Thesaurus

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A thesaurus (plural thesauri or thesauruses) or synonym dictionary is a reference work for finding synonyms and sometimes antonyms of words. They are often used by writers to help find the best word to express an idea:

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...to find the word, or words, by which [an] idea may be most fitly and aptly expressed{{#if:Peter Mark Roget, 1852<ref name="Roget">Roget, Peter. 1852. Thesaurus of English Language Words and Phrases.</ref>|{{#if:|}}

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Synonym dictionaries have a long history. The word 'thesaurus' was used in 1852 by Peter Mark Roget for his Roget's Thesaurus, which groups words in a hierarchical taxonomy of concepts, but others are organized alphabetically or in some other way.

Most thesauruses do not include definitions, but many dictionaries include listings of synonyms.

Some thesauruses and dictionary synonym notes characterize the distinctions between similar words, with notes on their "connotations and varying shades of meaning".<ref name="ah">American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2011, Template:Isbn, p. xxvii</ref> Some synonym dictionaries are primarily concerned with differentiating synonyms by meaning and usage. Usage manuals such as Fowler often prescribe appropriate usage of synonyms.

Thesauri are sometimes used to avoid repetition of words, leading to unsuitable elegant variation: "writers sometimes use them not just to vary their vocabularies but to dress them up too much".<ref>Edwin L. Battistella, "Beware the thesaurus", OUPblog, "Oxford University Press's Academic Insights for the Thinking World", February 11, 2018</ref>

Etymology

The word "thesaurus" comes from Latin thēsaurus, which in turn comes from Greek Template:Lang (thēsauros) 'treasure, treasury, storehouse'.<ref name="Harper">"thesaurus". Online Etymology Dictionary.</ref> The word thēsauros is of uncertain etymology.<ref name="Harper" /><ref>R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 548.</ref>

Until the 19th century, a thesaurus was any dictionary or encyclopedia, as in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (Dictionary of the Latin Language, 1532), and the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (Dictionary of the Greek Language, 1572). It was Roget that introduced the meaning "collection of words arranged according to sense", in 1852.<ref name="Harper" />

History

Peter Mark Roget, author of Roget's thesaurus.

In antiquity, Philo of Byblos authored the first text that could now be called a thesaurus. In Sanskrit, the Amarakosha is a thesaurus in verse form, written in the 4th century.

The study of synonyms became an important theme in 18th-century philosophy, and Condillac wrote, but never published, a dictionary of synonyms.<ref>Embleton</ref><ref name="lafaye"/>

Some early synonym dictionaries include:

  • John Wilkins, An Essay Towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language and Alphabetical Dictionary (1668) are a "regular enumeration and description of all those things and notions to which names are to be assigned". They are not explicitly synonym dictionaries — in fact, they do not even use the word "synonym" — but they do group synonyms together.<ref>John Wilkins, An Essay Towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language, London 1668 full text</ref><ref>John Wilkins, William Lloyd (anonymously), An Alphabetical Dictionary Wherein all English Words According to their Various Significations, Are either referred to their Places in the Philosophical Tables, Or explained by such Words as are in those Tables, London 1668 full text</ref><ref>Natascia Leonardi, "An Analysis of a Seventeenth Century Conceptual Dictionary with an Alphabetical List of Entries and a Network Definition Structure: John Wilkins' and William Lloyd's An Alphabetical Dictionary (1668)" in Historical Dictionaries and Historical Dictionary Research, papers from the International Conference on Historical Lexicography and Lexicology, University of Leicester, 2002, Max Niemeyer Verlag 2004, Template:Isbn, p. 39-52</ref>
  • Gabriel Girard, La Justesse de la langue françoise, ou les différentes significations des mots qui passent pour synonymes (1718)<ref name="girard">Gabriel Girard, La Justesse de la langue françoise, ou les différentes significations des mots qui passent pour synonymes, Paris 1718, full text</ref>
  • John Trusler, The Difference between Words esteemed Synonyms, in the English Language; and the proper choice of them determined (1766)<ref name="trusler">John Trusler (anonymously), The Difference between Words esteemed Synonyms, in the English Language; and the proper choice of them determined, London, 1766 full text</ref>
  • Hester Lynch Piozzi, British Synonymy (1794)<ref name="piozzi">Hester Lynch Piozzi, British Synonymy; or, an Attempt Regulating the Choice of Words in Familiar Conversation, Dublin 1794 full text</ref>
  • James Leslie, Dictionary of the Synonymous Words and Technical Terms in the English Language (1806)<ref name="leslie">James Leslie, Dictionary of the Synonymous Words and Technical Terms in the English Language, Edinburgh, 1806 full text</ref>
  • George Crabb, English Synonyms Explained (1818)<ref name="crabb">George Crabb, English Synonyms Explained, in Alphabetical Order with Copious Illustrations and Examples Drawn from the Best Writers, 2nd edition, London 1818 full text</ref>

Roget's Thesaurus, first compiled in 1805 by Peter Mark Roget, and published in 1852, follows John Wilkins' semantic arrangement of 1668. Unlike earlier synonym dictionaries, it does not include definitions or aim to help the user to choose among synonyms. It has been continuously in print since 1852, and remains widely used across the English-speaking world.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Roget described his thesaurus in the foreword to the first edition:

It is now nearly fifty years since I first projected a system of verbal classification similar to that on which the present work is founded. Conceiving that such a compilation might help to supply my own deficiencies, I had, in the year 1805, completed a classed catalogue of words on a small scale, but on the same principle, and nearly in the same form, as the Thesaurus now published.<ref>Lloyd 1982, p. xixTemplate:Full citation needed</ref>

Organization

Conceptual

Roget's original thesaurus was organized into 1000 conceptual Heads (e.g., 806 Debt) organized into a four-level taxonomy. For example, liability was classed under V.Template:Smallcaps.iv: Class five, Volition: the exercise of the will; Division Two: Social volition; Section 4: Possessive Relations; Subsection 4: Monetary relations.<ref>Peter Mark Roget, Thesaurus of English words and phrases, classified so as to facilitate the expression of ideas, 1853, V.Template:Smallcaps.iv, p. 204</ref> Each head includes direct synonyms: Debt, obligation, liability, ...; related concepts: interest, usance, usury; related persons: debtor, debitor, ... defaulter (808); verbs: to be in debt, to owe, ... see Borrow (788); phrases: to run up a bill or score, ...; and adjectives: in debt, indebted, owing, .... Numbers in parentheses are cross-references to other Heads.

The book starts with a Tabular Synopsis of Categories laying out the hierarchy,<ref>Roget, op.cit. p. xxvi</ref> then the main body of the thesaurus listed by Head, and then an alphabetical index listing the different Heads under which a word may be found: Liable, subject to, 177; debt, 806; duty, 926.<ref>Roget, op.cit. p. 349</ref>

Some recent versions have kept the same organization, though often with more detail under each Head.<ref>e.g., George Davidson, ed., Thesaurus of English words and phrases (150th Anniversary Edition), Penguin, 2002, Template:Isbn, p. 454</ref> Others have made modest changes such as eliminating the four-level taxonomy and adding new heads: one has 1075 Heads in fifteen Classes.<ref>Barbara Ann Kipfer, ed., Roget's International Thesaurus, 7th edition, Collins Reference, 2010, Template:Isbn</ref>

Some non-English thesauri have also adopted this model.<ref>Daniel Péchoin, Thésaurus Larousse, Larousse 1991, Template:Isbn</ref>

Alphabetical

Other thesauri and synonym dictionaries are organized alphabetically.

Most repeat the list of synonyms under each word.<ref name="longman">Longman Synonym Dictionary, Rodale Press and Longman Group, 1986, Template:Isbn</ref><ref name="websters">Charlton Laird, Michael Agnes, eds., Webster's New World Roget's A-Z Thesaurus, Macmillan USA, 3rd edition, 1971, Template:Isbn</ref><ref name="oxfordamerican">Christine A. Lindberg, The Oxford American Thesaurus of Current English, Oxford University Press, 1999, Template:Isbn</ref><ref name="oxford">Oxford Thesaurus of English, 3rd edition, 2009, Template:Isbn</ref>

Some designate a principal entry for each concept and cross-reference it.<ref name="mw">Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms : Choose Words with Precision, 1994, Template:Isbn uses an asterisk</ref><ref>Henri Bertaud du Chazaud, Dictionnaire de synonyms et contraires, Le Robert "Les Usuels", 1998, Template:Isbn</ref><ref>Roger Boussinot, Dictionnaire des synonymes, analogies et antonymes, Bordas 1981, Template:Isbn</ref>

A third system interfiles words and conceptual headings. Francis March's Thesaurus Dictionary gives for liability: Template:Sc, each of which is a conceptual heading.<ref name="march"> Francis Andrew March, Francis A. March, Jr., March's Thesaurus and Dictionary of the English Language (issued under the editorial supervision of Norman Cousins), Doubleday, 1968, p. 598 full text, 1906 edition</ref> The Template:Sc article has multiple subheadings, including Nouns of Agent, Verbs, Verbal Expressions, etc. Under each are listed synonyms with brief definitions, e.g. "Credit. Transference of property on promise of future payment." The conceptual headings are not organized into a taxonomy.

