Universität Mannheim

Toolbox Anglistik Ⅳ

 

Dictionary Resources

This site introduces some of the online dictionaries which can be used to explore the English language in its older stages and illustrates their structure, features and application possibilities.

Table of contents

1 The Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

Written by Lena Kaltenbach

 OED Website

The OED (Proffitt, 2015) is a digital historical dictionary which depicts the meaning, history and pronunciation of more than 600,000 English words. It provides the etymology of words and portrays changes in word meaning or spelling, the origin and time of adaption of borrowed words as well as the loss of other words.

For students of the University of Mannheim, the full version of the Oxford English Dictionary can be accessed via the University of Mannheim network or via a student VPN client. Usually, it is a subscription website.

1.1 How to search the Oxford Online Dictionary

The most straightforward way to carry out a search in the Oxford English Dictionary is the quick search box on the landing page. In addition to that, searches can also be carried out by browsing the dictionary from A-Z , browsing dictionary entries by category such as subject, usage, region, or language of origin or using the Historical Thesaurus for a taxonomic display of the contents of the Oxford English Dictionary. You can also directly look at historical source texts and their linked citations in the dictionary’s entries or use the timeline for a visual record of the first occurrences of English words (see Figure 1). More detailed information on how to use the website can also be found on their help page.

Figure 1. OED start page
Figure 1. OED start page

For a quick search, you only need to enter the word you are looking for into the box on the start page of the Oxford English Dictionary. In case of multiple matching results for your search, you need to choose the entry you were looking for in the list of results. You also have the option of refining your search by specifying variables such as language of origin, part of speech or date of first citation on the right side of the list of results.

Figure 2. OED Quick Search Results
Figure 2. OED Quick Search Results

1.1.2 Historical Thesaurus

In case you are not just looking for a word in general, but in a certain sense or context, a thesaurus search is the appropriate tool. The Historical Thesaurus is a subsection of the Oxford English Dictionary which provides a taxonomic overview of English words and their meanings. Each semantic class is organized chronologically. This provides insights into the uses of words and the related concepts at a specific point in time. The thesaurus can be searched for specific words by using the search box and also explored by semantic categories.

Figure 3. Taxonomic Tree View in the Historical Thesaurus
Figure 3. Taxonomic Tree View in the Historical Thesaurus
Figure 4. Quick Search in the Historical Thesaurus
Figure 4. Quick Search in the Historical Thesaurus

1.1.3 Timeline

The timeline can be used to graphically visualize the dates of the first recorded occurrences of all the words in the Oxford English Dictionary. By means of an example, this can be helpful in case you are searching for a list of words of a certain origin such as Old Norse. In this case, the timeline feature can show the time periods when lexical material from Old Norse entered the language. Clicking on a specific bar in the graph redirects you to a list of the words first recorded during this time.

Figure 5. OED Timeline
Figure 5. OED Timeline

1.2 Anatomy of a Dictionary Entry in the Oxford English Dictionary

Figure 6. Anatomy of an OED entry
Figure 6. Anatomy of an OED entry

The typical layout of an Oxford English Dictionary entry consists of a header section containing the headword, its POS-category, its pronunciation (IPA), historical forms of the word (info: when no exact attested dates for the word forms exist, the abbreviations OE, ME etc. refer to the general period of the English language the form stems from such as Old English or Middle English), its frequency in use (how much it is still used to date), its origin and etymology. For larger entries, there are often sections with additional information regarding syntax, origin or form.

At the right side of the page, there is even more information. The button Entry profile is especially interesting for the linguist because it provides information about entry dates (i.e. how far back entries are reaching and how much textual evidence there is for a given word), the timeline of attested occurrences in the Oxford English Dictionary given in form of a graph, as well as the entry size. Words differ significantly in the number of senses they are used in. Another feature is the timeline of sense development, which illustrates when certain senses came into use and fell out of use, and the timeline of quotation evidence, which illustrates the frequency of use of the word over time.

Figure 7. OED Entry Profile
Figure 7. OED Entry Profile

The side bar also provides an overview and quick access to subheadings of related word forms, compounds and phrases in the entry. Lastly, there are also links to entries of the same word in other dictionaries such as the Middle English Dictionary. In some cases, derivatives of the head word, which do not have a dictionary entry of their own, are listed at the end of the entry.

