English-Japanese Lexicography and
the Unabridged Genius
In April 2001, Taishukan's Unabridged Genius English-Japanese
Dictionary was introduced in Japan and has been promoted
by its publisher as a revolutionary addition to the competitive
English-Japanese dictionary (EJD) market. The Unabridged Genius
contains 255,000 entries and bears the hallmarks that have distinguished
the Genius brand for decades: accessible and readable description
style; helpful usage notes; comprehensive coverage of new computer
and Internet terms along with newly coined words in science,
politics, business, etc; updated definitions, especially in the
fast-moving areas of technology; and the addition of entries
on people and places of worldwide note. These features will make
the dictionary a useful companion for Japanese who wish to explore
the English language in all its dimensions.
From my viewpoint as an editor of the Unabridged Genius,
I will review the history of English-Japanese lexicography and
discuss its particular features and problems. This task is undoubtedly
a daunting one and in the limited space available, I can offer
only a brief and limited overview, commenting on a few English-Japanese
dictionaries which stand as landmarks in the history of English-Japanese
lexicography, and including discussion of the Unabridged Genius.
2. The English-Japanese Dictionary
A vast number of English-Japanese dictionaries, almost exclusively
designed for Japanese learners of English, have been published
since the year 1862, when Eiwa-Taiyaku-Shuchin-Jisho (A
Pocket Dictionary of the English and Japanese Language [sic]),
which can bear the honor of being the first printed English-Japanese
dictionary, was edited by several Dutch-Japanese interpreters,
with T. Hori as the chief editor. They used, as their primary
sources, the Dutch-English part of Picard's A New Pocket Dictionary
of the English and Dutch Languages (2nd edition, 1857), adopting
from it about 35,000 English entry words, and a few Dutch-Japanese
dictionaries, most significantly Katuragawa's Oranda-Jii
(A Dutch-Japanese Dictionary, 1855-58), which was relied
on for translation of the Dutch definitions into Japanese. Why
was Dutch involved in editing an English-Japanese dictionary?
Until Japan abandoned its national isolation policy in 1855 and
began to trade with the West, the only window initially opened
to the outside world was to the Netherlands. Though extremely
limited in number, Dutch books on medicine, surgery, pharmacology,
astronomy and some other related areas were brought in by Dutch
merchants through this interaction which continued for some time
on the Island of Dejima in Nagasaki. Dutch was at that time practically
the only foreign language with which Japanese people, more specifically
a very limited number of Japanese who were allowed to study Dutch
by the Tokugawa Shogunate, were in contact. Several kinds of
Dutch-Japanese dictionaries, such as Oranda-Jii, were
produced solely for decoding purposes prior to the advent of
This first English-Japanese dictionary was produced in response
to the urgent need to learn about Western culture in the wake
of the US navy's visit in 1853, and as mentioned just above,
it was compiled by several Japanese interpreters of Dutch who
had little or no experience of speaking or hearing English actually
used by native speakers. In Europe, the origin of most bilingual
dictionaries can be traced back to the practice in the early
Middle Ages of writing interlinear glosses. These glosses, mostly
Latin-English and French-English, put together, rearranged and
enlarged, developed into glossaries, finally into bilingual dictionaries.
In Japan, however, just as we have seen, the first English-Japanese
dictionary was a literal fusion of Dutch-English and Dutch-Japanese
dictionaries, a fusion of dictionaries compiled on the basis
of totally different principles and assumptions. This uniquely
edited dictionary was abridged and enlarged in subsequent editions
and many imitated or pirated versions were published. Crude and
inaccurate by today's standards, these dictionaries had their
own personality as a result of policy decisions taken by the
dictionary editors, and they made their own distinctive contribution
to early studies of English in Japan.
The collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate was followed by the Meiji
Restoration (1868) established in the desire for 'an enriched
domain and strengthened military power'. The government therefore
eagerly encouraged scholars to 'translate' the West. The number
of Japanese who had opportunities to hear or read real English
gradually increased and English began to be taught at a considerable
number of schools. Copies of dictionaries compiled by William
Lobscheid, John Ogilvie, P. A. Nuttall, Noah Webster and a series
of revisions and abridgments of these dictionaries were brought
back by people dispatched abroad to study Western culture or
imported by foreign-book traders. By this time English-Dutch
dictionaries had been totally discarded as dictionary resources,
replaced by these English-Chinese and English-English dictionaries.
