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Macmillan English Dictionary hamstrung?
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Duncan Powrie



Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 525

PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2004 5:49 pm    Post subject: Macmillan English Dictionary hamstrung? Reply with quote

I was browsing through my MED (for Advanced Learners of American English) the other day, and noticed that there was no entry for "hamstring" as a verb.

The entries run and look pretty much like this (excluding pronunciation):

hamster noun a very small furry animal with a short tail, kept as a pet

hamstring noun a TENDON behind your knee

hamstrung adj prevented from doing what you want to do

hand 1 noun *** (there follows a sense menu for hand 1)

What do you guys make of this decision?
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Duncan Powrie



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2004 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"You'd find more cheer in a graveyard!" (Gimli, LOTR 2)

Wow, I have met more talkative tumbleweed (or dogs accompanying their blind masters to comedy nights in deserted local pubs). No budding amateur lexicographers among us, then? I've gotta say, I am EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED!!! Evil or Very Mad But I'm sure I'll get over it somehow... Wink

Big hint: Just thought I saw the ghost of Dave Willis in the editorial decisions of the MED is all.
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Duncan Powrie



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2004 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not that Dave Willis is dead, you understand (although judging from his Rules, Patterns and Words, one could be forgiven for suspecting that his brain and its attendant writing faculties had died long ago, and that it is now only intermittently "working" in the skull of some rabid computer-attacking zombie frankenstein ghost-writer monkey Sad ...perhaps the same monkey that killed all the ELT editors at CUP shortly before said book was published! You mean you didn't hear about that?! Shocking, it was, shocking...).

Last edited by Duncan Powrie on Fri Jul 30, 2004 8:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Duncan Powrie



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2004 10:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

On a more serious note, the arguments that Willis makes can be found at: http://www.cels.bham.ac.uk/resources/LexSyllabus/lexsch2.pdf

(The interesting stuff only really begins on the second page, that is, page 16).

Incidentally, last year I was able to view the whole of The Lexcial Syllabus online through the Birmingham server (I didn't really need to read it online, though, cos I'd chanced upon and snapped up a copy during a stay in Hong Kong!), but I can't seem to find that URL now, so you guys will probably have to alter the chapter number in the above URL and view the book in stages. Crying or Very sad

(There was also a printer-busting document about Syllabus Design or similar that they use on MAs at Birmingham, that I made a hard copy of, and shall finally get around to reading whenever I am back in the UK!).

Willis made some similar yet still interesting points in a paper in:

Bygate M., Tonkyn A. & Williams E. (eds) (1994): Grammar and the Language Teacher. Prentice Hall, Hemel Hempstead. (This is a superb book that will really get you salivating, even if you thought your grammar juices had dried up long ago - there are chapters by Geoffrey Leech, Sylvia Chalker and Michael Swan (to name some of the more well-known contributors)).

Probably this stuff is old hat to most of you guys, but seeing as these two books are now out of print, I thought it would be good to spread the word about the above URL and thereby help Willis's ideas remain available to more recently qualified teachers.


Last edited by Duncan Powrie on Wed Aug 04, 2004 12:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2004 6:35 am    Post subject: Hmmm.... Reply with quote

Good moringin all!

"Interesting", Duncan.... Twisted Evil

Though Mr D*ck [the missing vowel is "i", I can't believe that I can't use the word without a censure, I did not mean "p*nis" i.e. male reproductive organ....but rather a little play on words, "dictionary" reduced to a nickname, much the same way as Mr Nixon was known as "tricky *beep*". Censurship makes me laugh, it only highlights what it intends to supress....] (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language) does list hamstring as a transisitive verb:

"3. To disable by cutting the hamstring or hamstrings of; cripple.
4. To render powerless or useless; thwart:..."

The example sentence uses the past participle of this verb as an adjective:

"....Their efforts toward a peaceful settlement were hamstrung by prejudice."

