What is the lexicon

What is the lexicon

Lexicon is understood as the set of known words of a language , that is, its vocabulary, which is collected by the dictionaries of that language. It is a set of words and associated meanings, which nevertheless works at different levels:

  • he of the formal language , that is, the meanings widely used and accepted by the institutions of the language and by the majority of its speakers;
  • he of the informal language , since each community adapts the language to their needs and imaginary, thus generating a community, local or geographically determined lexicon.

Thus, the language contemplates a general lexicon, while the communities create a specific one, of punctual use . It is similar to what happens with technical or specialized language: words of specific use, limited to certain knowledge groups, as is the case with scientific, medical terminology, etc.

That is the reason why not everything is called the same in countries that handle the same language , such as Latin Americans, but there are specific differences that must be learned; but the essential functioning of the language, as well as the most basic and abundant meanings, remain immutable.

Within the lexicon there are also loans from other languages, neologisms or invented words to cover a new expressive need, so that far from being a stable and universal set of words, it is a living system and in perpetual modification.


The concept of lexicon contains several meanings, all linked to the world of linguistics . Lexicon is the vocabulary of a language or a region , the dictionary of a language or the flow of idioms and voices of an author .

Here are some example sentences: “That is not the appropriate lexicon for a ten-year-old girl” , “A communication science professional must handle a lexicon according to her social responsibility” , “The lexicon of current adolescents It seems to be limited to a few words . 

Grammar defines as a category or lexical class a well-defined group of words, which have the particularity of referring to certain concepts , whether abstract or material, and which have a meaning independent of their context. These types of words are usually classified according to their morphological or syntactic behavior. To this class belong the verbs, nouns, adverbs and adjectives, which are considered subclassifications of it.

Unlike the grammatical categories, it is an open group, since it contemplates the possibility of future changes in its members, as well as the incorporation of new components and exchanges between different languages, very common in the current era of communication . When a society needs a new word to refer to a concept, a phenomenon, an object or an idea that has recently appeared in its culture, a new term is born that has semantic content and automatically enters the group of lexical categories of the language To which it belongs.

The term lexicon is used to refer to the complete group of words that contemplate the different lexical categories of the same language. Taking into account all the languages ​​of the planet, it can be affirmed that the verb and the noun represent the most widely used classes . However, it is important to note that each language conceives these types of words in a very particular way. For Japanese, for example, there is more than one type of adjective and, unlike Spanish or English, they can be combined; This implies that the terms “cold”, “blue” or “expensive” have an affirmative and a negative form, both with their respective variations for the past and the present.

Continuing with the peculiarities of the lexical categories in the thousands of languages ​​spoken in the world, both Chinese and Korean and Japanese use nominal classifiers, a type of word that accompanies, for example, the accounting of a noun, interposing between this one and a number; while in Spanish we can say “three pencils” and “three sheets” just by putting the number before the noun , in Japanese it is necessary to use a different classifier (in this case, a counter) in each case, which underlines certain characteristics of each element , as if we were saying “three conical objects pencils” and “three flat objects sheets”.

There are several groups that can be formed from the lexicon. It is known as equity lexicon to one that evolves within the same language, while the loan lexicon is the one that includes foreigners .

The passive lexicon , on the other hand, is the one that is part of the speaker‘s understanding. The active lexicon , on the other hand, is used in everyday speech. The jargon is the lexicon that includes the vocabulary of a certain social group.

Lexicon and semantics

Semantics is the science that studies the meanings of language : the way they are composed, their mechanisms and procedures, and so on. In addition, in a specific language, the words that make up the lexicon are ordered according to their shared meanings, to the associations that arise from them, in mental structures called lexical-semantic fields.

These fields are equivalent to an ordering “by subject” of words, but also by phonetic and grammatical similarity. For example: in the lexical-semantic field of the word “pet” will appear around it, as a cloud of meanings, other associable terms such as “dog”, “cat”, “rabbit”, “companion animal”, but also others of less immediate association such as “home,” “childhood,” “family,” and possibly other words that sound like “pet” or words derived from ” pet  ” even if they mean totally different things.

Types of lexicon

Linguistics distinguishes between several types of vocabulary:

  • Active lexicon . Also called productive lexicon, it is constituted by the most commonly used words and most commonly used in the language, since its meaning is known by all its speakers and does not require special learning or training.
  • Passive vocabulary . It is also called receptive vocabulary, as it encompasses the set of words that are not common and everyday, but whose understanding is relatively simple, that is, they do not require specialized learning to understand each other.
  • Jargon . It is a specialized lexicon to which you do not have access if you do not belong to the community that devised and uses it. This is the case, for example, with scientific jargon, with prison or criminal jargon, or with the typical jargon of a region of a given country.

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