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Semantic Information in Monolingual General Purpose Dictionaries: A Study of Urdu Dictionaries.

Byline: Hafiz Muhammad Qasim and Ali Ahmad

Abstract

Dictionaries are great source of semantic information of any language. Dictionaries mostly provide the definitions of the lexical items. Though it is a difficult task yet it is necessary to provide the definitions of the words to make the meaning clear and easy for the user and it will make the dictionaries user friendly. Semantic information varies on the basis of the type of the dictionary. The method of defining words which suits one type of dictionary may not be suitable for the other type (Zgusta, 1971). The general purpose dictionaries generally define the words in simple words to make the information easy and comprehensible. Mostly the standard dictionaries use a limited defining vocabulary to define the entries in the microstructure of the dictionaries. The present study aimed at investigating the semantic information in monolingual general purpose Urdu dictionaries. To achieve the said purpose, the approach of documentary analysis was employed.

Feroz-ul-Lughat [The dictionary of Feroz] (2007) and Aaina Urdu Lughat [the Mirror Urdu dictionary] (2007) were selected as the sample of the study. A list of words was selected randomly for the analysis. For each selected item, a translation equivalent was selected from Gem Practical Urdu into English Dictionary (n.d). The definitions in the Urdu dictionaries are compared with those in New Oxford Dictionary of English (2005). It was found that the meaning are not given to facilitate the user, rather all the synonymic equivalents are included in the entry without regarding their intelligibility. No paraphrase, as found in the New Oxford Dictionary, is given in Urdu dictionaries. Most of the time, the meanings also demand another look up because they are confusing.

Meanings are mostly one word equivalents. Different senses of meaning of one lexeme are given without any usage note or any explanation which makes Urdu dictionaries difficult and mars their user-friendliness.

1.1 Introduction

Dictionaries are considered the repositories of words (Jackson, 2000). The words make the vocabulary of a language and all the vocabulary of a language is such a huge thing that one person cannot know or learn it fully. The dictionaries are therefore used as a reference and they help in knowing the words when needed. Dictionaries include different types of information depending upon the size, purpose and type of the dictionary.

The common thing in all the dictionaries is providing semantic information to the users though the density of semantic information may vary depending upon the type and purpose of dictionaries.

Meaning is the basic thing in a reference work. Pearson (1998:67) claimed that "dictionary is the reference source which the people are most likely to use when they wish to find out what a word means". Hartmann and James (1998:92) called meaning "the relationship between words or phrases and the objects or ideas which they designate". It means that meaning is not only telling idea the word contains but it is also to keep in consideration the relations that it has with other words around it. Jackson (2002:15) pointed out a number of features on which the meaning is comprised. It includes "relation with the real world, the associations that it carries with it, its relations with other words in the vocabulary, and the regular company that it keeps with other words in sentence and text structure".

The dictionaries use definitions to describe the meaning of words and meaning also includes sense relations, collocations and usage (Jackson and Amvela, 2007). Definition explains the meaning of the word, phrase or term (Hartmann and James, 1998:35). It is drawn in such a way that in a brief way, it explains the essence of the word without creating any ambiguity. The users get a full image of the word if the definition is comprehensive and to the point. Landau (2001) suggests that a definition is good if it starts with the meaning, is "substitutable for word in the context" (p. 164), reflects grammatical function, does not include difficult words, is not too long to be obscure, and avoids ambiguity. Such definition serves the purpose fully.

The density of the definition depends upon the type and purpose of the dictionary. For example, definition in language dictionaries is different from that of encyclopaedic dictionaries because encyclopaedic dictionaries provide "factual information" considering the "specific subject-matter context" for an entry (Hartmann and James, 1998:36). Language dictionaries provide meaning and usage of words and are mostly looked up dictionaries (Pearson, 1998:68).

