Codifying of universal dictionaries, then in the second




  Codifying a
language depends on the stage of standardization that already exists. It means
to arrange official rules for grammar, develop a writing system, orthography,
syntax pronunciation and vocabulary as well as publishing grammar books and dictionaries.
Several variants exist for a specific aspect, e.g. different ways of spelling a
word, decisions on which variant is going to be the standard one have to be

However, in the eighteenth century, English
codification took place at large as witnessed with the publication of many
dictionaries, which included Samuel Johnson dictionary, Noah Webster dictionary
and Routledge dictionary (Hitchings, 2005). The publication of the grammars and
dictionaries at this period intended to teach the English language to the welsh

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History of England Codification in Dictionary and Grammar books.



    Dictionaries came into existence as an
essential mean in the standardization and improvement of the language. A major
impact in organizing the English lexicon took place with Robert Cawdrey’s  first published “dictionary of hard words” in
1604. His “table Alphabeticall” included glosses for 3,000 “hard usual English
words”. Then came Nathanael Bailey, in 1721, with his “Universal Etymological
English Dictionary”. But it was not until Samuel Johnson, over a period of nine
years, that his greatest work “A Dictionary of the English Language” was
completed in 1755, thus addressing the need of the British people for a
national dictionary. Johnson’s Dictionary had a famous Preface, in which he
outlines his aims and procedures. The first sheets were printed in 1750. The
work was completed by 1754 and an edition of 2.000 copies appeared the
following year. During this period, two major developments were seen. In its
early part, the emphasis was on the establishment of universal dictionaries,
then in the second later part, the trend was towards the increasing emphasis on
pronunciation. At the same time, encyclopedias appeared and these influenced
the development and contents of the dictionaries. The two earliest writers of
encyclopedias, John Harris (1704) and Ephraim Chambers (1728), attempted to
describe the terms associated with all branches of human knowledge. Harris’s
work had the title Lexicon Technicum: or, The Universal Dictionary of Arts and
Science. The word “universal” became standard feature of titles of dictionaries
though it could sometimes give away to general or complete. J.K.’s dictionary
of 1702, complained of previous dictionaries that they had often included Latin
words which were no part of English as well as foreign words, including Old
English ones. John Kersey adds in the preface of his dictionary “ours is
intended only to explain such English Words as are genuine, and used by Persons
of clear Judgement and good style”. At this stage pronunciation begins to
appear in dictionaries and one of those to show this new trend is the “Lingua
Britannica Reformata by Benjamin Martin of 1749. He is one of the first
dictionary makers to omit in words like logic. The latter half of the
eighteenth century attached more importance to pronunciation than earlier
dictionary-makers. Thomas Sheridan produced a dictionary in 1780 with the
title. A dictionary along the same lines was produced by John Walker in 1791.
What Sheridan and Walker did was produced a series of signs, consisting mainly
of superscript numbers, like and elementary phonetic alphabet to show the
pronunciation of the various sounds in all words. Finally, the American
Lexicography Noah Webster wrote the first American Dictionary in 1828, with
70,000 words.


 Eventually, the need for a
new dictionary arose in 1857, after discussions at the Philological Society in London have shown that
all current English dictionaries were deficient. This lead to the publication
of the first instalment of the “New English Dictionary” in 1884 which was later
renamed the “Oxford English Dictionary”. It was finally completed in 1928 with
ongoing updates afterwards. The Oxford English Dictionary addresses how old the
word is in the language, how its different senses have developed over the
years, where it comes from, what language it comes from, and whether English
develops new senses for a word itself, but most importantly what date these new
senses arise. In essence, a national dictionary showing the history of old and
new words in English.


Then Bullokar’s ‘Bref Grammar for English’ came
later in 1586. This book was the first true grammar of English, that it tried
to rationalize the language’s structures and the spelling system, it therefore
intended to indicate how English should be, rather than how it was.  In the 16th century,
 the writing of grammar books like
Bullokar’s had become a political expedient. That every European state provided
its own grammar of the national language. This so-called ‘spirit of linguistic
patriotism’ typically involved attempts by vernacular grammarians and
lexicographers to reject regional dialects and linguistic inconsistencies in an
effort to somehow fix the language, to impose a linguistic conformity that
never really existed.





Commissioning of Dictionaries



dictionaries helps to provide approved guidelines that will control the English
language. For example, Dictionary of English language was commissioned by a
group of composers in London to ensure that English language followed
particular language. Before commissioning dictionaries, English language was
unruly and messy; thus, this called for some kind of discipline to disentangle
the mess of the language.

. This was initially meant for the non-native speaker, however,
later on the English native speakers that wanted to know about the new and
developed part of the language also looked for such materials. The initial
dictionaries were mainly a list of hard words. This mainly involved, the list
of new “loan” words that were from the classical language and the new British
colonies overseas. By the eighteenth century, dictionary writing was mainly a
recognized activity and the learned men and scholars were being commissioned by
various publishers to write such materials (Kemmer, 2009).

Other places in Europe, language academies were being established
so as to codify and also normalize all the aspects of the language. However,
this trend was not adopted in the English –speaking lands and there was never a
recognized academy for standardization in either United States or Britain, the
publication of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary which was of the English language
was a significant milestone in the development of a dictionary and other
reference materials (DeMaria, 1986). The dictionary adopted more or less a
descriptive stance that is very modern and was at odds with the former
prescriptive view of the earlier dictionary producers. Johnson recognized
change as a normal process and refused to see change as a degeneration (Hitchings,

By the time the Johnson dictionary was developed, the spelling
system was already in place and recognizably the same as that of the modern
English with relatively few orthographic peculiarities (Reddick & Johnson,
1990). On the other hand, political independence in the United States led to
the push for distinguishing cultural factors, as a result, Noah Webster, came
up with a dictionary that contained regional, American based so as to
distinguish it from the British English (Kemmer, 2009)

Noah Webster went to the extent of creating his own dictionary
which contained some American-dialect definitions. This provides the required
orthographic distinction without changing significant mutual intelligibility.
He mainly incorporates the use of “ize” instead of “ise”for the verbs and the
elimination of suffix “-our” (Kemmer, 2009).







The Criteria for including words in the dictionary


    For a word to get into a
dictionary, it needs to meet three basic criteria. The first criteria is
widespread use. It’s something’s used in the Wall Street Journal and Vibe, then
you figure that’s pretty widespread us. The second one is it needs to have a
shelf life. Once words get into the dictionary, they tend to stay in
dictionaries. Once words get into the dictionary, they tend to stay in
dictionaries. The shelf life of a word really depends. There are other words
that have very little use for a lot of time and then suddenly have tones of
use. The Indian word “korma” is a great example. It first was used in English
back in the 1830s or 1840s, and it had very little use, really until the 1990s
when people started eating lots of Indian food. So korma’s a more recent
addition to the dictionary, even though it’s almost 200 years old at this
point. The third criteria is a word has to have meaningful use- which means it
has to have a meaning. The example I trout out is antidisestablishmentarianism-
which most people know as a long word, but it doesn’t get used much in print.
It gets used as an example of a long word. You want to make sure that the word
has a meaning and is not just an example of letters smashed together. People
think of English as something that needs to be defended. It’s this beautiful
pristine tower.. actually it’s much more like a child. It’s an organic, living
thing. You bring English into being, and then the minute that it gains gross
motor skills, it goes right where you don’t want it to go.









Extent the dictionary is either prescriptive or


So there are two main approaches to language. One is
prescriptivism, one is descriptivism. Prescriptivism essentially promotes the
best practices of English.

is, by its nature, exclusionary. Descriptivism on the other hand, as an
approach to language, it follows where language goes. Dictionaries exist on
more of the descriptivist end of the spectrum. Dictionaries record language as
it is used, not as you think it should be used. E.g. “Irregardless” is a word
that people have a specific and vehement hatred for. Irregardless, really for
about 150-175 years has been pegged as being uneducated, representative of
people who don’t speak English very well. It’s also entered into dictionaries,
which just infuriates people. So all dictionaries are descriptivist and





In closing, people think of English as this monolithic thing, but
it’s really not, it’s much more like a river. Every dialect of English is its
own current. And all of these currents come together to make this fairly
cohesive looking ribbon of water. But every one of those is integral to the
direction of English. Controlling water’s pretty difficult. English. And that’s
an important way that words are created. This idea of English being a river
really sort of celebrates that every single part of the language is important
for the whole. It’s all part of the same thing, you need all of it for it to





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(2009). The History of English. Retrieved from Rice University:

DeMaria, R. (1987). Johnson’s dictionary and the language of
learning. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

J (2002). Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary: Selections from the 1755 Work that
Defined the English Language. New York. Walker and Co.

Johnson, S., & Lynch, J. (2004). Samuel Johnson’s
dictionary: Selections from the 1755 work that defined the English language.
Londres: Atlantic Books.

in the World. (2012). DVD United Kingdom: The Open University.

profile, V.
(2017). The English Language: from Codification to Standardisation.
online Available at:
Accessed 11 Dec. 2017.

The Oxford
History of English Lexicography. (2017). ebook Oxford : Oxford University
Press. 2009. Available at: Accessed 11
Dec. 2017.