Skip to 0 minutes and 11 secondsThis week we'll be returning to that overarching question: Why use dictionaries, when you can use search engines? And we'll be looking at all the different types of information that dictionary entries can provide. We've seen that sometimes it's hard for dictionary users to understand all the information in a dictionary, especially if that information is in code. Sometimes it's not really necessary to understand all that information. There's no point in finding out how to pronounce a word if you're only going to read it for example. However there's a lot more to 'knowing' a word.

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 secondsFor example, if you think of a word in translation, it might have the same meaning in two different languages but their translation equivalent is much more formal and academic in another language. So this week we'll be examining what it is to know a word and how this information can be presented, how this information about word knowledge can be presented in the dictionary. And we'll be looking at ways to present that information so that users can find it and understand it. And we'll see how different kinds of word information are needed for different kinds of words. And how people need different kinds of information for different kinds of activity too.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 secondsYou'll be asked to examine the various kinds of information that are contained within a dictionary entry. And you'll also be asked to compare dictionary entries for the same word in different dictionaries. Just so that you'll be able to make good choices about which reference tool to use.

Welcome to Week 2

Welcome to Week 2 of Understanding English Dictionaries.

This week, we’ll be continuing to address our overarching question – why use dictionaries when you can use search engines – by looking at all the types of word information that dictionaries can provide.

We’ve seen that it can sometimes be hard for dictionary users to understand this information, especially if it is given in code. It’s true that, in some situations, for some words, a quick explanation of meaning is all that you need – you don’t need to know how to pronounce a word, for example, if you are only going to read it. However, there’s a lot more to ‘knowing’ a word – for example, it might mean the same as its translation equivalent in some contexts but not in others, and words and their translations often have different levels of frequency. You may be able to think of examples of words which are common and ‘everyday’ in one language, for example, but which sound much more formal or unusual when used in translation.

This week, we are going to think about what it means to say that we fully ‘know’ a word – and then think about ways in which this word knowledge can be presented in a dictionary so that people can find and understand it.

We’ll see how different types of word information are important for different types of word, and we’ll also see how people need different types of word information to undertake different types of activity. Sometimes a little bit of information is enough – the word for ‘taxi’ for example, if you need to find a taxi and you are in a rush. On the other hand, sometimes it’s important to know how a word behaves grammatically, or the kinds of text in which it is likely to occur – or its connotations. Can ‘thin’, ‘slim’ and ‘skinny’ be used interchangeably, for example? Or do they suggest different things?

You’ll be asked to examine the various kinds of information that can be provided in a dictionary entry and compare entries for the same word in different dictionaries. Just so that you can make good choices about which reference tools to use.

Your task

Let’s revisit the big question that Hilary introduced in the Welcome to Week 2:

Why use dictionaries when you can use search engines?

Share your thoughts and responses to the question in the comments area.

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This video is from the free online course:

Understanding English Dictionaries

Coventry University