Formation of French-Language Educational Lexicography In XVIII – Early XIX Centuries


Investigation of formation and development of educational lexicography is important for the understanding of the educational space of the country, where methods of foreign language learning and teaching approaches change over time. At the end of XVIII and early XIX centuries representatives of the Russian aristocracy and gentry spoke French, which has led to the active introduction of the language in the educational process in the secular educational institutions and, consequently, to an increase in the number of editions of textbooks and various dictionaries of the French language. The article describes the peculiarities of French-language educational lexicography in Russia in XVIII – first half of XIX centuries. The definition of "educational lexicography" is given, characteristic features of educational dictionaries, their structure, content and focus are outlined, allowing following the direction of development of this type of lexicography in Russia in the studied period. Among the functions of educational dictionaries, the following are specified: learning, referential, systematizing, informative and normative. The complexity of the structure of educational dictionaries is noted to increase over time, in addition to the alphabetic-nested way of organizing vocabulary, sections of thematically constructed lexicons – prototypes of thesaurus – tend to appear. Examples of some of the most significant French-language educational dictionaries of XVIII and the first half of XIX centuries are introduced (selection of said dictionaries including both standalone editions and those that are part of educational guides).

Keywords: Educational spaceeducational lexicographyFrench-language lexicographyhistory of lexicographylearning vocabularylinguistic view of the world


Each historical epoch is characterized by the distinctive way its concepts and ideas are formed. These distinctions are reflected in lexicographic literature: universal (lexicon, translation) and aspect dictionaries, directories, thesauri, vocabularies, lexicons, encyclopedias and such educational lexicographical publications, first appearing in the age of enlightenment in XVII century in Europe (French Academy, 1773; Kopanev, 1988; Plats, 1719; Robertson, 1839), and later in the XVIII century in Russia (Boiste, 1837; Birzhakova, 2013; Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 2003; Dolgova, 1984; Dubynina, 2001; Dyatko, 2019; Karzhavin, 1791; Karzhavin, 1799; Grigorovich, 2011; Short and portable German-French …, 1809; Slang dictionary or Guide …, 1827), are tailored directly to form the images, concepts embodied in the word, to establish interlingual conformities. Dictionaries indicate the level and depth of lexicological knowledge in a particular historical period, reflect changes in the lexical composition of the language; they are a source that characterizes the linguistic culture of the country. The study of the formation of French-language educational lexicography in Russia is significant for the history of pedagogy in general and the history of foreign-language teaching methodology in particular, as an opportunity to identify the features of the development of the linguistic view of the world in different eras.

In Russia of the XVIII century, foreign policy, economic and cultural ties with European countries are becoming more active. At the same time, the importance of both German and, especially, French languages, is significantly increasing. The number of Russian citizens who know French has increased manifold, and the number of books in French, and, most importantly, French-language educational literature, could not meet the growing demand (French and Russian grammar …, 1730). In the first half of the XIX century, the French language and French culture had a significant impact on the educational space. So, the gentry considered proficiency in French to be mandatory and necessary: the language was studied at home, in high schools and universities, where some subjects and courses were taught in French. There was a high interest in French culture and literature, and a huge number of artistic, scientific, and socio-political books were being translated. During the XVIII–XIX centuries, French language and its vocabulary influenced not only the everyday life of Russian nobility but also the formation of many abstract concepts in the Russian language, which had an impact on the formation of the linguistic view of the world of the inhabitants of the Russian Empire. In the environment of interest in all French, there was an evident shortage of dictionaries and grammar books of the French language (Des Pepliers, 1773) intended for teaching it, and therefore European publications were actively used (Kopanev, 1988; Lacotte, 2017; New French, Russian, and German …, 1784; Polnoj francuzskoj i rossijskoj leksikon…, 1786).

