Johnson's and Webster's Verbal Examples: With Special Reference to Exemplifying Usage in Dictionary Entries (review)
- Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America
- Dictionary Society of North America
- Number 29, 2008
- pp. 71-76
- Additional Information
Reviews71 Johnson's and Webster's Verbal Examples: With Special Reference to Exemplifying Usage in Dictionary Entries. 2007. Kusujiro Miyoshi. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag. Pp. xiv + 222. T^us J\pr "usujiro Miyoshi's Johnson's and Webster's Verbal Examples is a Ph.D. dissertation written under the guidance of Reinhart Hartmann at the University of Exeter. Miyoshi's focus is principally that of a grammarian , and he therefore explores the treatment of "verbal examples" — that is, citations and invented examples — used with special categories of words that are likely to exhibit the grammatical treatment accorded these words. He examines four categories: (1) verbs of high frequency and their inflected forms; (2) prepositions and prepositional adverbs; (3) adjective-preposition and verb-preposition collocations; and (4) modal auxiliaries and primary verbs. The first four of his eight chapters, which precede the detailed analysis of the categories he has chosen to study, deal with the goals of the research and include an overview of Johnson's and Webster's views of language; the methodology employed (mainly statistical, with many charts); the historical background ofJohnson's and Webster's dictionaries; and the usual practices of Johnson and Webster in selecting examples, with special attention to sources such as the Bible, Dryden, etc. The purpose of the study, Miyoshi says, is "to clarify Noah Webster's use of verbal examples in his American Dictionary ofthe English Language (1828) in relation to his view of the language and the historical background in which "the Dictionary was compiled" (Miyoshi 2007, 3). To achieve this purpose, he will compare Webster's verbal examples with those used inJohnson's 1755 dictionary . He observes that Webster was originally a grammarian who was deeply interested in the language and whose grammars were widely used in America during his time. From this perspective, one would expect Webster to provide a more grammatically informed treatment of grammatical words or function words, as defined by Quirk et al. (which Miyoshi relies on as a basic source for grammatical terminology) . His method is to list separately and count every citation or invented example in each of the relevant entries and all their definitions , and to tabulate these results in tables for purposes of comparison. Thus we find in the letter L thatJohnson averaged 3.0 citations per entry, whereas Webster averaged just 0.3 citations per entry. In comparing verbs of high frequency, such as come, fall, give, etc., both Johnson and Webster quoted most commonly from the same sources: the Bible, Dryden, Shakespeare, etc. Webster borrowed freely from Johnson, usually shortening the quotations he used, but employed a greater number of invented examples. According to Miyoshi, Webster's sense division was finer and more developed thanJohnson's. Dictionaries:journal ofthe Dictionary Society ofNorth America 29 (2008), 71-76. 72Reviews In his discussion of prepositions and prepositional adverbs, Miyoshi notes that Webster treated some prepositions discursively, and others in regular dictionary style. Both Johnson and Webster were strongly conscious of grammar and usage, and both gave considerable attention to these forms. Johnson rarely used biblical quotations for prepositions, whereas Webster used them frequently. The author attributes this to Johnson's preferred use of the Bible for moral purposes, whereas Webster had no such motive in using biblical quotations. Johnson quoted Dryden more than any other source in illustrating prepositions. The author reminds us thatJohnson, who wrote a biography of Dryden in his Lives ofthe Poets, highly valued Dryden's literary gifts and believed his use of grammar was exemplary. The discussion ofJohnson's view of Dryden is one of the most original parts of the book, and the author's argument here, based on the record of whatJohnson said and wrote, is persuasive. Next Miyoshi considers verbal examples used for adjective-preposition and verb-preposition collocations, such as accountfor, ashamed of, and insist on. Miyoshi wades into the arcane arguments of 18th- and ^^-century grammarians on the issue of whether averse should be followed by to orfrom. Johnson favored from and Webster argued for to, which, as Miyoshi observes, the OED endorses in similar language. Miyoshi tendentiously endorses Webster's view on the grounds that to is more appropriate in the sense...