John Palsgrave as Renaissance Linguist: A Pioneer in Vernacular Language Description

By Gabriele Stein | Go to book overview

7
Networks and Structural Relations
The complexity of the lexicon of a language is such that no single ordering principle suffices to make a dictionary consultable. This is why all dictionaries are produced on the basis of a set of structural relations. Some examples from English may illustrate this. Compilers of purely alphabetical English dictionaries, for instance, will meet with problems when they come to decide on the order of such items as (to) smoke, (a) smoke; (to) make up, (her) make-up; (to) throw away, (a) throw-away (line); reformation, Reformation. Which member of these pairs of words should come first? Consistency-conscious lexicographers will make policy decisions for the whole of the work and avoid ad hoc solutions.They could, for instance, opt for the following ordering practice:
1. If the alphabetical form of two or more lemmata is identical, nouns are listed before verbs, verbs before adjectives, etc.
2. If two or more lemmata have the same alphabetical form except for the presence/absence of a hyphen, the unhyphenated item is listed first.
3. If two or more lemmata have the same alphabetical form except for a lower-/upper-case initial, the one with the lower-case initial will be listed first.

With equal justification and no loss of general consistency, they might also have chosen the reverse order in all three cases. They could have done so, because they would have selected their criteria without taking care to recognize and represent the structural relations that hold between the items concerned. In all three cases one member of the pair of words is lexically derived from the other. Good lexicographers will always try to make their policy decisions reflect actual language processes, because these provide users with additional insights into, and information on, the structure of the lexicon.

It emerges from the examples that the lexicographical macrostructure may consist of a complex of formal, grammatical, and semantic relations and that this complex is a hierarchical one. We

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