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Enhancing the learnability of Chinese–English dictionaries for Chinese as a foreign language learners: the neglected legacy of Robert Morrison in his compilation of Wuche Yunfu (1819)

Ying Ye, Xiangqing Wei, Wenlong Sun


In previous studies on learner lexicography, design features of both the content and presentation of learner's dictionaries are the two major research concerns. The quality assessment of learner's dictionaries also covers the two dimensions. Terms used for evaluating them are respectively "usability" or "availability" for the former and "findability" or "accessibility" for the latter. However, the lexicographical construction of "learnability", which takes into account the users' reference and learning needs, remains virtually unexplored either theoretically or practically. Compared to the features of dictionary design mentioned above, "learnability" as the design phi-losophy of learner lexicography is worth more serious consideration. The present paper aims at exploring the lexicographical notion of "learnability" by way of introducing the neglected legacy of Robert Morrison in his compilation of Wuche Yunfu (五车韵府) (1819)1, which is characterized by a high degree of learnability illustrated in the dictionary entries. Morrison's pioneering efforts may help with the conceptual clarification of "learnability" in compiling learner's dictionaries, bilingual ones in particular. Moreover, it is hoped that the recognition of Morrison's lexicographical practice will be beneficial to the future production of better Chinese–English dictionaries for non-native Chinese learners.

Keywords: learnerability, learner lexicography, Chinese as a for foreign language learners, Wuche Yunfu, Chinese–English dictionaries, bilingual

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