Problem Statement

The study of lexicography, especially the study of educational foreign-language dictionaries, is of great importance, as dictionaries of this type are clear evidence of the teaching of interlingual and intercultural communication, as well as the development of inter-ethnic cultural and scientific ties. The study of the vocabulary experience of previous periods can significantly enrich modern lexicography. Some aspects of the history of French-language lexicography were studied by Birzhakova (2013), Dubynina (2001), Kosareva (2006), and Vorob'eva (1963). It should be noted that the problem of the genesis of French-language educational lexicography in Russia, as well as the establishment of educational literature for learning French in our country, is of interest for the history of pedagogy, for the history of the methodology of teaching foreign languages. It is relevant, firstly, to reconstruct the general picture of lexicography development for the pedagogical process in the past, and secondly, to describe in detail the first French-language dictionaries, their structure, and the principles of the lexicography of lexemes for educational purposes. In this article, we will address the problem of identifying educational dictionaries as a unique genre of lexicography, as well as consider some of the most important educational French-language dictionaries and lexicons of the XVIII – first half of the XIX centuries.

Research Questions

Scientific work on the educational dictionary and its publication is a significant event in the life of any nation in the field of education and culture. At the same time, this is always a certain stage in the development of pedagogical science, language science, scientific knowledge of vocabulary, teaching methods. In order to create a dictionary entry, the authors of the dictionary involve scientifically organized materials, carefully analyze the lexical material, thus contributing to the multidimensional study of the lexical meaning of the word, as well as that of the variety of semantic structures that employ that word. The vocabulary of a language is studied both in its constancy and in its historical progression. Lexicographic description of various linguistic facts is always accompanied by their primary theoretical generalization (Richelet, 1706). Therefore, we can say that the compilation of dictionaries contributes to the creation of an extensive basis for lexicological research (Hornby et al., 1958; Johnson, 1755; Kosareva, 2006; Roget, 1987; Sanders, 1859–1865; Sabbagh, 2016), for studies of history and current state of the language (Habibullina & Smirnova, 2016; New French, Russian, and German …, 1784; Robertson, 1839; Robertson, 1859), to study not only vocabulary, but also morphology (Nielsen, 2008), grammar (Hornby et al., 1987; Kopanev, 1988), and stylistics (Leroyer & Henrik, 2018).

Educational lexicography in modern linguistics is considered to be a distinctive, special part in the general theory of lexicography. Thus, the compiler of educational dictionaries Kartashkov defined educational lexicography as a special linguistical-methodical discipline, the content of which is the theoretical and practical aspects of describing vocabulary for educational purposes (Danet, 1710), which both indicates teaching, the didactic property of educational lexicography (Académie Française, 1830; Hüllen, 2004; Kartashkov, 1986; Moritz, 1631; Skuratov & Dyumon, 2019), and demonstrates the role of educational lexicography in the methodology of teaching foreign languages, in the science of language in a broad sense (both the native language and the language being studied).

The theory and pragmatics of creating educational dictionaries define some common approaches when compiling dictionaries for different levels (for different ages) of students. In this regard, it is important to make optimal use of achievements in lexicography that would be contemporary with the specific pedagogical reality of the past.

Educational (for educational purposes) dictionaries are certainly a unique type of dictionary since they have an important feature that is uncharacteristic of other types (for example, of academic multilingual dictionaries): a learning orientation. These dictionaries have always been actively used in the educational process, both at home and in educational institutions of tsarist Russia. The purpose of training dictates a very special composition of the dictionary, affects the selection, placement, methods of presentation, visualization, and interpretation of lexical material for educational purposes (teaching methodology). The main functions of educational dictionaries are as follows: educational, referential, systematizing (Cherepkova, 2017). These dictionaries also perform informative and normative functions.

Purpose of the Study

This article aimed to characterize the features of the formation of educational French-language lexicography in the XVIII – first half of the XIX centuries in Russia, to present the variety of types of lexicographic publications. The time of formation and active development of French-language lexicography can be considered the XVIII century (Boissiere, 1860; Cowie, 1995; Murray et al.; 1884–1923), when translated, foreign-language-Russian lexicography was rapidly developing but the needs for dictionaries were so great that there was a shortage in them.

Research Methods

content analysis (when studying the volume and content of dictionaries), comparative analysis (dictionaries of different periods: the beginning, middle, and end of the XVIII century, the middle of XIX century), semantic analysis of vocabulary, logical analysis, generalization. In the course of studying the problem of the formation of French-language educational lexicography in Russia, 127 lexicographic publications published in Europe and Russia from the end of the XVII century to the middle of the XIX century were studied (sources include universal dictionaries, traveller's dictionaries, proverb dictionaries, translated bilingual, three-language, five-language dictionaries, abbreviated dictionaries, lexicons, a collection of common words, alphabet books, primers, portable and pocket dictionaries).


