Monolingual learner's dictionary

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A monolingual learner's dictionary (MLD) is designed to meet the reference needs of people learning a foreign language. MLDs are based on the premise that language-learners should progress from a bilingual dictionary to a monolingual one as they become more proficient in their target language, but that general-purpose dictionaries (aimed at native speakers) are inappropriate for their needs.[ citation needed ] Dictionaries for learners include information on grammar, usage, common errors, collocation, and pragmatics, which is largely missing from standard dictionaries, because native speakers tend to know these aspects of language intuitively.[ citation needed ] And while the definitions in standard dictionaries are often written in difficult language, those in an MLD use a simple and accessible defining vocabulary.


History of English language MLDs

The first English MLD, published in 1935, was the New Method English Dictionary by Michael West and James Endicott, a small dictionary using a restricted defining vocabulary of just 1490 words. Since the end of World War Two, global sales of the MLD have run into the tens of millions, reflecting the boom in the English language teaching industry.[ citation needed ]

Probably the best-known English monolingual dictionary for advanced learners is the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary , now in its ninth edition. It was originally published in Japan in 1942 as The Idiomatic and Syntactic Dictionary of English, written by A. S. Hornby and two collaborators. It was subsequently republished as A Learner's Dictionary of Current English in 1948, before acquiring its current name.

Other publishers gradually entered the market. The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English was published in 1978, and its most striking feature was the use of a restricted defining vocabulary, which is now a standard feature of learners' dictionaries. There are currently six major MLDs for advanced learners. In addition to the Oxford and Longman dictionaries, these are:

All of these dictionaries are available in hard copy and online.

Since the 1980s, the English MLD has, arguably, been the most innovative area in the field of lexicography, in terms of both the way dictionaries are written and the aspects of language which dictionaries describe, [ citation needed ] in particular the use of software in combination with text corpora to:

MLDs were among the first dictionaries to appear on CD-ROM, with the Longman Interactive English Dictionary leading the way in 1993. [4] More recently the six MLDs listed above have become available in free online versions.

MLDs have been the subject of research into how people use dictionaries, [5] as well as the subject of scholarly work. [6] [7] A standard book on the subject is Cowie 1999. [8]

Online dictionaries

The Internet offers a range of online dictionary resources. Some, like the Open Dictionary of English, are explicitly designed as learner's dictionaries, and may even include built-in, adaptive tutoring.

Related Research Articles

Dictionary Collection of words and their meanings

A dictionary is a listing of words in one or more specific languages, often arranged alphabetically, which may include information on definitions, usage, etymologies, pronunciations, translation, etc. or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, sometimes known as a lexicon. It is a lexicographical reference that shows inter-relationships among the data.

Lexicography is divided into two separate but equally important groups:

Corpus linguistics is the study of language as expressed in corpora (samples) of "real world" text. Corpus linguistics proposes that reliable language analysis is more feasible with corpora collected in the field in its natural context ("realia"), and with minimal experimental-interference.

A defining vocabulary is a list of words used by lexicographers to write dictionary definitions. The underlying principle goes back to Samuel Johnson's notion that words should be defined using 'terms less abstruse than that which is to be explained', and a defining vocabulary provides the lexicographer with a restricted list of high-frequency words which can be used for producing simple definitions of any word in the dictionary.

Collocation Frequent occurrence of words next to each other

In corpus linguistics, a collocation is a series of words or terms that co-occur more often than would be expected by chance. In phraseology, collocation is a sub-type of phraseme. An example of a phraseological collocation, as propounded by Michael Halliday, is the expression strong tea. While the same meaning could be conveyed by the roughly equivalent powerful tea, this expression is considered excessive and awkward by English speakers. Conversely, the corresponding expression in technology, powerful computer is preferred over strong computer. Phraseological collocations should not be confused with idioms, where an idiom's meaning is derived from its convention as a stand-in for something else while collocation is a mere popular composition. The ability to use English effectively involves an awareness of a distinctive feature of the language known as collocation. Collocation is that behaviour of the language by which two or more words go together, in speech or writing.

A specialized dictionary is a dictionary that covers a relatively restricted set of phenomena. The definitive book on the subject includes chapters on some of the dictionaries included below:

Electronic dictionary Dictionary whose data exists in digital form and can be accessed through a number of different media

An electronic dictionary is a dictionary whose data exists in digital form and can be accessed through a number of different media. Electronic dictionaries can be found in several forms, including software installed on tablet or desktop computers, mobile apps, web applications, and as a built-in function of E-readers. They may be free or require payment.

John McHardy Sinclair was a Professor of Modern English Language at Birmingham University from 1965 to 2000. He pioneered work in corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, lexicography, and language teaching.

A pronunciation respelling for English is a notation used to convey the pronunciation of words in the English language, which does not have a phonemic orthography.

Advanced learners dictionary Type of monolingual learners dictionary

The advanced learner's dictionary is the most common type of monolingual learner's dictionary, that is, a dictionary written in one language only, for someone who is learning a foreign language. It differs from a bilingual or translation dictionary, a standard dictionary written for native speakers, or a children's dictionary. Its definitions are usually built on a restricted defining vocabulary. "Advanced" usually refers learners with a proficiency level of B2 or above according to the Common European Framework. Basic learner's dictionaries also exist.

