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August 8, 1999 - Encarta World English Dictionary, Part 1 - 2002-02-05

INTRO: This week, VOA's Wordmasters Rosanne Skirble and Avi Arditti discuss a dictionary that's just been published. It aims to help the world's English speakers understand the different varieties of their langauge.

MUSIC: "We Are the World"

RS: Now there's a new dictionary for the 375 million people who speak English as their native language, and the 750 million people who are studying English, no matter where they live.

AA: The Encarta World English Dictionary is a joint venture between the American computer software giant, Microsoft, and Bloomsbury Publishing in England. What they've created is both a book and a computer CD-ROM containing more than 400- thousand words. Each variety of English is represented in a special edition targeted to its native audience. The varieties are British, American, Canadian, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, South African, South Asian, Southeast Asian, Australian and New Zealand English.

RS: The regional editions also include sections with words widely used from other English speaking countries. Anne Soukhanov [sue-`ha-nuff] is the U-S editor for the new dictionary. She told us that the varieties of English around the globe are very different, yet remarkably the same.


"English linguistic structure basically stays the same, except when you have conjoint terms from, say, aboringinal languages or other native languages in English speaking countries. I would say a good example of a combination term that is indigenous to South Asia is `police-walla' which means `policeman' where `walla' meaning `man' is combined with an English word, `police.'" AA: Anne Soukhanov says the meaning of an English term can also vary from place to place.


ANNE SOUKHANOV: "For, example, in South Asia, a hotel can be a restaurant. In Australia, a hotel can be a pub or a bar. In U- S/Canadian English a hotel is a lodging house."

RS: "How would a person who speaks English as a foreign language use this book?"

ANNE SOUKHANOV: "I think that that person would use it with great success because we intentionally tried to make the definitions as easily understood as possible.

"We have lots of made up and quoted illustrations showing them how to use the language with good idiomatic (expressions), and also with percision, grace and accuracy. Then we also include lots of cultural notes which tie specific entries in the dictionary to cultural events or cultural artifacts outside the language.

AA: One example is the way the Encarta World English Dictionary defines Camelot, beginning with the legendary site of King Arthur's court.


"And then, in a cultural note (there is) a reference to the 1960s musical by Lerner and Lowe. And, the note ties together the fact that the (President John F.) Kennedy Administration came to be known as the `Camelot administration.' The term has taken on a generic meaning, `a time or a place that is idyllic, idealistic, enlightened, youthful and optimistic.' The note ends by saying that it is interesting that Camelot, associated with a sixth century English King, by way of the theater and politics, came to refer to the administration of the grandson of Irish immigrants."

RS: We'll talk more about the Encarta World English Dictionary -- and the unusual way it was produced -- next week on Wordmaster.

AA: Whatever variety of English you speak, we hope to hear from you. Write to us at VOA Wordmaster, Washington, DC 20547 USA or reach us by e-mail.

That address is RS: With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.