General Language Dictionaries
General language dictionaries are usually used for four broad purposes such as,
i) a quick reference tool
ii) a language standardiser
iii) a language recorder and
iv) a vocabulary builder
i) Dictionary as quick reference tool
They act as quick reference tools as they are often consulted to verify spelling, syllabication, hyphenation, pronunciation and meaning of a word. They give further information regarding the origin, part of speech and usage of a word. Additionally, they may also include abbreviations and acronyms, tables of weights, measures, currencies of various countries etc. Some dictionary record specialised information by giving synonyms, homonyms, antonyms. Many unabridged dictionaries cover geographical and biographical information regarding the places and persons.
ii) Dictionary as a language standardiser
In eighteenth century, it was common to compile prescriptive dictionaries to standardise the pronunciation, spelling, meaning and usage of words. Standardisation has been accepted as one of the objectives of lexicography even in the twentieth century. But the difference lies in the methods of compilation. In the eighteenth century, standardisation was based on the opinions and judgements of the compilers alone while now, it is attained by gathering the evidence from carefully scrutinised inventory of words from the recorded sources of the language and the usage of the speakers. This assists in elimination of variation in spellings and usage of the words.
iii) Dictionary as a language recorder
General unabridged dictionaries such as Oxford English Dictionary act as a language recorder. It traces the developmental trends of the language by recording etymological details of the words, their origin, history and derivation. Hence, it provides historical records of the changes undergone in the meanings and usages of the words from time to time. It is compiled from the descriptive point of view.
iv) Dictionary builds vocabulary
The systematic and regular use of dictionary clears doubts regarding the spelling, meaning and usage of words. It enriches the word power by helping in building proper vocabulary and ensuring accurate sense of words in context.