The Very Mind of English?
Activate Your Mind, Socrates Style
by Zsuzsanna Ardó
“The utterance which is unexamined is not worth uttering”1
Longman Publishers may well pride themselves—and let us admit, rightly so—of the fact that it was they who published the very first dictionary as we know it in modern English: that of Dr. Johnson in 1755.2
Having committed such an innovative act in the 18th century, Longman are now bound by their own exquisite tradition of "harmless drudgery"3 to surprise us by rejuvenating that indispensable companion to any literate person—the dictionary... And rejuvenate they do.
The native organs: heart and mind in tandem
In another article published in this issue of the Translation Journal, we had the privilege of getting to the very heart of the English (note: native) speaker—passim—in the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture (LDELC). But what is the heart without the mind? So now, thanks to Longman Publishers, we have the good fortune of being invited to access nothing less than the mind of the native speaker.
The identical colour coding and design on the cover of the two dictionaries suggest the tandem functions of heart and mind. There is no doubt about it, both dictionaries belong on your desk, and there you have it—two fundamental organs of the native speaker. But since native speakers are somewhat elusive by nature (and inclination), we still have to exercise the much overrated virtue of patience for Longman to give birth to the body as well. Rest assured, Longman won't let us down—probably a gorgeous one is already in the making.
Heart and mind are well-balanced, at first glance at least, in these Longman native organs we can self-transplant by splashing out money for them: the dictionaries match each other in size, each at 1,500 pages or so. They are just about manageable to use although hardly portable, which is a bit of a bother since nowadays most of us tend to peregrinate ad infinitum.
"Diamonds are a girl's best friend..." "Boys will be boys..." and "Oh my hero!"
The "heart dictionary" as I will call the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture for short, has, for some unfathomable reason, many more illustrations than the "mind dictionary" (i.e. the Longman Language Activator). Perhaps the heart is more romantic and arty. In any case, it is not necessarily an advantage since the pictures are not exactly the forte of these dictionaries. As two colleagues of mine, with whom I discussed the heart dictionary on a BBC programme, succinctly remarked in unison: "The illustrations are, generally speaking, pretty horrid." To make their spontaneous, and very emphatic reactions somewhat more subtle: they are a soupçon sexist and stereotypical.
The mind dictionary boasts far fewer illustrations: the mind, "that very fiery particle" (Byron, 1979:159), is rather more abstract and austere, I can only assume, to the Activator editors. There are only 12 pictures, but their size (full page—for what practical reason?) is perhaps an attempt to compensate for their scarcity.
But again, we would not necessarily want any more of the type of photos found here. It may come as a surprise that the illustrations manage to rate, again, remarkably high on sexism and stereotypes.
Overstated? Well, have a look and judge for yourself. Consider my interpretation of the following: out of the not more than 12 "Key Word Pictures," there is one to illustrate
-"DOODLE": a blonde doodling at a professional meeting ignoring her colleagues involved in some serious matter (women just can't control their wandering subconscious—blondes in particular, like the one in the picture, it is common knowledge, can't);
-"TRIP": a naughty boy tripping up another one (Boys will be boys.) whereas
-'DRENCHED': a waif-like creature, a totally passive and pitiable young girl drenched to the bone desperate to be rescued (Diamonds are a girl's best friend).;
-"SCARED": a man, albeit scared himself, protecting a scared woman with his body (Oh, my hero!);
-"FRISK": a white security guard frisking an Asian (alas, no comment);
-"JOG": a woman leisurely acting as if she was jogging whereas
-"EXHAUSTED": a man is totally exhausted after a dedicated run (men do the real thing, women do as if);
-"SHOPLIFT": a shoplifter who is a middle-aged woman (naturally);
-"TIPTOE": a black boy tiptoeing, with a whale of pent-up energy, in a somewhat suspicious fashion (who else would be up to something fishy).