Pearson (1998:82-83) has quoted Hanks (1987) for defining strategies who divides it into "substitutable defining strategy and the Cobuild defining strategy". The substitutable strategy aims at substituting the definition in the context with the word being defined. On the other hand, Cobuild approach defines the words using prose. It uses sentences that use the word defined in it to explain the meaning as well as the usage. Both the approaches are aimed at providing the simplest and comprehensive sense of the word so that the user may be able to use the word freely after knowing the meaning.

The present study aimed at investigating the mode and format of providing semantic information in Urdu dictionaries for native speakers. The study will be helpful for lexicographers, researchers as well as publishers in improving the state of the art of Urdu lexicography.

1.2 The Present Study

The present study aims at investigating the semantic information in monolingual general purpose Urdu dictionaries.

1.3 Research Methodology

The methodology of research for the present study was as under:

1.3.1 Population and Sample

The population of the study contained general purpose monolingual Urdu dictionaries. Feroz-ul-Lughat Urdu Jamie (FLUJ hereon) [Urdu Comprehensive Dictionary of Feroz] (2007) and Aaina Urdu Lughat (AUL hereon) [Mirror Urdu Dictionary] (2007) were selected as the sample of the study.

1.3.2 Method

The present study aimed at analyzing the style of gathering semantic information under one lexical entry in general purpose monolingual Urdu dictionaries. The approach of documentary analysis was selected to analyze the style of meaning in Urdu dictionaries. A list of words was selected for the analysis from the dictionaries as sample. Ten verbs and ten nouns were selected for analysis. For each selected item, an English equivalent was found out from the Gem Practical Urdu into English Dictionary (GPD hereon) (n.d.). New Oxford Dictionary of English (NODE hereon) (2005) was selected as a model. Semantic information in Urdu dictionaries selected as the sample of the study was analyzed on the basis of the style and format of semantic information in NODE. The definitions in the Urdu dictionaries were compared with those in English dictionary. Ilson (as cited in Pearson, 1998:81) discussed "illustration, exemplification, discussion, and definition" as the four ways of describing meaning.

Illustrations may be pictorial which are mostly used in atlas, children dictionaries and picture dictionaries (Hartmann and James, 1998). General purpose dictionary gives verbal illustrations/examples generally. Hartmann (2001:61) includes meaning, definition (usage in contexts), and examples in "Semantic comment". We analyzed Urdu dictionaries for inclusion of meaning (only one word equivalents), definition and examples in semantic comment. The table 1 shows the overall result of the analysis. The presence of a certain feature in a specific dictionary is marked by '1' and absence is marked by '0'. The total amount of the presence or absence of each feature was calculated for statistical analysis. Meanings of selected lexemes (two nouns, two verbs and two adjectives) from the wordlist are discussed in detail.

1.3.3 List of Words

Following words were selected from Urdu dictionaries and their equivalents were found out from Urdu to English dictionary.

1. Nouns

i. Kutta [dog]

ii. Rang [colour]

iii. Bijli [electricity]

iv. Chand [moon]

v. Qalb [Heart]

2. Verbs

i. Bona [sow]

ii. Jana [go]

iii. Rona [weep]

iv. Peena [drink]

v. Katna [cut]

3. Adjectives

i. Naik [pious]

ii. Dilchasp [Interesting]

iii. Bura [bad]

iv. Achha [good]

v. Khoobsoorat [beautiful]

Discussion

Table 1: Overall Results: Semantic Information in Dictionaries

Headword###Dictionary###Meaning (One word Definition Examples

###equivalent)