Initially, students of the French language had only small dictionaries, with which alphabets, grammars, "Conversations", and other educational publications were methodologically "equipped" for educational purposes. These dictionaries could not only be arranged in alphabetical order but could also be thematically (Vomperskij, 1986) and/or grammatically oriented. According to Vompersky, since the 1730s, about 13 manuals with dictionaries of the French language have been published (at least 29 with reprints) (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 2003). As an example, we can cite the publication "Grammar of the French and Russian current language is communicated with a small lexicon for the convenience of the community", published in 1730 in St. Petersburg (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 2003, p. 63). The specified textbook successfully integrated a small French-Russian dictionary.

Among students of the French language, Teplov's French grammar was very well known ("New French grammar composed by questions and answers. Collected from the works of Mr Resto and other grammars, and translated into Russian by the Academy of Sciences translator Vasily Teplov"). The textbook was successfully methodically supplemented with two important parts: "Various French Proverbs" and "Collection of French and Russian words" from the Pepliers grammar (Boissiere, 1860, p. 27). The last part (which is, without a doubt, an educational dictionary in its own right) is also a thematically constructed lexicon.

Vompersky notes that the extracts from Pepliers' "French grammar" are not accidental. This book was purchased by Lomonosov while abroad. He considered the Pepliers' textbook one of the best for students of the French language and repeatedly recommended it for use in educational institutions (Boissiere, 1860, p. 30). Replies' grammar was actively used as a textbook in high schools and universities, and was also loved by "home teachers" when teaching French. Texts from Pepliers' grammar were used for translations into the native language; students had to build French-Russian and Russian-French educational dialogues on its lexical material. It was also used in the development of educational dictionaries.

In 1762, Teplov's grammar was reissued (Gel'tergof, 1769, p. 80). The educational publication contained three "inserts": "Various French Proverbs", "Collection of common adjectives" in Russian, French and German, and "Collection of French, Russian and German words", a three-language French-Russian-German dictionary, which was fundamentally thematically structured (which was convenient for both the teacher and the student), and borrowed from the grammar of Replies. The last two educational blocks had a significant volume: according to Vompersky, they occupied 149 pages of separate pagination (Boissiere, 1860, p. 33).

In the middle of the XVIII century, the first French-Russian dictionaries were published individually. Thus, multilingual, one of the first was "New lexicon in French, German, Latin and Russian languages" (Short and portable German-French …, 1809, p. 38). The first part of this dictionary was published in 1755 and was translated by a member of the Academy of Sciences, Volchkov. He worked on the translation for about 12 years (from 1747 to 1759), and yet the dictionary contained many errors and inaccuracies, which were rightly pointed out to the translator by Lomonosov and Trediakovsky. Most likely, a significant number of errors were due to the lack of complete (academic) foreign-Russian dictionaries at that time, according to which Volchkov could verify and correct his translation.

Readers had to wait for the second part of the dictionary for quite a long time: it was published only in 1764 (Slang dictionary or Guide …, 1827) and underwent significant editing beforehand. In 1773, the first part of the dictionary was reissued separately (Murray et al.; 1884–1923).

In 1778–1779, the dictionary of Volchkov (1779) was published for the second time and was named as "A detailed French lexicon containing all the words of the French language, all the scientific and technical names, proper names of people, lands, cities, seas and rivers, with German and Latin" (Grigorovich, 2011, p. 48). The detailed title of the book was more like annotation and informed readers that the dictionary, among other things, included special, technical terms, as well as toponyms and anthroponyms. Dictionary entries have been reworked quite noticeably, and some descriptions have been corrected. The third edition of this dictionary was released in the 1780s, with new edits and new words added. It can be argued that the "lexicon" of Volchkov was one of the most complete for its time, both in terms of vocabulary and semantic description of the French vocabulary, and, judging, first of all, by the number of reprints in large circulation, it was certainly used in the organization of the educational process in gymnasiums and universities.