Niether in the mid-west nor on the east coast have I heard hamstring used in everyday conversation, and I only have a clear definition of the word thanks to Duncan bringing it up, I know the word exists but would have had to depend on the context to understand it. And Learner's dictionaries....well, let's just say they are, hmmm, interesting.

Thanks for the links, Duncan.

peace,
revel.
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Duncan Powrie



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2004 7:59 am    Post subject: Re: Hmmm.... Reply with quote

revel wrote:
Good moringin all!

The revel in Seville musta been one hell of a party!
Quote:
"Interesting", Duncan.... Twisted Evil

Don't start that nonsense again or "The Guvnor" (LL) will need to take his hat off (again) and give you a slap!
Quote:
The example sentence uses the past participle of this verb as an adjective:

Did you read the chapter, or "skim" over it in a drunken blur? Willy seems to be implying the whole concept of p.pLaughing is unnecessary (at least, in the context of teaching the passive. In its more "verby" role, Lewis suggests we just call it the third form of the verb or something like that). Willis's main point is that all we need to and should be doing in relation to the passive is getting students to notice the presence or absence of an agent phrase to help them realize more than the "adjectival" meaning is involved when the agent phrase does indeed co-occur. A good idea? I'll need to read up on things in my Biber et al! Wink
Quote:
Niether in the mid-west nor on the east coast have I heard hamstring used in everyday conversation, and I only have a clear definition of the word thanks to Duncan bringing it up, I know the word exists but would have had to depend on the context to understand it. And Learner's dictionaries....well, let's just say they are, hmmm, interesting.

Actually, although I bang on about frequency and attestability a lot, I am very interested in the less frequent words, because the process of attempting to define them and decide if they are useful helps me to feel surer that any selection based mainly on frequency is actually doing a reasonable job in terms of coverage (i.e. I expect items in an essential "core" to be able to substitute for any and every even remotely useful item in the current language as a whole).
Quote:
Thanks for the links, Duncan.

And thank you, revel, for replying!


Last edited by Duncan Powrie on Sun Aug 01, 2004 8:37 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Stephen Jones



Joined: 18 May 2003
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2004 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Both the SOED and Merriam-Webster give hanstring as a verb, but the examples are all of the past participle.
I presume the idea of not giving the base form of the word in the learners dictionary is to stop them trying to use it metaphorically, though in Mongolia for example there would be enough horses around for it to be possible they would want to use it literally.
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Duncan Powrie



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2004 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stephen Jones wrote:
Both the SOED and Merriam-Webster give hanstring as a verb, but the examples are all of the past participle.
I presume the idea of not giving the base form of the word in the learners dictionary is to stop them trying to use it metaphorically, though in Mongolia for example there would be enough horses around for it to be possible they would want to use it literally.

Yes, funny, Stephen Very Happy BUT most other learner dictionaries do actually list "hamstring" as a verb (and do not explicitly view it as being an adjective), whilst the definitions and examples they give are clearly metaphorical (figurative?). Did you mean to say rather that they are being ENCOURAGED to use only the metaphorical, rather than the literal meaning (and its corresponding form), on the basis of perceived (and presumably receptive) needs (at least outside of Mongolia)?!

Yeah, the learners in Mongolia should invest in native dictionaries eh! Laughing

Personally, I find the MED decision strange (and have to presume it would confuse students if not teachers), but having read Willis's arguments, maybe there is something to be said for skipping the whole transformational-generative shebang?[/quote]


Last edited by Duncan Powrie on Sat Jul 31, 2004 10:47 am; edited 2 times in total
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Duncan Powrie



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2004 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps the main problem is that learner dictionaries like the MED are trying to be too innovative, whilst native ones like the SOED etc (sorry I almost vomit if I say the name Merriam-We...<<blurgh>>) aren't innovative enough. A good compromize would seem to be the NODE (or, as it has now been retitled, the Oxford Dictionary of English).

