PASSWORD for Hungarians
Plenty, though by far not enough, has been said and written by
outstanding scholars and lexicographers on the subject of bilingualizing
the monolingual learner's dictionary. Apart from typological
relevance, the problems raised and solved so far have usually
been in close relation to one of the most challenging questions
of (practical) lexicography: dictionary use (Atkins 1998, Cowie
1999). It is this aspect that I would like to stress in the present
article: how to proceed from the present state of the art, and
further refine and improve this type of dictionary.
Gabriele Stein distinguished three stages of dictionary use in
foreign language acquisition, the order being of major importance:
(l) the bilingual dictionary, (2) the monolingual learner's dictionary,
and (3) the native-language dictionary (1990, 405). At the same
time, I could not agree more with Lionel Kernerman who emphasized
that the "vital element in the acquisition of a new language
is associated with one's native tongue," (1994), another
The scene in Hungary, with Hungarian as one of the minor world
languages spoken by 15 million people (about 10m in Hungary,
3.5m in neighbouring countries, and l.5m across the ocean), is
simple. While struggling for the preservation of their mother
tongue, Hungarians throughout history have always been bound
to rely on foreign languages in order to keep in contact with
other nations, and to survive and withstand pressure from all
2. Hungarian past
The bilingual dictionary type was dominant in Hungary until the
mid-twentieth century, and a dictionary was tantamount to a bilingual
dictionary (with German as top priority foreign language alongside
Latin, and English taking the lead as late as the 1980s-90s).
The publication of Országh's monumental Dictionary
of the Hungarian Language (DHL, 1959-62) turned the tide,
and in the minds of the general Hungarian readership a dictionary
soon began to mean a monolingual dictionary as well.
From the end of World War II until 1990, practically the sole
producer of dictionaries, both scholar and commercial, was Akadémiai
Kiadó (AK), publisher of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
and lavishly subsidized by the state. The output was enormous.
A dictionary trilogy was launched, consisting of unabridged/comprehensive,
medium/concise and pocket/school dictionaries in the major languages
(eg German, English, Russian). Bilinguals in languages from Albanian
to Vietnamese also appeared, and specialized, multilingual and
technical dictionaries, on a commercial basis too, were turned
out by the score.
Scholarly dictionaries, such as Országh's seven-volume
DHL, or etymological, synonym, dialect and other high-standard
dictionaries (compiled by Országh, S. Eckhardt, L. Hadrovics,
L. Gáldi, E. Halász, G. Bárczi, L. Benko,
and others) were edited by the Acadamy's Linguistics Institute
and also published by AK.
3. European presence
With the disappearance of the Iron Curtain and Communist dictatorship,
exchange between East and West in both the economic and cultural
spheres, and particularly in language learning and teaching,
has gradually been easing. As the choice in consumer products
widened, 'western' articles, including a great variety of dictionaries,
became more and more available to the general public. Although
the use of bilingual dictionaries by learners at all levels has
not abated, firstly teachers then students of English began to
prefer almost exclusively monolingual dictionaries (ALD, LDOCE,
COBUILD, Chambers, etc), consciously or subconsciously inspired
by the late A.S. Hornby who was "firmly committed to the
pedagogical principle that English should be learned through
the medium of English" (Marello 1998, 292). Hornby was likewise
unwilling to accept that the learner's mother tongue "could
be used for the initial presentation of meaning" (Marello
ibid). Hornby's principles were readily shared in Hungary by
a significant section of the English teaching profession. However,
bilingual dictionaries continued to be sold in ever-increasing
I have tested university students on dictionary use several times
in the past few years, and it turned out that bilingual dictionaries
were top priority both for the comprehension and production of
English texts, and that among the monolingual dictionaries, learner's
dictionaries were preferred to a great extent, mostly for their
contextual examples which users badly miss in bilingual dictionaries.
Then again, testing students during the past semester (2000/200l)
surprised us with the finding that 39% of them discovered in
our department library Magyar Chambers (MC, AK 1992),
the Hungarian semi-bilingual version of Chambers Concise Usage
Dictionary (CCUD). The answer as to why they liked it was
usually its happy mingling (or constellation) of the source-language
(English) headword+definition+ examples with the target-language
In this chain of criteria the definition proved the weakest link,
which called for another test: what can a student of English
make of a dictionary definition when, for instance, reading or
translating from English into Hungarian (L2-L1). The following
examples may perhaps support my reservations concerning definitions,
especially in the notional sphere of words. In the test, students
could use any or all three dictionaries referred to below. The
figure in square brackets indicates the number of students who
were able to find the adequate Hungarian equivalent of the English
word, or its relevant meaning or sense:
(1) commune [3 out of 40 students]:
ALD: a group of people, not all of one family, living together
and sharing property and responsibilities
CCUD: a group of people living together and sharing everything
LDOCE: a group of people who live together and who share the
work and their possessions
(2) communion [2 out of 40 students]:
ALD: the state of sharing or exchanging the same thoughts or
CCUD: the sharing of thoughts and feeling
LDOCE: a special relationship with someone or something in which
you feel that you understand them very well
(3) dazzle [8 out of 40 students]:
ALD: to impress sb greatly through beauty, knowledege, skill,
CCUD: to affect the ability of making correct judgements
LDOCE: to make someone feel strong admiration
In another test, half of the students were allowed to use a bilingual
English-Hungarian dictionary (EHD 1999), and the other half used
MC. In the first group, 15 out of 20 found adequate Hungarian
equivalents, while all the MC users found the best equivalents.
