The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

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The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (AHD) is an American dictionary of English published by Boston publisher Houghton Mifflin, the first edition of which appeared in 1969. Its creation was spurred by the controversy over the perceived permissiveness of the Webster's Third New International Dictionary . The third edition had more than 350,000 entries and meanings. [1]

American English Set of dialects of the English language spoken in the United States

American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. American English is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English.

Dictionary collection of words and their meanings

A dictionary, sometimes known as a wordbook, is a collection 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.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publisher

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is a publisher of textbooks, instructional technology materials, assessments, reference works, and fiction and non-fiction for both young readers and adults.

Contents

History

James Parton (1912–2001) (grandson of the English-born American biographer James Parton (1822-1891), founder, publisher and co-owner of the history magazine American Heritage and Horizon , was appalled by the permissiveness of Webster's Third, published in 1961. Parton tried to buy the G. and C. Merriam Company so he could undo the changes. When that failed, he contracted with Houghton to publish a new dictionary. The AHD was edited by William Morris and relied on a usage panel of 105 writers, speakers, and eminent persons chosen for their well-known conservatism in the use of language. [2] However, Morris made inconsistent use of the panels, often ignoring their advice and inserting his own opinions. [2]

James Parton American biographer

James Parton was an English-born American biographer who wrote books on the lives of Horace Greeley, Aaron Burr, Andrew Jackson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, and the "Eminent Women of the Age".

American Heritage is a magazine dedicated to covering the history of the United States of America for a mainstream readership. Until 2007, the magazine was published by Forbes. Since that time, Edwin S. Grosvenor has been its publisher. Print publication was suspended early in 2013, but the magazine relaunched in digital format with the Summer 2017 issue after a Kickstarter campaign raised $31,203 from 587 backers. The publisher stated it also intended to relaunch the magazine's sister publication Invention & Technology, which ceased print publication in 2011.

<i>Horizon</i> (U.S. magazine) magazine

Horizon was a magazine published in the United States from 1958 to 1989. Originally published by American Heritage as a bi-monthly hardback, Horizon was subtitled A Magazine of the Arts. In 1978, Boone Inc. bought the magazine, which continued to cover the arts. Publication ceased in March 1989. Recently, American Heritage announced its intention to digitize essays from past issues.

Linguistics

The AHD broke ground among dictionaries by using corpus linguistics for compiling word frequencies and other information. It took the innovative step of combining prescriptive information (how language should be used) and descriptive information (how it actually is used). The descriptive information was derived from actual texts.

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.

Citations were based on a million-word, three-line citation database prepared by Brown University linguist Henry Kučera.

The Brown University Standard Corpus of Present-Day American English was compiled in the 1960s by Henry Kučera and W. Nelson Francis at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island as a general corpus in the field of corpus linguistics. It contains 500 samples of English-language text, totaling roughly one million words, compiled from works published in the United States in 1961.

Brown University University in Providence, Rhode Island

Brown University is a private Ivy League research university in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1764 as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, it is the seventh-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution.

Henry Kučera, born Jindřich Kučera, was a Czech-American linguist who pioneered corpus linguistics, linguistic software, was a major contributor to the American Heritage Dictionary, and a pioneer in the development of spell checking computer software.

Usage panel

For expert consultation on words or constructions whose usage was controversial or problematic, the American Heritage Dictionary relied on the advice of a usage panel. In its final form, the panel comprised nearly 200 prominent members of professions whose work demanded sensitivity to language. Former members of the usage panel include novelists (Isaac Asimov, Barbara Kingsolver, David Foster Wallace and Eudora Welty), poets (Rita Dove, Galway Kinnell, Mary Oliver and Robert Pinsky), playwrights (Terrence McNally and Marsha Norman), journalists (Liane Hansen and Susan Stamberg), literary critics (Harold Bloom), columnists and commentators (William F. Buckley, Jr. and Robert J. Samuelson), linguists and cognitive scientists (Anne Curzan, Steven Pinker and Calvert Watkins) and humorists (Garrison Keillor, David Sedaris and Alison Bechdel). Pinker, author of the style guide The Sense of Style , was its final chair. [3]

Isaac Asimov American science-fiction and non-fiction writer

Isaac Asimov was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer who wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His books have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.

Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in the Congo in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her widely known works include The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a non-fiction account of her family's attempts to eat locally.

David Foster Wallace American fiction writer and essayist

David Foster Wallace was an American writer and university professor in the disciplines of English and creative writing. His novel Infinite Jest (1996) was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005. His last novel, The Pale King (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2012.

The members of the panel were sent regular ballots asking about matters of usage; the completed ballots were returned and tabulated, and the results formed the basis for special usage notes appended to the relevant dictionary entries. In many cases, these notes not only reported the percentage of panelists who considered a given usage or construction to be acceptable, but would also report the results from balloting of the same question in past decades, to give a clearer sense of how the language changes over time.

The usage panel was disbanded on February 1, 2018. [4]

Illustrations

The AHD is also somewhat innovative in its liberal use of photographic illustrations, which at the time was highly unusual for general reference dictionaries, many of which went largely or completely unillustrated. It also has an unusually large number of biographical entries for notable persons.

First edition

The first edition appeared in 1969, highly praised for its Indo-European etymologies. In addition to the normally expected etymologies, which for instance trace the word ambiguous to a Proto-Indo-European root ag-, meaning "to drive," the appendices included a seven-page article by Professor Calvert Watkins entitled "Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans" and "Indo-European Roots", 46 pages of entries that are each organized around one of some thousand Proto-Indo-European roots and the English words of the AHD that are understood to have evolved from them. These entries might be called "reverse etymologies": the ag- entry there, for instance, lists 49 terms derived from it, words as diverse as agent, essay, purge, stratagem, ambassador, axiom, and pellagra, along with information about varying routes through intermediate transformations on the way to the contemporary words.

A compacted American Heritage College Dictionary was first released in 1974.

Second and later editions

The first edition's concise successor, The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition was published in 1982 (without a larger-format version). It omitted the Indo-European etymologies, but they were reintroduced in the third full edition, published in 1992. The third edition was also a departure for the publisher because it was developed in a database, which facilitated the use of the linguistic data for other applications, such as electronic dictionaries.

The fourth edition (2000, reissued in 2006) added an appendix of Semitic language etymological roots, and included color illustrations, and was also available with a CD-ROM edition in some versions. This revision was larger than a typical desk dictionary but smaller than Webster's Third New International Dictionary or the unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language . A lower-priced college edition, also the fourth, was issued in black-and-white printing and with fewer illustrations, in 2002 (reprinted in 2007 and 2010).

The fifth and most recent full edition was published in November 2011, [5] with new printings in 2012 and 2016. It is available in hardcover and, with reduced print size and smaller page count, trade paperback form. It dropped several of the supplementary features of the fourth edition, and is not available with a disc-based electronic version. The university-student version was rebranded The American Heritage College Writer's Dictionary in 2013, and stripped of biographical and geographical entries to make room for more vocabulary while simultaneously reducing the number of pages compared to the fourth college edition.

The AHD inserts minor revisions (such as a biographical entry, with photograph, for each newly elected U.S. President) in successive printings of any given edition.

Supporting volumes have been issued, including The American Heritage Book of English Usage, The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, The American Heritage Abbreviations Dictionary, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms , The American Heritage Thesaurus in various sizes; usage dictionaries of special vocabulary such as The American Heritage Science Dictionary, The American Heritage Medical Dictionary and The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms; plus special dictionary editions for children, high-school students, and English-language learners. The American Heritage brand is also used for a series of American history books.

See also

Related Research Articles

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These tables compare modern and notable English dictionaries, split by market segment. Unless noted after the edition number, all are single-volume works.

References

  1. Google Books
  2. 1 2 Ottenhoff, John (Autumn 1996). "The Perils of Prescriptivism: Usage Notes and The American Heritage Dictionary". American Speech. 71 (3). doi:10.2307/455550. JSTOR   455550.
  3. "Usage Panel Members". American Heritage Dictionary.
  4. Skinner, David (December 2, 2018). "The Dictionary and Us". The Weekly Standard . Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  5. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. [ dead link ]