A study of Sidney Lau's 'a practical Cantonese-English dictionary'
Abstract of thesis entitled A Study of Sidney Lau's 'A Practical Cantonese-English Dictionary'
submitted by Wong Ki Fong
for the degree of Master of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong
in June 2001
The aims of the present study are twofold: to give a historical account of the publication of Cantonese dictionaries, and to examine in detail a particular Cantonese-English dictionary (C-E dictionary), namely, Sidney Lau's A practical Cantonese-English dictionary (PCED) so as to obtain a better understanding of the principles behind the making of good Cantonese bilingual dictionaries. On the basis of a review of previous studies of Cantonese dictionaries in general and PCED in particular, publications on the typology of bilingual dictionaries, and a survey of users' views on Cantonese bilingual dictionaries, a framework is proposed for the investigation and evaluation of C-E dictionaries. The framework highlights a number of aspects of C-E dictionaries, including the selection and arrangement of entries, pronunciation information, grammatical information, and semantic and usage information.
An investigation of PCED using this framework has yielded the following major findings. The basic reference units in the dictionary are the head (character) entries, under which secondary (word) entries are listed. The head entries are arranged alphabetically, but the alphabetic sequence is broken when two head entries are written with the same character and spelt the same way in their romanization (except tones), in which case the two characters appear in adjacent entries. The secondary entries are also listed alphabetically, but words having the same initial character and similar meanings (synonyms) are placed together. Such a listing policy is helpful in showing lexical connections, though it may cause retrieval problems. It was also
found that while homophones and homographs are listed separately, homonyms are not. PCED has a multifarious wordlist of about 22,000 words, which is useful in meeting the receptive needs of its users. It has a broader coverage of colloquial words than the former dictionaries, a feature that users look for in a Cantonese dictionary. A clear and simple romanization system is employed to indicate how words are pronounced in Cantonese, with both traditional and current pronunciations being included. Grammatical information is given mainly by the use of grammatical labels and the indication of measure words in noun entries. On the whole, grammatical labelling is done consistently in the dictionary, but the grammatical properties of the headwords are not illustrated with contextualized examples. Semantic information is given by the use of English equivalents. If a mere equivalent cannot convey the meanings of a headword clearly, semantic or explanatory glosses are used to compensate for the loss of information. PCED has a good coverage of grammatical morphemes and words, but some of them (e.g. aspect markers, sentence particles) are not given adequate treatment. Usage labels are given in the dictionary indicating style, subject field, metaphorical usage and speaker's attitudes. Yet, these labels are not given clear definitions, and the labelling practice appears to be somewhat arbitrary.
Despite these limitations, PCED incorporates many useful features which have made it a useful dictionary especially for decoding purposes. Since the dictionary has been in use for over 20 years, it is suggested that a new C-E dictionary be compiled. Such a dictionary should draw on the lexicographical achievements of PCED and other dictionaries, as well as recent innovations made in pedagogical lexicography.
School:The University of Hong Kong
School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:lau sidney 1916 practical cantonese english dictionary dialects dictionaries language
Date of Publication:01/01/2001