Kutta

Kutta###FLUJ###1###0###0

Kutta###AUL###1###0###0

Dog###NODE###0###1###1

Rang###FLUJ###1###0###0

Rang###AUL###1###0###1

Colour###NODE###0###1###1

Bijli###FLUJ###1###0###0

Bijli###AUL###1###0###0

Electricity###NODE###0###1###1

Chand###FLUJ###1###0###0

Chand###AUL###1###0###0

Moon###NODE###0###1###1

Qalb###FLUJ###1###0###0

Qalb###AUL###1###0###0

Heart###NODE###0###1###1

Bona###FLUJ###1###0###0

Bona###AUL###1###0###0

Sow###NODE###0###1###1

Jana###FLUJ###1###0###0

Jana###AUL###1###0###1

Go###NODE###1###1###1

Rona###FLUJ###1###0###0

Rona###AUL###1###0###1

Weep###NODE###0###1###1

Peena###FLUJ###1###1###0

Peena###AUL###1###1###0

Drink###NODE###0###1###1

Katna###FLUJ###1###0###0

Katna###AUL###1###0###1

Cut###NODE###1###1###1

Naik###FLUJ###1###0###0

Naik###AUL###1###0###0

Pious###NODE###0###1###1

Dilchasp###FLUJ###1###0###0

Dilchasp###AUL###1###0###0

Interesting###NODE###0###1###1

Bura###FLUJ###1###0###0

Bura###AUL###1###0###1

Bad###NODE###1###1###1

Acha###FLUJ###1###0###0

Acha###AUL###1###0###1

Good###NODE###1###1###1

Khoobsoorat###FLUJ###1###0###0

Khoobsoorat###AUL###1###0###0

Beautiful###NODE###0###1###1

Total###FLUJ###15###01###00

Total###AUL###15###01###06

Total###NODE###04###15###15

Percentage###FLUJ###100%###06%###00%

Percentage###AUL###100%###06%###40%

Percentage###NODE###26%###100%###100%

The analysis shows that FLUJ and AUL include one word equivalents as the meaning of the word. The ratio of including one word equivalents is 100% in both dictionaries. These two dictionaries have least tendency to define the word. Only 6% words are defined and it was also found that these definitions were not included as the core sense. The result also shows that both these dictionaries do not give examples/verbal illustrations to help the users to understand the meaning of the verb. The inclusion of examples in is 40% but all the examples are poetical evidences from literature which sometimes confuse the users and make the meaning more difficult. On the contrary, NODE shows least tendency to give one word equivalents. Only 26% one word meanings are given and these are not given as a core sense. The inclusion of examples in NODE is 100%. It means that for each entry, an example is quoted to make its use easy and to make the word intelligible.

Table 2: Description of meaning of Nouns

Headword Meanings/definitions

Kutta [dog]

i. FLUJ includes 7 different senses of meaning for this entry. These are

(1) sag [Persian Equivalent], qalb [Arabic equivalent], mash'hoor janwar [famous animal]

(2) aik qism ki ghas jo kaproon say chimat jati hay [Type of grass which sticks to clothes]

(3) ghulam [an Arabic word which means slave]

(4) bandooq ka ghora [Trigger of a gun],

(5) rahat ki lakari [A wood used in the water drawing wheel]

(6) (Metaphorical) kamina [a Persian word which means mean], paji [a Persian word which means mean, low], zalil [an Arabic word which means abject, base, mean]

AUL includes following meaning without showing any type of difference of senses. The meaning are sag [Persian equivalent], qalb [Arabic equivalent], mash'hoor janwar [famous animal], aik qism ki ghas jo kaproon say chimat jati hay [Type of grass which sticks to clothes]

NODE includes meaning of dog as a noun as well as verb. As a noun, it includes three senses of meaning i.e.

(1) a domesticated carnivorous mammal that typically has a long snout, an acute sense of smell, non-retractile claws, and a barking, howling or a whining voice,

(2) (informal) unpleasant, contemptible or wicked man,

(3) used in the names of dogfishes (three more sub senses are not discussed here). As a verb it tells the meaning of dog as to follow (someone) closely and persistently.

