Front and Back Matter

Every dictionary contains more than the alphabetically arranged main section. There is introductory material which is called front matter and there are appendixes, the so-called back matter. Although every dictionary should have these features, they vary greatly in content and extent. Mostly, we find such topics as pronunciation, usage or regional specialties mentioned. When we take a look at the Collins English-German Dictionary, the front matter consists of a short introduction about the usage of the dictionary, grammatical information and information about pronunciation. The back matter offers us features like word lists, weights and measures or information about the German spelling reform. As we see, many of the key elements which have been introduced until now can be found partly in the front or back matter in bilingual dictionaries. Often, front and back matters of general monolingual dictionaries deal with information which is not necessary but useful; they add data to maximize the value of the work. Geographical names, practical clues for the reader, all these small things make a front and back matter a nice feature but also negligible: the focus of any general dictionary is and has always been on the main section. The importance of front and back matters rises when we are confronted with ESL or EFL dictionaries (Landau 1984, pp.115-119). As we have seen with the Collins English German Dictionary example, a lot of grammatical and usage information is included in the front matter which can help the reader to understand how to use and handle a dictionary dealing with a foreign language. The back matter information can also help a reader who is not used to a language or a culture and supports him .


A front and a back matter are especially important because…

...they offer additional information which makes using a dictionary easier.
…they often present additional grammatical information about a special word form.

For future dictionary makers: