The dictionary as an educational tool: The Ladies Dictionary of 1694
It is the purpose of this paper to describe and comment on the lexicographical,
linguistic and ideological features of The Ladies Dictionary, being a general
entertainment of the fair-sex: a work never attempted before in English, published
in London in 1694.
Specifically addressed to ladies, this 760-page work relies on the century-old
tradition of educational treatises on women and for women, as well as the more recent,
17th-c. series of English monolingual dictionaries, which have always had upper-
and middle-class women among their intended readership.
Its explicit educational goal makes The Ladies Dictionary a very interesting
object for linguistic, lexicographical and cultural analysis:
linguistically, it will be interesting to comment on the 'hard words' chosen
by the anonymous compiler as entry words;
lexicographically, both the macrostructure of the dictionary and the microstucture
of the entries are worth analysing, as the content and aims of this work make
it something in between a dictionary and an encyclopaedia;
culturally, this text is meant to make entertaining, informative and educational
reading, and inevitably provides contemporary ladies with a model that – inevitably
again – is ideologically conditioned by the moral, cultural, social and political
values of the age.