Following the header section, the senses of the word, i.e. all the different ways in which a word can be used, are listed. This section contains relevant information for the linguist. It gives the meaning in which the word is used, additional information about its syntactic behavior and argument structure, its subsenses (in some cases linked to the Historical Thesaurus and showing words of the same semantic category) and citations. The citations give examples of the words in context and are taken from historical source texts, thus illustrating syntactic behavior and argument structure. The citations are always accompanied by the time period or date of the entry and the name of the source text.

Figure 8. OED Citation Example
Figure 8. OED Citation Example

In Figure 8, the numbers given are used to indicate the date of documentary evidence and the date of composition of the text, so that Chron.Robert of Gloucester (Calig.) l. 9511 gives the reference for the manuscript and Me miȝte boþe ride & go In temese vpe þe yse is the text snippet illustrating the word in use. For more information about dating evidence from Middle English used in the Oxford English Dictionary, you can refer to the blog post Dating Middle English evidence in the OED. Clicking on the name of the source text highlighted in blue provides you with the correct reference for the citation and links you to more quotations from the same text source.

1.3 How to Cite the Oxford English Dictionary

When used for theses, term papers or assignments, the Oxford English Dictionary should always be cited in the main text as well as in the bibliography.

For bibliographies, the Oxford English Dictionary should be cited as a whole, e.g.

Proffitt, M. (Ed.). (2015). Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://www.oed.com

Quotations like Figure 8 from the Oxford English Dictionary can be cited by clicking on the name of the source text and adopting the citation details provided.

The Oxford English Dictionary does not provide APA style citations for single entries. When single entries are used in the main text of your paper or assignment, you can refer to them by specifying the headword and its part of speech category in addition to the dictionary name or author, e.g. (“scholarship, n.”, OED) or (“scholarship, n.”, Proffit, 2015). In case of homonyms, you should also add the number used to distinguish between homonyms in the dictionary, e.g. (“like, v.1.”, Proffit, 2015).

1.4 Exercises for Using the Oxford English Dictionary

  1. You want to find out more about the English lexical verb like. The OED entry of the verb can provide you with a lot of linguistic information about this verb. What can you find out about the verb regarding its etymology, the date of its entry into the OED, its timeline and how frequent it is today?

  2. Determining the meaning of a verb seems to be an easy task. However, looking at the OED entry for the verb like, which complicating factors are there? What can you learn about the meaning of this specific verb from its OED entry? List a few different senses.

  3. What can you learn about the argument structure of the verb like including thematic roles and morphological realization? What about its transitivity, situation type and aspect? Have there been any changes over time in these domains?

2 The Middle English Dictionary (MED)

Written by Lena Kaltenbach

 MED Website

The Middle English Dictionary (MED) (McSparran et al., 2001) portrays the lexicon of Middle English, i.e. the English spoken between 1100 and 1500. It is an online tool provided by the University of Michigan Library. In addition to the dictionary, their offer also includes a bibliography of Middle English primary texts and a searchable corpus of Middle English prose and verse. The dictionary is entirely evidence-based, meaning that it relies on 3,000,000 primary source quotations for its information. According to their website, it is different from the Oxford English Dictionary in that it is for a large part not ordered historically but rather in a logical manner. Using the Middle English Dictionary can also shed light on the state and extent of multilingualism in medieval Britain by providing the researcher with a large amount of information about lexical material of foreign origin.

Until now, the dictionary had been available at Middle English Dictionary. A new beta version of the dictionary has been made available in 2018 and can be accessed at Middle English Compendium. Although it mainly follows the same structure as the older version, it includes more information, new quotations and additional search features. The following information applies to the new beta version specifically but can also be applied to the older version.

2.1 How to look up words in the Middle English Dictionary

The search box on the start page of the Middle English Dictionary is an easy way to start your dictionary search for Middle English lexical material. At this point already, there are multiple options for making your search more fruitful and accurate.

The headword search is a straightforward way to look up Middle English words. You can simply enter the Middle English keyword you are looking for. Given that in Middle English, there used to be many alternate spelling variants for words, you can also make sure that the tab with alternate spellings is chosen (see Figure 9 (1)), otherwise only matches with the exact same spelling of the word you entered into the search box will be shown. The button in the form of a keyboard opens a drop-down menu which allows for entering characters such as eth, thorn, yogh and ash (see Figure 9 (2)).

Figure 9. MED Search Options
Figure 9. MED Search Options

Tip: Sometimes when you enter a specific spelling variant of a word you encountered in a Middle English text into the Headword Search box, nothing will show up as a result. To increase your chances of finding your word, you can use the quotation search, which often includes more spelling variants than a simple headword search.