The tests proved statistically what the actual practice was:
English students began to prefer using MC because (a) it saved
them time, and (b) with Hungarian equivalents in the context
of English it was much easier to disambiguate meaning and reference
in finding the adequate native-language equivalent.
Another advantage of the bilingualized dictionary is that the
user is not forced to step out of the English context, since
the text is about 85% monolingual and only 15% bilingual.
In Kernerman's words, [the semi-bilingual dictionary] "contains
the advantages of the monolingual learner's dictionary, combined
with the native tongue translation found in the bilingual dictionary.
The ambiguity of the bilingual dictionary is thus automatically
eliminated. Learners are encouraged to read the definitions and
examples of usage in English, since only the headwords [with
their various senses] are translated" (1994).
4. Devil in details
If we look at a dictionary entry under a magnifying glass, discrepancies,
mistakes, omissions and inconsistencies become obvious. In the
second part of this article we deal with such shortcomings concerning
both the macrostructure and the microstructure found in the course
of revising and updating the original edition of MC. The new
edition will be published as Password for Hungarians (PH)
by Nemzeti Tankönyvkiadó (NTK, National Textbook
Publishing House, Budapest).
(a) Entry structure and headword
Roughly speaking, there are two widely different ways of arranging
entry words (headwords) and their derivatives, collocations and
idioms: the cluster-type (or etymological) arrangement, and the
strictly alphabetical arrangement wherein lexemes and their derivatives
figure as separate entries. The first is more convenient for
writing (or encoding), the other for reading (decoding) (Cowie
2000). There are, of course, possibilities and cases of combining
the two methods. CCUD, which forms the basis for MC and various
other adaptations known as Password, employs the cluster-type
If one of the aims of the dictionary look-up process is quick
accessibility, then the Password arrangement is inadquate. If,
however, there is more to it, eg the pedagogical aspect, then
it will win over generations of users, because it will help "grasp
connections of meaning and form across the entries" (Cowie
ibid). The etymologically-based cluster-type structure will enhance
the lexicological awareness of the user with its information
on derivatives, compounds, phrasal verbs and other idioms in
a fixed order. Here is an example for this type of arrangement
heartiness [so far derivatives]
heartbreak [etc, compounds]
break someone's heart
from the bottom of one's heart
have a change of heart [etc, idioms]
Once the user has taken up the 'rhythm'
that is common to all entries (and if he/she is encouraged to
'learn' it from the front matter), the dictionary can be used
more efficiently and profitably than with the strictly alphabetical
(and perhaps quicker) method, because what happens here is-willy-nilly-vocabulary
extension, an essential element of language pedagogy. Of course,
this system, as any other system, is not flawless either, and
has its weaknesses. Here are some examples:
If donor is found under donate, why do deceit
or deception and deceptive not come under deceive?
And why are defiance and defiant separate entries,
and not entered under defy? Again, counter2
adverb, verb and counter3 noun are separate
entries while counter1 cross-refers to count2
where it figures with other derivatives (countable, counter1,
countless etc). And why does easily come under
ease and not under easy? Such inconsistencies are
(b) Pronunciation and stress marking
The phonetic notation in CCUD has become out of date and needed
updating, By now the leading monolingual learner's dictionaries
have come to terms, as it were, concerning the symbols used.
While the new PH does indeed carry this out, there is a systemic
flaw in the Chambers-based core which would call for major reshaping,
namely to be somewhat more generous with full pronunciations
given to derivatives, and to be more explicit (or less laconic)
with partial pronunciations. A few examples will make
this point clearer.
adaptation has only [a-], completion [-sen.], inferiority
[-'o-]; adaptor, adequacy, dicey or hearty
receive no pronunciation; apprenticeship has no pronunciation,
whereas it cannot be inferred from the pronunciation given to
apprentice. Similarly, the pronunciation of derisive
cannot be inferred from that of derision, nor can malicious
be predicted from malice.
In the cases of zero pronunciation, the dictionary consistently
marks the stress in bold headwords or sub-headwords. However,
it might be considered an inconsistency that whereas pronunciations,
full or partial, have only main stresses, sub-headwords (usually
derivatives) receive secondary stress as well. For example, whereas
intermittent has pronunciation with a main stress, ,inter'mittently
is given without pronunciation but with both secondary and main
stresses, as do encyclop(a)edia and en,cyclo'p(a)edic.
(c) Run-on entries vs the 'one
In the former edition, undefined run-on entries (mostly derivatives
of main headwords) did not get a Hungarian translation. The reason
for this was not sheer neglect but intentional. Since lexemes,
ie entry words, often have more than one meaning, and so do most
of their derivatives, how could we have found one equivalent
only for an entry word containing, say, six senses, as with circulation,
or seven senses, as with closeness, or the two widely
distinct meanings of engagement or collaborator?
