Single-clause when-definitions: Take three

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Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo

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In our EURALEX 2006 contribution (Dziemianko and Lew 2006), we focused on the practice of defining certain abstract nouns by means of a when-clause, which seems to have gained much popularity in recent years in some major monolingual English learners’ dictionaries. We tested the hypothesis that a definition of this format would fare worse than the classic analytical definition in terms of conveying information on the syntactic class of the lemma. Experiments with Polish high-intermediate and advanced learners of English provided strong empirical support for this hypothesis. However, the testing instruments employed in the 2006 study used a relatively restricted microstructure, with just headwords and definitions. In the present follow-up study, we attempt to verify the results using a more complete microstructure to assess the strength of the effect of single-clause when-definitions on syntactic class identification in the presence of other potential indicators of syntactic class. Below we summarize the findings of the whole series of studies of this contentious defining format.




Definition, Folk defining, Syntactic information, Learner’s dictionary, Definition format


Lew, Robert and Anna Dziemianko 2012. ‘Single-Clause When-Definitions: Take Three’ In Fjeld, Ruth Vatvedt and Julie Matilde Torjusen (eds.), Proceedings of the 15th EURALEX International Congress. Oslo: Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo, 997-1002.



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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego