Lexicography is the study of
lexicon A lexicon is the of a or branch of (such as or ). In , a lexicon is a language's inventory of s. The word ''lexicon'' derives from word (), neuter of () meaning 'of or for words'. Linguistic theories generally regard human languages as c ...

s, and is divided into two separate but equally important
academic discipline An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. The usual test for a statement of fact is ...
s: * Practical lexicography is the art or
craft A craft or trade is a pastime or an occupation that requires particular skills and knowledge of skilled work. In a historical sense, particularly the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted ap ...
of compiling, writing and editing
dictionaries A dictionary is a listing of lexeme A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer ...

. * Theoretical lexicography is the
scholarly The scholarly method or scholarship is the body of principle A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...
study of
semantic Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another o ...
, orthographic, syntagmatic and
paradigm In science Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts ( descriptive knowledge), skills (procedural knowledge ...
atic features of
lexeme A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeolog ...
s of the
lexicon A lexicon is the of a or branch of (such as or ). In , a lexicon is a language's inventory of s. The word ''lexicon'' derives from word (), neuter of () meaning 'of or for words'. Linguistic theories generally regard human languages as c ...

vocabulary A vocabulary is a set of familiar words In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), m ...
) of a
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and ...

, developing theories of dictionary components and structures linking the data in dictionaries, the needs for information by users in specific types of situations, and how users may best access the data incorporated in printed and electronic dictionaries. This is sometimes referred to as 'metalexicography'. There is some disagreement on the definition of
lexicology Lexicology is the branch of linguistics that analyzes the lexicon of a specific language. A word is the smallest meaningful unit of a language that can stand on its own, and is made up of small components called Morpheme, morphemes and even smalle ...
, as distinct from lexicography. Some use "lexicology" as a synonym for theoretical lexicography; others use it to mean a branch of
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...

pertaining to the inventory of words in a particular language. 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 Legal lexicography is the complex of activities concerned with the development of theories and principles for the design, compilation, use, and evaluation of dictionaries within the field of law, see e.g. Nielsen 1994. Overview As a branch of t ...
. Such a dictionary is usually called a
specialized dictionary A specialized dictionary is a dictionary A dictionary is a listing of lexemes from the lexicon of one or more specific languages, often arranged Alphabetical order, alphabetically (or by radical-and-stroke sorting, radical and stroke for ideo ...
or Language for specific purposes dictionary and following Nielsen 1994, specialized dictionaries are either multi-field, single-field or sub-field dictionaries. 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). Lexicography is the practice of creating books, computer programs, or databases that reflect lexicographical work and are intended for public use. These include dictionaries and Thesaurus, thesauri which are widely accessible resources that present various aspects of lexicology, such as spelling, pronunciation, and meaning. List of lexicographers, Lexicographers are tasked with defining simple words as well as figuring out how compound or complex words or words with many meanings can be clearly explained. They also make decisions regarding which words should be kept, added, or removed from a dictionary. They are responsible for arranging lexical material (usually Alphabetical order, alphabetically) to facilitate understanding and navigation.


Coined in English 1680, the word "lexicography" derives from the Greek language, Greek λεξικογράφος ''lexikographos'', "lexicographer", from λεξικόν ''lexicon'', neut. of λεξικός ''lexikos'', "of or for words", from λέξις ''lexis'', "speech", "word", (in turn from λέγω ''lego'', "to say", "to speak") and γράφω ''grapho'', "to scratch, to inscribe, to write".γράφω
Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, ''A Greek–English Lexicon'', on Perseus Digital Library


Practical lexicographic work involves several activities, and the compilation of well-crafted dictionaries requires careful consideration of all or some of the following aspects: * profiling the intended users (i.e. linguistic and non-linguistic competences) and identifying their needs * defining the communicative and cognitive functions of the dictionary * selecting and organizing the components of the dictionary * choosing the appropriate structures for presenting the data in the dictionary (i.e. frame structure, distribution structure, macro-structure, micro-structure and cross-reference structure) * selecting words and affixes for systematization as entries * selecting collocations, phrases and examples * choosing Lemma (morphology), lemma forms for each word or part of word to be lemmatized * defining words * organizing definitions * specifying pronunciations of words * labeling definitions and pronunciations for Register (sociolinguistics), register and dialect, where appropriate * selecting equivalents in bi- and multi-lingual dictionaries * translating collocations, phrases and examples in bi- and multilingual dictionaries * designing the best way in which users can access the data in printed and electronic dictionaries One important goal of lexicography is to keep the lexicographic information costs incurred by dictionary users as low as possible. Nielsen (2008) suggests relevant aspects for lexicographers to consider when making dictionaries as they all affect the users' impression and actual use of specific dictionaries. Theoretical lexicography concerns the same aspects as lexicography, but aims to develop principles that can improve the quality of future dictionaries, for instance in terms of access to data and lexicographic information costs. Several perspectives or branches of such academic dictionary research have been distinguished: 'dictionary criticism' (or evaluating the quality of one or more dictionaries, e.g. by means of reviews (see Nielsen 1999), 'dictionary history' (or tracing the traditions of a type of dictionary or of lexicography in a particular country or language), 'dictionary typology' (or classifying the various genres of reference works, such as dictionary versus encyclopedia, monolingual versus bilingual dictionary, general versus technical or pedagogical dictionary), 'dictionary structure' (or formatting the various ways in which the information is presented in a dictionary), 'dictionary use' (or observing the reference acts and skills of dictionary users), and 'dictionary IT' (or applying Dictionary writing system, computer aids to the process of dictionary compilation). One important consideration is the status of 'bilingual lexicography', or the compilation and use of the bilingual dictionary in all its aspects (see e.g. Nielsen 1894). In spite of a relatively long history of this type of dictionary, it is often said to be less developed in a number of respects than its unilingual counterpart, especially in cases where one of the languages involved is not a major language. Not all genres of reference works are available in interlingual versions, e.g. Language for specific purposes, LSP, learners' and encyclopedic types, although sometimes these challenges produce new subtypes, e.g. 'semi-bilingual' or 'bilingualised' dictionaries such as Hornby's ''(Oxford) Advanced Learner's Dictionary English-Chinese'', which have been developed by translating existing monolingual dictionaries (see Marello 1998).

