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Thursday, 31 January 2013
Home arrow Role of quotations arrow Johnson
Samuel Johnson's dictionary of 1755 had been the first monolingual English dictionary to use quotations to substantiate and illustrate its definitions. Of all previous dictionaries, Johnson's work had the most sigificant influence on the original OED: according to the present-day OED lexicographersit was the direct source of nearly 3,000 quotations for the first edition of OED, and at least 723 definitions are directly quoted from it. 

Johnson seems to have had a number of purposes in mind in providing evidence for usage in this way and in selecting the sources from which to quote. These can be distinguished under six headings, as below, which in turn are useful for analysing the role and function of quotations in the OED. (Johnson's use of quotations has been much discussed: see e.g. items by Reddick, Kolb, DeMaria, McDermott and Schreyer in Johnson bibliography.)

Pleasure and instruction
Historical development of word
'Genealogy of sentiments'
Explaining meaning
Identification and discrimination
Raw material for a dictionary

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