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Lecture Summary (11/21/2006)

The topic of this session was "Lexicon data and their structure".

First of all we learned something about lexicon microstructure. We looked at the different kinds of DatCats to be found in a lexicon: the words themselves; the grammatical information (the syntax so to speak) such as part of speech (noun, verb, adjective,...), the inflectional class, the valence and so on; the meaning (semantics, definition); the corpus reference which means usage examples (to avoid any misunderstandings Mr Trippel shortly explained the term corpus afterwards).

As a next step we had a very brief revision of the different types of dictionaries we already knew (semasiological lexicons and onomasiological dictionaries) which led to the questione: Are there any other types of dictionaries to be considered?

Mr Trippel gave the answer by pointing out some examples of other kinds of lexicons:

  • Word frequency lexicons: the entries are ordered by there frequency, the most frequent one first
  • Lexicon of "phrasal verbs": the entries are ordered by their respective part of speech and a special structure
  • Rhyming lexicon: the entries are ordered by the word ending (this means that you can find words that rhyme more easily)
  • Picture lexicon: entries are ordered by prototype

We also dealt with some difficulties lexicographers have to face. One very important aspect in this respect is ambiguity: on the one hand two word form can have the same meaning (synonyms), on the other hand one word form can have two (or more) slightly different meanings (polysemy) or even one word with completely different meanings (homonyms). A second problem is the search for a word in a lexicon. For example in languages with inflectional prefixes some words with the same stem might be torn apart in an alphabetically ordered dictionary due to their different prefixes. Orthographic ambiguity or just the simple question how to search for something in a picture lexicon are problematic as well. But from my point of view the most demanding (and interesting) task for any lexicographer is to deal with the changes occuring in a lanhuage in the course of time. For instance every new invention (or just a new trend) needs a new name. Consequently new words enter a language. Further the meaning of an existing word often changes during the decades or centuries.

Afterwards Mr Trippel introduced some solutions for this problem to us. For example the problem of ambiguity can be solved by enumeration. To face the changes in the language the publishing companies release new and updated editions of their dictionaries regularly.

In the following part of the lecture we learned about the methods of creating lexicons: introspection based lexicon creation, questionnaire based lexicon creation and corpus based lexicon creation. We were also told about the hierarchy of lexicon and corpus types concerning their lexicographic complexity.

15.12.06 19:27

Lecture Summary (11/14/06)

The fifth session had the topic "Lexical databases".

To give us an overview of surface structures Mr Gibbon introduced the OneLook Multiple Dictionary ( to us. This site gives you the opportunity to search for a certain word and receive entries in several different dictionaries.

Afterwards we concentrated on the deep structure of dictionaries, especially on tables. We learned that a table is in fact the basic form of semasiological dictionaries: the rows are lexical entries with a specific microstructure, the columns are single types of lexical information.

Mr Gibbon showed us how to create a table with Open Office, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel or even how to program it using HTML.

For the purpose of getting familiar to the handling of tables we were instructed to create one by ourselves. I decided to list up some of my favorite CDs.






Pet Sounds

The Beach Boys

Capitol Records



The Beatles

EMI Records Ltd.


Tea For The Tillerman

Cat Stevens

Universal Records


That's The Way It Is

Elvis Presley

RCA Records


Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon & Garfunkel

Columbia Records


Born To Run

Bruce Springsteen

Columbia Records


20.11.06 20:22

Lecture Summary (11/07/06)

The headline of the fourth How To Make a Dictionary lecture was called "The architecture of a dictionary".

There are four important parts to be considered in this respect:

  1. Megastructure: the entire structure of the dictionary, including the front matter, abbreviations and explanations of grammar, the body of the dictionary and the back matter
  2. Macrostructure: the organisation of the lexical entries in the body of a dictionary into lists, tree structures or networks; types of macrostructure: semasiological, onomasiological
  3. Microstructure: the consistent organisation of lexical information within lexical entries in the dictionary
  4. Mesostructure: the set of relations between lexical entries and other entities such as other parts of a dictionary or a text corpus
20.11.06 19:34

Lecture Summary (10/31/06)

The third lecture was almost completely occupied by repetition because of the many questions by the students about the orginisation or some parts of the content of the two previous meetings. Mr. Gibbon made every effort to solve each problem and to answer the questions as detailed as possible. This led to the fact that we had only a few minutes time to talk about new aspects.
12.11.06 18:57

Lecture Summary (10/24/06)

At the start of our 2nd meeting we took once again a brief look at the class topics during the semester. Afterwards we proceeded with last week's homework (see last summary) and a short revision.

