Планирование и организация пресс-службы в государственных и коммерческих структурах


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

On the other hand, English people, after getting into contact with new Americans, condemned their language for the mistakes and territorial peculiarities of their language and considered it to be wrong and barbarous.



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                                                         Lecture 7

                                    The beginning of the American Lexicography

   As is known the English language was ‘’brought’’ into the North American continent by the ‘’Forefathers’’ at the beginning of the XYII century. By the end of the XYIII c. about 4 mln. people lived in the North America and 90% of them came from the British Isles, for whom English was a mother tongue. Naturally, the settlers had to teach their children and they needed grammar books and textbooks. Many of them were taken from Britain but very often patriotic feelings of Americans, which were hostile to the former metropolitan motherland forced them to refuse from English editions and issue their own textbooks.

    On the other hand, English people, after getting into contact with new Americans, condemned their language for the mistakes and territorial peculiarities of their language and considered it to be wrong and barbarous.

    Under such historic circumstances the first American lexicographical experience was nothing but pure compilation of English monolingual dictionaries. Almost all American dictionaries since XYIII till 30’s of the XIX centuries were published specially for school usage. None of them could be compared to any of such dictionaries as those of Johnson, Bailey, Sheridan or Walker.

    The first US dictionary was published in 1798. By the irony of history its author’s name was Samuel Johnson, Jr. It contained 4100 word entries, the words were presented as separated into syllables with synonymous explanations.

    The second dictionary was published in 1800 by Johnson and John Eliot, which for the first

time fixed the so called Americanisms: borrowings from Red Indians – tomahawk, wigwam, squaw, and English words in their new meanings – capital, federal, as well as some new pronunciation versions.

   About six-seven other dictionaries had appeared by 1806, but they didn’t make any significant steps in the development of lexicography.

   At the beginning of the XIX century another outstanding figure in lexicography appeared on the linguistic horizon – Noah Webster, who worked as newspaper editor, school teacher, politician and scientist of encyclopedic dimension. He was the first to start simplification of English spelling. His ideological activity in linguistics is characterized by his admission of the facts that:

  1.  Language is developing constantly;
  2.  American English has its own peculiarities in comparison with British English;
  3.  He was a proponent of separation of AE  and called for establishing its own linguistic standard;
  4.  He insisted on compilation of dictionaries of pure American nature opposite to the use of editions published in Britain;
  5.  He was a faithful proponent of spelling reform in the direction of its simplification.

In 1806 Webster published the dictionary containing 40,000 entries (Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. New Heaven, 1806). It was an elementary manual where the words were given short explanations, more frequently in the way of a synonymous row: Accord’ v. to suit with, agree, unite, tune.

    In 1807 and 1817 he published two more new reprints (not editions) with some alterations. But since 1800 N. Webster had been working at the Big American Dictionary. It was a titanic work for a single man. First of all he started learning foreign languages, because etymological derivatives, in his opinion, required the knowledge of alive and dead languages. By 1807 he had mastered 12 languages, and by 1813- 20 languages, Sanskrit being one of them. Then, in the process of work he had learned 6 more languages and dialects, including Old Germanic and English ones.

   Webster did a tremendous job of picking up citations: he looked through English and American literature from the beginning of the XIY century to the end of the XYIII century, that is almost within five centuries, and made exhaustive selection from them. Besides, he analyzed all reference literature on science and technology for two centuries. Then he went to Europe, probably, to plunge into the ‘’flow’’ of comparative linguistics, which was under way in Europe and was absent in the USA. In 1825 he completed his work in Cambridge.

    Such was the dramatic end: «Когда я дошел до последнего слова, меня охватило такое волнение, что я не мог далее удерживать перо… Я собрал все силы, чтобы закончить последнее слово, прошелся несколько раз по комнате и, наконец, пришел в себя.»

   1828 saw Webster's Dictionary publication. It was headlined ''American Dictionary of the English Language. 2 vols. N.Y. 1828.’’ The word list contained 70,000 units that exceeded both Johnson’s dictionary and those of his followers: Sheridan (40,000), Todd (58,000) and Walker (38,000).

    But the weakest point of the dictionary was etymology of the words, despite the fact that Webster had spent so many years on learning languages and trying to find the etymons of the words. The Dictionary in two Volumes had 800 pp. each in 2,500 copies circulation. It had no

commercial success as it cost 20 dollars which was a great price at that time.

     The first unabridged new printing was published by Webster himself in 1841. The wordlist was enlarged by 5,000 words and definitions of the technical terms were edited by an expert of an American university. This started a tradition when not only linguists but experts of other fields of knowledge participated in compilation of dictionaries.

   After Webster’s death G. and C. Merriam Co. purchased the copyright and issued its first new edition in 1847, prepared by a group of experts. The pretext for it was the so called ‘’war of dictionaries’’. It contained 85,000 words and started a tradition of publishing American dictionaries in one volume despite the number of pages in it. Since that time the dictionaries prepared by different editors and experts are called ‘’Merriam Webster’s Dictionaries’’, or ‘’Webster’s Unabridged’’.

   The most complete and famous ‘Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language’ was published in 1934. It contained 600,000 entries and, practically, had nothing in common with its predecessor of 1828.


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