Kernerman Dictionary News • Number 10 • July 2002


English-Japanese Lexicography and the Unabridged Genius

Kosei Minamide

1. Introduction
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 roots
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 English-Japanese dictionaries.

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 binding.

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 the war.

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 pragmatically important.

5. Conclusion
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.

Cowie, A. P.
1999. English Dictionaries for Foreign Learners: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Humblé, P. 2001. Dictionaries and Language Learners. Frankfurt am Main: Haag & Herchen.
Greenbaum, S. and R. Quirk. 1970. Elicitation Experiments in English: Linguistic Studies in Use and Attitude. London: Longman.
Kernerman, L. 1994. 'The advent of the semi-bilingual dictionary.' In Password News. (
Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson. 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Minamide, K. 1998. Eigo-no-Jisho-to-Jishogaku (English Dictionaries and Lexicography). Tokyo: Taishukan-Shoten.
Nattinger, J. R. and J. S. DeCarrico. 1992. Lexical Phrases and Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rundell, M. 2001. 'Teaching lexicography or training lexicographers?' In Kernerman Dictionary News, 9. (
Sinclair, J. M. (ed.). 1987. Looking Up: An Account of the COBUILD Project in Lexical Computing. London: Collins ELT.
Sinclair, J. M. 1991. Corpus, Concordance, Collocation. Oxford: Oford University Press.
Tribble, C. 1997. 'Improving corpora for ELT: quick-and-dirty ways of developing corpora for language teaching'. Paper presented at the first international conference: Practical applications in language corpora. Poland: University of Lodz. (

Fowler, H. W. and F. G. Fowler.
1911. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English. London: Oxford University Press.
Fowler, F. G. and H. W. Fowler. 1924. The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English. London: Oxford University Press.
Hori, T. et al. 1862. Eiwa-Taiyaku-Shuchin-Jisho (A Pocket Dictionary of the English and Japanese Language [sic]). Edo (Tokyo): Yosho-Shirabedokoro.
Hornby, A. S. et al. 1942. Idiomatic and Syntactic English Dictionary (ISED). (Photographically reprinted and published as A Learner's Dictionary of Current English by Oxford University Press, 1948; retitled The Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English (OALD), 1958; 6th edition, 2000.) Tokyo: Kaitakusha.
Iwasaki, T. and Y. Koine. 1967. Kenkyusha Eiwa-Chujiten (Kenkyusha's New Collegiate English-Japanese Dictionary). Tokyo: Kenkyusha.
Jones, D. 1917. An English Pronouncing Dictionary. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.
Kanda, N. and H. Kanazawa. 1922. Shuchin-Konsaisu-Eiwa-Jiten (Sanseido's Concise English-Japanese Dictionary). Tokyo: Sanseido.
Katuragawa, H. 1858. Oranda-Jii (A Dutch-Japanese Dictionary). 5 vols. Facsimile edition. Tokyo: Waseda University.
Kihara, K. 2001. Konsaisu-Eiwa-Jiten (Sanseido's Concise English-Japanese Dictionary). 13th edition. Tokyo: Sanseido.
Konishi, T. and K. Minamide. 2001. Genius-Eiwa-Jiten (Genius English-Japanese Dictionary). 3rd edition. Tokyo: Taishukan-Shoten.
Lobschied, W. / Tuda, S. et al.1879. Eika-Wayaku-Jitenn (A Dictionary of the English, Chinese and Japanese Languages, with Japanese Pronunciation). Tokyo:Yamanouchi-Fuku Shuppan.
Nuttall, P. A. 1882. Routledge's Desk Dictionary of the English Language. London: George Routledge & Sons.
Ogilvie, J. 1864. A Comprehensive English Dictionary. London: Blackie & Son.
Okakura, Y. 1927. Shin-Eiwa-Daijiten (Kenkyusha's New English-Japanese Dictionary). Tokyo: Kenkyusha.
Palmer, H. 1938. A Grammar of English Words. London: Longmans, Green & Co.
Picard, H. 1857. A New Pocket Dictionary of the English and Dutch Languages (2nd edition. Revised and augmented by A. B. Maatjes). Zalt-Bommel: John Noman & Son.
Rundell, M. 2002. Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners (MEDAL). Oxford: Macmillan Education.
Shimaoka, T. 2002. Wordpower Ei-Ei-Wa Jiten (Wordpower Fully-bilingual Dictionary). Tokyo: Zoshinkai-Shuppan.
Takebayashi, S. 2002. Shin-Eiwa-Daijiten (Kenkyusha's New English-Japanese Dictionary). 6th edition. Tokyo: Kenkyusha.
Webster, N. 1859. An American Dictionary of the English Language (Revised and enlarged by C. A. Goodrich). Springfield: George and Charles Merriam.
West, M. P. and J. G. Endicott. 1935. The New Method English Dictionary. London: Longmans, Green & Co.

About the author
Kosei 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 description.

Konishi T. and K. Minamide (eds.)
Taishukan's Unabridged Genius English-Japanese Dictionary

Tokyo: Taishukan-Shoten, 2001
ISBN 4-469-04132-7
2528pp.265 x 190 x 70 mm.
17,500 yen

K Dictionaries Ltd
10 Nahum Street, Tel Aviv 63503 Israel
tel: 972-3-5468102 • fax: 972-3-5468103