Here are a few capsule reviews of the ODE from Amazon that I thought you'd enjoy:

25 of 56 people found the following review helpful:

Baffling, November 7, 2003
Reviewer: Thomas Leggett from Street, Somerset
I am up to 'undulation' at the moment, I am having a bit of trouble getting my head around the plot, but a thouroughly entertaining read all the same. I would reccomend it to anyone hoping to extend their vocabulary.


35 of 77 people found the following review helpful:

great, October 28, 2003
Reviewer: A reader from New Bedlam Mental Asylum, Springfield
Great book, I got it last week, i'm half way through already, a real page turner. Real exiting ending,(the Zebra did it!).
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Duncan Powrie



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2004 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

COMPARISON OF DICTIONARIES:

Cambridge Advanced Learner's: order of entries is V ("often passive", with clearly passive example that includes a -by agent phrase) then N (human "tendons" only).


COBUILD3: order of entries is N (no mention of animal hamstrings either!), then V (no mention of passives anywhere; only one, active, example: "If he becomes the major opposition leader, he could hamstring a conservative-led coalition.").


LDOCE4: hamstring 1 noun
ham‧string / ˈhæmˌstrɪŋ / [countable]
a tendon behind your knee, which sometimes gets injured when you do sport
He pulled a hamstring in training. hamstring injury/problem/strain etc

hamstring 2 verb
hamstring
past tense and past participle hamstrung
/ -strʌŋ / [transitive]
to make someone unable to take the action they want or need to take, especially by restricting them
The President feels he is hamstrung by Congress.


OALDCE6: hamstring noun 1 one of the five TENDONS behind the knee that connect the muscles of the upper leg to the bones of the lower leg: a hamstring injury; She's pulled a hamstring. 2 a TENDON behind the middle joint (=HOCK) of the back leg of a horse and some other animals

verb (hamstring, hamstrung) [VN] [often passive] (written) to prevent someone from working or taking action in the way that is needed


NODE: hamstring noun any of five tendons at the back of a person's knee: he pulled a hamstring. > the great tendon at the back of a quadruped's hock.

verb (past and past participle hamstrung) [with obj.] cripple (a person or animal) by cutting their hamstrings. > (usu. be hamstrung) severely restrict the efficiency or effectiveness of: we were hamstrung by a total lack of knowledge.
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Duncan Powrie



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2004 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Editor-in Chief of the MED, Michael Rundell, says: "(S)tudents use dictionaries for different purposes at different times, depending on whether they are in 'receptive' or 'productive' mode: therefore, it is helpful to make a distinction between information that meets users’ receptive needs and information useful for successful language production

What makes the MED really different – and, we hope, uniquely useful for learners – is this clear distinction between productive and receptive information types. The words in the dictionary are clearly divided into two main classes: core vocabulary and more peripheral items." http://www.macmillandictionary.com/createhow.htm

Probably this, rather than Willis's ideas explicitly, is what informed their editorial decision to make "hamstrung" (and not "hamstring") the entry...but it does rather beg the question, would it really have taken up that much more space to put in the "traditional" guff? Which approach do you think ultimately makes the most sense, not only lexicographically, but linguistically and pedagogically, too (because I still can't but help think Willis has a point, and may have been an influence; several people from Birmingham were consultants on the MED, though not, unfortunately, the great man himself - if he had been, it might've helped wrap up this whole "conspiracy theory" a lot quicker! Wink).
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2004 5:14 pm    Post subject: Yo, robot.... Reply with quote

A sunny and hot Saturday afternoon in Huesca to all of you....

Just 30 minutes before I head out to see "Yo, Robot", hope it lives up to the story.

Duncan, you say: "Lewis suggests we just call it the third form of the verb or something like that," which reminds me of how I have to identify the form to the majority of my students: tercera columna, which makes reference obviously to the irregular verb list included in the appendix of almost all EFL and ESL books. The third column is the past participle and since everyone tries to learn irregular verbs through the boring "sing, sang, sung" technique of memorization, it's clearer to students when that form is identified that way. A pity. Confused

Then you say: "Actually, although I bang on about frequency and attestability a lot, I am very interested in the less frequent words...." and I reply that that is wonderful, though I usually only encounter such words in class during cloze exercises of songs, or in some readings. What happens in my classes often is that songs are rarely used, video almost never, and readings, I think I can say never. Don't have classes where such would be useful to our objectives.

