A dictionary , sometimes known as a wordbook , is a collection of words in one or more specific languages , often arranged alphabetically (or by radical and stroke for ideographic languages), which may include information on definitions , usage, etymologies , phonetics , pronunciations , translation, etc. [1] or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, sometimes known as a lexicon . [1] It is a lexicographical product which shows inter-relationships among the data. [2]

There is also a contrast between prescriptive or descriptive dictionaries; the former reflect what is seen as correct use of the language while the latter reflect recorded actual use. Stylistic indications (e.g. "informal" or "vulgar") in many modern dictionaries are also considered by some to be less than objectively descriptive. [5]

Although the first recorded dictionaries date back to Sumerian times (these were bilingual dictionaries), the systematic study of dictionaries as objects of scientific interest themselves is a 20th-century enterprise, called lexicography , and largely initiated by Ladislav Zgusta . [4] The birth of the new discipline was not without controversy, the practical dictionary-makers being sometimes accused by others of "astonishing" lack of method and critical-self reflection. [6]

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