A dictionary is also known by many as a resource that is used in negotiating the meaning of word(s) in the real word, a tool in communication that’s helps one to learn a new language and also an important aspect in the creation of a discourse. Thus, historically a dictionary is an important tool of trade, without it language may not be passed from generation to generation. For instance, the existence of symbols dictionary helps one to relate that symbol with the real world, for it to have a meaning.
Dictionaries came into existence as result of increased literacy levels among the ancient population and due to technological advancement. Technological advancement in this aspect means the introduction of printing machines which facilitated the availability of printed literature to the general public. This therefore called for a book that could order words systematically and that which could easy understanding of the grammar used. Thus dictionaries enabled people to do so and even today it is normally used for the same purpose.
Dictionaries can be of different types, meaning that each field has its own dictionary. For instance there are religious, historical, English, symbols and many other dictionaries relating to different fields of study. English historical dictionaries contain the events that have once occurred and those who participated in the same events and bringing them to reality. This helps in keeping the country’s’ history and appreciating what happened before. The religious dictionaries on the other hand contain the meanings of words that were used by the ancient religions.
According to Kirkness, a dictionary is a well established source, if not the principal source of information on language for all the members of the literature societies who might have suggestions on any aspect of the form, meaning or use of a word or words in their own language or in another language (East, 2008). As Wilson refers the dictionary to be the most successful and significant book about language, he further says that this significance is shown by that it has authority that is invoked, rightly or wrong, to settle disputes. (Wilson, 1985)
In English there are three different types of dictionaries which are in use today. They include: monolingual and bilingual dictionary which came as result of intermarrying the monolingual and the bilingual dictionaries. The monolingual dictionaries are suitable for students learning one language while bilingual dictionary is meant for students learning a foreign language.
Thus the use of these dictionaries depends on the learner’s choice but language teachers would prefer one dictionary to the other. Teachers should therefore create awareness among students since a good dictionary means that all the information that the student is looking for should be available. The underlying reason for this is that there are students who don’t know how to use them; it means that they cannot find the information and they cannot extract it the way it is wanted.
The significance of a dictionary lies in the learning of the English language rather than in the teaching of the language. A dictionary is known to have diverse uses ranging from field to field but at the end satisfying the user needs. An English dictionary is a material of great significance in the learning of the language worldwide. This is attributed to the fact the English language has undergone tremendous changes due to the influence from other native languages of those people learning and using it. (Baugh, 1993)
English language is a global or an international language that has been widely used in technology, science and commerce. It is a major language used in international negotiation thus the learning of this language is propagated by the use of a dictionary, as it is where words have been arranged in an alphabetical order , a systematic way and their meanings are shown. The use of a dictionary in Britain exceeds the popularity of bibles among households since they believe that dictionaries give the basic information that is important when reading another document. The use of dictionaries has been accelerated by globalization since people need to be bilingual for them to interact with the outside world.
In the UK learning curriculum, dictionaries are used as support materials in class rooms and reference materials during examinations. The use of dictionaries as a learning material enables the students to do things on their own or to learn new things in their areas of study. But this can aso lead to overdependence on the same leading to poor performance. This implies that a dictionary should only be used for verification or finding what a word which the student doesn’t know. The reason behind this is that students will not exploit other ways of looking for solution or alternative answers.
The use of dictionaries can limit the thinking capacity and the rate of understanding of the learner and thus making such a learner a poor performer, not because he or she was not able but it is due to over reliance on a dictionary. The use of dictionaries in class can also be said that it is a way of making students lazy, this is exhibited in the student’s homework which was not done properly and effectively. The use of dictionaries in UK was later discouraged due to such factors and as such poor performance among the students was recorded.
It is also argued that the use of a dictionary enables a learner to acquire new skills and be aware of the English language. A learner can pronounce words and letters properly since in a dictionary a word can have a range of meanings and hence the pronunciation of the same word may differ depending on the meaning. It aids one to learn a language that is new, making one well conversant with a language that is foreign to him or her. This increases ones’ confidence of using the language when in a country where the language originated.
The use of dictionaries among student is known to increase their authenticity that is in language test and performance as well as increased flexibility in responding questions that they have been given as a test. This has also increased their level of confidence in the English language they are learning.
Students using dictionaries acquire new vocabularies which are helpful in their essay writing as well as expressing different phenomena. Students therefore ought to evaluate the extent to which these vocabularies are important to them and the time consumed while looking for these new words. Teachers are supposed to offer diverse strategies to the different learners so that they may find it easy getting vocabularies.