Rang [colour] i. FLUJ has included 29 different senses of meaning without any label or usage note. These meanings are

(1) baran [thing used to fill], loune [Arabic equivalent], fam [Persian equivalent]

(2) cheezoon ki wo khasiat jis ki waja say wo sooraj ki kuch kirnoon ko jazab kar laiti hain or kuch ko mun'akas karti hain... [the quality of things on the basis of which they reflect some beams of light and absorb some of them]

(3) rangat [an Urdu word which means colour, die], roop [a Hindi word which means face]

(4) andaz [Persian word means way, manner], tarz [Arabic word meaning fashion, manner], rawish [a Persain word which means manner]

(5) wo safoof ya sayal shay jis say rangtay hain [that powder or liquid used to colour things]

(6) roghan [A Persian word which means varnish, colour], varnish [An English word which means a liquid used to polish furniture to shine it]

(7) qism [an Arabic word which means kind], nou [An Arabic word which means kind, species]

(8) bahaar [A Persian word which means spring], khoobsoorati [a Persian word which means beauty], rounaq [An Arabic word which means beauty, colour]

(9) manind [a Persian word which means like, resembling], nazeer [an Arabic word which means example]

(10) dastoor [a Persian word which means custom, a general practice], qaida [Arabic word which means custom, base, manner], rasm [an Arabic word which means custom], tareeqa [an Arabic word which means custom, rites],

(11) maza [a Persian word which means taste, relish], lutf [an Arabic word which means taste, grace, beauty], shughal [an Arabic word which means amusement, occupation]

(12) khumar [an Arabic word which means ecstasy, drowsiness], nasha [a Persian word which means intoxication]

(13) taqat [an Arabic which means ability, power, courage], quwwat [an Arabic word which means power],

(14) salook [Arabic word which means treatment], bartaou [a Hindi word which means treatment]

(15) hamsar [a Persian word which means an equal, peer], jore [a Hindi word which means joint, match]

(16) makr [an Arabic word which means cheating, fraud], heela [an Arabic word which means fraud, excuse], faraib [a Persian word which means cheating, deceiving]

(17) hansi [a Hindi word which means sport, fun], mazaq [an Arabic word which means taste, relish, joke] chuhal [a Hindi word which means fun]

(18) khail kood [means play and sport]

(19) nach [a Hindi word which means merriment, dance], rag [a Hindi word which means a mode in music, tune, feeling, passion], gana [a Hindi word which means to sing a song]

(20) kaifiat [an Arabic word which means story, state, circumstances], hal [an Arabic which means state, condition], halat [an Arabic word which means state, condition]........

ii AUL includes 4 different senses of meaning i.e. rangat [an Urdu word which means colour, die], roop [a Hindi word which means face], rang dhang [an Urdu word which means appearance], rawish [a Persian word which means manner]. The dictionary has also included two poetic references to show the usage of the word.

iii. The meaning of colour in NODE is included as a noun as well as a verb. As a verb, it included five different senses of meaning. The main sense tells that colour is the property possessed by an object producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way it reflects or emits light. As a verb, the meaning of the main sense is to change the colour of (something) by painting, dyeing or shading it.

Table 2 shows that Urdu dictionaries include one or two word equivalents. FLUJ has given 3 Persian and 3 Arabic equivalents of the word for the entry 'Kutta'. The equivalents like sag or qalb are more difficult than the entry. Same is the case with AUL which has given one Arabic and one Persian equivalent for this entry. The meaning under the entry of Kutta do not help in understanding the meaning, rather they make it unintelligible. For the entry of Rang FLUJ and AUL has given Arabic, Persian, Hindi and Sanskrit equivalents. The equivalents like baran, loune, fam do not explain the meaning of entry. They themselves need a look up for understanding of meaning. Then meaning like andaz, rawish, nou, bahar, manind, dastoor, rasm, qaida, lutf, nasha, khumar .... do not seem the meaning of rang (colour) apparently. So, they must be supported with examples to bring clarity. But examples are not given in these Urdu dictionaries.

So, the user is in a fix while looking up the meaning and cannot decide which meaning he should consider appropriate for his problem form this long list of meanings. In contrary to Urdu dictionaries, NODE has given a comprehensive definition of both the entries which brings easiness for the user in understanding the meaning. Moreover, examples are given for each sub sense.

Table 3: Description of meaning of Verbs

Headword###Meanings/definitions

Bona [sow]###i. FLUJ includes following meanings of the entry: tukham raizi

###karna [a Persian word which means sowing the seeds, scattering the seeds], beej dalna [a Hindi word which means to sow the seed], bwai karna [a Hindi word which means sowing].

