Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The First English Dictionary

By: Leila Moslemi (lilimoslemi@yahoo.com)

English words have been borrowed by many other languages. During 1630s, some people in England wanted to create an official organization to control the English language. They wanted to fix the language in order to introduce some regularity in spelling. In the 16th century spelling remained very varied, even for personal names. People invented their own spellings which made lots of confusion. For example, there are six known examples of Shakespeare's name that he wrote himself, and in each one he spelt his name differently.

Dictionaries were not unknown in the 17th century, but they were Latin-English ones. After nine years of a hard task, Dr. Samuel Johnson produced A Dictionary of the English Language, in April 1755. Oxford had awarded him a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in anticipation of the work. The dictionary was not perfect. Although the choice of words was wide but the words expressed his personal opinions and some words were not included because he did not like them.

An important innovation in Dr. Johnson's Dictionary was to illustrate the meanings of his words by literary quotations most frequently cited by Shakespeare, Milton and Dryden. He always kept hundred of books around. The books he used for his purpose were what he used in his own collection. Therefore, it remained the most important English dictionary in Britain for more than a century.

The published dictionary of 1755 was a huge book. Its pages were nearly 46cm tall and the book was 51cm wide when opened; it contained 42,773 entries and it sold for the equivalent price of £350 today. The nine-year hard task of Dr. Samuel Johnson proves the importance of dictionaries which are widely used by people and specially a foreign learner of English language. Dictionaries can help English learners to avoid making mistakes; in addition to it they could be seen as educated and socially acceptable people.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Catcher in the Rye : A Bildungsroman

By: Leila Moslemi (lilimoslemi@yahoo.com)  

One of the books which I highly recommend the students of English language to follow reading is "The Catcher in the Rye" (1951) , a novel by an American writer known as J. D. Salinger. This is actually a story of a teenager, Holden Caulfield, who is abandoning a childhood life and moving towards adulthood. These kind of stories which mainly focuses on the character's coming-of-age are called Bildungsroman.  Holden Caulfield narrates in the first person, describing what he himself sees and experiences, providing his own commentary on the events and the people he describes. Holden’s tone varies between disgust, cynicism, bitterness, and nostalgic longing, all expressed in a colloquial style. The major conflict in this novel is within Holden’s psyche. Part of him wants to connect with other people on an adult level (and, more specifically, to have a sexual encounter), while part of him wants to reject the adult world as “phony,” and to retreat into his own memories of childhood. During this movement towards adulthood he faces with painfulness and phoniness of adult world. He understands alienation as a true fact for his self- protection. He finds the hypocrisy and ugliness of the world around him almost unbearable. He is uncomfortable with his own weaknesses, and at times displays as much phoniness, meanness, and superficiality as anyone else in the book. The title of the book is a strange one for many readers but as the novel opens, Holden stands poised on the cliff separating childhood from adulthood and this is the exact duty of a catcher in the rye. It is such a kind of story that all the readers can identify himself with Holden. Reading the novel would help the teenagers to make an adaptation between the childhood life and adulthood one so that the teenagers would be able to find their own identity during the teen years.