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A Dictionary Database of Contemporary English


A Dictionary Database of Contemporary English In the mid 60s Lionel Guierre made a computerized version of all the entries in D. Jones' English Pronouncing Dictionary (12th edition, 1964). He added information such as syntactical categories, stress patterns and reversed spelling. His computerized corpus allowed him to formulate hypotheses on English pronunciation and to demonstrate their validity. In 1993, J.C. Wells gave him access to the print file of his dictionary (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary 1990), which was exploited by his followers among which, A. Deschamps, J.-L. Duchet, J.-M. Fournier and I. Trevian. Since then there has been new data available as successive editions of pronunciation dictionaries were issued but the computer files remained unavailable. The aim of this paper is to present a project of an up-to-date database on the pronunciation of lexical units in contemporary English including all necessary syntactical, lexical and morphological information, frequency data, usage data, and variation. Why? In Guierre's line, our aim is to uncover the parameters that underlie the phonological behaviour of English speakers. The precise description of the actual pronunciation of English in a given situation or spoken by specific people is therefore not at the heart of our research: we focus on competence rather than performance, "langue" rather than "parole" or "discours". Such a project can only be undertaken on the basis of as extensive a corpus as possible: mental processes are never manifest but have to be reconstructed. The variety of English described in dictionaries as "standard English" or "British English" may not be the most widely spoken one but at least, the content of the dictionaries is homogeneous. Moreover, contemporary pronunciation dictionaries are no longer simply normative but take into account a number of variants within the described variety, and compiled by acknowledged specialists of phonetic descriptions. Our hypothesis is that when the workings of one variety are understood on the base of reliable data, it should be easy enough to infer the workings of other varieties. Nonetheless, our database will include 3 reference varieties in its first implementation: British English, General American English (as presented by Wells and Roach) and Australian English (Macquarie Dictionary). How? Data from pronunciation dictionaries are necessary but as pronunciation also depends on criteria not given in such dictionaries, we will have to incorporate additional information. In a first stage, our database will include about 10 head-fields for each entry. Phonetic transcriptions and variants will be extracted from the dictionary databases and used to generate stress patterns in numerical representation (/1/, /2/, /0/) and numbers of syllables (phonological and phonetic); the variants will be expanded for automatic analysis. When the syntactical category is given it will be included and confronted to other dictionaries so as to attain a homogeneous classification for all entries. Comments on semantics will also be taken into consideration and semantic fields similarly completed for all entries. The frequency of occurrences might be relevant but we will have to find coherent information given the specifics of our database. Another field will take into account the date charts provided by the Oxford English Dictionary. The morphological structure will be analysed, a task more debatable than may seem at first as will be shown during the presentation with a few key examples (historical prefixes, bound roots, endings or suffixes...). What for? In our final part we will present what kind of research we intend to do based on the exploitation of our database: - check the validity of established rules for stress placement. - uncover rules for unaccounted for parts of the vocabulary. - systematic analysis of suffixes, endings and prefixes with relevance on stress placement and vowels pronunciation. ... Research will also help us identify the limits of lexical stress in the case of units for which the distinction between morphology and syntax cannot be easily defined. In such cases, we will have to resort to supplementary data from oral sources. References Adams, V., 1973, An Introduction to Modern English Word-Formation, London: Longman. Bauer, L., 1983, English Word Formation, Cambridge: CUP. Chomsky, N., Halle, M., 1968, The Sound Pattern of English, New-York: Harper & Row. Deschamps, A., 1994, De l’écrit à l’oral et de l’oral à l’écrit : phonétique et orthographe de l’anglais, Paris : Ophrys. Deschamps, A., Duchet, J.-L., Fournier, J.-M., O'Neil, M., 2000, English Phonology and Graphophonemics, Paris : Ophrys. Duchet, J.-L., 1994, Code de l’anglais oral, 2e édition, Paris : Ophrys. Fournier, J.-M., 1996, « La reconnaissance morphologique », 8° colloque d’avril sur l’anglais oral, J.-L. Duchet, J.-M. Fournier, J. Humbley & P. Larreya, éd., Université de Paris-Nord : CELDA, diffusion APLV. Fournier, J-M., 2007, ‘From a Latin syllable-driven stress system to a Romance vs Germanic morphology-driven dynamics’, Language Sciences 29, 218-236, London: Elsevier. Guierre, L., 1979, Essai sur l’accentuation en anglais contempo¬rain - Eléments pour une synthèse, Paris : Université Paris-VII. Guierre, L., 1984, Drills in English Stress-Patterns, 4e ed., Londres : A. Colin - Longman. Guierre, L., 1987, Règles et exercices de prononciation anglaise, Paris : A. Colin-Longman. Halle M., Keyser, S. J., 1971, English Stress, New-york : Harper & Row. Halle, M., Vergnaud, J.- R., 1987, An Essay on Stress, Cambridge (Mas.) : MIT Press. Katamba, F., 1994, English Words, New-York: Palgrave. Marchand, H., 1969, The Categories and Types of Present Day English Word Formation, München, CH: Beck. Roach, P., 1983, English Phonetics and Phonology, a Practical Course, Cambridge: CUP. Trevian, I., 2003, Morphoaccentologie et processus d’affixation en anglais, Bern : Peter Lang. Jones, D., 2006, Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary, 17th edition, edited by P. Roach, J. Setter & J. Hartman, Cambridge: CUP. Macquarie Dictionary, 2005, 4th edition, Sydney: Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. Vers. 3.00 CD-ROM. 2002, Oxford : Oxford UP. Wells, J.C., 2008, Pronunciation Dictionary, 3rd edition, London: Longman.


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halshs-04608641 , version 1 (11-06-2024)


  • HAL Id : halshs-04608641 , version 1


Véronique Abasq, Jean-Michel Fournier, Pierre Fournier, Marjolaine Sophie Martin. A Dictionary Database of Contemporary English. PAC workshop 2009, Sep 2009, Aix en Provence, France. ⟨halshs-04608641⟩
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