Can you explain what makes you nauseous when trying to pronounce Webst...? This is a serious question to someone who evidently knows a number of dictionaries well. Learning dictionaries I don't use because they don't contribute to my idea of classroom economy, though I would suggest a good one if I knew which to suggest, at least for home study. I certainly wouldn't offer the Websters to my students, though I have used it myself in class. In class I use an Oxford bigger-than-but-similiar-to-a-pocket translation dictionary, well, I don't use it, there are now few words I don't know how to translate on the spot in either direction, but my students do use it when time or fluidity permits in the class activity.

Do suggest, then, anyone, dictionaries and why, it's an area where I certainly could learn a lot!

peace,
revel.
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Duncan Powrie



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2004 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

revel wrote:
Can you explain what makes you nauseous when trying to pronounce Webst...? This is a serious question to someone who evidently knows a number of dictionaries well. Learning dictionaries I don't use because they don't contribute to my idea of classroom economy, though I would suggest a good one if I knew which to suggest, at least for home study. I certainly wouldn't offer the Websters to my students, though I have used it myself in class. In class I use an Oxford bigger-than-but-similiar-to-a-pocket translation dictionary, well, I don't use it, there are now few words I don't know how to translate on the spot in either direction, but my students do use it when time or fluidity permits in the class activity.

Do suggest, then, anyone, dictionaries and why, it's an area where I certainly could learn a lot!

Hi again, revel! I hope the movie was as good as you were hoping!

Your students are lucky to have such a bilingual (and doubtless bicultural) teacher as you to guide them and be their resource, authority etc; the fact that you can speak from experience and KNOW what things mean in both languages makes which dictionary/which type of dictionary to use in the classroom (or "allow", if we were stupid enough to take injunctions against dictionary use i.e. "total bans" seriously!) something of a moot point.

As for which type of dictionary to recommend to learners for their own personal use outside of the classroom, I personally would not insist that they invest in monolingual learner ones in preference or even in addition to any bilingual ones that they might already own, especially since "there have been no long-term investigations (i.e., at least the length of the language course) comparing the language proficiency of L2 learners who used (GENERALLY prefer using?) a monolingual dictionary with those who used (GENERALLY prefer to use?) a bilingual dictionary..." (pg 124) (My added thoughts in italics - I spy a dichtomi! Controlled "experiments" ahoy!) (Folse, K.S. (2004). Vocabulary Myths. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press).

Folse candidly admits at the opening of the chapter from which the above quote is taken (entitled, "Myth 7: The best dictionary for second language learners is a monolingual dictionary") that, "After more than two decades of learning foreign languages, I do not own a single monolingual dictionary" (pg 107); many other teachers are the same, he notes, but quite a few of them still insist (rather hypocritically) on "making strong statements about dictionary use when they themselves do not follow (their own) advice" (pg 119).

It takes more effort to use a monolingual one than a bilingual one, and there is always a lingering doubt that one has misunderstood (even when one has not!). (Folse makes the (rather obvious) points elsewhere in the book that learning can only really take place when we are certain, and also draws attention to studies that suggest that having more to work through, especially in the foreign language, can adversely affect retention (at least as measured by discrete point test results)).

That being said, however, Folse seems to make no explicit distinction between near or fully "native" monolingual dictionaries and monolingual "learner" types in his use of the term "monolingual", and as a consequence hardly does justice to the innovations of recent monolingual learner dictionaries (MLDs); although he is presumably alluding more to MLDs rather than native monolingual ones (given the concerns of his book - vocabulary learning in EFL/ESL), what he describes with the following brief words would seem to be more the native monolingual variety:

"However, the kind of English that is in most dictionaries is rather special in that it consists of definitions, single words and short phrases. The amount of increased L2 proficiency that could result from this particular kind of linguistic input cannot be that great." (pg 119)

Special?! What does that mean?! Confused And rather special doesn't sound too complimentary either! And what of the numerous examples MLDs now contain?! (To be fair, however, the purpose of his book is not to provide a survey of MLDs).

