Friday 1 October 2010

a sketchy survey of marking stress idioms in OALD

The first and second editions of the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary do not indicate the principal stress in an idiom. From the 3rd edition onward the dictionary user is able to find or deduce the principal stress in idioms such as make a person's flesh creep or throw doubt upon.
J Windsor Lewis
The editor of the 3rd edition (first published in 1974) was Albert Sydney Hornby. Pronunciation adviser/editor was Jack Windsor Lewis (see my blog of the 30th of September). With the publication of the 4th edition in 1989 the editorial baton was passed on to Anthony P Cowie (who had already been involved in revising entries of the 3rd edition). Susan Ramsaran became phonetics editor. A P Cowie writes on p. vii: "The job of  Phonetics Editor was taken on and very ably carried out by a close colleague, Dr Susan Ramsaran. She has provided, as a new feature, a full treatment of variant pronunciations and of stress in idioms and illustrative phrases." This is, as Jack Windsor Lewis rightly points out (see here), not quite correct.
Susan Ramsaran

Let's check 2 of the idioms I used in my previous blog entry and an additional new one:
1. make s.b.'s flesh creep
2. stew in one's own juice
3. there are more/other fish in the sea.
OALD4 indicates stress marks for all 3 idioms, so the dictionary user no longer has to keep a rule in mind needed to 'disambiguate' an idiom unmarked for stress, a rule which he can apply only if he's read the respective introductory section (have you read it?).

With the 5th edition (published 1995) Jonathan Crowther (pseudonym Azed) became chief editor, who put Michael Ashby in charge of  "the phonetics in the dictionary, and in particular [the] overhaul of the treatment of stress in phrasal verbs and idioms, always a difficult area for foreign students." (vi) All 3 idioms indicate stress marks. It is interesting to note, however, that with there are more/other fish in the sea the principal stress on more/other in OALD4 has moved to fish in OALD5.

Michael Ashby still is phonetics editor of the OALD, and the policy of indicating the principal stress with idioms has been fully maintained (excepting the online version) since Michael's 'approbation'.

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