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Pioneer in English Lexicography for Language Learners: Michael Philip West John D. Battenburg Introduction The publication of Michael West's New Method English Dictionary (compiled with the assistance of James Endicott) in June of 1935 significantly influenced the course of English lexicography. The New Method English Dictionary (NMED), the first English monolingual work designed exclusively for foreign and second language learners , began a tradition that continues to flourish to the present day. Works such as the Collins Cobuild English Learner's Dictionary (1989), the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1987), and the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English (1989) are third-generation offspring of the NMED. West's NMED is unique for at least three reasons: first, it established the dictionary type known as the monolingual learner's dictionary or the English language teaching dictionary1; second, it was based on the growing body of vocabulary research conducted in the early 1930s; and finally, perhaps more than any other monolingual learner's dictionary, it adhered to a specific method of language learning and teaching. Early English monolingual learners' dictionaries including the NMED, Palmer's A Grammar of English Words (1938), and particularly Hornby, Gatenby, and Wakefield's Idiomatic and Syntactic English Dictionary (1942)—appearing in 1948 as the Oxford Advanced 1 See Battenburg (1991) for a detailed study of die English monolingual learner 's dictionary. _________Pioneer in English Lexicography for Language Learners______133 Learners' Dictionary of Current English—have been examined by Naganuma (1978), Summers (1988), and McArthur (1989). Their research concerning the origins of the English monolingual learner's dictionary is essential because it reveals how specific works were shaped by their environment, as Hartmann (1992) explains: Dictionaries are die products of a particular age and location: diey reflect die lexicographers' assumptions about potential information needs to be met, the productive resources diat are available, die professional skills of die compilers, and die reference skills of die users. (152) This study considers Michael West and the NMED.2 A number of questions concerning West, the principal compiler of the NMED, are examined: How did West's academic background influence him as an English language teacher and researcher? What role did West play in the reading method and vocabulary control movement? What innovations did West include in the NMED that continue to appear in English monolingual learners' dictionaries today? Michael West was trained in education and psychology at Christ Church College, Oxford. Upon completing his degree in 1912, he left for India to serve as an officer in the Indian Education Service. His early academic career and professional experience differed from that of other English language teaching pioneers at the time (e.g., Palmer and Hornby), for he had not received extensive training in phonetics or philology. In fact, West did not set out to become an English language teaching specialist. His duties, however, as Principal Inspector of Schools in Chittagong and Calcutta, Principal Inspector of the Teachers ' Training College in Dacca, and Honorary Reader in Education at Dacca University, led him to grapple with issues concerning bilingualism in India. The reading method West's interest in empirically studying foreign language learning was bolstered by the Imperial Education Conference held in 1923. The policy statement growing out of this conference emphasized the 2 Howatt (1984) and Tickoo (1988) have also considered West's role in English language teaching; however, little has been written to date concerning West's contributions to lexicography. 134John D. Battenburg need for "scientific investigation of the facts of bilingualism with reference to the intellectual, emotional, and moral development of the child, and the importance of the practical educational methods arising out of such investigation of such facts" (quoted in Howatt 1984, 335). West wanted to minimize the guesswork in language teaching that often produced unsupported methods and ill-suited materials. West's ideas concerning foreign language learning and the role of reading appeared in Bilingualism (with Special Reference to Bengal ) in 1926.3 Aided by his background in psychology, West set out to construct an experimental project to test his hypotheses concerning the reading method. Basically, West adapted reading texts by simplifying vocabulary and altering lexical distribution patterns. He sought to make texts more readable by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 132-148
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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