In the editors' preface we are informed that one of the major devlopments for the CEPD (from the 17th edition onward) is the electronic version (in the form of a CD-ROM), which allows users to listen to "both British and American spoken pronunciations for every word in the dictionary" (iii). If we take "word" to mean "headword", this is true. But there is a major technical snag which excludes a not inconsiderable number of potential users - customers, if you like, from this development. I'm going to come back to this when I peruse the CD-ROM.
The editors also mention what they call "a new study aid" (iii): It comprises six short essays of about 1.5 pages each written by R. Cauldwell, J. Jenkins, J. Windsor Lewis, J. Marks, C. Sangster and L. Shockey.
"Above all," the editors write, "the aim of the dictionary is to include information which is relevant to the needs of contemporary users and which is presented in the clearest possible way" (iii). The lives of editors must be really hard: They've got to foresee the needs of potential users, and they must make sure that the users are neither dead nor in a state of suspended life because otherwise the latter wouldn't qualify as "contemporary users".
The introduction (vi-xix) in its first section tries to answer three questions:
- Why do we need pronunciation dictionaries?
- Can I use the dictionary if I don't know anything about phonetics?
- What is the CD-ROM for?
Section 2 deals with the sounds of English. The two accents which the dictionary is based on are termed "BBC pronunciation" (or synonymously BBC English or BBC accent) and "General American" (or GA for short). Next the vowels and consonants of both accents are described in greater detail (vii-xii).
Section 3 describes how the CEPD is organized. The question is taken up again which types of pronuncation are represented. As with the other two pronunciation dictionaries, we find two models - a "more broadly based and accessible model accent for British English" (xii) it's (infelicitously) called "BBC English" (xii) and a type of American English which is "frequently heard from professional voices on national network news and information programmes" (xii) termed "General American" (xii).
We are informed that for common words a pronunciation is proposed which is "typical of a more casual, informal style of speaking, and a more careful pronunciation for uncommon words" (xiii). For me the word laryngeal is quite common, but is it common for a car mechanic as well?
More on CEPD18 in a later blog entry.