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'Where did the English Dictionary come from?' asks Liz Loutfi in her third Berwick Educational Association morning lecture, examining the roots of the English language and culture.

Friday, 25th November 2016, 12:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:26 am

Dictionaries, or ‘wordbooks’, have been around for centuries. Before the end of the first millennium there were primitive dictionaries in Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, Arabic and Irish.

The English got off to a late start, the earliest English ‘wordbooks’ not appearing until the times of the Tudors and Stuarts, and these were not in general circulation until the widespread introduction of printing. Even then, spelling and grammar could be best described as erratic.

It was not until 1755, with the publication of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, that a reasonable English Dictionary became available and in general circulation. This became the gold-standard for well over 100 years, until the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) started to appear in instalments in 1884, a process that would not be fully completed until 1928. An added complication was that one of the main contributors, William Minor, was a murderer who was confined in an institution.

Liz Loutfi will examine the history of the English Dictionary from its earliest beginnings to the present day.

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The lecture takes place on Tuesday, November 29, from 10am to noon, at the William Elder Building in Castlegate, Berwick. It costs £6, including refreshments.