The quality4 and quantity of the photos is one problem; the choice of criteria for their selection another. In the table of contents, the illustrations are listed right under the title "The dictionary A-Z." (Note that this title is actually featured in the dictionary—more of this later.) The first subtitle under this is the very promising "Key Word Pictures." And then you find altogether nine verbs, such as cut, throw, run, etc. and three adjectives: frightened, tired, wet. What justifies these choices, I wonder? Why listen, but not speak; why wet, but not dry?
To start with, the unqualified "Key Word Pictures" suggests some sort of all inclusive system—which it clearly is not. The total number of so-called "Key Words" is 1052 out of which only 12 were singled out for the privileged position of picture status. I would like to think that there was some method to the selection process, but having looked at the pictures a bit more closely, it is difficult to work out exactly what it is.
The dictionary was probably inspired by windows, hyperbook, menu, and other computer concepts—a timely idea. However, it works relatively poorly in this particular layout. Visually, it is a far cry from the three-dimensional environment of hyperbook and windows. It works much more clearly on a screen than in this particular book design. This a shame since its system of organisation is not at all self-evident unless you are a computer buff and Word (as in Windows, Microsoft) literate, and even then... But for those untouched by expectations regarding pathfinding in an electronic knowledge system rather than a traditional one, using the Activator efficiently may well take a bit of getting used to.
Colour coding would have enormously helped to orient the user in the numerous sub-sub-sub files and lists of lists. For example, the file meet could be green and its nine subfiles other colours but with a green lining. The heart dictionary has colour pictures, but it seems the mind did not deserve this—a pity indeed, since some functional use of colour in the text itself, if not in the pictures, would greatly facilitate getting your bearings (almost?) right in the complex system. The extra cost would have been worth the investment.
It would make good sense for the Activator to run on software combined with a word-processing package for users. I could easily imagine it working like the already existing Thesaurus, for example, in WordPerfect, expanded with the extra information from the Activator.
Whereas the heart dictionary has been furnished with a very practical chapter indicator in lieu of a thumb index proper, users of the mind dictionary will have to do more flicking back and forth to find what they want. A proper thumb index should indeed be as much a part of a reference book as its binding. How will bulky books devoid of a thumb index be able to compete with a CD ROM at users' fingertips?
Users will also be hard-pressed to jot down anything at all in their Activator. There is no margin to speak of: the text is virtually squashed to the very edge of the pages. It is not especially pleasant to look at, and certainly not helpful pedagogically since there is no way for users to interact with their Activators by scribbling here and there.
Sneak previews by the high and mighty of English language teaching (ELT)
Another difference between these two Longman dictionaries is a major "innovation": the Activator is most generously furnished with no fewer than eight (yes, eight!) distinguished pieces of puff prose explaining from different perspectives why the Activator is innovative (which the idea is) and a must and a further full nine pages of explanation on its proper use to boot.
These plugs prefacing the dictionary, penned by the high and mighty of ELT, almost pre-empt a critical review. Sir Randolph Quirk, Della Summers (Editorial Director), Professor Geoffrey Leech, Dr. Paul Meara, Professor Gillian Brown of Cambridge, and so the list goes on, even including a German and a Japanese professor.5 Really, what more can you ask for? Except for, perhaps, a quiet query, "Why are there only two 'non-native' authorities out of the eight pronouncements commissioned when the product is admittedly for 'non-natives'?" "Natives" still know best what is best for "non-natives"? Most everything you can think of to be said about it and its innovative aspects, has been said in the previews, before even one review proper has had a chance to see the light of day.
One brilliant Longman innovation, it seems to me, that is implicit in the procedure itself and left modestly unsaid, is to boost the status of the product by incorporating sneak (pre)reviews on this scale by la crème de la crème of the profession.
A sample of the eulogies to sweep you off your feet:
" ... presents linguistic—not just lexical—information in a rich, convenient and product oriented way. ... An initial skeleton can thus be fleshed out and be given not merely a satisfying fullness but the desirable linguistic precision." 6 (Quirk, 1993; bold italics mine).