See also

* Linguistic description * Dictionary ** Bilingual dictionary ** Monolingual learner's dictionary ** Specialized dictionary (Picture dictionary, Multi-field dictionary, Single-field dictionary, Sub-field dictionary, LSP dictionary) ** Glossary (defining dictionary, Core glossary) * List of lexicographers * Lexicology * Lexicon * Lexical definition * Vocabulary * Idioms Lexicon * Specialised lexicography * English lexicology and lexicography * Terminology * Dictionary Society of North America


Further reading

* B. T. S. Atkins, Atkins, B.T.S. & Rundell, Michael (2008) ''The Oxford Guide to Practical Lexicography'', Oxford U.P. * Béjoint, Henri (2000) ''Modern Lexicography: An Introduction'', Oxford U.P. * Henning Bergenholtz, Bergenholtz, H., Sandro Nielsen, Nielsen, S., Tarp, S. (eds.): ''Lexicography at a Crossroads: Dictionaries and Encyclopedias Today, Lexicographical Tools Tomorrow''. Peter Lang 2009. * Henning Bergenholtz, Bergenholtz, Henning & Tarp, Sven (eds.) (1995) ''Manual of Specialised Lexicography: The Preparation of Specialised Dictionaries'', J. Benjamins. * Jonathon Green, Green, Jonathon (1996) ''Chasing the Sun: Dictionary-Makers and the Dictionaries They Made'', J. Cape. * Reinhard Hartmann, Hartmann, R.R.K. (2001) ''Teaching and Researching Lexicography'', Pearson Education. * Hartmann, R.R.K. (ed.) (2003) ''Lexicography: Critical Concepts'', Routledge/Taylor & Francis, 3 volumes. * Hartmann, R.R.K. & James, Gregory (comps.) (1998/2001) ''Dictionary of Lexicography'', Routledge. * Inglis, Douglas (2004
Cognitive Grammar and lexicography
Payap University Graduate School Linguistics Department. * Kirkness, Alan (2004) "Lexicography", in ''The Handbook of Applied Linguistics'' ed. by A. Davies & C. Elder, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 54–81. * Landau, Sidney (2001) ''Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography'', Cambridge U.P. 2nd ed. * Marello, Carla (1998) "Hornby's bilingualized dictionaries", in ''International Journal of Lexicography'' 11,4, pp. 292–314. * Sandro Nielsen, Nielsen, Sandro (1994) ''The Bilingual LSP Dictionary'', G. Narr. * Nielsen, Sandro (2008) "The effect of lexicographical information costs on dictionary making and use", in ''Lexikos'' (AFRILEX-reeks/series 18), pp. 170–189. * Nielsen, Sandro (2009): "Reviewing printed and electronic dictionaries: A theoretical and practical framework". In S. Nielsen/S. Tarp (eds): ''Lexicography in the 21st Century. In honour of Henning Bergenholtz''. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 23–41. * Ooi, Vincent (1998) ''Computer Corpus Lexicography'', Edinburgh U.P

* Ladislav Zgusta, Zgusta, Ladislav (1971) ''Manual of lexicography'' (Janua Linguarum. Series maior 39). Prague: Academia / The Hague, Paris: Mouton.

External links

''International Journal of Lexicography''

''Lexicographica. International Annual for Lexicography - Revue Internationale de Lexicographie - Internationales Jahrbuch für Lexikographie''


Centre for LexicographyEN version

Dictionary Society of North America

Euralex – European Association for Lexicography

Afrilex – African Association for Lexicography

Australex – Australasian Association for Lexicography

Asialex – Asian Association for Lexicography
{{Authority control Lexicography, Lexicology Applied linguistics Linguistics terminology, +