By taking full advantage of these newly introduced repositories,
English-Japanese dictionaries have made remarkable progress in
format, content (pronunciation, definition, sense division, illustrations,
usage labels, etc), typography, quality of paper, printing and
3. English-Japanese Lexicography
in the 20th Century
In the Meiji Period (1868-1912), and the subsequent Taisho (1912-1926)
and the early Showa Periods (1926-1940), the government was not
only eager to import Western culture through books but also invited
experienced foreign scholars and scientists as teachers and engineers,
among whom were Harold Palmer and A. S. Hornby, the great pioneers
of ELT in the 1930s and 1940s who made Japan a test ground for
ELT innovations, just as Michael West did in India (Cowie 1999).
Fully aware that the existing dictionaries, whether monolingual
or bilingual, failed to meet the needs of his Japanese students,
Hornby published the first monolingual EFL dictionary, Idiomatic
and Syntactic English Dictionary (ISED, 1942), in
which he refined and elaborated lexicographic devices which were
first introduced by Palmer in his Grammar of English Words
(1938), such as construction patterns, the difference between
countable and uncountable nouns and syntactic patterns of 24
anomalous finites. This dictionary was republished by OUP under
the name of A Learner's Dictionary of Current English
(1948), which underwent many revisions to finally become Oxford
Advanced Learner's Dictionary (OALD). Today there
proliferate on the global market various monolingual learner's
dictionaries which incorporate Hornby's ideas of verb patterns,
and countable/uncountable noun distinction, and West and Endicott's
ideas of a limited defining vocabulary, creating a unique identity
and carving out a niche in the EFL market. They are exported
to Japan and all over the world. It is worthy of note, however,
that the root of these modern sophisticated learners' dictionaries
trace back to Japan and India.
Influenced by Palmer and Hornby, EJDs began to change. They were
more or less made on the model of ISED and some other
monolingual general dictionaries such as The Concise Oxford
Dictionary of Current English (1911), The Pocket Oxford
English Dictionary of Current English (1924), shortened and
updated versions of Webster's An American Dictionary of the
English Language (1859) and Daniel Jones' An English Pronouncing
Dictionary (1917). Digesting lexicographic information from
these more advanced and sophisticated resources, the Japanese
lexicographers began to improve their dictionaries by supplementing
them with illustrative examples, illustrations, encyclopedic
information, analyses of learner errors, brief etymologies, and
grammar and usage notes at many entries, in addition to performing
their basic work of defining English words in Japanese and presenting
pronunciation in IPA, modified IPA or respelling systems. Worthy
of special note among the general dictionaries published prior
to ISED are Sanseido's Concise English-Japanese Dictionary
(1922) and Kenkyusha's New English-Japanese Dictionary
(1927). The Sanseido dictionary, mostly following the British
tradition of dictionaries for words and encyclopedias for facts,
was so popular that a part of the title 'konsaisu' (=
concise) was metonymically used for a long time to refer
to a small-sized English-Japanese dictionary in general. Revised
and updated, this dictionary has developed into the current 13th
edition (2001), still sought after by people who prefer a handy
dictionary they can grab to look up a word when reading to a
learner's dictionary with complicated grammar codes and lengthy
usage notes. The Kenkyusha dictionary, on the other hand, was
a large-scale volume of about 100,000 entries, with encyclopedic
features. This dictionary has been updated and further enlarged
several times and in March of this year a 6th edition appeared,
expanded to 260,000 entries. Like the earlier editions, it enjoys
a unique position of authority in the matter of accuracy and
sophisticated presentation of pronunciations, etymologies and
definitions of words, particularly technical terms for which
a group of expert consultants were employed.
During World War II, English was denounced as an enemy's language
and English-Japanese lexicography declined. After the war, over-simplified
and carelessly edited EJDs or wordlists proliferated, and it
took about two decades for the lexicography to rise from the
ashes, recover its strength, and produce modern, comprehensive
and practical dictionaries which surpass those published before
Worthy of special note is Kenkyusha's New Collegiate English-Japanese
Dictionary (1967), equipped with elaborate codes of sentence
patterns and countable/uncountable noun distinction labels. Since
it appeared, "a war of learner's dictionaries" has
been unceasingly carried out among publishers who wish to pre-empt
the market of high school and college student users. Dictionaries
aimed at this market have become increasingly oriented toward
the facilitation of encoding under the influence of notional,
functional and communicative teaching approaches.
4. The Genius' breakthrough
The fact that linguistic theories have been rarely mentioned
in English-Japanese dictionary prefaces demonstrates that most
lexicographers have tended to confine themselves to collecting
examples or more often than not borrowing them directly or indirectly
from other dictionaries and classifying meanings on the basis
of conventional methods with little or no background linguistic
knowledge. To those lexicographers linguistics is a remote, abstract
and even frivolous discipline, which makes little or no practical
contribution to dictionary making. To linguists, on the other
hand, lexicography is often lamentably unscientific, uneasily
poised between academic discipline and the commercial world.