It should be noted that the first French-Russian dictionaries did not have prefaces so that readers could guess the contents of the publication only by its name.

In 1769, "French Cellarius, or Useful lexicon: from which most necessary French-language words can be learned most promptly and without much effort: with the addendum of the registry of the alphabet of Russian words" was published, prepared by Gelterhof (Boiste, 1837, p. 72). The dictionary already had a fairly complex structure. It opened with the author's introductory word, in which he thanked the scientists Christophorus Cellarius and Du Pla. They made a significant contribution to the methodology of teaching French. Gelterhof also defines the purpose of his work as educational: it is intended for teachers who wish to teach their students (Boiste, 1837) successfully. In the introduction to his "Lexicon", Gelterhof introduces readers to the main thematic groups of French words (The surrounding world, Religion, Time, Man). These groups are rather intended to repeat the studied vocabulary. The central part of the dictionary is built on alphabetical-nesting principle, containing French words and their translation into Russian. The author's alphabetical index of all Russian words mentioned in the main part completes the "Cellarius". Next to the words are the page numbers where the corresponding term in French can be found. Interestingly, the register included not only individual lexemes, but also descriptive interpretations of French words that had no Russian equivalents. The dictionary became famous and was reissued in 1782.

Among the dictionaries of the XVIII century, we can also mention "A brief lexicon in four languages: that is, in French, Italian, German and Russian" by Vigneron (Vineron, 1771, p. 100). Dictionary entries here are given in alphabetical order by the French capital word. Translated equivalents follow it in Italian, German, and Russian, and they are printed in different fonts for ease of reading. The dictionary is provided with a preface, where Vigneron is characterized as a remarkable scientist and methodist teacher, whose books help master foreign languages successfully (Vineron, 1771, p. 124). In conclusion, the authors of the preface advise all readers to study other languages, as they pave the way towards learning (Vineron, 1771, p. 140).

In 1773, the "Dictionary composed by the French Academy" (volume with the letter "A") was published in St. Petersburg (Karzhavin, 1799, p. 95). The authors who translated this dictionary, in their introductory address "To a benevolent reader", talk about the importance of translated dictionaries for teaching foreign languages. In order to expedite the translation, it was divided between various translators of the Academy of Sciences and released separately, the initial volume containing only words starting with "A" (translator Volkov). The volume was accompanied not only by a preface from Russian authors but also by a translated original preface from the French edition. Unfortunately, there is no information about the release of further volumes, and, if there were any publications, they have not been preserved.

In the same year, 1773, Pepliers'trilingual dictionary "A collection of French, Russian, and German words" was published (Dubynina, 2001). It contained words previously included in various textbooks for learning French, in particular – in the already mentioned grammar of Teplov. The dictionary is notable for the vocabulary having been divided into thematic groups, the way it was usually placed in textbooks. "The collection of words..." by Pepliers was repeatedly reprinted: in 1776, 1780 and 1785 (Boissiere, 1860).

A notable event in the educational French-language lexicography of the XVIII century was the two-volume dictionary of Soc "New lexicon or Dictionary in French, Italian, German, Latin and Russian languages" (Karzhavin, 1791). The compiler defined Italian, German, Latin, and Russian terms corresponding to the French lexicon. Publishers used different fonts for each language, which was an important methodological point. The compiler paid special attention to the Russian translation. Here he did not usually limit himself to a single word, he selected two, three, or even more matching terms (an associative series), and sometimes provided a dictionary entry with a short clarification. If a one-word translation was not possible, the author of the dictionary used a descriptive definition (Murray et al.; 1884–1923).

The preface of this dictionary is interesting. Here the compiler emphasizes the importance of French as the language of international communication. It is used by nobles, merchants, and even people of the middle class. The author concludes that learning this language is vital, and children need to start learning it even earlier than all other sciences (Karzhavin, 1791).

The advantages of this educational dictionary include the comprehensiveness of its lexical composition, uniformity in design. The author used various Russian and French lexicons in compiling the dictionary, and contemporary interpretations of words were clarified in order to make the registry of French lexemes as complete as possible, and the Russian translation as accurate as possible.