"We believe that we have identified the core concepts of English in a new, meaningful, and most of all, helpful way... Our work ... breaks new ground... (The Activator) is consequently full of new insights... an easy-to-use access system to the core meanings of English... clear guidance on how the words and phrases are normally used. ... definitions being very clear... designed to be particularly direct and straightforward" (Summers, 1994; her italics; bold italics mine.) Admirable self-effacement from the Editorial Director of the Activator—in the royal we. Concept and meaning -core concepts of English..... and later.... core meanings of English) appear to be used interchangeably as in the above quote—a somewhat questionable practice, is it not, in particular in the introduction to a dictionary specifically foregrounding precision.7
"The Longman Language Activator provides an ingenious answer to this question... provides an illuminating conceptual map of the language... an important step forward in modern English lexicography."8 (Leech, 1994)
"The Longman Language Activator, however, makes it very easy for you to get to know well words that you have only just met...." (Meara, 1994)9
"... new ground broken by the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture. What more could anyone need in a contemporary reference work on words? ... the Longman Language Activator, a new concept in vocabulary reference books—a production dictionary in the fullest sense.... friendly and usable. ... practical and easy to use." (Scholfield, 1994; bold italics mine)
Quite. It is intriguing to discover beautiful and cold are Key Words (Concepts) in English, clever and warm, however, are not. Does this say anything at all about English or the English? Actor/Actress, manager and doctor you will readily find, but do not look for teacher, lawyer or writer. It would be fascinating to know just how much these Key Word choices, for example, reveal about the "illuminating" (Scholfield, 1994:F17) conceptual map of English indeed? Humour is not a Key Concept in English then? We have both pride and proud, jealous—but not jealousy, greedy—but not greed, and neither envy nor envious. Some of the Seven Deadly Sins are not as popular as others, it can be safely deduced. But what is the logic in including both the noun and adjective form in one case, and only the adjective in the other. The only reason I can assume is that the Deadly Sin of Pride is terribly overrated since it must be almost equally frequent in both its noun and adjective form for both of them to make it into the Activator.
And: "The Activator will certainly serve you as the most reliable guide in your efficient and effective command of English." (Ikegami, 1994; bold italics mine) Furthermore: "...all the entries show you a wealth of natural examples... clear definitions... the wealth of examples , will give you a really good chance of getting the choice right." (Brown, 1994; bold italics mine) Finally: "It (the Activator) offers your ideas a safe route into the rich and varied field of English. ... to produce words for your ideas , that is, to speak and write in English as native-speakers do. (Neubert, 1994; bold italics mine) The ultimate carrot—or stick, depending on your perspective—for non-natives; arguably the non plus ultra of ELT.
Other publishers may now follow suit, usurping the place both of the usual namedropping via lists of editorial and advisory boards to lexicographers and brief commendations by authorities on the cover. The reader is thus left wondering if there is anyone at all alive and kicking who was not involved with this project in some capacity or another.
Prescriptive versus descriptive lingo
Ironically, if you can make your way through the glamorous previews and explanation on 30-odd pages of how and why to use the dictionary, it is a good indication that in all probability this is not what you most desperately need.
The sophisticated language in the numerous prefaces—such as: "While there is a sizeable amount of crosslinguistic similarity in the way in which a particular situation is linguistically processed, there are cases of divergence and discrepancy." (Summers, 1994:F8; italics mine)—is not exactly consonant with the simpler language used in the actual dictionary which prides itself on vocabulary limited to a basic 2000 words.
The stupendous schism between the metatexts and the texts in the Activator makes one wonder exactly whom the metatexts target ... If anything, it may well backfire, intimidating students (and, quite likely, many of their teachers). Will they have the time and the courage to plunge into these texts, the stamina to persevere, and the skills to make effective sense of them? Surely the metatexts should not take it upon themselves to talk above the heads of the users?