However, as demonstrated by recently-published dictionaries,
for example, Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners
(2002), which describes metaphoric expressions on the basis of
Lakoff and Johnson (1980), an increasing number of lexicographers
have come to realize that lexicography should be reconciled with
developments in some fields of linguistics, particularly in such
fields as computer linguistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis
and cognitive semantics. Fully aware of the importance of a closer
acquaintance with these areas of linguistics, the Genius editorial
staff tried to incorporate insights and findings of these fields
of linguistics into the Unabridged Genius.
Over the past two decades, computerized corpora have played a
more and more important role in editing dictionaries, to the
point where lexicography is arguably incomplete without a significant
component devoted to corpus linguistics. Popular myth is that
the larger the corpora, the better they are suited to lexicographic
task. This might lead to a conclusion that any corpus used as
a database for dictionary editing should be as large as such
major corpora as the British National Corpus (BNC). We are doubtful
about this conclusion. Such corpora is liable to drown us in
data, presenting an overwhelming number of examples usually shown
in the form of KWICK-concordance where a key word is centered
in a fixed-length field (e.g. 80 characters). Semantic interpretation
of the examples thus presented is very difficult for non-native
speakers, because meaning is usually negotiated, depending on
the context and structure of the text where it occurs. Longer
contexts are needed for accurate interpretation of examples.
In preparation for compiling the Unabridged Genius, therefore,
we constructed an informally produced corpus containing over
20 million words of contemporary American English, consisting
of a spoken corpus of 10 million words (from interviews, newscast,
TV discussions, etc) and written corpus of 10 million words (from
newspapers, magazines, etc).
Compared with established corpus resources such as the BNC, which
are designed to be representative, our corpus is insignificantly
small and not well balanced in terms of text (or genre) types,
selection of entries and decision of the order of definitions
within entries. As suggested by Tribble (1997), however, the
computer-driven research works best when its use is integrated.
There are now available for integration various kinds of corpora,
freely accessible by individuals on the Internet. Also obtainable
is a vast amount of information on collocation and usage from
such search engines as Google. Full text search of CD-ROM encyclopedias
will serve as a coherently structured and usable resource. This
increasing availability of linguistic data stored on the web
and on CD-ROMs, coupled with a simple but very powerful search
tool, will compensate for non-native lexicographers' limited
exposure to language in use and make it possible to look at natural
English in quantities large enough to see recurring patterns
in texts of all kinds and to offer users up-to-date coverage
of the language. These digital resources can replace the luxury
of multiple exposures to English over time and in a variety of
meaningful contexts, which are usually denied to non-native lexicographers.
They will help to reduce the long-term unilateral dependence
on English monolingual dictionaries for lexicographic information
and change our traditional way of bilingual dictionary editing.
In this light, the Unabridged Genius may not represent
a modest change, but, arguably, a revolutionary step in the history
of English-Japanese lexicography in particular and bilingual
lexicography in general.
As important as a computer corpus is a native speaker's intuition.
In recent years some linguists express their doubts about intuition
and introspection as linguistic data on the ground that the sample
of the language which native speakers, however fluent and competent
they are, have met is only a fraction of the ever-changing entity
called English and that corpus data therefore often provide overwhelming
evidence which contradicts their intuitive judgments. It should
be noted, however, that empirical data, however large they may
be, do not provide us with 'negative' information (evidence of
non-use), just 'positive' information (evidence of actual use).
In order to obtain negative information which is often very useful
to non-native learners, we devised techniques to elicit such
intuitive data along the lines explored by Greenbaum and Quirk
(1970). Fortunately we had a competent informant in Prof. L.
H. Schourup, an American colleague of mine and a prominent linguist
in the fields of pragmatics and poetics. He succeeded in shedding
new light on ill-formed patterns of form and use which would
have remained unnoticed if we had looked only at the surface
data revealed by the computational analysis.
Because of the complicated problems concerning copyright and
the extreme difficulty of finding entirely suitable examples
in the corpus, we had most of the illustrative examples invented
by native speakers. It might be true that one does not study
all of botany by making artificial flowers, but the metaphor
is not necessarily valid. Whereas artificial flowers are dead,
invented examples can be of great usefulness provided they are
contrived in such a way as to make apparent the restrictions
and constraints on the use of a word. In this respect such examples
better serve our purposes than corpus-driven examples which often
do not make sense out of context.
Since it is basically an expanded version of the smaller Genius
English-Japanese Dictionary, which is mainly designed for
senior high school and college students, the Unabridged Genius
is from the start far more approachable and user-friendly both
in format and content than any other preceding large-scale dictionary
which is primarily intended for adult users, and it gives much
more space to the detailed description of core vocabulary. In
the light of recent findings of pragmatics and discourse analysis,
it also gives much space to such 'small' lexical items as oh,
ah, uh, um, well, yes, yeah,
okay, you know, I mean, in fact,
and indeed. Information is included about the meaning
(emotional or cognitive) of such items, their function in turn-taking,
and the expression of emotion, hesitation, emphasis, and (dis)agreement.