I suspect rather that MLDs do have some advantages to offer, not least that reading their definitions (if they are written with a limited defining vocabulary, consistent regarding style, and non-circular!) would help learners develop strategies for "eliciting/making understood unknown words by defining with easier words". They also have a wealth of examples, collocations, phrases, information on usage and pragmatics etc etc. One general way that students can obviously use MLDs is to check that what they have in mind (perhaps from consulting their bilingual dictionaries) and want to say does actually accord with attested contexts of use; in so doing they will reduce the risk of producing any inappropriate (or worse, totally incomprehensible) "translatese"; it is hard with bilingual dictionaries to be totally sure that the individual words or short phrases they contain will not shift in meaning when combined with other words (even when the process of combining them was careful and considered, not "willy-nilly").

Some dictionaries (Longman's Contemporary, and Active Study; and Oxford's Advanced Learner’s) are available in fully bilingualized versions in e.g. China and Hong Kong (in Chinese, they are called "Ying-Ying-Han cidian", English-English-Chinese dictionaries); there is also a new Z-Kai bilingualized version of Oxford's 2nd edition Wordpower dictionary available in Japan (it is fun to browse through it and see how "defining" works in Japanese!). Basically, these are dictionaries that offer pretty much full translations of the the full original monolingual text; with this kind of dictionary, the kind of word-for-word "translation" errors that learners sometimes can make with bilingual dictionaries will therefore be much less likely, because they will be able to compare many idiomatic "equivalents" literally side by side and thus become more aware of the phraseological nature of e.g. functional expressions and discourse markers in each language (presuming, of course, that the translations supplied are in themselves reasonably idiomatic). The only problem is, these bilingualized versions are almost never of the latest edition of the MLD concerned (except for the aforementioned Z-Kai release). For example, only the second edition of Longman's Contemporary has so far been translated, even though the monolingual version is now already in a fourth edition; so a lot of the useful information regarding e.g. the pragmatics of speech (as unearthed in the spoken component of the BNC, and incorporated into the third and now fourth monolingual editions) has not yet been "bilingualized"! You will certainly want to check what edition it is of before considering buying any bilingualized dictionary.

Ultimately, though, I see MLDs as mines of information and ideas for TEACHERS, that could well help fill holes in any kind of course, be it structural, functional, topic-based etc etc (the CD-ROMs that now accompany many dictionaries offer amazing possibilities through their various search options). Dictionaries also complement and can possibly even substitute for grammar books too (for example, when learners now ask me e.g. what the uses are of "would", or for guidance on articles etc, I am tempted to give them a photocopy of the relevant pages from my LDOCE4, the breakdown is so clear!).

The best way to decide which MLD is best (remember, not necessarily for students!) is probably to just familiarize yourself with the products on offer and read any available reviews. However, I suppose I should at least give you an indication of what my personal favorites are, in rough "from fave to less fave" order, before directing you to online dictionaries, reviews etc (it might help you save time in making a decision should you decide to buy anything). Almost all the MLDs listed below are full-size "flagships" that provide FULL surveys, not partial/provisional "learner"/intermediate ones (what use would they be for a teacher, unless the teacher is wanting to give super-serious consideration to, or needs explicit guidance regarding “basic” e.g as contained in Longman's Wordwise dictionary, versus “intermediate”, then “advanced” criteria for selection?!).

(Note also that several of these "flagships" have been released in very attractive and portable compact, flexible vinyl-covered slipcased editions (with accompanying CD-ROMs) for the Japanese market at least, and that these are well worth getting hold of compared to their bulkier, western counterparts).