Natural10 versus native speaker: more PC?11
Natural is a buzz word in the Activator metatexts. " ... why one word sounds natural or correct ... or jars with native or highly proficient speakers of English." (Summers, 1994:F9; italics mine) Since when does natural equal correct? And: "The Activator is consequently full of new insights into the natural ways of expressing ideas.... Many of these lexical items are phrases rather than single words, and this has forcibly reminded us that native speakers often use a phrase rather than a single word to express their ideas." (Summers, 1994:F9; italics mine)
Since when is one way of expressing an idea defined as the natural way? Even: "The fact that we have met the word in a book will normally be a guarantee that it is used appropriately according to the lights of the native speaker." (Leech, 1994; bold and italics mine). Alas?! A knock-out combination of prophetic pragmatism. Indeed,12 "the Word of the Native Speaker" elevated to biblical dimensions.
So, natural seems to be gaining ground over—or, at least, complement—the term native speaker to some degree. Although, in one of the previews alone (Neubert, 1994)13 I counted at least eight non-native this, that, and the other. Now, if natural equals native,14 does it follow that non-native (speech) is unnatural per se unless it mirrors native (speech) to a T, in which case, as if by magic it then turns natural?
Natural may sound more PC to some. Compare the idea of being natural on the one hand, and going native on the other. Being natural, it seems to me, refers to the usual, the normal, the a priori, "God-given," unspoiled and uncorrupted. The connotations are positive. Whereas going native may well be the humorous, often patronizing, sometimes explicitly pejorative description of someone trying to imitate what is usual, normal, standard in a particular context that she is an outsider to. The second expression seems to be more value-judgment driven; it sets up an us/them conflict and tension from the outsider's point of view. Theoretically, and to the extent that we all come from and are part of nature, anyone can be natural; it is much more tricky to join, let alone be like, the natives. Imitation will be simulation at best—not just effortless being there. Difficulties of co-membershipping are on a different scale when you attempt to be native as opposed to natural.
PC or not, it is left to be seen whether natural is indeed any more helpful than native speaker. Natural has strong echoes of the Platonic epistemological assumption that a piece of language means what it means because of its reference to a pre-existing Idea. Thus to be most natural (and communicatively competent), this Idea needs to be referred to by the right stretch of language, and none other. By implication, for example, the right reference to slice cannot be cut or chop or what have you.15 Therefore cut or chop are deviant from the Ideal, substandard ('non-Aryan') of the normative standard. As if we are to look "at words as though they were all proper names..." (Wittgenstein, 1958b:18)
Slice is not the right word, the natural choice, since it does not signify an Ideal slice beyond and above the idea of the person who uses it. It does not become natural, ideal or right by virtue of many people using it in certain contexts. If someone uses slice rather than cut it only means that the person consents to its common use when communicating an idea which still is her own and not one corresponding to a natural concept of slice.
Common use is just that: common use. Not natural, not ideal; not normative, not standard.
Communication does not, I believe, pivot around conforming to an Ideal (native-speaker) model, but around adjustments in the process of communication to common use based on convention. A convention is not to be idealised: it is neither natural, nor right. It can, and will, change constantly into new forms of conventions. Nobody (not even native-speakers of Longman) has the "authority to establish the precise signification of words, nor determine to what ideas any one shall annex them,....Besides, the rule and measure of propriety itself being nowhere established, it is often a matter of dispute whether this or that way of using a word be propriety of speech or no." (Locke, 1984, Bk3. Ch.9. 8:302)
All of us who use cut or slice can, and will, adjust their meaning. If there were an ideal to conform to, then, inevitably, the closer we were to it by the incidental law of genetics, the more clout we would have a priori in the communication process. Such a biologically driven communicative encounter would be bound to be unequal: the deviant speaker (non-native) would be relegated by definition to a handicapped position and an inferior status in the encounter: the expectation being that it is only she who has to expend effort, invest precious intellectual and emotional energies in adjusting and conforming to some ideal to make the communication successful, satisfactory and satisfying for the parties involved.