The translator of the new edition could do nothing but give a
single translation for the 'most important'(?) meaning, and perhaps
one or two more, separated by a semicolon, to 'rhyme' with the
semantic structure of the entry.
(d) Peripheral entries and end
CCUD, and thus MC, omitted important cultural, linguistic and
geographical elements. This is provided for in the new PH, along
with a more representative coverage of the commonest abbreviations
and acronyms in its headword-list. Other innovations that will
make PH more useful and colourful include full-page pictorial
illustrations, tables of weights and measures, common irregular
verbs with a brief grammar; and geographical names listing country
names, their adjectives and pronunciation. A major addition of
PH is a Hungarian-English index, to facilitate the two-way use
of the dictionary and enhance the process of encoding (L1-L2
use), making this dictionary more user-friendly than its predecessor.
The relationship between pedagogical lexicography and dictionary
use is treated here in terms of the bilingualized learner's dictionary.
Tests among university students of English in Hungary proved
for beginners and more advanced students alike the usefulness
and advantages of the semi-bilingual dictionary over the bilingual
on the one hand, and the monolingual learner's dictionary on
the other hand. The most striking hindrances, eg the omission
of example sentences from the bilingual, and definitions giving
rise to disambiguity in the monolingual, are largely eliminated
from this type of dictionary. However, a great deal still needs
to be improved in the bilingualized adapatations, in particular
the CCUD base of this revision, which could do with yet further
(even structural) alterations.
(a) dictionaries cited:
ALD Hornby, A.S., J. Crowther (ed.) 1995. Oxford Advanced
Learner's Dictionary 5/e, Oxford: OUP.
CCUD Schwarz C.M. and Seaton M.A. (eds.) 1985. Chambers
Concise Usage Dictionary. Edinburgh: W&R Chambers.
COBUILD Sinclair, John et. al. 1996. Collins COBUILD
Learner's Dictionary. London: HarperCollins Publishers.
DHL Országh, L. et al. (eds.) 1959-62. Dictionary
of the Hungarian Language. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.
EHD Országh, L. et al. (eds.) 1999. English-Hungarian
Dictionary. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.
LDOCE Procter, P. et al. 1978. Longman Dictionary of
Contemporary English. Harlow and London: Longman.
MC Schwarz C.M., Seaton M.A., Magay T. 1992. Magyar
Chambers English Dictionary for Speakers of Hungarian. Budapest:
PH Magay T. (ed.) 2001. Password for Hungarians.
Budapest: Nemzeti Tankönyvkiadó. Forthcoming.
(b) other references:
Atkins, B.T.S. (ed.) 1998. Using Dictionaries: Studies
of Dictionary Use by Language Learners and Translators. Lexicographica,
Series Maior 88. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Battenburg, J.D. 1991. English Monolingual Learner's
Dictionaries: A User-Oriented Study. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer
Cowie, A.P. 1999. English Dictionaries for Foreign
Learners - a History. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Cowie, A.P. 2000. 'The EFL
Dictionary Pioneers and their Legacies.' In
Kernerman Dictionary News, 8.
Hartmann, R.R.K. 1992. 'Learner's References: from the
Monolingual to the Bilingual Dictionary.' In H. Tommola et al.
(eds.), EURALEX '92 Proceedings. Tampere: Tampereen Yliopisto.
Kernerman, L. 1994. 'The
Advent of the Semi-Bilingual Dictionary.'
In Password News.
Kernerman, L. 1996. 'English Learners' Dictionaries: How
much do we know about their use?' In M. Gellerstam et al. (eds.),
EURALEX '96 Proceedings. Göteborg: Göteborg
Marello, C. 1998. 'Hornby's Bilingualized Dictionaries.'
In International Journal of Lexicography, 11.4.
Reif, J.A. 1987. 'The Development of a Dictionary Concept:
An English Learners' Dictionary and an Exotic Alphabet.' In A.P.
Cowie (ed.), The Dictionary and the Language Learner.
Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Stein, G. 1990. 'From the Bilingual to the Monolingual
Dictionary.' In T. Magay and J. Zigány (eds.), BudaLEX
'88 Proceedings. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.
Special thanks to Mihály
Benedek for helping to coordinate the production of this paper.
About the author
K Dictionaries Ltd
Magay was born in 1928 in Kaposvár, and graduated in English
language and literature from the University of Budapest. He studied
lexicography under L. Országh, and wrote his theses on
the history of English lexicography in Hungary and the principles
of bilingual lexicography. He was co-author and later editor-in-chief
of a series of English/Hungarian dictionaries, and edited, among
others, a major phraseological bilingual dictionary and a pronunciation
dictionary of Hungarian proper names. He is a founding member
of Euralex and organized its third congress (Budalex '88), and
founded and heads the English Department of the new Gáspár
Károli University, including lexicography and lexicology
studies. Dr Magay edited the first semi-bilingual dictionary
in Hungary (Magyar Chambers, 1992) and is the editor of
the forthcoming second version.
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