###ii. AUL included following meaning of the entry: kasht karna [a Persian word which means sowing], zameen main beej dalna [A Hindi word which means to sow the seed in the land], bhainsay ka jufti karna [An Urdu word which means mating of buffalo]

###iii. NODE includes meaning both as a verb as well as noun for the entry of sow. As a verb, the meaning is plant (seed) by scattering it on or in the earth, plant the seeds of (a plant or crop). As a noun, the meaning is an adult female pig, especially one which has farrowed, a large block of metal (larger than a 'pig') made by smelting.

Jana [go]###i. FLUJ includes following meaning of the entry: rawana hona [rawana is a Persian word. This phrase means to depart], rukhsat hona [rukhsat is an Arabic word. This phrase means to leave], chalna [a Hindi word which means to walk, to move], sdharna [a Hindi word which means to go], sarakna [a Hindi word which means to glide].

###ii. AUL includes following meaning of the entry: sadharna [a Hindi word which means to go], rukhsat hona [rukhsat is an Arabic word. This phrase means to leave], chalna [a Hindi word which means to walk, to move], rawana hona [rawana is a Persian word. This phrase means to depart], guzarna [an Urdu word which means to pass, to go], beetna [a Hindi word which means to pass, to happen], chootna [a Hindi word which means to escape, to be left], juda hona [juda is a Persian word. The phrase means to be separated], dard hona [dard is a Persian word. The phrase means to pain], dafa hona [dafa is an Arabic word. The phrase means to be off], zai hona [zai is an Arabic word. To be destroyed], gum hona [gum is a Persian word. The phrase means to be lost].

###iii. NODE includes the meaning of the entry both as verb as well as a noun. As a verb, the meaning is to move from one place to another, travel, leave, depart, .... and as a noun, the meaning is an attempt or trial at something.

Table 3 shows that Urdu dictionaries include one or two word equivalents or short phrases to explain the meaning of verbs. FLUJ has given 3 meanings for the entry 'bona' but all explain the core sense. The first meaning is "tukham raizi karna". One cannot understand the meaning of this phrase until he knows the meaning of tukham (Persian) and raizi (Persian). Then no phrase given as a meaning is supported with an example.

AUL has given three meanings for this entry. The meaning "bhainsay ka jufti karna" is a sub sense which is entirely different from the core sense but no label or example is given to clarify the meaning. This also invites another look up. For the entry of bona FLUJ and AUL has given Arabic, Persian and Hindi equivalents but no labels or examples are given. NODE has given a comprehensive definition of both the entries as a verb as well as a noun and examples are given for each sense of meaning.

Table 4: Description of meaning of Adjectives

Headword###Meanings/definitions

Naik [pious]###i. FLUJ includes following meanings of the entry: (1) Bhala [A Hindi word which means well, good], Achha [a Hindi word which means good], Umda [an Arabic word which means nice], (2) saeed [an Arabic word which means fortunate, happy], parhaizgar [a Persian word which means abstinent, sober], aabid [an Arabic word which means a worshipper], pakdaman [a Persian word which means chaste, innocent] (3) raham dil [an Arabic and Persian word which means merciful] (4) Shareef [an Arabic word which means noble, of high rank], Muhazzab [an Arabic word which means civilized], Bhala manus [a Hindi word which means a gentleman].

###ii. AUL includes following meaning of the entry: Achha [a Hindi word which means good], Parhaizgar [a Persian word which means abstinent, sober], Aabid [an Arabic word which means a worshipper], pak [a Persian word which means pure, clean, upright], shareef [an Arabic word which means noble, of high rank], Muhazzab [an Arabic word which means civilized].

###iii. NODE includes the meaning of pious as devotedly religious, sincere but unlikely to be fulfilled (of a hope).

Dilchasp [Interesting]###i. FLUJ includes following meanings of the entry: Dil lubhanay wala [a compound of Hindi and Persian words. Which/who amuses], Khushnuma [a Persian word which means attractive], Khoobsoorat [A Persian word which means beautiful], Mazay dar [a Persian word which means tasty].