Now, if there is no ideal to conform to, then all parties in the communication process have to make equal effort to achieve mutual understanding. None of the parties conforms to a natural norm; instead, we all—regardless of our degree (or percentage?) of nativeness—conform and adjust to each other simultaneously, at many different levels, of which signification (trying to hit upon a particular stretch of language expressing in the clearest fashion possible the idea we have in mind) is only one, and most likely not even the most significant factor. (Context, awareness, empathy etc. are often better clues for effective communication.)
Mutual and simultaneous adjustment and conformity means that none of the parties are to be imposed upon by unilateral conformity to a certain right. Native and non-native speakers equally share the responsibility for the success of the communication; all have to realise when and how much conformity is pragmatic for clarity and consensus within a particular context.
Native-speakerism: an infantile disease?
But natural aside, it is fascinating how native-speakerism is brandished about quite blatantly and without inhibition in the Activator previews. What is assumed proper and appropriate is appropriated in quite the same self-referential, "native-centric" fashion as common practice has it.
Now, would it be an outrageous idea to look at ELT's obsession with native-speakerism and see it as a romantic idea par excellence, a somewhat belated Herderian16 cult, propelled and propagated by straightforward commercial interest? Is it not time to consider "native-speakerism" the infantile disease of ELT and grow out of the measles?17 Is it not time to consider to what extent native-speakerism is a functional ideology? To what degree is it a political mythology, quite like the powerful "political mythology" of "nations"? (Barthes, 1972)
Measles, functional ideology, or political mythology—native-speakerism is alive and kicking. "Men (and 'even' women) whose research is based on shared paradigms are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice." (Kuhn, 1970:11; comment in brackets and italics are mine.). I anticipate, there is still a long way to go before the quality of an arbitrary accident in personal history, that is one's accidental—and therefore incidental—genetic endowment is not, as it is the case at present, rubber-stamped as quality per se. Acceptable authority is acquired, not appropriated.
Appropriating "norms" implies stigmatisation of everything else that deviates from it. It implies that the stigmatised (read: non-native speakers) are to correct their abnormal condition18 by "devoting much private effort to the mastery" (Goffman:1984) to correct their shortcoming... This will be, of course, in any case "tortured learning": the ideal is defined by genetics therefore unattainable by a mere learning process—however hard.. however conscientious... however devoted. However native-speaker-phile.
Nature, natural, native-speaker... rules supreme.
If, in turn, the "norm" is ultimately unattainable by definition, non-native-speakers are damned in their uphill struggle to fix something they know they cannot fix. (And even more damned if they do not try everything reasonable, and more, to do so.) Understandably, anxiety and insecurity rooted in an inferiority complex are more or less guaranteed in this set-up. "The stigmatised individual is likely to feel that he is "on," having to be self-conscious and calculating about the impression he is making, to a degree and in areas of conduct which he assumes others are not." (Goffman, 1984:25) Now this is when the Activator could well come in handy... "... minor failings or incidental impropriety may, he feels, be interpreted as a direct expression of his stigmatised differentness." (Goffman, 1984:26)
Consult the Activator and then you will not commit the incidental inappropriateness of, for example, using cut when you really mean slice which may well be interpreted as an expression of your being non-native. Thirty-five percent of the 200 English students in the Activator survey opted for cut when prompted with the picture of someone working away with a knife and a chopping board, and slices of lemon. They have clearly given away their stigma (non-native speakers) since around twice as many, that is 72% of the 200 English and American teachers (of English? In any case, native for sure...) gave slice as the right word when confronted with the same inspiring picture.19 If slice is the right word, it implies that other options are wrong. That is simple enough.
Or is it? An example of Truth made rather than found. "... anything could be made to look good or bad, important or unimportant, useful or useless, by being redescribed." (Rorty,1989:7). Good or bad, useful or useless or, for that matter, as it is done in the Activator: right or wrong. What justifies, I wonder, the use of absolute terms such as right and, by implication, wrong. The issue has more to do with clarity and the concept of clarity is by no means absolute. It is relative and therefore involves a scale from the general to the more specific. In this instance, it is simply a case of hyponymy: speakers with a more limited vocabulary, by the very nature of language learning, tend to use the superordinate term, the generic cut and not its subordinate correlate in the semantic system, the more focused and specific slice.