MOST COMPREHENSIVE RESOURCE: Collins COBUILD on CD-ROM (This includes COBUILD's Dictionary, Thesaurus, English Usage, Grammar and 5-million word Wordbank). The Usage guide is especially impressive. The disadvantage of the CD over the separate books is that you can't browse through them on the CD: you only get the results shown for your specific search item. It would therefore help to be familiar with the numbering system of the chapters of the Grammar at least (it is still very hard to browse even if you do have a rough idea of which numbered section in the Grammar you'd need to enter, however). If you just had a single resource on a CD, such as the Dictionary, it would probably enable you to see "real time" search results for every word that begins with each successive letter you type, and you could therefore save time by scrolling down and selecting the word you needed without having to type it in full. Other CD-ROMs definitely have better search options - but then, they don't offer so much! CONCLUSION: Great if you have a firm idea of what you are searching for, and are prepared to rephrase the search keywords and/or spend time opening up menus.
http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej25/m1.html (review of above product)
http://www.antimoon.com/how/dict.htm (reviews the less comprehensive 4th edition of the paper dictionary, which can also be bought as a set with a CD-ROM containing said dictionary, and perhaps also the Wordbank, if memory serves correctly. NB: The older 3rd edition paper dictionary is not available in a dictionary+CD-ROM set; you can only get a CD-ROM version of the 3rd edition dictionary as part of the more expensive – but also more comprehensive – CD-ROM "bumper" resource pack of the title above. I don’t know if a newer version of this resource pack containing the 4th edition of the dictionary has been released - not that I'd be rushing out to buy it if antimoon's comments on the 4th paper dictionary/dictionary+"limited" CD-ROM set are anything to go by i.e. if you want the full resource pack CD-ROM, make sure it is still the 3rd edition!). Phew!

BEST BOOK-PLUS-CD-ROM SET: The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary has an excellent CD-ROM (its SMART Thesaurus is superb), and the book a nice "phrase" index (that allows you to look up idioms, phrases and collocations from any of the main words that are in them), but overall the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (4th edition) has to take pride of place, because to me the book is based on sounder editorial policies (explicit ordering by frequency, which the Cambridge does not make explicit at all, and breakdowns of frequency in speech versus writing, are two of the book's strongpoints). The CD-ROM isn't half bad either (and made very attractive by the addition of Longman's Language Activator, and added British and American "cultural" entries from Longman's other dictionaries). Visually, the Longman is by far the most attractively designed book, and its use of full color means that it is very easy on the eye (the Cambridge's use of two-tone green/black, and the MEDs two-tone red/black printing may give you a headache!).
http://dictionary.cambridge.org (CUP’s online dictionaries)
http://www.longman.com/dictionaries/ (access to Longman Web Dictionary)
http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej26/m3.html (review of LDOCE4)

RUNNER-UP SET: Macmillan English Dictionary with CD-ROM. The CD-ROM is very easy to use, and has quite powerful search options; indeed, some of you might like it so much that you might choose to put this set in the "Best" category above, and "demote" the Cambridge down to here instead (especially since the MED is the better book - see "NOT GOT A PC?" section below)...but like I said above, I really think the Cambridge CD's SMART Thesaurus is something special! (and Cambridge's CD doesn't have the pain-in-the-*ss 30-day copyguard of the Macmillan which, if you forget about it, eventually will insist you ALWAYS have the CD-ROM in the drive, meaning you'll probably be wanting to reinstall it and start over every month!). The MED gives cutting-edge treatment to collocation (a strength of the LDOCE above, too) and metaphor; frequency is also indicated by means of a 3, 2 or 1 or no-asterix system, and sense menus help you locate the required meaning quickly. Lastly, the definitions seem to describe functions very well, and the uses of different parts of speech are well presented. http://www.iatefl.org.pl/call/j_soft9.htm (compares MED CD-ROM with Cambridge Learner’s).

