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A History of the «Concise Oxford Dictionary»


Malgorzata Kaminska

This book shows the evolution of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, a famous and innovative dictionary for native speakers of English. It traces changes in the dictionary from 1911 to recent times. By comparing samples from each edition, the author provides insights into the revisions of the dictionary. The analysis sheds light on the editors’ policy on various aspects of the dictionary’s structure, including definition style, vocabulary selection and sense discrimination. The study shows how the editors abandoned the telegraphic style of definitions and adapted them to the needs of the target users. As the dictionary evolved towards greater user-friendliness, it also aimed at broader vocabulary coverage.
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1. The aim and the structure of the book

This book aims to describe the development of the Concise Oxford Dictionary (henceforth COD) throughout its history, beginning with the first edition, published in 1911, and ending with the one published in 20041. We look into successive editions, eleven in all, by studying changes in terms of the following aspects: size, outside matter, selection of vocabulary, arrangement and form of entries, definitions, sense discrimination and order, syntagmatic and paradigmatic information, etymology, pronunciation, usage labels, and function. These aspects will be discussed in detail in what follows. Based on my intuitive knowledge of the dictionary, we may put forward a hypothesis that each aspect has changed, though the direction of the changes is not clear and is to be determined in the current study.

The book consists of fourteen chapters. Chapter 1 provides the methodological and theoretical background to the study of the history of COD. It introduces and defines lexicographic terms used in the empirical part of the book, and outlines the main points according to which the analysis is carried out. The method of taking samples is explained in one of the sections of this chapter.

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