A foreign language writing aid is a computer program or any other instrument that assists a non-native language user in writing decently in their target language. Assistive operations can be classified into two categories: on-the-fly prompts and post-writing checks. Assisted aspects of writing include: lexical, syntactic, lexical semantic and idiomatic expression transfer, etc. Different types of foreign language writing aids include automated proofreading applications, text corpora, dictionaries, translation aids and orthography aids.

Beryl T. (Sue) Atkins is a British lexicographer, specialising in computational lexicography, who pioneered the creation of bilingual dictionaries from corpus data.

Patrick Hanks is an English lexicographer, corpus linguist, and onomastician. He has edited dictionaries of general language, as well as dictionaries of personal names.

<i>Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English</i>

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE) was first published by Longman in 1978. The dictionary is available in various formats: paper only; paper with a bundled premium website; online access only or a gratis online version. LDOCE is an advanced learner's dictionary, providing definitions by using a restricted vocabulary, helping non-native English speakers to understand meanings easily.

Orin Hargraves is an American lexicographer and writer. His language reference works include Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions: Making Sense of Transatlantic English, Slang Rules!: A Practical Guide for English Learners, and Words to Rhyme With: A Rhyming Dictionary. In addition he has contributed definitions and other material to dictionaries and other language reference works issued by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Longman, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Chambers Harrap, Langenscheidt, Berlitz, Scholastic Corporation, and Merriam-Webster, among others.

Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, also known as MEDAL, was first published in 2002 by Macmillan Education. MEDAL is an advanced learner’s dictionary and shares most of the features of this type of dictionary: it provides definitions in simple language, using a controlled defining vocabulary; most words have example sentences to illustrate how they are typically used; and information is given about how words combine grammatically or in collocations. MEDAL also introduced a number of innovations. These include:

An explanatory combinatorial dictionary (ECD) is a type of monolingual dictionary designed to be part of a meaning-text linguistic model of a natural language. It is intended to be a complete record of the lexicon of a given language. As such, it identifies and describes, in separate entries, each of the language's lexemes and phrasemes. Among other things, each entry contains (1) a definition that incorporates a lexeme's semantic actants (2) complete information on lexical co-occurrence ; (3) an extensive set of examples. The ECD is a production dictionary — that is, it aims to provide all the information needed for a foreign learner or automaton to produce perfectly formed utterances of the language. Since the lexemes and phrasemes of a natural language number in the hundreds of thousands, a complete ECD, in paper form, would occupy the space of a large encyclopaedia. Such a work has yet to be achieved; while ECDs of Russian and French have been published, each describes less than one percent of the vocabulary of the respective languages.

Sketch Engine corpus manager and text analysis software

Sketch Engine is a corpus manager and text analysis software developed by Lexical Computing Limited since 2003. Its purpose is to enable people studying language behaviour to search large text collections according to complex and linguistically motivated queries. Sketch Engine gained its name after one of the key features, word sketches: one-page, automatic, corpus-derived summaries of a word's grammatical and collocational behaviour. Currently, it supports and provides corpora in 90+ languages.

Adam Kilgarriff linguist from England

Adam Kilgarriff was a corpus linguist, lexicographer and co-author of Sketch Engine.

Word sketch

A word sketch is a one-page, automatic, corpus-derived summary of a word’s grammatical and collocational behaviour. Word sketches were first introduced by the British corpus linguist Adam Kilgarriff and exploited within the Sketch Engine corpus management system. They are an extension of the general collocation concept used in corpus linguistics in that they group collocations according to particular grammatical relations. The collocation candidates in a word sketch are sorted either by their frequency or using a lexicographic association score like Dice, T-score or MI-score.


  1. Sinclair, J.M. (Ed.), Looking Up: an account of the COBUILD project, Collins, 1987
  2. Rundell, M. and Kilgarriff, A., 'Automating the creation of dictionaries: where will it all end?', in Meunier F., De Cock S., Gilquin G. and Paquot M. (Eds), A Taste for Corpora. A tribute to Professor Sylviane Granger . Benjamins, 2011
  3. Kilgarriff, A. & Rundell, M. Lexical profiling software and its lexicographic applications – a case study. In Braasch and Povlsen (Eds.) Proceedings of the Tenth Euralex Congress, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. 2004, 807–818.
  4. Nesi, H., 'Dictionaries in electronic form', in Cowie, A.P. (Ed.), The Oxford History of English Lexicography, Oxford University Press 2009: 458–478
  5. Lew, R., Introduction to Special Issue on Dictionary Use, International Journal of Lexicography, 24/1, 2011: 1–4
  6. Rundell, M., 'Recent trends in English pedagogical lexicography', International Journal of Lexicography, 11/4, 1998: 315–342
  7. Bejoint, H., The Lexicography of English. Oxford University Press, 2010: 163–200
  8. Cowie, A.P., English Dictionaries for Foreign Learners, Oxford University Press 1999