Lexicology and Lexicography
Both lexicology and lexicography are derived from the Greek work lexiko (adjective
from lexis meaning 'speech', or 'way of speaking' or 'word'). The common concern
of both of them is 'word' or the lexical unit of a language. Lexicology is derived
from lexico 'word' plus logos 'learning or science' i.e. the science of words.
Lexicography is lexico 'word' plus graph 'writing' i.e. the writing of words.
The etymological meaning of these words speaks for itself the scope of these branches
of linguistics. Lexicology is the science of the study of word whereas lexicography
is the writing of the word in some concrete form i.e. in the form of dictionary.
As we shall see later, lexicology and lexicography are very closely related, rather
the latter is directly dependent on the former and may be called applied lexicology.
already noted, both lexicology and lexicography have a common subject 'word'.
The sum total of all the words of a language forms the vocabulary or lexical system
of a language. The words of a language are like constellations of stars in the
firmament. Every word although having its own independent entity is related to
others both paradigmatically and syntagmatically. The paradigmatic relations are
based on the interdependence of words within the lexical system. The syntagmatic
relations show the relation of words in the patterns of arrangement. In other
words the vocabulary of a language is not a chaos of diversified phenomena but
consists of elements which, though independent, are related in some way. A word
has a particular meaning, it has a particular group of sounds, and a particular
grammatical function. As such it is a semantic, phonological and grammatical unit.
Lexicology studies a word in all these aspects i.e. the patterns of semantic relationship
of words as also their phonological, morphological and contextual behaviour. Words
undergo constant change in their form and meaning and lexicology studies the vocabulary
of a language in terms of its origin, development and current use. The study of
the interrelationship of lexical units is done in terms of the contrasts and similarities
existing between them.
a word does not occur in isolation, lexicology studies it with its combinative
possibilities. And thus the scope of lexicology includes the study of phraseological
units, set combinations etc.
general linguistics, of which lexicology is a branch, lexicology can be both historical
and descriptive, the former dealing with the origin and development of the form
and meaning of the lexical units in a particular languages across time and the
latter studying the vocabulary of a language as a system at a particular point
of time. But there are many areas in lexicology, where one cannot be studied in
isolation, without regard to the other. They are, thus, interdependent.
studies can be of two types, viz., general and special. General lexicology is
concerned with the general features of words common to all languages. It deals
with something like universals in language. Special lexicology on the other hand
studies the words with reference to one particular language.
studies can be, further, of comparative and contrastive type wherein the lexical
systems of two languages are studies from a contrastive point of view.
fulfills the needs of different branches of applied linguistics, viz., lexicography,
stylistics, language teaching, etc.
the vocabulary or the lexical system of a language forms a system of the language
as other systems, its study in lexicology should not be separated from the other
constituents of the system. So lexicology is closely related to phonetics and
relation between phonetics and lexicology is very important. Words consist of
phonemes, which, although not having meaning of their own, serve in formation
of morphemes, the level where meaning is expressed. So they serve to distinguish
between meanings. Moreover, meaning itself is indispensable for phonemic analysis.
The difference of meaning in /pIt/ and /pUt/ helps in the fixation of the phonemes
/I/ and /U/. Historical phonetics helps in the study of polysemy, homonymy and
link between lexicology and grammar is also very close. Each word has a relation
in the grammatical system of a language and belongs to some parts of speech. Lexicology
studies this relationship in terms of the grammatical meanings as also their relationship
with the lexical meaning. In the field of word formation, lexicology is still
more closely related to grammar. Both study the patterns of word formation.
is a social phenomenon. The study of language cannot be divorced from the study
of the social system and the development in society. The development and progress
in the social, political and technological system is manifest in the vocabulary
of a language. New words are introduced and old words die out. New meanings are
added to words and old meanings are dropped out. Lexicology studies the vocabulary
of a language from the sociological points also.
also studies the lexicon as lexicology does but "whereas lexicology concentrates
more on general properties and features that can be viewed as systematic, lexicography
typically has the so to say individuality of each lexical unit in the focus of
its interest". (Zgusta 1973, 14). Lexicography has been generally defined
as the writing or compiling1 of a lexicon or dictionary, the art or practice of
writing dictionaries or the science of methods of compiling dictionaries. The
word was used as early as 1680. (Oxford English Dictionary/Lexicography).
the word is studied as a part of the system. In lexicography it is studied as
an individual unit in respect of its meaning and use from the practical point
of its use by the reader of the dictionary for learning the language or comprehending
texts in it or for any other purpose like checking correct spelling, pronunciation
etc. A word may have different and varied characteristic, all of which may not
be needed by a lexicographer. His work is guided more by the purpose of the dictionary
and the type of the audience. He presents the words of the lexical system in a
way so as to make it more practically useable in real life situation i.e. in actual
speech. For example lexicology may give the theoretical basis for enumerating
different meanings of a polysemous word, but how these meanings are worded and
presented in the dictionary is governed by the practical problems of utility of
the dictionary for different types of readers. The aim of lexicology is to study
the vocabulary of a language as a system, so the treatment of individual units
may not claim to be complete because the number of units is very larger. Its goal
is systematization in the study as a whole but not completeness as regards individual
units. So it cannot claim to be a perfectly systematic treatment. Here, every
entry is treated as an independent problem. Lexicologists present their material
in sequence according to their view of the study of vocabulary. The lexicographers
are mostly guided by the principle of convenience in retrieval of the data and
arrange words usually in alphabetical order.
provides the theoretical basis of lexicography. The lexicographer although knowing
all the semantic details of a lexical unit might, at times, have to take such
decisions and include such features in the definition which might be his own observations.
In lexicology the study of words is objective, governed by the theories of semantics
and word formation. There is no scope for individual aberrations. In lexicography,
in spite of all the best attempts on the part of the lexicographer, many a definition
become subjective, i.e. they are not free from the bias of the dictionary maker.
(cf. the meaning of oats in Johnson's Dictionary.)
lexicology deals with the universal features of the words of languages. In this
sense lexicology is not language specific, whereas lexicography is more or less
language specific in spite of its universal theoretical background. Its theories
have no other validation except for practical applicability in the compilation
of a dictionary.
lexicology is more theory oriented, lexicography is more concerned with concrete
application (i.e. results) of these theories. So "in a certain sense lexicography
may be considered a superior discipline to lexicology, for results are more important
than intentions and the value of theoretical principles must be estimated according
to results". (Doroszewski 1973, 36).
is the science and art of compiling dictionary. The word 'dictionary' was first
used as Dictionarius in this sense in the 13th century by an English man John
Garland. The word Dictionarium was used in the 14th century. The first book published
under the English title Dictionary was Latin-English Dictionary by Sir Thomas
Elyot (1538). For a medieval scholar a dictionary was a collection of diction
or phrases put together for the use of pupils studying Latin. One of the purposes
of dictionary in medieval times was glossing texts and employing synonyms for
are prepared to serve different practical needs of the people. A reader looks
at the dictionary mainly from the following points of view: -
(1) as a reference
book for different types of information on words e.g. pronunciation, etymology,
usage etc. this may be called the store house function of the dictionary.
(2) as a reference point for distinguishing the good or proper usage from the
bad or wrong usage. This is the legislative or the court house function of the
(1755) described the lexicographer as "a writer of dictionaries.
harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the
signification of word". Little did he realize at that time that his dictionary
would, for almost a century, serve as the 'Bible' of the English language, the
second function noted above.
these a dictionary also serves as a clearing house of information. In order that
these functions be performed adequately, the information in the dictionaries should
be collected from as many sources as possible, and should be authentic and easily
retrievable. Lexicography in this way is an applied science.
Lexicography and Linguistics:
as already noted, the basic concern of lexicography is 'word' which is studied
in different branches of linguistics, viz, phonetics, grammar, stylistics etc.
Lexicography is not only related to linguistics but is an applied discipline under
it. The practical problems of lexicography are solved by the application of the
researches of linguistic works. As we shall see below, in his entire work from
the selection of entries, fixation of head words, the definition of words to the
arrangement of meanings and entries, the lexicographer is helped by the work of
different branches of linguistics.
of the most widely accepted criteria for selection of entries in many dictionaries
is usually frequency count. The frequency of head words the lexicographer usually
chooses the canonical or the most frequently occurring form of a word. This is
found out from the grammatical study of the language. For written languages and
languages with established grammatical traditions the problem of selection of
the head word is not so difficult as in the case of unwritten languages. Here
the lexicographer has to be his own linguist and have recourse to the linguistic
analysis of the language. For data collection he takes the help of field linguistics
and for analysis, of descriptive linguistics. For giving definitions of flora
and fauna as also of artifacts and other cultural items the lexicographer gives
encyclopaedic information. For this the principle of the hierarchical structure
of the vocabulary in terms of folk taxonomy is utilized by a lexicographer. Thus
he enters the domain of ethnolinguistics.
giving spellings and pronunciation of words in his dictionary the lexicographer
is helped by the phonetic study of the language. For grammatical information he
has to depend on the morphological analysis of the language.
the determination of the central meaning of a polysemous word the lexicographer
is helped by historical linguistics. Etymology gives him the clue to decide the
basic meaning. In the fixation of the number of meanings and their interrelationship
the lexicographer has to take recourse to the linguistic methods of set collocations,
valency and selective restrictions etc.
linguistics helps in tracing the origin and development of the form and meaning
of the words in historical dictionaries. In descriptive dictionaries such labels
as archaic, obsolete etc., denoting the temporal status of words, are decided
with the help of historical linguistics. Historical linguistics, especially etymological
study, helps in distinguishing between homonymy and polysemy. But where etymological
consideration is not applicable for want of such studies it is the native speaker's
intuition which is taken as the determining factor. In this the lexicographer
is helped by psycholinguistics. Psycholinguistics also helps in providing material
for vocabulary development which might be used for the preparation of the graded
give status labels like slang, jargon, taboo, figurative, formal, graamya (vulgar)
etc. These labels are decided with the help of sociolinguistic and stylistic studies.
dialect dictionaries dialectology is a necessary helpmate.
basic prerequisite of bilingual dictionaries is a contrastive analysis of the
linguistic systems of the two languages. This is provided by contrastive linguistics.
this shows that in his work the lexicographer has, to a large extent, always to
depend on the findings of different branches of linguistics. But this is not so
in actual life. Lexicographical works had preceded grammatical works in many languages.
It is not only the findings of linguistics which help in the solution of lexicographical
problems, the lexicographical findings are equally utilized by the linguists for
different purposes of authenticating their hypothesis, in helping standardization
of the languages, especially in the fields of technical terminologies.
of a lexicographer are practical and need based requiring at-the-moment solution.
The lexicographer cannot wait for certain findings in the field of linguistics
or other disciplines for the solution of his problems. It is here that linguistics
might fail to meet the needs of a lexicographer. There are different schools of
linguistics vying with each other in theoretical researches. The findings of one
school are contradicted by the other. There are different studies on the same
aspect of a language. Nothing is final. The lexicographer might not afford to
wait for the final word to come. Moreover, many languages still remain uninvestigated.
So the lexicographer has to find his own way. In his entire work, the lexicographer
is guided by the practical considerations of a dictionary user. The linguistic
theories are quite important for the lexicographer but practical utility is more
basic for him. As rightly put forward by Urdang "Lexicography, in practice
is a form of applied linguistics and although more theoreticians would be a welcome
addition to the field, they must remember that their theories should be interpretable
above all in terms of practicality." (Urdang, 1963, 594)
Lexicon and Grammar: the relation between
lexicon and grammar has been discussed differently. Bloomfield considers grammar
and lexicon (dictionary) as two parts of linguistic description and remarks "lexicon
is really an appendix of the grammar, a list of basic irregularities". (Bloomfield
1933, 274)3. His statement seems to be inspired by the fact that grammar takes
care of all the regular and predictable forms of the language whereas dictionary
gives all the irregular and unpredictable forms as also forms with irregular and
unpredictable meanings. In other words, it deals with the individual idiosyncracies
of a language. The dictionary gives irregular plurals, irregular forms of verbs
and other unpredictable forms in the paradigm of the lexical unit. It does not
enter regular inflected forms but gives derivational forms. (See 5.4). it gives
all the lexical units of a language because the relation between the form and
the meaning is not predictable. It is arbitrary. It is in this sense that Bloomfield
calls dictionary an appendix of grammar and a list of basic irregularities.
As a matter
of fact, there can be no strict separation of the two in terms that the dictionary
is concerned with words only, or the grammar is concerned with forms and the dictionary
with meaning. (Gleason 1967, 90). Actually the grammatical rules also give or
are supposed to include the meaning of constructions. The dictionary gives different
grammatical categories of the lexical entry along with its meaning and use.
difference between the lexicon and the grammar lies in respect of their being
open-ended and close-ended. The grammatical rules of a language are internalized
by an individual by the age of five or six years. Practically little is added
to the grammatical structure afterwards. On the contrary, the acquisition of vocabulary
is an ongoing and continuous process and lasts only at the time of death. Every
day a new lexical item is added to the lexicon (the inbuilt dictionary - the lexical
stock of a language an individual speaker of a language has in himself.) the lexicon
is constantly changing. New words are added, some old words are dropped while
some others are modified in their signification.
1967, 93-94) describes the relationship between grammar and lexicon as that of
class and member. Grammar sets up classes and studies relationship between them.
Dictionary deals with individual isolated items, words and morphemes called members
and identifies the class to which a member belongs.
Practical and theoretical dictionaries: distinction should be made
here between the practical and the theoretical (generative) dictionaries. The
practical dictionary is the flesh and blood dictionary compiled by the lexicographer
and consulted by the readers for different purposes. The description of this dictionary
is the subject matter of this book. The theoretical dictionary is the inbuilt
dictionary of an individual speaker of a language. It represents the semantic
competence of the person and comprises the total stock of the words a person has
acquired in his life. The speaker has this dictionary as an equipment enabling
him to chose and use appropriate words in different structures and contexts. The
theoretical dictionary or the lexicon of an individual is always changing. Either
new words are added, or some words are dropped or some new meanings are added
to the existing words because of the needs of communication. It is in this sense
that the lexicon is called an open-ended set.
difference between the practical and the theoretical dictionary lies in the system
of the 'arrangement' of lexical entries. Whereas in the practical dictionary the
entries are 'arranged' in some ordered form, in the theoretical dictionary the
entries are in an unordered set.
lexical entry in the theoretical dictionary is realized in actual speech by virtue
of its three properties or characteristics viz., morphological, syntactical and
semantic. The morphological characteristics specify the break up of the entry
in terms of its different both inflectional and derivational. The morphemic break
shows the pronunciation and spelling of the entry.
syntactic features are describable in terms of the collocational and combinational
possibilities of a word in larger constructions like sentences. These features
are marked by such specific parts of speech as noun, adjective or the secondary
grammatical categories like transitive, intransitive (of verbs), count, mass (of
semantic characteristics relate to the bundle of semantic features of a lexical
unit in terms of their oppositeness and contrastiveness.
the basis of these specifications of the lexical entry, the speaker is able to
'create' or produce new words or derive new meanings from the existing words with
the help of what is called lexical rules. The lexical rules also explain the interrelationship
between different lexical units in a language.
lexical rules account for the formation of new words in terms of the predictability
of their acceptability or otherwise. The acceptability can be of three types:-
Actual acceptability, which has been universally accepted as well formed according
to rules of word formation and the word has also the social acceptability.
(2) Potential acceptability, which can be produced by word formation rules but
are not established in the society.
(3) Total unacceptability, such word
formation are neither permissible by word formation rules nor do they have the
acceptability of the society.
lexical rules provide the background information about the actual acceptance of
lexical units by giving clues for such acceptability. Even among the actual accepted
lexical units there are degrees of acceptedness. Some units are more commonly
accepted whereas others are less commonly accepted. The practical dictionary records
the most commonly accepted units, the less acceptable are either nor recorded
or recorded with some delimiting labels.
lexical rules are of different types viz., rules of morphological derivation,
rules of conversion, rules of semantic transfer etc. The rules of morphological
derivation relate to the change in morphological structure by addition of some
suffixes or affixes to stems e.g. Hindi ghod?aa 'horse' ghod?ewaalaa 'one who
owns a horse' or by the method of compounding etc.
rules of conversion relate to change in the syntactic function without affecting
the morphological structure. E.g. cut noun, drop noun: drop verb.
rules for semantic transfer involve change in the semantic structure of a word.
Metaphorical extensions, metonymy and other forms of semantic change are covered
by this rule. This rule accounts for the connotational and stylistic meanings
of the lexical units which in course of time are systemized, institutionalized
and established in the language.
lexical rules are of diverse nature. Large number of lexical rules can be applied
to one lexical unit e.g. boy, boyish, boyhood etc. the same rule can be applied
to different words, e.g. boyhood, girlhood, manhood, womanhood etc. The lexical
rules explaining the relationship between different lexical units are related
to polysemy, synonymy, hyponymy etc.
to Shcherba (Srivastava 1968, 113).
2. For details see Annamalai, E. (1978)
3. Cf. Jesperson, O. "Grammar deals with general facts of language and lexicology
with special facts". Philosophy of Grammar, p. 32
4. For details see
Leech 1974, pp. 210 ff.