Lexicography

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{language, word, form}
{theory, work, human}
{system, computer, user}
{work, book, publish}

Lexicography is divided into two related disciplines:

  • Practical lexicography is the art or craft of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries.
  • Theoretical lexicography is the scholarly discipline of analyzing and describing the semantic, syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships within the lexicon (vocabulary) of a language, developing theories of dictionary components and structures linking the data in dictionaries, the needs for information by users in specific types of situation, and how users may best access the data incorporated in printed and electronic dictionaries. This is sometimes referred to as 'metalexicography'.

A person devoted to lexicography is called a lexicographer.

General lexicography focuses on the design, compilation, use and evaluation of general dictionaries, i.e. dictionaries that provide a description of the language in general use. Such a dictionary is usually called a general dictionary or LGP dictionary (Language for General Purpose). Specialized lexicography focuses on the design, compilation, use and evaluation of specialized dictionaries, i.e. dictionaries that are devoted to a (relatively restricted) set of linguistic and factual elements of one or more specialist subject fields, e.g. legal lexicography. Such a dictionary is usually called a specialized dictionary or LSP dictionary and following Nielsen 1994, specialized dictionaries are either multi-field, single-field or sub-field dictionaries.

There is some disagreement on the definition of lexicology, as distinct from lexicography. Some use "lexicology" as a synonym for theoretical lexicography; others use it to mean a branch of linguistics pertaining to the inventory of words in a particular language.

It is now widely accepted that lexicography is a scholarly discipline in its own right and not a sub-branch of applied linguistics, as the chief object of study in lexicography is the dictionary (see e.g. Bergenholtz/Nielsen/Tarp 2009).

Contents

Etymology

Coined in English 1680, the word "lexicography" derives from the Greek "λεξικογράφος" (lexikographos), "lexicographer",[1] from "λεξικόν" (lexicon), neut. of "λεξικός" (lexikos), "of or for words",[2] from "λέξις" (lexis), "speech", "word",[3] (in turn from "λέγω" - lego, "to say", "to speak"[4]) + "γράφω" (grapho), "to scratch, to inscribe, to write".[5]

Aspects

Practical lexicographic work involves several activities, and the compilation of well crafted dictionaries require careful consideration of all or some of the following aspects:

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