These items share interesting pragmatic properties to which preceding
dictionaries have not paid much attention because these lexical
items tend to be regarded as superfluous or even undesirable
by many speakers.
It has been generally believed that in order to be fluent speakers
of English, non-native learners have to master grammar and memorize
as many English words as possible: by so doing they will become
able to create an indefinite number of sentences by putting memorized
words in a grammatical framework. In reality, however, this procedure
often results in sentences which are grammatically correct but
pragmatically inappropriate. In recent years, we have come to
realize that native speakers sort out memorized phrases which
are appropriate to context rather than create new sentences by
grammatical rules. These phrases stored in a mental lexicon as
prefabricated chunks are often referred to as lexical phrases
(Nattinger and DeCarrico 1992). Native speakers store these lexical
phrases naturally and unconsciously in their mental lexicon as
they grow older and select phrases most appropriate to relevant
context whenever necessary to express complex ideas very simply
and yet precisely. But this does not apply to non-native learners,
whose exposure to naturally-occurring English is limited. What
is worse, these lexical phrases, unlike the so-called idioms,
tend to slip by unnoticed and not to be stored for re-use. We
have therefore attempted to record as many of these prefabricated
phrases as possible, and bring them to the users' attention and
help them to notice which phrases are more communicatively or
Many arguments are raised against the use of bilingual rather
than monolingual dictionaries: the former are claimed to be nothing
but a list of possible translations for English words often with
little information about which meaning applies in which context
and with no guidance about the grammatical patterns they operate
in. These arguments are, however, often made by those who have
in mind a small bilingual dictionary where demands of space result
in drastic and misleading simplification. It must be stressed
therefore that this criticism does not apply to most of the modern
EJDs. We have been fully aware that word meanings are not simply
equations between the two languages, but that they grow out of
and depend on specific uses and contexts. We have attempted to
reinforce supportive decoding/encoding information with example
sentences and phrases and indicators of context and grammar,
adding entries of learned words and technical, biographical and
geographical words which are typically missing from monolingual
learners' dictionaries, elaborating usage labeling - temporal,
geographical, cultural and functional. Thus our dictionaries,
whether pedagogical or general, are not just in the business
of juxtaposing English words and their Japanese equivalents.
They have reached a stage in which they serve as learning tools
which develop the lexical and linguistic competence of the Japanese
users of English. This does not deny, however, that monolingual
dictionaries have several decisive advantages over bilingual
ones. We just argue that bilingual dictionaries are not without
their advantages over monolingual ones: monolingual dictionaries
complement rather than replace bilingual dictionaries.
From this discussion it seems reasonable to conclude that the
Unabridged Genius, with its data collected from various
types of corpora, represents an important forward step beyond
the traditional dictionary editing which has depended too heavily
on British and American dictionaries, to the point where English-Japanese
lexicography can be considered to be, in its own right, mature
and autonomous in theory and practice.
Early this year a "new" fusion-type dictionary - Wordpower
Ei-Ei-Wa Jiten (Wordpower Fully-bilingual Dictionary)
was published, a bilingualized version of The Oxford Wordpower
Dictionary (2nd edition, 2000). Though there is a difference
between fully-bilingual and semi-bilingual, the
basic idea and method apparently derive from Kernerman semi-bilingual
dictionaries (Kernerman 1994). This English-English-Japanese-Japanese
dictionary would be the best for learners at a certain level,
for the simple reason that it presents an English definition
as well as Japanese translation. We will have to see how autonomy
and fusion, contradictory on the surface but complementary at
the base, will contribute to the development of English-Japanese
lexicography in Japan.
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About the author
K Dictionaries Ltd
Minamide teaches English linguistics at Osaka Women's University.
He studied discourse analysis and educational linguistics at
the University of London from 1986 to 1987 and attended the first
International Lexicography Course held at the University of Exeter
in 1987. Professor Minamide has been engaged in editing English-Japanese
dictionaries, is the chief editor of Taishukan's Unabridged
Genius English-Japanese Dictionary (2001) and Genius English-Japanese
Dictionary (3/e 2001). His current interest is in the incorporation
of findings and insights of linguistics, specifically cognitive
linguistics, pragmatics and discourse analysis, into lexicographical
Konishi T. and K. Minamide (eds.)
Taishukan's Unabridged Genius English-Japanese Dictionary
Tokyo: Taishukan-Shoten, 2001
2528pp.265 x 190 x 70 mm.
10 Nahum Street, Tel Aviv 63503 Israel
tel: 972-3-5468102 fax: 972-3-5468103