Figure 10. MED Quotation Search
Figure 10. MED Quotation Search

2.1.2 Alternative Search Options

The range of your search can be altered by choosing another setting for the tab at the left. Choosing entire entry will return a list with all dictionary entries that contain your chosen keyword in their translation, description, notes or quotations. If you are interested in words from a certain origin, you can use the tab etymology in order to look up entries that match the source language you enter into the box (e.g. a search for Old French will return a list of all the words listed in the MED that are of Old French origin.) The search modification associated quotes and manuscripts allows you to search dictionary entries which contain quotations and citations from specific dates or texts. By means of an example, a search term like 1175 or Orm will return dictionary entries which contain quotations from a source which has the search terms in its reference. In case you are looking for a Middle English word but only know the Modern English translation, you can use Modern English word equivalent to find the Middle English translation. This search is carried out based on the links of every Middle English Dictionary entry to the corresponding Oxford English Dictionary entry. Alternatively, it is a good idea to use the Oxford English Dictionary, look up the word you are looking for and follow the link to the Middle English Dictionary provided on their site.

For more complicated searches, the start page offers a help section. If you click on the button More ways to search, you are provided with explanations of additional search options for finding phrases, proximity searches or wildcards.

2.1.3 Search Results

The results of your search will be returned as a list of relevant matching entries in the dictionary. As a default, the most relevant entries are listed first. However, you can change this by choosing to display results in an alphabetical order. To the left of the list of results, the range of search results can be adjusted depending on your needs. You can select a certain part of speech category, special subject labels and the source language.

Figure 11. MED Search Results
Figure 11. MED Search Results

2.2 The anatomy of a Middle English Dictionary Entry

On the left side of every entry in the Middle English Dictionary, there is a link to the corresponding entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Figure 12. Anatomy of an MED Entry
Figure 12. Anatomy of an MED Entry

In the main entry, the Middle English lemma and headword is followed by a list of its attested word forms and, if known, its etymology. The entry also provides one or multiple definitions of the word and quotations attested from original Middle English texts. The senses and subsenses section contains relevant linguistic information regarding the meaning, context, syntactic behavior and argument-taking properties of the word.

Figure 13. MED Quotation Example
Figure 13. MED Quotation Example

The manuscript reference for the quotation is highlighted in blue and follows the attested quotation The see of occean..comeþ and gooþ, ebbynge and flowinge, in which the headword can be observed in use in Middle English. Clicking on the reference will direct you to an entry in the Middle English Bibliography, where you can find out more about the origin of the quotation and its references in manuscript, print and LALME.

2.3 How to Cite the Middle English Dictionary

When used for theses, term papers or assignments, the Middle English Dictionary should always be cited in the main text as well as in the bibliography.

For bibliographies, the Middle English Dictionary can be cited as a whole, e.g.

McSparran, F., Schaffner, P., Latta, J., Pagliere, A., Powell, C., & Stoeffler, M. (2001). Middle English Dictionary. University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/

When single entries are used in the main text of your paper or assignment, you can refer to them by specifying the headword of the entry and its part of speech category in addition to the dictionary name or author, e.g. (“gon, v.”, MED). In case of homonyms, you should also add the number used to distinguish between homonyms in the dictionary, e.g. (“liken, v.1.”, MED).

Quotations from the Middle English Dictionary can be cited by referring to the reference stencil in blue and stating the MED entry which contains the text example, e.g. ((a1387) Trev.Higd.(StJ-C-H.1) 1.59 as cited in “gon, v.”, MED).

2.4 Exercises for Using the Middle English Dictionary

  1. You want to find out more about the history of the English lexical verb like. The MED is a great tool to find out more about this verb and its characteristics during older stages of the English language. What can you find out about the verb regarding its form in Middle English and its source of origin?

  2. Word meanings can change, extend or disappear over longer time periods. Does like still mean today what it meant in Middle English? Are there any related forms with different meanings?

  3. What can you learn about the argument structure of the verb like including its thematic roles and morphological realization. What about its transitivity, situation type and aspect?

3 The Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary

Written by Lena Kaltenbach

 Bosworth-Toller Website

The Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Bosworth, Toller, Christ, & Tichý, 2010) is an alphabetical overview of the lexicon of Old English, i.e. the English spoken between approximately 700–1100. It is a free web resource which can be accessed at https://bosworthtoller.com.

