌnsiˈeɪʃn  fə  ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ  wɜːdz  ənd  ðɪs  ɪnˈkluːdz stres. stres  ɪz  ˈveri  ɪmˈpɔːtnt  bɪˈkɒz  ɪt  ɪz  hɑːd  tə ˌʌndəˈstænd  ə  wɜ:d prəˈnaʊnst  wɪð  ðə  rɒŋ  stres./

HOW TO FIND A WORD IN A DICTIONARY

Before we look at how to find a word in a dictionary let us familiarize ourselves with the following basic terminologies.

1. Entry

This is an item, for example a piece of information, that is written or printed in a dictionary, an account book, a diary, etc. each word explained in a dictionary is an entry.

2. Main Entry (Head words).

These are the words or phrases in bold type (heavy type face) that extend into the margin. These are technically called HEADWORDS.

A headword may be a single word e.g. boy, compound word e.g.  Shopkeeper, an abbreviation e.g.  CNN (Cable News Network) a letter of an alphabet e.g.  A,B,C , a part of a word (prefix, suffix or combination form) e.g. pre- dis- and it can also be a dummy.

3. Dummy entry

This is a word that is not explained in the dictionary but it refers you to the main entry where it is explained. Dummy entries occur in irregular plurals and irregular past tenses

E.g. went / went/ past tense of go

men /men/ pl. of man

4. Sub-entry

This is an expression that uses the headword but has a special meaning of its own. For example the word man has many subentries such as

Man-eater, Man-hour, Manslaughter, Manservant, Manhole

5. Headword division (syllabification)

When writing, it is sometimes necessary to divide the word at the end of a line because there is no enough space for a complete word. Recommended places for division are shown by means of raised dots. The dot is used in all the headwords which can be divided.

6. Guide word.

This is a word that is in bold print and found at the top of each page in a dictionary. Its function is to help the dictionary user to know whether the word he/she is looking for is in that page. Thus he/she may go through the dictionary looking for the word quickly and without wasting much time.

The first guide word that appears on the top of the left column refers to the first entry that appears on the page. The second guide word that appears on the top right column refers to the last word on the page.

Identification of a headword.

After all the explanations it is simple now to identify the headword in a dictionary. The first way is to know what can be the headword as we have already seen. i.e. it can be a single word, compound, etc. The second way is to look at the general characteristics of a headword; e.g.

  • It follows the alphabetical order in relation to other headwords.
  • It extends to the margin.
  • It is bolded.
  • It is doted to indicate syllabic division in words with more than one syllable.
  • It is the first word of an entry. All the other words use its explanations although they may be having various descriptions.

FINDING A WORD

To find a word you are looking up in a dictionary without wasting much of your time and efforts, you must know how the dictionary is arranged. The entries are listed in alphabetical order letter by letter; horizontally and vertically.

i. Vertically;

The dictionary lists all the words beginning with letter a, to z. For example the following words can be arranged alphabetically in the following order.

accent, begin, chimp, dog, egg, forty, glory, home, ink, jug, kill, leg, man, now, etc

ii. Horizontally.

The order is determined by the first letter. If the words share the same first letter, then look up for the second if it is also the same to the third until you find the letter that is different, the check alphabets and determine which word comes first.

  1. pinball, pineapple, pine cone, pinpoint, pipeline, pipe organ, pipette, piquant
  2. seedling, seemingly, seep, segment, seismic, seize, seizure, select
EXERCISE.
Now look up for the following words

 Machine, quality, organization, instrument, act, substance, device, state, process, container, tool, feeling.
Now arrange the following words in alphabetical order.

C E N C A T =
E N B I G =
L O G Y R =
P H I C M =
T O S O B =
T Y R O F =
W O B L E =
W O L A L=

Vehicle, aircraft, dish, cloth, solid, liquid, gas, lava, glider, satin, haggis, ozone, tikka, helium, venom, SUV, ingot, microlight, tweed, rickshaw, wax.

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