The first major topic of the lecture was "The Meaning of a Dictionary: Information". Right at the beginning of every dictionary there is the so called metadata. This term describes the catalogue information about the production of the dictionary which is intended for dictionary identification. But the more important aspect for our purpose are off course the different types of lexical information in the dictionary entries themselves:

  • form/appearance (e.g. spelling, pronounciation)
  • structure/formulation (e.g. construction of words, place of words in larger constructions like sentences)
  • content/meaning (contains definition, relation with other words and examples)

After that we dealed with the theme of definitions. First of all we learned something about the basic definition types:

  • Standard dictionary definition: definition by nearest kind and specific differences; X is a Y kind of Z (e.g. a baby is a young kind of child)
  • Contextual definition: the term is used by embedding it in a larger expression containing its explanation
  • Recursive definition: defines something in terms of itself; contains base condition, recursive condition and exclusion condition (e.g. definition of prime numbers)
  • Real definition: ostensive definition (conveys the meaning of a term by pointing out examples); models (e.g. showing the picture of an ellipse to define the term "ellipse" )
  • Circular definition (should be avoided): uses the term being defined as a part of its own definition

Subsequently we took a look at the components of definitions. For this purpose we used the definition of the word "poodle" as an example: "a dog with thick curling hair". In this case "a dog" is the genus proxiumum while "with thick curling hair" forms the differentia specifica. The genus proximum has to be seen in a hierarchy or tree structure (poodle -> dog -> animal).




Definition: a form of words which states the meaning of a term, eather meaning in general use (descriptive definition) or the meaning which the speaker intends to impose upon it for the purpose of his or her discourse (stipulative definition); contains definiendum (term to be defined) and definiens (form of words which defines the definiendum)

Explanation: a statement which points to causes, context and consequences of some object, process, state of affairs,etc. together with rules or laws that link these to the object; can only be given by those with understanding of the object

Find dictionary definitions of 5 different words of different parts of speech and give examples of genus proximum and differentia specifica

genus proximum = red; differentia specifica = blue

tree (noun): a plant having a permanently woody main stem or trunk, ordinarily growing to a considerable height and usually developing branches at some distance from the ground

underestimate (verb): to estimate at too low a value, rate or the like

heavy (adjective): of great weight

and (conjunction): conjunction used to connect words, phrases or clauses that have the same grammatical function in a construction

badly (adverb): in a bad manner

1.11.06 16:56

Lecture Summary (10/17/06)

The lecture started with some pieces of information concerning the organisation of the class.

The most important aspect was the creation of a website or at least a blog website to be able to publish a web portfolio (including summaries of lecture, tasks, reports and a glossary) every week on the internet. This technique contains several advantages compared to the use of paper or e-mail. A web portfolio makes the access and interaction easier and can be a source of material or tasks for the class because of its permanent availability via internet. Furthermore it gives the students the opportunity to use electronic media frequently and to improve their skills in this respect.

If you want to launch a website there are some options. You can run your own web server (for example by using the Apache server and saving your HTML files), use the university website or another web service provider (which means you have to upload your HTML files) or simply create a weblog (blog). But in every case the site has to be professionally formatted, look good and be user-friendly!

After dealing with the organisation topic, the lecture focused on the definitions of "website", "hypertext" and "text".

A website is a hypertext document on the World Wide Web containing embedded document objects, linked document objects, texts, pictures, etc. It is available everywhere at any time (the onely condition: you have to be connected to the internet) and can be linked with other websites.

The word hypertext describes any text document on the internet (for example electronic dictionary, blog,etc.) as well as a help document for a computer application.

A text has to be seen as a group of sentences standing in context. These sentences consist generally speaking of words (which consist of letters). 

A text features three properties: meaning (semantics, pragmatics), formulation (text structure) and appearence (media). Meaning and appearance belong to the so called shared world, formulation to the world of the mind.

After that we pointed out some examples of texts and documents. Basically this field can be divided into 3 categories:

Books (for example novels, technical handbooks or dictionaries), periodicals (for example newspapers or scientific journals) and the web.

