In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Lexicography

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies
  • Bibliographies
  • Conference Proceedings
  • Journals
  • Bilingual Lexicography
  • Learners’ Dictionaries
  • Dictionary Use
  • Electronic Lexicography
  • Specialized Dictionaries
  • Lexicography of Individual Languages

Linguistics Lexicography
Howard Jackson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0203


Lexicography is concerned with dictionaries, both with the processes of compilation and with the study of the finished products. The latter is sometimes called “metalexicography” or “dictionary research.” The distinction is also drawn by referring to the compilation of dictionaries as “practical lexicography” and to the study of dictionaries as “theoretical lexicography.” The focus of this bibliography is on theoretical lexicography, but in many publications the distinction is not finely drawn. Dictionaries come in many shapes and sizes, in many forms and formats; and the study of them reflects that diversity. Academic lexicographers will often specialize and focus their research on some aspect of lexicography, which may be either a particular type of dictionary (e.g., dictionaries for learners, bilingual dictionaries, historical dictionaries, sign language dictionaries, slang dictionaries) or a particular facet of dictionary compilation (e.g., defining styles, usage notes, treatment of pronunciation). Lexicography has seen wide-ranging and radical changes in the last couple of decades, as it has been heavily influenced by the electronic revolution. Not only are most current dictionaries now available in a digital version, but many older dictionaries have also been digitized and made accessible via the Internet. Electronic lexicography, or e-lexicography, is a fast-moving area, as dictionary makers grapple with the potential opened up by digital formats. In this Google age, dictionaries have to find their place among a plethora of information resources on the Internet; consequently, considerable attention is being paid by academic lexicographers to the future of dictionaries. Lexicography, both practical and theoretical, has a long history, which predates the development of modern linguistics and has developed independently of it. Samuel Johnson’s “Plan of a Dictionary” (1747) is an example of an early contribution to theoretical lexicography, and Philip Gove, editor-in-chief of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961) was the first dictionary editor to acknowledge explicitly the influence of modern linguistics on his lexicographical practice. This raises the question whether lexicography can be considered as a sub-discipline of linguistics. Some academic lexicographers do view lexicography as an applied linguistic practice; but some would argue that lexicography sits more comfortably within the broader remit of reference science, since it has much in common with other reference disciplines. The development of e-lexicography pushes lexicography further in this direction, as electronic dictionaries take their place among a plethora of reference resources on the Internet, all of which may be accessed by a single Google search.

General Overviews

The context of lexicography as one of the reference sciences is set, both historically and currently, by McArthur 1986. The seminal manual of lexicography is Zgusta 2010. The most comprehensive survey of both monolingual and bilingual lexicography is Svensén 2009. Practical lexicography, the process of compiling dictionaries, is the focus of Atkins and Rundell 2008, while de Villers 2006 takes the perspective of lexicography as a profession. A number of publishers are producing “handbooks” in various academic disciplines; lexicography is no exception, with Durkin 2016 as Oxford University Press’s offering and Jackson 2013 as Bloomsbury’s. Routledge’s extensive handbook takes the form of Fuertes-Olivera 2018. Hanks and de Schryver 2017 is a “live reference” work and can be expected to be continually updated.

  • Atkins, B. T. Sue, and Michael Rundell. 2008. The Oxford guide to practical lexicography. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Provides a guide to compiling a dictionary, from the planning stage, through the analysis of lexicographic data, to the drafting of dictionary entries. A contribution to practical lexicography.

  • de Villers, Marie-Éva. 2006. Profession lexicographe. Montreal: Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal.

    DOI: 10.4000/books.pum.135

    A concise survey, in French, by a Canadian lexicographer, of the profession of lexicographer, outlining the tasks of a practical lexicographer.

  • Durkin, Philip, ed. 2016. The Oxford handbook of lexicography. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    An overview of lexicography, by a large number of contributors, with four sections: current dictionaries (synchronic lexicography), historical dictionaries, specialist dictionaries, and issues in lexicography. It also contains a timeline of major events in lexicography from c. 3200 BCE. The work, however, contains little on e-lexicography.

  • Fuertes-Olivera, Pedro A., ed. 2018. The Routledge handbook of lexicography. Abingdon, UK, and New York: Routledge.

    With forty-seven contributions in six parts, this is the most wide-ranging of the handbooks and has extensive coverage of electronic lexicography, to which two of the parts are dedicated, including eleven chapters on “World languages, lexicography and the Internet” and seven chapters on “Looking into the future.”

  • Hanks, Patrick, and Gilles-Maurice de Schryver, eds. 2017. International handbook of modern lexis and lexicography. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

    This online handbook contains articles (currently twenty-eight) on lexicography generally and on that of a number of languages, including German, Norwegian, Indonesian/Malay, Khmer, Scots, and indigenous languages of Australia and the Pacific, South America, and Southeast Asia.

  • Jackson, Howard, ed. 2013. The Bloomsbury companion to lexicography. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

    Aimed at students and researchers wanting to orientate themselves in lexicography, this work, to which a number of authors contributed, has a section on research methods and problems, and one on current research and issues. It contains a useful chapter on resources for lexicography, as well as a glossary; and it pays considerable attention to e-lexicography. Revised and expanded second edition in press as of 2021.

  • McArthur, Tom. 1986. Worlds of reference. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    With a focus on lexicography, the history is traced of human efforts to catalogue information. Lexicography is placed within this general urge to create reference resources for human knowledge.

  • Svensén, Bo. 2009. A handbook of lexicography: The theory and practice of dictionary-making. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    A comprehensive overview of both lexicographical theory and lexicographical practice, dealing not only with all aspects of the text and its compilation in both monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, but also with the wider relations of lexicography. It also encompasses e-lexicography.

  • Zgusta, Ladislav. 2010. Manual of lexicography. Janua Linguarum Series Maior 39. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

    A reprint of a work originally published in 1971 that laid the foundations for succeeding generations of lexicographers; it begins with a discussion of lexical semantics and word forms before a chapter on dictionary types and then chapters on monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, concluding with a chapter on planning and organizing a dictionary project.

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