Lexicography origin studies theoretical in detail


Lexicography is a discipline that has as objective to define and teach the procedures to be followed in developing dictionaries. For this reason, many authors define it as a methodology or technique and not as a science. It should be noted that currently lexicography is based on the theoretical foundations of linguistics. Lexicography origin studies theoretical

The word lexicography comes from the Greek word leksikográphos , which in turn is composed of two words: leksikós , which means collection of words, and graphein , which translates as writing. Therefore, lexicography is the technique of collecting and writing words.

According to the academic dictionary of 1984, lexicography can be defined as the technique of composing dictionaries or lexicons. It is also defined as a part of linguistics that is dedicated to establishing theoretical principles taking into account the composition of dictionaries.

The lexicographer Manuel Seco, in his reception speech for the Royal Spanish Academy (1980), established that lexicography was not a science, but rather a technique or an art. This is because, for this scholar, the lexicographic discipline presents an ambiguity that allows it to be perceived as a craft that requires sensitivity and intuition.


The author Natalia Castillo, in her text The Value and Difficulty of Lexicography (1998), established that lexicography emerged as a prescientific discipline four thousand years ago. This claim is supported by the fact that the Akkadians and Sumerians collected signs that must have functioned as unilingual dictionaries (2,600 BC). Lexicography origin studies theoretical

This compilation had a pedagogical motivation and was used in the schools of the scribes. There were also catalogs where the names of objects, trades, divinities, among others, were listed.

In addition, the first bilingual glossaries where a list of Sumero-Akkadian words were found date from this time. Eventually, the first of these languages ​​became the diplomatic and cultured language, which happened after the fall of the III Empire of Ur.

In the library of Rap’anu (State Councilor of the kingdom of Ugarit, 1235-1195 BC) even quadrilingual glossaries were found, as they contained words taken from the Sumerian, Hurrian, Akkadian and Ugaritic languages.

Normative lexicography

Until the second half of the 20th century, lexicography had been conceived as “the art of making dictionaries.” During this phase, lexicography was characterized by its normative approach, since it sought to fix the language in its most cultured format.

For this reason, over the course of several centuries the discipline generated selectively cut dictionaries such as the Treasury of the Castilian Language (1674) by Sebastián de Covarrubias or Manual Dictionary of Vicious Locutions and Language Corrections (1893) by Camilo Ortúzar .

Consequently, the dictionaries elaborated in these times had a logical-objective base of encyclopedic approach. This means that these dictionaries described the reality of the objects and not the meanings of each word. For this reason they concentrated on the referents, but not on the linguistic signs.

Descriptive lexicography

In the last decades of the 20th century, lexicography began to be of interest to linguists. For this reason, experts in linguistics joined the lexicographic discipline to investigate its characteristics and introduce them into applied linguistics. Lexicography origin studies theoretical

Consequently, lexicography ceased to be considered a mere art and became a scientific technique. This led to the development of descriptive dictionaries, which to this day do not make value judgments regarding a certain word or use of a language. In fact, they try to describe it in a realistic way without applying any kind of purist restriction to it.

Within this structure can be cited the works New Dictionary of Americanisms (1988), directed by Reinhold Werner and Günther Haensch. Another example can be the exemplified Dictionary of Chileanisms , written by Féliz Morales Pettorino between 1984 and 1987.

What does lexicography study?

The object of study of lexicography is to know the origin, meaning and form of words. However, it should not be confused with lexicology, which studies these same factors but from a more general and scientific point of view. Instead, lexicography has a utilitarian role.

This is not to say that lexicography does not have a scientific focus; this discipline does use scientific criteria, as long as it considers that all lexical materials deserve the same attention. This means that lexicography distances itself from scientific study when it makes value judgments about a word or word.

Currently, two aspects or meanings of lexicography have been proposed. On the one hand, there is the technique of preparation, that is, the activity itself of collecting dictionaries, lexicons and glossaries. On the other hand, there are methodological and theoretical criteria that a lexicographer must handle in order to correctly carry out his work.

These aspects are known as practical lexicography and theoretical lexicography or metalexicography.

Theoretical lexicography

Theoretical lexicography, also known as metalexicography, is responsible for studying the theoretical aspects related to lexicography. Therefore, theoretical lexicography studies the history of lexicographic activities, as well as the types of dictionaries and the purpose for which they have been conceived.

Metalexicography must also take into account the audience to which each dictionary is directed, the methodology or structure of its preparation and the problems that may arise when carrying out its preparation. In conclusion, this branch of lexicography critically and concretely evaluates each lexicographic product.

Practical lexicography

The practical lexicography is properly the elaboration of the dictionaries. That is to say, this aspect puts into practice everything acquired from theoretical lexicography. For this it uses other disciplines such as applied linguistics. Before developing a dictionary, every lexicographer should:

  • – Know the traditional and internationally accepted lexicographic rules.
  • – Manage the terminology used by lexicography.
  • – Have the ability to identify the different types of dictionaries.
  • – Know the necessary bibliographic material that allows you to solve the problems that arise during the preparation.
  • – Conceive the dictionary as a tool to teach a language, but without adding value judgments about a certain word. Lexicography origin studies theoretical

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