AskDefine | Define lexicology

Dictionary Definition

lexicology n : the branch of linguistics that studies the lexical component of language

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. In the context of "not countable": specialty in linguistics dealing with the study of the lexicon
    • 1949 The fifth is devoted to doctrine; the sixth and seventh to remarks on syntax and lexicology respectively. — Journal of Theological Studies
  2. a specific theory concerning the lexicon


linguistic discipline

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Not to be mistaken with lexicography.
Lexicology (from lexiko-, in the Late Greek lexikon) is that part of linguistics, which studies words, their nature and meaning, words' elements, relations between words (semantical relations), words groups and the whole lexicon.
The term first appeared in the 1820s, though there were lexicologists in the straight meaning even before that. Computational lexicology as a related field (in the same way that computational linguistics is related to linguistics) deals with the computational study of dictionaries and their contents. An allied science to lexicology is lexicography, which also studies words in relation with dictionaries - it is actually concerned with the inclusion of words in dictionaries and from that perspective with the whole lexicon. Therefore lexicography is the theory and practice of composing dictionaries. Sometimes lexicography is considered to be a part or a branch of lexicology, but the two disciplines should not be mistaken: lexicographers are the people who write dictionaries, they are at the same time lexicologists too, but not all lexicologists are lexicographers. It is said that lexicography is the practical lexicology, it is practically oriented though it has its own theory, while the pure lexicology is mainly theoretical.

Semantics. Lexical semantics

The domain of Lexical Semantics

Semantical relations between words are manifested in respect of homonymy, antonymy, paronymy, etc. Semantics usually involved in lexicological work is called lexical semantics. Lexical semantics is somewhat different from other linguistic types of semantics like phrase semantics, semantics of sentence, and text semantics, as they take the notion of meaning in much broader sense. There are outside (although sometimes related to) linguistics types of semantics like cultural semantics and computational semantics, as the latest is not related to computational lexicology but to mathematical logic. Among semantics of language, lexical semantics is most robust, and to some extend the phrase semantics too, while other types of linguistic semantics are new and not quite examined.

History of Lexical Semantics

Lexical semantics may not be understood without a brief exploration of its history.
Prestructuralist semantics
Semantics as a linguistic discipline has its beginning in the middle of the 19th century, and because linguistics at the time was predominantly diachronic, thus lexical semantics was diachronic too - it dominated the scene between the years of 1870 and 1930. Diachronic lexical semantics was interested without a doubt in the change of meaning with predominantly semasiological approach, taking the notion of meaning in a psychological aspect: lexical meanings were considered to be psychological entities), thoughts and ideas, and meaning changes are explained as resulting from psychological processes.
Structuralist and neostructuralist semantics
With the rise of new ideas after the ground brake of Saussure's work, prestructuralist diachronic semantics was considerably criticized for the atomic study of words, the diachronic approach and the mingle of nonlinguistics spheres of investigation. The study became synchronic, concerned with semantic structures and narrowly linguistic.
Semantic structural relations of lexical entities can be seen in three ways:
  1. semantic similarity
  2. lexical relations such as synonymy, antonymy, and hyponymy
  3. syntagmatic lexical relations were identified
As structuralist lexical semantics was revived by neostructuralist not much work was done by them, it is actually admitted by the followers.
It may be seen that WordNet "is a type of an online electronic lexical database organized on relational principles, which now comprises nearly 100,000 concepts" as Dirk Geeraerts states it.
Chomskyan school: interpretative and generative semantics Followers of Chomskyan generative approach to grammar soon investigated two different types of semantics, which, unfortunately, clashed in an effusive debate, these were interpretative and generative semantics.
Cognitive semantics Cognitive lexical semantics is thought to be most productive of the current approaches.


Another branch of lexicology, together with lexicography is phraseology. It studies compound meanings of two or more words, as in "raining cats and dogs". Because the whole meaning of that phrase is much different from the meaning of words included alone, phraseology examines how and why such meanings come in everyday use, and what possibly are the laws governing these word combinations. Phraseology also investigates idioms.


Because lexicology studies the meaning of words and their semantical relations, it often is interested in the history of the word, or even in history of vocabulary and lexicon. Etymology is closely used to clarify some questionable meanings, spellings, etc., and is also a matter of lexicography - etymological dictionaries give words with their historical change and development.

Lexicology in life: Lexicography

A good example of lexicology at work, that everyone is familiar with, is that of dictionaries and thesaurus. Dictionaries are books or computer programs (or data bases) that actually represent lexicographical work, they are opened and purposed for the use of public.
As there are many different types of dictionaries, there are many different types of lexicographers.
Questions that lexicographers are concerned with are for example the difficulties in defining what simple words such as 'the' mean, and how compound or complex words, or words with many meanings can be clearly explained. Also which words to keep in and which not to include in a dictionary.

Noted lexicographers

Some noted lexicographers include:


  • Lexicology/Lexikologie: International Handbook on the Nature and Structure of Words and Vocabulary/Ein Internationales Handbuch Zur Natur and Struktur Von Wortern Und Wortschatzen, Vol 1. & Vol 2. (Eds. A. Cruse et al)
  • Words, Meaning, and Vocabulary: An Introduction to Modern English Lexicology, (ed. H. Jackson); ISBN 0-304-70396-6
  • Toward a Functional Lexicology, (ed. G. Wotjak); ISBN 0-8204-3526-0
  • Lexicology, Semantics, and Lexicography, (ed. J. Coleman); ISBN 1-55619-972-4
  • English Lexicology: Lexical Structure, Word Semantics & Word-formation,(Leonhard Lipka.); ISBN 9783823349952
  • Outline of English Lexicology , (Leonhard Lipka.); ISBN 3484410035


lexicology in Asturian: Lexicoloxía
lexicology in Bengali: অভিধানবিজ্ঞান
lexicology in Belarusian: Лексікалогія
lexicology in Bosnian: Leksikologija
lexicology in Bulgarian: Лексикология
lexicology in Catalan: Lexicologia
lexicology in Chuvash: Лексикологи
lexicology in Czech: Lexikologie
lexicology in German: Lexikologie
lexicology in Spanish: Lexicología
lexicology in Esperanto: Leksikologio
lexicology in Basque: Lexikologia
lexicology in French: Lexicologie
lexicology in Galician: Lexicoloxía
lexicology in Croatian: Leksikologija
lexicology in Ido: Lexikologio
lexicology in Italian: Lessicologia
lexicology in Lithuanian: Leksikologija
lexicology in Dutch: Lexicologie
lexicology in Japanese: 語彙論
lexicology in Occitan (post 1500): Lexicologia
lexicology in Polish: Leksykologia
lexicology in Portuguese: Lexicologia
lexicology in Russian: Лексикология
lexicology in Slovak: Lexikológia
lexicology in Finnish: Leksikologia
lexicology in Ukrainian: Лексикологія
lexicology in Chinese: 词汇学

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

bowwow theory, comparative linguistics, derivation, descriptive linguistics, dialectology, dingdong theory, etymology, glossematics, glossography, glossology, glottochronology, glottology, grammar, graphemics, historical linguistics, language study, lexicography, lexicostatistics, lexigraphy, linguistic geography, linguistic science, linguistics, mathematical linguistics, morphology, morphophonemics, onomasiology, onomastics, onomatology, paleography, philology, phonetics, phonology, psycholinguistics, semantics, semasiology, semiotic, semiotics, significs, sociolinguistics, structuralism, syntactics, transformational linguistics
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