Late eighteenth-century English orthoepic dictionary front matter


  • Rebecca Shapiro City University of New York



Eighteenth century, English dictionaries, Orthoepy, Linguistic imperialism, Media literacy, Dictionary front matter


Authors of late eighteenth-century English dictionaries provided instruction in their front matter on how to use these reference works; how the language which they advocated for was superior to that in other dictionaries; and how users from regions outside of London could use dictionaries as self-help aids. The two authors discussed, James Buchanan and Thomas Sheridan, represent a group of lexicographers who attempted to impose structure on English to fix “problems” in pronunciation and writing. The authors of these dictionaries used their texts to assist readers in applying their methods to reduce unacceptable accents and improve understanding by others. These texts show that the English of England was prioritized by authors who were ministers, schoolmasters, and orators; that is, they were experts in their fields and were known specifically by their backgrounds and ideologies. That situation, however, is different from the anonymization and implicit politicization of online dictionaries today that neither name their writers nor obviously express editorial principles. Readers have become so accepting of what they read in online dictionaries that they do not question the validity of the information or from whence come senses and definitions, thus showing that there is an essential need for additional media literacy.



Buchanan, James. 1757. Linguæ Britannicæ Vera Pronunciato: Or, a New English Dictionary. London: Printed for A. Millar.

Martin, Benjamin. 1749. Lingua Britannica reformata. London: Printed for J. Hodges.

Sheridan, Thomas. 1780. A General Dictionary of the English Language. London: Printed for J. Dodsley, C. Dilly, and J. Wilkie.

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How to Cite

Shapiro, R. (2020). Late eighteenth-century English orthoepic dictionary front matter. Lexicography, 7(1-2), 103–114.