HONOURABLE MENTIONS (BOOKS ONLY - you don't want to buy the current sets!): Oxford Advanced Learner's 6th edition (2001) and COBUILD3 (see "MOST COMPREHENSIVE RESOURCE", above, especially the antimoon website). Oxford really need to improve their CD-ROMs if they are to stand a chance - I was NOT impressed with it! Not even a "jump" function!? The book, however, is excellent, but the fact that it is similar in many respects to the LDOCE3 (1995! but also still a good book - did it really need to be replaced so soon?), except that no frequency stats are given, proves that Oxford is perhaps lagging behind a little. Nice signposts, though. As for COBUILD, whilst I respect the innovations they made (particularly the use of stylistically-consistent, full-sentence definitions), I really do not understand why they insist on not separating differing parts of speech into separate entries - it must make finding the correct entry very slow for learners who have already intuited that they are dealing with e.g. a noun rather than a verb! (The Cambridge dictionary referred to above takes a similar approach, but its use of signposts helps alleviate the problems involved in access somewhat); nor do I understand why COBUILD chose to make the changes it did with the 4th edition (see antimoon's comments). Other dictionaries have got the balance of tradition and innovation right, and have been quicker to add new features (or retain those older ones) that would seem to be of benefit to learners. http://www.oup.com/elt/global/products/oald/ (OALDCE6 online)

All of the above dictionaries make use of "Defining Vocabularies", at or under 3,000 words (you'd need to check the exact figures; also, be aware that those with smaller totals may be "cheating" by allowing more affixation or derivation etc); and, apart from the COBUILD, they all make use of signposts and/or sense menus.

NOT GOT A PC? The above recommendations are based on the assumption that most people have access to a PC, and will make full use of the CD-ROMs that accompany the books for what is very little extra money (the book plus accompanying CD-ROM only costs about 10% more than book alone does); it would be ridiculous to write reviews that assumed otherwise. It might be helpful, however, to give a further, very clear indication of the strengths of the books alone, as each CD-ROM is based to a large extent on the book's content, and there will often be times when the book is referred to by itself, and judged on its own merits alone, BUT STILL, the following book-only ranking should NOT be taken to suggest that it is "better" to buy whichever SET (Book+CD-ROM) on the basis of book A "alone" being better than book B "alone"! Twisted Evil

Best book: LDOCE4
2nd place: MED
3rd place: OALDCE6

4th place: COBUILD3
5th place: CADE (or, for the book ONLY, perhaps more the older CIDE?)
6th place: COBUILD4 Laughing (thanks, antimoon.com! Moneysaver!! Wink )

Miscellaneous supplementary dictionaries: Oxford Collocations; Oxford Phrasal Verbs (better than Longman's); Oxford or Longman Idioms (Oxford is slightly more comprehensive, but Longman has some hilarious "variations" study boxes e.g. "The lights are on but nobody's home" > "The wheel's spinning but the hamster's dead". This kind of thing should help make learners aware of the creativity of language users! NB: The "hamster" phrase has not, as far as I'm aware, found its way into any dictionary as an actual entry yet!).

Finally, Oxford's Pocket Learner's is very dinky, whilst Longman's slightly larger Handy Learner's seems a tad better coverage-wise; neither are really more than portable substitutes for the above "flagships", however, and if its portability you want, there are many pocket electronic dictionaries that offer flagship MLDs, thesauri, bilingual dictionaries and much more besides, often a dozen books in one little machine! (in Japan, the best are by Seiko and Casio). These electronic dictionaries are expensive compared to CD-ROMs, however, and offer only very basic search options, but they are very convenient - you can't lug a PC into class with you - and allow the user to jump between different languages, which is something that all the above CD-ROMs obviously cannot do. Be warned, a new, sleeker model usually comes out at least once per year!

Best native-speaker monolingual dictionary: The (New) Oxford Dictionary of English. Some might question this decision, but I defy them to not agree that the sister The (New) Oxford Thesaurus of English is not the best available! ("Using computational techniques to analyse real language collected in the BNC and the database of the Oxford Reading Programme, the editors were able to determine better than ever before how words are really used and thus to give better-matching sets of synonyms." - quote from the paperback abridgement, The Oxford Paperback Thesaurus, seems v. similar to the Concise). I also like Encarta's dictionaries (especially their use of signposts - an innovation borrowed from learner dictionaries!). There is probably more room for subjective opinions and likes/dislikes in this area than with MLDs.