3.1 How to look for words in the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary

Figure 14. Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Search Options
Figure 14. Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Search Options

The landing page of the dictionary provides two different tools for searching the dictionary. You can either browse the dictionary from A to Z by using the menu located at the top of the page (see Figure 14 (1)). Clicking on a letter directs you to a list of headwords starting with this letter and the entries connected to them.

3.1.1 Headword Search

Alternatively, you can use the search box located on the left of the site (see Figure 14 (2)). You can enter any search terms you are looking for into the box. Special characters that are not on your keyboard are located above the search box. Note that the quick search does not only return entries for headwords that exactly match your search term but finds any entries that contain your search term in their head word.

3.1.2 Advanced Search Options

If a quick search is not possible because your search is too complex, you also have the option of conducting an Advanced search. Here, you can choose between a search for features, a search for wildcards and also a search for regular expressions.

Figure 15. Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Advanced Search Options
Figure 15. Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Advanced Search Options

If you decide to carry out a search for specific features, you have multiple options for finding the lexical material you are looking for. Firstly, you can choose between searching for a headword or searching for an entry that contains your search term. You can also check the boxes in order to select features that have to match the word you are looking for. The dropdown menu also enables you to specify the conditions of your search.

3.1.3 Search Results

The results of your search are displayed in the form of a list of matching entries. The list shows the headword and a preview of the entry, which makes it possible to select which entry is the best match for your search.

Figure 16. List of Search Results
Figure 16. List of Search Results

3.2 The Anatomy of an Entry in the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary

Clicking on a headword in the results list or the alphabetic display of the dictionary leads to a dictionary entry. You can navigate between adjacent entries by clicking previous entry and next entry in order to explore the dictionary. In the grey box at the top of the page, links to additional information about the headword are provided. By means of an example, links include linked Oxford English Dictionary or Middle English Dictionary entries and more online dictionary resources. The morphological analysis of the word also lists the part of speech category of the word and any other relevant morphological classifications.

Figure 17. Anatomy of an Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Entry
Figure 17. Anatomy of an Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Entry

The main entry provides you with the word forms of the headword and any additional relevant morphological information. It also gives you a Modern English translation and examples of the word in that sense in use in Old English texts. The quotations are usually accompanied by a Modern English translation and a reference to the text from which they stem. A pale pink box at the bottom of the page provides additional information about cognates in other languages. The pale yellow box shows derivatives of the word. Given that the online version of the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary is based on a printed version, you can find the original scanned pages at the bottom of every entry.

3.3 How to cite the Bosworth-Toller Dictionary

When used for theses, term papers or assignments, the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary should always be cited in the main text as well as in the bibliography.

For bibliographies, the Dictionary can be cited as a whole, e.g.

Bosworth, J., Toller, T. N., Christ, S., & Tichý, O. (2010). Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Prague: Faculty of Arts, Charles University. Retrieved from http://www.bosworthtoller.com/

In order to make an in-text citation of an entry in the online version of the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, you simply have to click the icon under the entry and export the citation.

4 Anglo-Norman Dictionary (AND)

Written by Yela Schauwecker

 AND Website

Anglo-Norman is the name conventionally given to the variety of Old French as it had been brought to England by William the Conqueror in 1066. It was spoken and written in Mediaeval England for roughly 400 years until the beginning of the fifteenth century and was used in a wide variety of domains. As such, it had an immense impact on the English language.

The AND (Trotter, 2006) is a dictionary especially dedicated to the French of England. In its current version (AND2), the Anglo-Norman Dictionary takes into account sources from a vast variety of domains (administration, legislation, jurisdiction, literature, education, church, trade, etc.). The search facility allows searching for terms regardless of their normalized orthography. The entries provide information about spelling variants, morphological information, and meaning, and provide links to other lexicographical resources for Old French. As the AND is being constantly updated and augmented, entries should be cited by the perma-link displayed at the bottom of the entry, including the date of access.

The site also provides several additional features for more advanced users, such as searching through definitions and source texts, etc.

References

Bosworth, J., Toller, T. N., Christ, S., & Tichý, O. (2010). Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Prague: Faculty of Arts, Charles University. Retrieved from http://www.bosworthtoller.com/

McSparran, F., Schaffner, P., Latta, J., Pagliere, A., Powell, C., & Stoeffler, M. (2001). Middle English Dictionary. University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/

Proffitt, M. (Ed.). (2015). Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://www.oed.com

Trotter, D. (2006). Anglo-Norman Dictionary 2 Online edition. London: Modern Humanities Research Association. Retrieved from http://www.anglo-norman.net