However, slice is not intrinsically right. In fact, cut is its hyponymy and therefore cut implies, includes the meaning of slice, or for that matter, chop as well. Indeed, did the 20% of native-speakers who went for chop therefore get it wrong? Let alone the 8% of natives who had the audacity to describe the action with something other. They will not be, rest assured, stigmatized for their non-conformity with norm, with what is right. Their deviance will be respected as "creative language use." This, however, should not unduly encourage non-natives to try anything of the sort since even their intentional creative language use will be automatically interpreted as unintentional deviance. For a while. As we know linguistic practices change and the more people commit a deviance the faster it will become a norm. Spell checking software on PCs tends to use the American spelling20 so program will be likely to become the norm,—not just in the US—and not the British programme. And the ratio between native speakers of English and so-called non-native speakers of English (3:4-7) seems to speak for itself with regard to "right" word judgments in the long run.21 (Crystal, 1992:358)
Comprehension is less active or productive than...—says who?
The very attractive argument that this is an activator, an active production dictionary is powerfully and repeatedly asserted22 (Leech, 1994; Neubert, 1994; Quirk, 1994; Summers, 1994). But is it really such a straightforward matter? Can reception and production be delineated like this? Can the process of encoding and decoding be so neatly separated?
And, indeed, is it not difficult to accept that one of these intellectual activities is any less active or passive than the other? Since when, for example, is translation, or comprehension for that matter, either passive or non-productive?
Any native speaker who has ventured to seriously communicate in a language other than what she tends to take for granted (e.g. English) will know what a strenuous and indeed very dynamic activity it is to fully comprehend (or comprehend at all...) something in that language.
In fact, comprehension—making "good" sense of (self) and others—may well often be a more exhausting, demanding and, yes, active, experience than, for example communicating your own ideas. When putting forward ideas, you can, if you are pressed hard enough, do as best you can, in some way or another, then throw up your hands in despair and rely heavily on the co-operation and creativity of your interlocutor to interpret or work it out: to produce the meaning you mean. Or rather, the meaning you think you meant. Whatever meaning you think you have produced, will of course be actively and, more often than not, (unfortunately) extensively re-interpreted, creatively re-produced by your interlocutor within their own frame of reference. Like it or not, context will act upon your meaning.
Between "virtual meaning" and "actual meaning," alas, there is the process of negotiating meaning (Widdowson, 1990).
Appropriate and efficient interpretation—a highly personal and complex effort towards a mere approximation of intended meaning— is a most demanding and creative production process in its own right.
Fine-tuning is the name of the Activator game
'Bagsy!!'—Socrates would eloquently pitch in—and rightly so. What is Socratic elenchus or, for that matter, Socratic irony about if not the challenge of comprehension and interpretation.
The process of comprehension, Socrates style, was indeed considered so very active and activating, remember, that it was too much for Athenian democracy: and Socrates dutifully gulped down his "well-deserved" portion of poison for "corrupting the minds of the young."(Plato :407)
Socrates would certainly have used his merciless technique of irony on some of the claims made on the Activator—that is, he would probably, had he the chance, easily confuse anyone trying to attribute a smidgen more activity to speech and to relegate comprehension to the realms of passivity.
What Socrates would, however, have heartily supported is the raison d'être and system of the dictionary itself, and the unending, painstaking process of querying choices. "An unexamined utterance is not worth uttering," so to speak. Because, in the end, the Activator is, fundamentally, just as much about comprehension as it is about production (again, graciously accepting the somewhat dubious assumption, for a moment, that these are neatly separable).
What users are expected to do, while compulsively browsing through this dictionary, is to question the appropriateness of the words they have opted for, or indeed, of register variables offered. Rambling freely, then focusing, then rambling again in criss-crossing and overlapping options, relationships and similarities23 (Wittgenstein, 1988:31e), is great fun and highly educational.