Benjamin Lafaye's Synonymes français (1841) is organized around morphologically related families of synonyms (e.g. logis, logement),<ref>Pierre Benjamin Lafaye, Synonymes français, Paris 1841 full text</ref> and his Dictionnaire des synonymes de la langue française (1858) is mostly alphabetical, but also includes a section on morphologically related synonyms, which is organized by prefix, suffix, or construction.<ref name="lafaye"/>

Contrasting senses

Before Roget, most thesauri and dictionary synonym notes included discussions of the differences among near-synonyms, as do some modern ones.<ref name="oxford"/><ref name="oxfordamerican"/><ref name="websters"/><ref name="ah"/>

A few modern synonym dictionaries, notably in French, are primarily devoted to discussing the precise demarcations among synonyms.<ref>Henri Bénac, Dictionnaire des synonymes, Hachette 1956, Template:Isbn (1982 edition)</ref><ref name="lafaye">B. Lafaye, Dictionnaire des synonymes de la langue française, Hachette 1869, 3rd edition</ref>

Additional elements

Some include short definitions.<ref name="march"/>

Some give illustrative phrases.<ref name="oxford"/>

Some include lists of objects by category, e.g. breeds of dogs.<ref name="oxford"/>

The Historical Thesaurus of English (2009) is organized taxonomically, and includes the date when each word came to have a given meaning. It has the novel and unique goal of "charting the semantic development of the huge and varied vocabulary of English".<ref>Christian Kay, Jane Roberts, Michael Samuels, Irené Wotherspoon, Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press 2009, Template:Isbn, p. ix</ref>

Bilingual

Bilingual synonym dictionaries are designed for language learners. One such dictionary gives various French words listed alphabetically, with an English translation and an example of use.<ref>R.E. Batchelor, M.H. Offord, Using French Synonyms, Cambridge University Press, 1993, Template:Isbn</ref> Another one is organized taxonomically with examples, translations, and some usage notes.<ref>Marie-Noëlle Lamy, The Cambridge French-English Thesaurus, Cambridge University Press, 1998, Template:Isbn</ref>

Information science and natural language processing

{{#invoke:main|main}} In library and information science, a thesaurus is a kind of controlled vocabulary.

A thesaurus can form part of an ontology and be represented in the Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS).<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Thesauri are used in natural language processing for word-sense disambiguation<ref>Yarowsky, David. "Word-sense disambiguation using statistical models of Roget's categories trained on large corpora." Proceedings of the 14th conference on Computational linguistics-Volume 2. Association for Computational Linguistics, 1992.</ref> and text simplification for machine translation systems.<ref>Siddharthan, Advaith. "An architecture for a text simplification system." Language Engineering Conference, 2002. Proceedings. IEEE, 2002.</ref>

See also

Bibliography

  • W.E. Collinson, "Comparative Synonymics: Some Principles and Illustrations", Transactions of the Philological Society 38:1:54-77, November 1939, Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print
  • Gerda Hassler, "Lafaye's Dictionnaire des synonymes in the History of Semantics" in Sheli Embleton, John E. Joseph, Hans-Josef Hiederehe, The Emergence of the Modern Language Sciences, John Benjamins 1999, Template:Isbn, p. 1:27-40
  • Werner Hüllen, "Roget's Thesaurus, deconstructed" in Historical Dictionaries and Historical Dictionary Research, papers from the International Conference on Historical Lexicography and Lexicology, University of Leicester, 2002, Max Niemeyer Verlag 2004, Template:Isbn, p. 83-94
  • Werner Hüllen, A history of Roget's thesaurus : origins, development, and design, Oxford University Press 2004, Template:Isbn
  • Werner Hüllen, Networks and Knowledge in Roget's Thesaurus, Oxford, January 2009, Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print, Template:Isbn
  • Gertrude E. Noyes, "The Beginnings of the Study of Synonyms in England", Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (PMLA) 66:6:951-970 (December 1951) Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print Template:Jstor
  • Eric Stanley, "Polysemy and Synonymy and how these Concepts were Understood from the Eighteenth Century onwards in Treatises, and Applied in Dictionaries of English" in Historical Dictionaries and Historical Dictionary Research, papers from the International Conference on Historical Lexicography and Lexicology, University of Leicester, 2002, Max Niemeyer Verlag 2004, Template:Isbn, p. 157-184

References

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External links

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