Style labels in monolingual English learners´ dictionaries

The study researches the stylistic information offered in English dictionaries. The following four British dictionaries are compared:
  • Collins Cobuild English Dictionary (COBUILD)
  • Dictionary of Contemporary English (DCE)
  • Oxford Advanced Learners´ Dictionary of Current English (OALD)
  • Cambridge International Dictionary of English (CIDE)
Language learners who still adhere to a naive all-or-nothing principle, i.e. who expect hard and fast rules, will find that they must take into account the whole framework of communication, by considering interactional processes as well as human face wants. They will come to the conclusion that most of the static stylistic labels are only a practical hint of limited value and that this hint has to be fine-tuned in different social and discourse contexts. Exchanging words in such contexts may have very different functions and may reflect different social relationships, which are crucial for the meaning of the lexical items used. Lexical sarcasm is a case in point. A statement such as "Bloody impeccable, these Americans!" uttered by a clerk in a London Underground ticket office, who is annoyed at the rude behavior of some American customers, has to be assessed according to its situational and communicative value. The learners also have to become aware of the fact that meanings change with time and that these meaning changes are brought about by speakers in social and discourse contexts. They may or may not enter the linguistic system permanently. This also means that the linguistic considerations and analyses, which the learners should engage in, could and should be regarded as part of their language learning activities.


Citation style:
Could not load citation form.


Use and reproduction:
All rights reserved