Semantic and Pragmatic Information in Dictionaries Used by Chinese and Danish Learners of English



Li S (2009) Semantic and Pragmatic Information in Dictionaries Used by Chinese and Danish Learners of English. Doctor of Philosophy. University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The present research investigates how semantic-pragmatic information in provided in bilingual English-Chinese and English-Danish learner's dictionaries and examines whether the users' evaluations meet the lexicographers' intentions. A learner's dictionary, due to its special function as an aid to learning and cognition, should put special emphasis on the close interweaving of semantic and pragmatic information. The treatment of lexical meaning in a dictionary should be ruled by semantics and governed by pragmatic principles. The making of dictionaries should combine both empirical-based methods with corpus-based evidence in order to investigate how to thoroughly integrate semantic and pragmatic information into definitions, exemplifications, usage notes, usage labels, illustrations and translation equivalents of a dictionary. In this study, I have found that some components of pragmatics, such as deixis, speech acts, and politeness principles, are already included in most dictionaries, though not in a systematic way. What we need to do is to organize that information according to pragmatic categories. I would like to argue in favour of a particular account of the interaction between lexical semantics and pragmatics. My research calls for a thorough re-conceptualization of the lexicographical principles and purposes appropriate to the making of learner's dictionaries. The empirical evidence from Chinese and Danish users suggests that the tested dictionaries show few signs of being directed towards a particular linguistic or cultural context, whether for Chinese or Danish learners: whatever its intended user group, each dictionary turns out to be based on the English tradition of making a learner's dictionary. For far too long pedagogical lexicography in the English (and American English) tradition has held to the idea that there is ‘a universal learner of English'. All foreigners have thus been treated alike; far more important than their cultural specificity is the overriding fact of their being non-English and non-English-speaking. This idea needs to be challenged and dismantled. Dictionaries must start to pay attention to the linguistic and socio-cultural contexts of the language learner. Further research in this area is much needed.

InstitutionUniversity of Copenhagen, Denmark
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Qualification levelDoctoral
Publication date31/12/2009

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Dr Saihong Li

Dr Saihong Li

Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies, French