The book "New French, Russian and German conversations, along with a collection of the most common words, in favour of the aspiring", was reprinted several times (Dolgova, 1984). The first edition was published in 1784. It is interesting that it was anonymous, only in the second edition did the initials appear, which allowed scientists to "deciphering" the name of the author (or editor) – Fyodor Karzhavin (French and Russian grammar …, 1730). The third edition, published in 1799, had a complete title: "French, Russian, and German conversations, in favour of the aspiring: with the addition of the works of Krammer and Gellert: published by Karzhavin, with the permission of the St. Petersburg censorship. Dependent on the merchant Gerasim Zotov" (Gimson, 1974). The textbook's content was structured in parallel – in Russian, French, and German.

Researchers of Karzhavin (Church and Hanks, 1990) claim that the scientist was one of the first to compile dictionaries (including dictionaries for educational purposes). Interestingly, among his personal books and manuscripts, there is a large Russian-French dictionary "Dictionnaire Russe et français" in three volumes, which, presumably, was compiled in 1737. This unique manuscript dictionary exceeds the volumes of multilingual dictionaries of the era ‒ it includes 1379 pages, covered with the cursive characteristic of the beginning of the XVIII century. Dolgova presumes this dictionary was a gift to Karzhavin from book publisher Shnor. Karzhavin highly appreciated this work, but he noted that such a Russian-French dictionary should be supplemented with materials from modern French dictionaries. The materials of the dictionary mentioned above were likely used by Karzhavin to compile textbooks and dictionaries for studying the French language in Russia (Dyatko, 2019).

The two-volume "Complete French and Russian lexicon", published in 1786, was supposed to become of great aid for all who studied the French language (Dyatko, 2019). This was another attempt to preparing a translated dictionary based on a French-language explanatory dictionary. One of the translators, members of the Academy of Sciences, was Tatishchev (Murray et al.; 1884–1923). The compilers and translators tried to cover the French vocabulary as fully as possible. More attention was paid to interpretation and translation, and the most accurate Russian words and expressions were found in order to convey the various shades of meaning of French lexemes. This dictionary was reprinted twice more: in 1795 and 1824 (Boissiere, 1860). Each time the authors made a huge number of edits, as many new words appeared, and new, more relevant interpretations were opened. Translation dictionaries were of particular interest during studies. If those were found lacking, other ways were found –translated dictionaries from one European language to another were used. For example, when learning German, German-French dictionaries were used instead of German-Russian dictionaries (Lacotte, 2017).


As a result of studying the process of formation of the French-language educational lexicography in Russia in XVIII – first half of XIX centuries, when the development of the French language became compulsory for the nobility, and thus there arose a need in supply and accessibility of educational dictionaries. The requirements for the qualitative aspect, i.e. to their learning potential, were formed, it should be stated that during the XVIII century, the number of textbooks increases progressively: between 1780 and 1790, as many dictionaries were published, as there were in the previous 50 years. Initially, the need for French-language dictionaries could only be met by small dictionaries "embedded" in textbooks-alphabets, grammars (Teplov's grammar of the French language). In the middle of the XVIII century, separately published French-Russian dictionaries appeared (by Volchkov, Gelterhof, Vigneron, Pepliers, Soc, Karzhavin). The authors and compilers' efforts were aimed at the complete reflection of the French lexicon and presenting students with extremely accurate versions of the translation of French words into Russian. At the same time, the scientific search for new forms of vocabulary representation continued (Hornby, 1948). Over time, it becomes obvious that the dictionary, when used for educational purposes, should not be time-consuming for the user (Polguère, 2018), which became the basis for further development, the next stage in the development of educational lexicography.


The publication is supported through the 27.8089.2017/БЧ state contract from Federal State Budget Scientific Institution “Institute for Strategy of Education Development of the Russian Academy of Education” for 2017–2019.


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National interest, national identity, national security, public organizations, linguocultural identity, linguistic worldview

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Kolobkova, A. A., & Pichugina, V. K. (2021). Formation of French-Language Educational Lexicography In XVIII – Early XIX Centuries. In I. Savchenko (Ed.), National Interest, National Identity and National Security, vol 102. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 521-530). European Publisher.