Theory and Practice of Lexicographic Definition

Volume 19
Issue 4
Igor Mel’čuk, Alain Polguère
The paper offers a rigorous characterization of the notion of lexicographic
definition: a minimal paraphrase formulated in the same language as the word
defined and satisfying six lexicographic principles, which are formulated and
discussed. The major types of semantic components in a lexicographic definition
are identified and described: firstly, central vs. peripheral components, semanticclass
marking components, presuppositional components, actant-specification
components, weak components, and metaphor-marking components; secondly,
conjunctive and disjunctive components. Three additional topics are introduced:
the roles that the definition plays in a lexical entry (accounting for the semantic,
syntactic and lexically restricted cooccurrence of the headword); lexical units
whose definition is problematic; lexical connotations and semantic labels. Though
the perspective offered on lexicographic definition is theory-oriented – within
the framework of Explanatory Combinatorial Lexicology (ECL) –, a strong
emphasis is put on the writing of actual definitions, a couple dozen of which is
proposed and analyzed.

Keywords: lexical semantics, lexicographic definition, Explanatory
Combinatorial Lexicology, lexicographic methodology