Lexicon

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lexicon

 

the totality of words; the vocabulary of a language.

The lexicon of a language or dialect is the subject of lexicology and semantics, and the lexicon of writers or individual works is the subject of stylistics and poetics. The lexicon of any language forms a complex system; its words are linked with one another both in sound form (homonyms and paronyms) and meaning (synonyms and antonyms), and the individual groups of words form what is called thematic groups (for example, the names for means of transportation; kinship terms). A lexicon is heterogeneous from the standpoint of stylistics, since it contains not only “neutral” words (for example, Russian stol, “table”; govorit’, “to speak”; khoroshii, “good”; on, “he”; tri, “three”) but also words that are restricted in usage in different ways by the stylistics of the language itself (for example, Russian ochi, “eyes”; burkaly, “eyes”; vodruzit’,) “to hoist,” “erect”; okoem, “horizon”; vkalyvat’, “to stick (into),” “to work hard”; dialectal gashnik, “girdle string”; slang pervoklashka, “first-grader”; bukhoi, “sozzled”). Phraseology is directly linked to the lexicon of a language, since many words form stable combinations with the specific meaning of a whole as opposed to that of its parts—for example, negashenaia izvest’, “quicklime” (literally “unextinguished lime”); dat’ po rukam, “to rap on the knuckles” (literally “to give on the hands”); and sobaku s”est’, “to know inside out” (literally “to eat a dog”). The lexicons of the most developed languages contain hundreds of thousands of words (including terminological systems).

From a historical standpoint, a lexicon usually includes words of different origins; this reflects the direct and mediated contacts of a given people with other peoples. In recent centuries, and particularly from the late 19th century, the professional lexicon —the terminology of a special discipline—has grown at a rapid pace. The international lexicon and the terminology of its Greek and Latin morphemes are widely represented in the Indo-European languages (for example, in Russian atom, “atom”; metod, “method”; kommunizm, “communism”; biologiia, “biology”; lingvistika, “linguistics”; konstitutsiia, “constitution”; fotosintez, “photosynthesis”; tsiklotron, “cyclotron”; kosmo-drom, “spaceport”; fonema, “phoneme”; and similar words). The lexicon includes both obsolete words—historical words (Russian zabralo, “visor” and nep, “new economic policy”) and archaisms (for example, Russian daby, “in order”; vyia, “neck”; breg, “shore”; mladoi, “young”; iazyk, “language,” in the meaning of “people”)—and neologisms (for example, Russian kosmovidenie, “space television”; dizainer, “designer”; programmist, “programmer”).

REFERENCES

Vinogradov, V. V. “Osnovnye tipy leksicheskikh znachenii slov.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1953, no. 5.
Reznikov, L. O. Poniatie i slovo. Leningrad, 1958.
Ufimtseva, A. A. Opyt izucheniia Ieksiki kak sistemy. Moscow, 1962.
Kalinin, A. V. Leksika russkogo iazyka, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.
Shmelev, D. N. Problemy semanticheskogo analiza leksiki. Moscow, 1973.
Matoré, G. La Méthode en lexicologie. Paris, 1953.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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