The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #23 September / October 2016
Book Look
Langenscheidt Dictionaries
by Erik Zidowecki
September / October 2016 | 

Langenscheidt Dictionaries
by Langenscheidt Publishing
Language: Varied
Item Rating:

The Langenscheidt publishing company is one of the most famous among German dictionary producers. It was founded in 1856 by Gustav Langenscheidt and employed the finest philologists of the time. After Gustav's death, his son Carl took over the company. Besides its popular line of bilingual dictionaries, Langenscheidt also offers phrase books and cards as well as a line of educational language products. This article will be focusing on the dictionaries.

Most people know of two varieties of the Langenscheidt dictionaries: the larger ones which include other reference material, and the smaller "soft cover" ones, usually called "universal". The smaller versions come in a variety of colors for the older ones, while the newer are an unmistakable yellow. I have one of the larger versions in my collection and almost a dozen of the smaller ones.

There are a few formatting differences between the two types. Each main entry is left justified and in bold type, while the definitions are slightly indented, so it's easy to see where each entry begins. I have seen some that reverse this, making the entry word indented, and they are much harder to read. Sometimes there is a pronunciation guide in brackets (pocket version) or parenthesis (larger), depending on whether the word closely matches the pronunciation rules of the dictionary or not. For example, in the Universal Italian-English dictionary, the Italian entries rarely need pronunciation guides, since Italian adheres rather strictly to its pronunciation standard, while the English entries almost always contain a pronunciation guide because English pronunciation is so variable.

Sample Entry
hydro|carbon lhaidrou-] idrocarbon
m ~chloric cloridico; ~gen idrogeno m; ~gen bomb bomba f all'idrogeno; ~plane idrovolante m~therapy idroterapeutica f

The word's functions (adj, vb., n, adv., etc.) are italicized. The entry's meaning or meanings are then given, separated by commas if there is more than one. If more than one function is listed, those are separated by semicolons. Some entries have a bar (|) separating them. In those cases, in the definition section, there will be further entries, starting with a tilde (~), showing another version of the word, based upon the word preceding the bar and following the tilde. For example, "hydrocarbon" is listed as "hydro|carbon", and has listings for "~chloric", "~gen", "~gen bomb", etc.

In the larger dictionaries, the entries may be a bit more extensive, giving idioms and common phrases which are related to the entry. There are no etymologies, cross references, or synonyms, at least not in the versions I have.

The universal versions include a list of abbreviations used in the book, pronunciation guides of the letters, and a list of irregular verbs, numerals, and some basic phrases. Of course, depending on the edition of the dictionary, the number and type of "extras" will vary.

The larger versions may include, along with what I already mentioned, a list of proper names, abbreviations of the languages, and measurements (ex. 1mm Millimeter millimetre = 1/1000 metre = 0.00010936 yard = 0.0032809 foot).

As for the number of entries, my smaller universal versions claim "over 30,000 entries" (I say "claim", because I am not counting them), while the larger version boasts the same number. This may sound odd, but it makes sense in that the smaller versions have less complete entries in many cases while still being based on the same data as the larger. Neither version includes words one could consider "vulgar".

The smaller versions are good for traveling around since they fit easily into your pocket. The larger versions are basically pocket-sized too, as long as you have large pockets.

The Langenscheidt dictionaries seem to be very popular since they often appear among language book collections I buy and are good for a quick look up. However, if you are working more extensively with a language, I would suggest something more in-depth, the Bantam being my personal favorites in this case.

There is a third version of these dictionaries that I am familiar with: the Lilliput, getting its name from the city of tiny people in "Gulliver's Travels". These versions are incredibly tiny, being about 2ins (5cms) in length. At that size, they are more novelties than real books. I had a set for English-Italian once, but they were so small I misplaced them, and never found them again.

Book Look - Langenscheidt Dictionaries
Writer: Erik Zidowecki

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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