By the way, revel, when I said I vomit if I say you-know-who's name, I was only joking! I am sure the bigger versions of Webster and its offshoots are as trusted and dependable to Americans as Oxford's products are to us Brits - it's simply a matter of markets, availability, exposure and familiarity determining the ultimate choice of purchase. I do have to say, however, that judging from Sidney Landau's express(ed) admiration for British lexicography, and his frequent criticisms of American publishing houses for not investing in computerized corpora (the only American dictionaries that are based on corpora seem to be joint ventures, and draw heavily on British models and expertise), that I would be wary of investing in American editions of anything other than Oxford (native-speaker) and Cambridge, Longman or Macmillan (learner) dictionaries of American English (I am after all a Brit!). I own the MED (and used to own the Longman Advanced American Dictionary by way of a Casio ExWord electronic dictionary) for specifically American coverage (and due attention is paid to spelling and pronuncation differences between British and American English even in ostensibly "British English" learner dictionaries, because they will be used by learners all around the world who are as if not more interested in the American variety!).
http://books.cambridge.org/0521780403.htm (Landau’s masterly overview)
http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-2137.html (review of Landau)
http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-1822.html (review: Jackson’s Lexicography)
http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej17/r1.html (reviews of books that provide overviews of the “Vocabulary Control Movement”, dictionaries and teaching)

Other interesting websites:
http://www.longman-elt.com/dictionaries/llreview/r3komuro.html (a bit dated, but good comparison of collocations in MLDs)
http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej12/m1.html (review of SOED CD-ROM)
http://www.capicua.co.uk/translation/transartdict.htm (dictionaries relevant to Spain)
http://publishing.cambridge.org/ge/elt/dictionaries/31910/ (could be useful for your students, revel!)
http://amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0582415489 (guess why I included this!)
http://cobalt.lang.osaka-u.ac.jp/~krkvls/newsstand.html (made my eyes pop out – really!)

I'm sorry that this is such a long post, but I wanted to try to do the subject justice. Happy hunting, and if you spot any errors, please tell me and I'll correct them! Cool


Last edited by Duncan Powrie on Wed Oct 20, 2004 6:38 pm; edited 56 times in total
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Duncan Powrie



Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 525

PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2004 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.cels.bham.ac.uk/resources/LexSyllabus/lexsch2.pdf

It seems that some people can't access the above URL (which I quoted before) at which Willis's arguments can be found.

Please tell me if you are having problems!

If it seems that many (or even just a few! Maybe even only one!!) of you can't (but would like!) to read what he has to say (to get a better idea of what the hell it is I've been babbling about and wildly gesticulating to in grunty fart language), I will see what I can do to make sure his most pertinent points somehow find their way onto this thread (I guess I'd need to manually type it out, as it is a pdf file, not text). Cool
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2004 5:52 am    Post subject: Don't type it up.... Reply with quote

Good mornging all!

Duncan, it was only me, don't type up that article, I've just read it.

I couldn't agree more with the comments on the passive, the reported speech thing and the malditas "three conditionals". I myself have never seen the importance of knowing these separate ideas as separate. The passive I have taught as simple "subject+be+adjective form of verb" for years and left it at that, it's not uncommon in spoken English, naturally (my boss tells me, for instance, that without the passive a student would never be able to communicate that he had had his hair cut....) but sometimes rivers of ink are spent on it when some convservation is in order. The concept of conditionality seems too subtle and complex to me to be neatly slipped into three categories based on structure rather than meaning. And finally, I agree, why on earth treat reported speech as if it were the most complex aspect of English? I would rather give irony that honor!

The dictionary comments are thorough and will be quite useful. Thanks so much for your generous efforts, Duncan! Very Happy

peace,
revel.
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