The Main Problems of Lexicography

4849 WordsDec 17, 201220 Pages
The main problems of lexicography The most burning issues of lexicography are connected with the selection of head-words, the arrangement and contents of the vocabulary entry, the principles of sense definitions and the semantic and functional classification of words. In the first place it is the problem of how far a general descriptive dictionary, whether unilingual or bilingual, should admit the historical element. In fact, the term "current usage” is disconcertingly elastic, it may, for instance, be stretched to include all words and senses used by W. Shakespeare, as he is commonly read, or include only those of the fossilised words that are kept in some set expressions or familiar quotations, e. g. shuffled off this mortal coil…show more content…
There exist almost unsurmountable difficulties to a neat statistical evaluation. Some publishers state the number of entries in a subtitle, others even claim for the total coverage with the exception of very special terms. It must be remembered, however, that without a generally accepted standard for settling the problems of sameness and separateness no meaningful evaluation of the scope of any particular dictionary is possible. Besides in the case of a living language the vocabulary is not stable, and the attitude of lexicographers to archaisms and neologisms varies. The arrangement of the vocabulary entry presents many problems, of which the most important are the differentiation and the sequence of various meanings of a polysemantic word. A historical dictionary (the Oxford Dictionary, for instance) is primarily concerned with the development of the English vocabulary. It arranges various senses chronologically, first comes the etymology, then the earliest meanings marked by the label obs. — obsolete. The etymologies are either comparative or confined to a single language. The development is documented by illustrative quotations, ranging from the oldest to recent appearances of the word in question. A descriptive dictionary dealing with current usage has to face its own specific problems. It has to apply a structural point of view and give precedence to the most important meanings. But how is the most important meaning determined upon? So far each
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