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Known as ‘the definitive record of the English language‘, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the largest dictionary of English in the world. This chapter traces its creation from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day - through the publication of the first edition, supplement volumes, second edition, and the current third edition and OED Online website. The lexicograhic policies and practices of the various editors are also discussed, e.g. from Herbert Coleridge, Frederick Furnivall, and James Murray to Henry Bradley, Charles Onions, William Craigie, Robet Burchfield, John Simpson, Ed Weiner, and Michael Proffitt. This chapter also discusses the OED‘s current efforts to move from seeing the dictionary as a discrete text to seeing the dictionary as data which can be used in machine learning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence.
This chapter introduces the reader to the volume and outlines the book’s structure: first, an overview of essential issues pertaining to dictionary style and content; secondly, a fresh narrative of the development of English dictionaries throughout the centuries right up to current-day applications of technology, corpus linguistics, natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence; and thirdly, essays on the regional and global nature of English lexicography and its power to help standardise varieties of English and to define nations seeking independence from the British Empire.