In This Article Lexical Semantics

  • Introduction
  • Overviews and Anthologies
  • Textbooks
  • Bibliographies

Linguistics Lexical Semantics
by
Dirk Geeraerts
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0078

Introduction

Lexical semantics is the study of word meaning. Two issues of demarcation are relevant in this respect. First, although the definition of lexical semantics may suggest otherwise, morphological semantics (the study of the meaning of complex words as a function of the meaning of their parts and the way they are constructed) is usually considered a separate field from lexical semantics proper. Morphological semantics is not envisaged by the present article. Second, the study of the meaning of words does not exhaust the linguistic study of words: topics including lexical variation across language varieties, borrowing, phraseology, or the origin of words are distinct from the study of word meaning, but like lexical semantics, they form part of the broader field of lexicology Again, lexicology at large lies beyond the scope of the present chapter, although this article occasionally refers to publications that are situated at the level of lexicology rather than that of lexical semantics in the strict sense. Apart from an overview of general resources, the chapter looks at three aspects of lexical semantics: the theoretical approaches that have dominated the discipline throughout its development, the research topics that are high on the agenda of lexical semantics, and a few connections with other fields of inquiry.

Overviews and Anthologies

Geeraerts 2010 is the only currently available overview of the main historical and contemporary trends of research in lexical semantics. Cruse, et al. 2002–2005 is a voluminous collective reference work on all aspects of lexicology, with numerous articles on topics specifically relating to word meaning research. Hanks 2007 is an extensive anthology.

  • Cruse, D. Alan, Franz Hundsnurscher, Michael Job, and Peter Rolf Lutzeier, eds. 2002–2005. Lexikologie: Ein internationales handbuch zur natur und struktur von wörtern und wortschätzen. 2 vols. Berlin: de Gruyter.

    E-mail Citation »

    This huge two-volume handbook (with no less than 240 chapters and almost 2,000 pages of text) covers the entire field of lexicology. Chapters 28 to 96 of volume 1 are specifically relevant to lexical semantics.

  • Geeraerts, Dirk. 2010. Theories of lexical semantics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book provides an overview of the main approaches to lexical semantics, from the emergence of the field in the 19th century to the present day. The book, which comes with an extensive bibliography, pays specific attention to the methodological and descriptive undercurrents that link (or distinguish) the various theoretical currents.

  • Hanks, Patrick W., ed. 2007. Lexicology: Critical concepts in linguistics. London: Routledge.

    E-mail Citation »

    This collection includes one hundred influential articles or book chapters in the field of lexicology. The collection paints a representative picture of the development of lexical studies in the 20th century and is particularly useful for making available some less accessible articles.

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