Dictionaries are also used in establishing the meanings and explanation of words. In a dictionary a word can be used in a sentence so that a learner can know how to use that word in a sentence, dictionaries shows how a word can be used as a noun, adjective and as a verb as well as showing the tenses of the word, hence learners can construct good sentences according to tenses and how parts of the sentences should appear. These sentence parts are the subject, object and the verb.
In addition, a learner can grasp the correct spelling of a word and the several meanings of the word, as well as learning words that are synonyms. This therefore enhances their spoken and written English. In dictionaries synonyms are brought together especially in thesaurus, this gives the learner an opportunity to chose the best of the words that suits a scenario. This would enable the learner not to repeat the same word in a row or a paragraph. It could also mean that the more the English learner uses a dictionary the greater the number of meanings he/she can wish to search for.
For writers in particular especially the novel writer, a dictionary is a relevant tool which they use in cross checking the spelling of words and is an important element in varying their vocabulary. Dictionary enables them find synonyms and as such aiding them produce quality work and helping them to be authentic and confident in their writings. This proves to us that for one to produce such a work he or she should use a dictionary to perfect his or her work.
Dictionaries are also important for someone attending a meeting since a speaker can use a word that he or she cannot understand. It could be wise then to look up for the meaning of the word especially he or she has a phone which is internet enabled. The instant use of this online dictionary allows this person get the exact meaning of the word and its appropriateness in the meeting even if the word is not rightly spelled. Dictionaries are therefore important as it makes one to avoid looking stupid since you cannot go on asking your friends to give you meanings of words and other explanations.
It is also good to have a dictionary while reading a newspaper or any document so that when you come across something that you do not understand you can look up for its meaning. If the dictionary still uses a word that you cannot comprehend then you can search for that word again. This therefore hellps a person to learn a lot as he or she continues using it every time he or she reads a document.
Dictionaries also show the origin and development of the word, it describes the relationship a word has with other words from diverse languages. Thus enhancing a learners’ ability to know how words can be used accordingly in as much as keeping its’ original meaning. It also shows the date which a word was coined, normally appearing in the parenthesis before the first definition of the word or the only definition. The date that is given is usually that which is known by the writer or author. (Grimshaw, 1848)
The historical importance of a dictionary is its fame and reputation that it has brought to the authors and home countries. This is evidenced by those who wrote the first dictionaries. These dictionaries were used whole over the world bringing honor to the country of origin as well as popularizing the authors. The reputation comes as result of one man’s’ work which is seen to benefit millions of people and also because of his dedication and resources he or she sacrificed for the success of his or her work.
The dictionaries also gained a lot of influence for instance, in America during colonization period and as such lexicographers emerged and they argued that the correct and standard English is that which appeared in the first dictionaries. This paved way for the translation of languages.
On other hand the early dictionaries have provided a basis for lexicographers who may want to come up with other or new dictionaries to suit the current changes in the language. In other terms we can say that old dictionaries have led to evolution of new ones. Many of the words have been adopted without any change plus their meanings, others have accentuated the English words to easy the understanding of these words by non- English speakers. This has also paved bilingualism in the world. The criticisms on the early dictionaries gave the lexicographers of that time the chance to come up with dictionaries that could out do the earlier ones. Criticism is an important aspect in the writer’s world since they scrutinize what has been written earlier, and then add something new that would modify the same
Dictionaries gained popularity among lawyers since they try to bring out the real and the literal meaning of the words that are used in law and the constitution of a country. This in turn enabled them to interpret the law well and also understand the words of their predecessors clear
In addition to this, dictionary writers lobbied for enactment of copyright laws to cushion their work from being reproduce without their prior knowledge and consent. The introduction and enactment of copyright laws is indeed a historic event since it helped other generations that came after. This cited by an American English scholar who worked on spelling reform that could help distinguish American and British English.
Continuous editing of dictionaries has also led to incorporation of words which were used in early centuries. This is therefore of historical importance of a dictionary since what had been forgotten can be brought to use, enriching the language and adding flavor.
Historically dictionaries have served the purpose of preserving the authors’ skillfulness and reflections. It therefore encourages people to appreciate their works and what might have triggered them to do so in the past. Most of their work is recognized as a scholarly achievement because it takes years and patience to produce that work.
People would also understand the consequences that have come after them. For instance, how people have perceived their works and this have impacted on their daily use of the language. In conjunction to this, dictionary scholars’ act as source of inspiration, through their work and as such helps us to appreciate and undertake other tasks efficiently so as to produce work that can of great importance in the development of the English language.
In conclusion, dictionaries are important materials which provide the basic information anyone wants. Speakers, learners, readers and writers need it in their day to day life. Someone can learn about pronunciation and tenses of a particular word, also to speak quality English language and construct grammatically correct sentences. It has both historical significances attached and its relevance in the teaching and the learning of the English language which is becoming an international language.