Where were you 30 years ago? I was in the middle of my university studies, still too late to start my ELT career, and thus, to be part of a fearless and free-spirited COBUILD dictionary team. Led by the late John Sinclair, this large youth team was involved in enlivening their vision: creating a dictionary for learners based on a large digital language database – or a corpus.
This fund will be used to analyze word frequencies, to identify new uses, for combinations, combinations, meanings and specific contexts for words and phrases. Definitions will be written in complete sentences in the type of everyday English that the teacher can use to explain a word to a learner, with the added benefit that users will see how the word will work in the sentence.
Looking back at the pages of that first edition, you may be impressed by the density of the page design. It seems that now we need to divide our text into white spaces, boxes and different fonts and colors: our modern mind needs a little break between lines and entries.
Was my fearless and free-spirited self really that much better at reading all the little words together on one page? Well, the answer is probably yes, because I remember my first encounter with COBUILD dictionaries was pleasant; I don’t remember that ‘what? How do you expect me to get through all this? ‘
The second feature that comes to us from the pages of the first edition is the ‘extra column’. This dictionary was a narrow column to the right of each main column of the text. It provides information about parts of speech and specific syntax patterns, such as ‘V + O’ (= verb plus object), so that students do not have to search through intensive dictionary text for this type of information .
Parts of the speech were very specific; For example, adjectives can be ADJ CLASSIF: ATTRIB (a classified adjective that is in a positive condition) or ADJ QUALIT (a qualitative adjective), and verbs V ERG (ergative verb), v-link (linking verb) or V + May be. O (transitive verb). The user can see examples of usage in the main dictionary text next to this information.
Indictment is a computable noun. If a prefix is followed after this, that prefix is against it or against it (e.g. allegations of fraud). This may be followed by a reporting clause, as the allegation against us was that we were biased.
COBUILD’s ‘Extra Pillar’ was a showcase for the incredible amount of hard work that lexicographers and grammarians put into analyzing newly created funds. It told us all the previously unspecified facts about how the English language works.
Unfortunately, however, the extra column did not survive. Market research told us that most learners did not even read or understand most of the information in the extra column and in 2008 it was quietly put in the grass.
The information given in the additional column was redesigned with the modern learner in mind. The reunification of most of the content in the main text meant that the main columns could be widened and more words and meanings could be included in the same pages.
So, what does our mature 30-year-old dictionary look like now? Well, it has become an incredibly user-friendly go-to treasure for the English language, thanks to its sophisticated font design, useful info boxes, colorful pictures and rich white space.
It has an extremely popular online sibling, which is available, and it has inspired learners and lexicographers alike to use Corpora to learn more fascinating facts about our language. Happy 30th Birthday, COBUILD!