Dictionaries and culture

Authored by: Przemysław Łozowski

The Routledge Handbook of Lexicography

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138941601
eBook ISBN: 9781315104942
Adobe ISBN:


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If we follow the opinion that “when we use a word, we need to know both its meaning and its grammar” (LDCE 1987 (2nd ed.): F10), the question of the role and place of cultural information in a dictionary framework covers the meaning-related, or functional, as much as grammar-related, or formal, aspects of a given dictionary entry. Indeed, whether the plural of fungus is funguses or fungi, and, if it is the latter, whether it is pronounced with /g/ or /ʤ/, and whether or not one knows and uses fungus in one of its possible extended senses as “someone who is lazy and does nothing all day” (urbandictionary.com) – this is a matter of cultural considerations because it reflects the user’s expected preferences, choices, values, ideologies, knowledge, experience, and mentality, which is all that we typically call culture. So, if your dictionary specifies only one plural form of the singular fungus, or it insists on only one of the two pronunciations of fungi, or conceals slang meanings of fungus, this shows what group of speakers the dictionary makers want you to identify with and what forms and meanings they consider to be (in)appropriate, (un)desirable, (dis)agreeable, or (non)standard, be it in terms of meaning or grammar.

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