To sharpen fuzzy thought; to encourage precision; to facilitate clarity and consensus
After all, consider—while rambling through the Activator—and savour the complex and fascinating network of subtle differences and similarities in the process called love: when you grow to like, warm to, take a shine to, see something in someone or hit it off with a person because you relate to each other, have rapport or even affinity with someone, let alone that magical chemistry between the two of you. Whether a person is after your own heart, or simply wants to get on the right side of you or in your good books.
And all of us know, some of us even feel (or at least realise when it is in perspective) the fine difference between being, for example, fond of, close, attached, or bonded to, intimate with or devoted to someone; between fancying, admiring, adoring, or worshiping someone, between caring about, caring for or doting on someone. There is a vital difference between a person having a fling, a romance, or a relationship; between the significant other's frame of reference being that you two are dating, seeing each other or going steady.24 A passionate affair and a lifelong passion are worlds apart. And, there is a world of difference (making your world very different indeed) if you just have a soft spot for or even a crush on someone, or if you are infatuated or besotted with the object of your desire, or (if privileged enough?), you are madly in love with the one you love (or is it the love of your life?). Infatuation versus love. Consider the similarities of the ontological (ego boundaries collapse, enlargement, and pouring into one another) and epistemological (conceptual transformation of self)25 aspects of love and infatuation; and yet, significantly, the difference makes or breaks lives. Whereas self-centred infatuation feeding on fantasy is transitory, love based on realistic perception offers real potential for positive self-transformation and thus relationship growth: "Paying attention to what is really going on, instead of what we imagine or want to see, requires patience..." (Kupfer, 1993; my italics).26
Fine-tuning the potential of and for comprehension (of self and other/s) is the name of the Activator game.
© Zsuzsanna Ardó
* First published by TJ Vol 5 No 1 2001
1 After Plato's "The life which is unexamined is not worth living," in Apology, p.29, par.24b
2 Although this achievement is impressed upon the reader in the very first sentence of Sir Randolph Quirk's "Preface" to the Longman Language Activator, Dr. Johnson's dictionary, is by no means the first English monolingual dictionary per se. Strictly speaking, that dictionary was in fact published more than a century earlier, in 1604: A Table Alphabeticall by Robert Cawdrey.
3 Cf. Dr.Johnson's definition of lexicographers: "harmless drudges."
4 Amateurish, self-conscious pictures in greyish back and white. They do not jump at you from the page.
5 Why German and Japanese professors? Anything to do with the size or the significance of the respective markets targeted per chance?
6 Cf. advertisement language for Molson (Canadian beer) cross-fertilised with Nescafe, for example. The reader's appetite is whetted in similar vein: rich, satisfying fullness, desirable...
7 Concept, according to the Longman Dictionary of Language and Culture: a thought, idea, or principle; notion. Meaning, on the other hand, is defined as follows: 1. that which you are intended to understand by something spoken or written, or by something expressed in other ways, such as by signs; 2. importance or value; 3. an aim or intention, esp. a hidden one. Clearly, there is no cross-reference between the two entries, let alone identification or use of them as synonyms as is done by Della Summers.
8 Simple enough to remember this critical evaluation: ingenious, illuminating, important.
9 Cf. "How to Make Friends..." books—it entices you with the illusion of getting the recipe for making friends easily with people (here words) you have just met.
10 See Bourne (1988) for a critique of the concept of "natural" in SLA (Second Language Acquisition).
11 The controversy about the relevance and validity of "Speech Codes" versus "Free Speech" rages on. At Stanford University, for example, the debate ended with the president backing down from his position that "once you start telling people what they can't say, you will end up telling them what they can't think" and the university adopting a speech code. (Hentoff, 1992:51)
12 I have anticipated that the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture will "acquire some sort of gospel status: the 'word' of the native speaker" (Ardo, 1993). Now, when I made this somewhat tongue-in-cheek prediction, I didn't expect to actually experience it so soon, articulated seriously in this Longman dictionary.
13 Notable, in one written by a non-native speaker. Would it be completely wrong to infer some degree of compensation (geared by inferiority complex) at work?
