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For the term in mathematics, see Lexicographical order

The pursuit of 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 relationships within the lexicon (vocabulary) of a language and developing theories of dictionary components and structures linking the data in dictionaries. This is sometimes referred to as metalexicography.

A person devoted to lexicography is called a lexicographer, famously defined in Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755) as "A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words".

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. 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.

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 linguistics.


  • Organizing the components of the dictionary
  • Choose the appropriate structures for presenting the data in the dictionary
  • Selecting words
  • Choosing lemma forms for each word
  • Defining words
  • Organizing definitions
  • Specifying pronunciations of words
  • Labeling definitions and pronunciations for register and dialect, where appropriate

Recommended reading

Introductory books on lexicography:

  • Landau, Sidney, Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography, 2nd ed., 2001
  • Bergenholtz, Henning/Tarp, Sven (eds.): Manual of Specialised Lexicography, 1995
  • Bejoint, Henri, Modern Lexicography: An Introduction, 2000
  • Hartmann, R. R. K., Teaching and Researching Lexicography, 2001
  • Hartmann, R. R. K./James, Gregory (comps.): Dictionary of Lexicography, 1998/2001
  • Nielsen, Sandro: The Bilingual LSP Dictionary, 1994
  • Ooi, Vincent, Computer Corpus Lexicography, 1998
  • Jonathon Green, "Chasing the Sun - Dictionary-Makers and the Dictionaries They Made," Pimlico, ISBN 0-7126-6216-2

See also

  • Lexicology
  • Vocabulary
  • List of lexicographers
  • Dictionary
    • Bilingual dictionary
      • Monolingual learner's dictionary
    • Specialized dictionary (Picture dictionary, Multi-field_dictionary, Single-field dictionary, Sub-field dictionary, Maximizing dictionary, Minimizing dictionary, LSP dictionary)
    • Glossary (defining dictionary, Core glossary)
  • Specialised_lexicography

External links

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