###ii. AUL includes the meaning of the entry as dil lubhanay wala [a compound of Hindi and Persian words. Which/who amuses], Khoobsoorat [a Persian word which means attractive], mazay dar [a Persian word which means tasty].

###iii. NODE includes its meaning as arousing curiosity or interest, holding or catching the attention.

Table 4 shows that Urdu dictionaries include one or two word equivalents to explain the meaning of adjectives. FLUJ has given four senses of meanings for the entry 'naik' but the dictionary does not differentiate between core sense and sub senses. The meaning like saeed is difficult than the entry itself as it means happy, fortunate. Since no label or use is explained, it becomes difficult for the users to understand the meaning of 'meaning'.

AUL has given five different meanings for this entry. For the entry of dilchasp FLUJ and AUL has given Arabic, Persian and Hindi equivalents but no labels or examples are given. Khushnuma and mazay dar create complexity and confusion as no label or use is given with them to explain. NODE has given comprehensive definitions of both the entries and examples are given to explain the use.

1.5 Conclusions

On the basis of above discussion, the researchers came to following conclusions:

1. Urdu dictionaries give one word synonymic equivalents instead of definitions. Though these dictionaries include many meanings of one word, almost all the meanings are one word equivalents. If a phrase is given as a meaning, it scontains at least one difficult word which makes it incomprehensible.

2. Urdu dictionaries do not or rarely give examples to explain the usage. Though these dictionaries try to gather all the meanings/senses of the word, no example is given to tell the use of that specific sense and it makes dictionary use confusing, tiresome and even useless. AUL has given some examples but those poetic evidences rarely help in understanding the use.

3. Urdu dictionaries do not differentiate among different senses of meaning.

4. Urdu dictionaries give only one word synonymic equivalents which are most of the time more difficult than the main entry itself. In order to understand the meaning, the users attempt another look up to find out the meaning of meaning. And thus a chain of look ups starts which never ends.

1.6 Recommendations

1. Urdu dictionaries should define the core sense of meaning as well as the sub senses. The definitions should be given for the core sense as well as sub senses of meaning.

2. The definition should be simple, comprehensive and self explanatory. Difficult words should be avoided in the definitions.

3. Examples/ verbal illustration should be included to help the user in understanding the meaning.

4. Labels like formal, informal, slang should be used to explain the sub senses of the meaning.

References:

* Badakhshani, M. R., Rasool, K. E. and Bhatti, M. S. (Eds.). (n.d). Gem Practical English

* into Urdu Dictionary. Lahore: Azhar Publisher.

* Feroz-ud-Din, A. M. (Ed.). (2007). Feroz-ul-Lughat Jamei [The Comprehensive Feroz

* Dictionary].. Lahore: Feroze Sons.

* Hartmann, R. R. K. and James, G. (1998). Dictionary of Lexicography. London and New

* York: Routledge.

* Hartmann, R. R. K. (2001). Teaching and Researching Lexicography. London and New York: Pearson education.

* Hasan, A., Zahoor-ul-Hasan, M., and Hussain, J. (Eds.). (2007). Aaina Urdu Lughat [The Mirror Urdu Dictionary]. (2007). Lahore: Khalid Book Depot.

* Jackson, H. (2002). Lexicography: An Introduction. London and New York: Routledge.

* Jackson, H. and Amvela, E.Z. (2007).Words, Meaning and Vocabulary: An Introduction to

* Modern English Vocabulary. London, The Tower Buildin:Continuum.

* Landau, S. I. (2001). Dictionaries: the art and Craft of Lexicography. Cambridge:

* Cambridge University Press.

* Pearson, J. (1998). Terms in Context. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publihing Company.

* Soanes. C. and Stevenson, A. (Eds.). (2005). New Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd Ed.).

* Oxford: Oxford University Press.

* Zagusta, L. (1971). Manual of Lexicography. The Hague: London.
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