14 "...natural word, which natives would use to express a particular idea."
15 "What's the right word? What word is the picture illustrating? What the 200 English students (read non-native speakers of English) in our survey said: cut 35%, slice 29%, other 36%. What the 200 English and American teachers (read native speakers) in our survey said: slice 72%, chop 20%, other 8%." (LLA 1993:298; italics mine)
16 Herderian ideas finally reaching the English shores, somewhat belatedly. So belatedly in fact, that Herder hasn't made it to the Longman Dictionary of Language and Culture (1992), but—lo and behold—features in the Chambers Encyclopedic English Dictionary(1994). By the way, the same is the case with Heidegger: the Chambers dictionary takes account of him but not the Longman (both are British publishers). A reader commented on my criticism of the editors' selection criteria for the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture: the inconsistencies criticised included, among other things, the decision to feature Hegel but not Heidegger (or Herder). How can it not be a comment about the degree of careful, consistent editorial work? How come Chambers considered them relevant enough to feature? My reader will not concur with Bryan Magee,who obviously must have considered Heidegger a trifle relevant in English culture since he devoted a whole chapter to him in his book The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy (1989), in which he calls his work generally "influential," Being and Time a "masterpiece," and him simply "... without any serious question the most important existentialist philosopher of the twentieth century." So should he, or should he not have been included in the Longman dictionary as well as the Chambers?
17 "Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind" Einstein: The World As I See It (1986).
1 The term non-native by virtue of the negative definition implies substandard, just as in non-whites, as opposed to whites, non-professional in comparison with professional, functional versus dysfunctional etc. Would a man, I wonder, like to be defined as a non-woman, or vice versa?
19 "'And if we bear it mind then it comes before our mind's eye when we utter the word....'—But do we regard as the criterion for remembering it right?" (Wittgenstein,1958a:27e), italics mine.
20 Chaudhary (Chaudhary,1994:10) makes the point that),if anything at all, American English should be the real English (ie the norm) going by some EFL statistics, spell checking software dominance around the world, and TOEFL tests taken by millions every year (Chaudhary, 1994:10). This is also seen as a reasonable argument on political and commercial grounds (Gimson, 1978). And yet, the Longman corpus for dictionaries boasts 40% American material, as opposed to 50% British, and 10% "other" (Ardo,1993).
21 According to Crystal (1992), mother-tongue speakers of English number around 300 million, and another 300 million use English as a second language, and there are an estimated 100 million who speak English fluently as a foreign language. But including lower-level English fluency speakers, the overall estimate is in excess of 100 million. Thus the ratio of 3:4-7.)
22 "...converting words into meanings for the passive partner in communication. For the active partner, striving to convert meanings into words,...," Sir Randolph Quirk clearly defines (his italics) comprehension as passive and non-procuctive.
Also: "...using their existing dictionaries for production purposes." (Summers Ibid. Italics mine).
And: "...the passive user of a language—the reader, the listener..." (Leech,Ibid).
And: "Conventional dictionaries are mainly for passive understanders." (Neubert,Ibid. Italics mine.)
23 Wittgenstein considers the example of games: "I mean board-games,card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all?" Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called games'—but look and see whether there is anything common at all." For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don't think, but look!(Wittgenstein, 1988:31e. Italics his.)
24 "And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail." (Wittgenstein, 1988:32:e). He calls these similarities "family resemblances."
25 Self-growth—via shared perspectives and emotions and active but non-possessive participation in the existence of the beloved.
26 "... love makes us better. Because loving involves actively helping the other, it fosters our virtue...
We cannot work for the growth of our beloved unless we notice what he or she says and does. (That is, love needs to be based on realistic perception of the other.) Iris Murdoch puts the connection between love and attention this way:
...love... is an exercise of ... really looking. The difficulty is to keep the attention fixed upon the real situation and to prevent it from returning surreptitiously to the self with consolations of self-pity, resentment, fantasy..." (Kupfer, 1993:116; his italics; text in brackets mine)