As a next step we took a closer look at dictionaries. There are two main groups: by using a semasiological dictionary you can search for a word and inform yourself about its meaning (reader's dictionary), in an onomasiological dictionary you can look up a certain topic and find a number of words related to it (writer's dictionary).

You can find several kinds of dictionaries: bilingual dictionaries, specialized dictionaries, character dictionaries, data dictionaries, glossaries and many more.

At the end of the first lecture we were told why the field of text theory is important.

There are many famous and huge companies investing in linguistic projects which means off course employing linguists (for example Microsoft or Bertelsmann & Lycos Europe in Gütersloh). This shows the good perspective of linguistic jobs! It is also interesting to know that Bielefeld University is well-known for its research centre for Text Linguistics and Text Technology. This piece of information makes clear that we have chosen the right spot for our studies!



Questionnaire of questions about dictionaries:

How many dictionaries do you posses?

  • I don't posses any dictionaries but I can borrow them from my older brother.
  • I have got two: Langenscheidts Taschenwörterbuch English-German/German-English and French-German/German-French.
  • I have a monolingual English dictionary.

How often do you use them?

  • I sometimes use dictionaries for my homework so I would guess 4 times a month.
  • I use them very often to look up the right spelling of certain words because this is very important to my teachers! 
  • I used to use my dictionary sometimes at school but now I don't need it anymore because I usually don't have to speak or write in English.

Do you also use dictionaries on the web?

  • In some really rare cases I do my homework on the computer and then I use dictionaries on the web because it is the fastest way to look up something if you are already sitting in front of your computer.
  • No, I don't because unfortunately I have no access to the internet. But I think it would be a very helpful alternative to my traditional dictionaries.
  • No.

What kinds of dictionaries are there?

  • Monolingual dictionary
  • Bilingual dictionary
  • Multilingual dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Maximizing dictionary
  • Minimizing dictionary
  • Glossary
  • Specialized dictionary


23.10.06 19:47



Technical Term



A bound morpheme, which joins a stem


A form of a morpheme varying in pronunciation (plural -s)


Two words with an opposite meaning, but they share the same hypernym

Bound morpheme

A grammatical unit never occurring by itself. Instead it is always attached to another morpheme


A word with at least two roots (i.e. fire engine)


Alphabetically ordered list of words, also showing their context


Has to be defined


What a thing or word defines


A modifier expressing the reference


Process of adding an affix to form a new word


A collection of texts which are defining words and things

Differentia Specifica

Specific differences


A book or set of books giving an overview about a topic

Free morpheme

A grammatical unit which can occur by itself

Genus Proximum

General kind of something


A text connected with other texts in a electronically way


A superordinated word (e.g. dog is the hypernym of poodle)


A subordinated word (e.g. poodle is a hyponym of dog)


Relates words to their contexts (e.g. Subject-verb-agreement), word class is not changed

KWIC concordance

“Keyword in Context”, a special kind of dictionary, Google is the world’s largest system using KWIC concordance


Smallest unit of language which can be semantically interpreted


A collection of words and knowledge


The arrangement of lexical entries in the megastructure


Overall structure of a dictionary


A smaller unit that is related to a greater part


The arrangement of lexical information


Gives information about the dictionary to identify it


To talk about language itself


The internal structure of an entry in the macrostructure


A word which specifies the compound (e.g. arm in armchair)


Smallest unit of a word carrying meaning


The study of word forms

Onomasiological dictionary

A dictionary where one is looking for a word


The study of human sounds


Studies the sound system of a specific language


A word with many different meanings (i.e. bed as in river bed or room bed)


An affix in front of a stem


Is not reducible into more elements. Same as stem or base


A meaning referring to the text

Semiological dictionary

Words ordered by alphabetical order, synonyms for this word

Semiotic Relations

Interpretation and realization relations


The study of signs

Structural Relations

Syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations


An affix behind a stem


Two words have the same meaning


Formation of sentences


A list of columns and rows


Genus Proximum hierarchy

Text Theory 

Studying with a basic method a text


Dictionary, taxonomy based hierarchy


A text is split into word tokens


Online document which is usually available for everyone

Word Formation

The study of how words are constructed

1.2.07 22:57

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