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LEXICAL MEANING VERSUS CONTEXTUAL EVIDENCE IN DICTIONARY ARTICLES RUFUS H. GOUWS Although a dictionary can and should be regarded as a source of linguistic information, it should also contain a certain amount of extra-linguistic information. For the average user of a monolingual dictionary the meaning of a word is the type of linguistic information most frequently required. The way in which this semantic information is presented in the dictionary is of major importance for both the lexicographer and the dictionary user. Information presented as lexical meaning should comply with linguistic criteria, and the lexicographer must adhere to linguistic principles in his attempt to describe the meaning of a word. Besides semantic information a dictionary article has to contain information on the usage of a word, and there has to be a clear indication of the linguistic contexts in which a specific lexical item can occur in a typical utterance. The user can expect to find this pragmatic information in his dictionary. It is, however, not always easy to distinguish between the lexical meaning of a word and the information resulting from the knowledge of a word's occurrence in a given context. Therefore dictionaries quite often present contextual evidence as lexical meaning. One of the many obligations of a lexicographer towards his users is a clear distinction between lexical meaning and contextual evidence. This paper deals with some of the problems of this kind of distinction and makes proposals to help with the identification of lexical meaning. Although the lexicographer has to include contextual evidence, it should be accounted for in that section of the article that deals with the illustrative material. Entries in the definition, however, should be restricted to that information judged to be the lexical meaning of the lemma. 87 88Lexical Meaning Vs. Contextual Evidence The importance of illustrative examples and their contribution to the success of a dictionary article as a linguistic aid has to be stressed. Kipfer discusses the use of illustrative examples and concludes that verbal illustrations have to make a positive contribution to the understanding of a word's meaning or use. She says an illustration can often convey typical use better than description by definition (77). This formulation emphasizes the real problem of the distinction between meaning and use. Judged from a metalexicographical point of view, a dictionary article has to accommodate both meaning and use. These two types of information are interrelated but should be treated as separate dictionary entries. Wittgenstein says: "For a large class of cases—though not for all—in which we employ the word meaning it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language" (20). This approach is responsible for the common misconception that the different ways in which a word can be used should be accounted for as different meanings of that word. Opposing this point of view, this paper will adhere to an approach followed by, among others, Leisi and Schelbert. According to them a sharp distinction is drawn between polysemy and constructed ambiguity. Polysemy will be regarded as a semantic feature. Linguistic criteria have to be used to attribute polysemous values to a lemma. Where a dictionary entry is presented as part of the meaning of a word and this semantic classification can not be accounted for linguistically but follows from contextual evidence, that entry has to be regarded as an example of constructed ambiguity. This type of entry should be accommodated elsewhere in the dictionary article. By introducing an approach of marked and unmarked categories we propose a better identification method to ensure a valid account of lexical meaning, complemented by a sufficient amount of contextual evidence in the appropriate section of the dictionary article. Rufus H. Gouws89 Differentiating lexical meaning Hauptfleisch stresses that the differentiation of meaning should not rely on a reference to the different forms or uses of a word that actually represent the same meaning in different applications ("Die Woordeboek" 106). The differentiation of lexical meaning must rely on linguistic considerations. According to Stein, "Lexical definitions are semantic descriptions of words which should enable the dictionary user to grasp the identifying meaning properties of words. Since words can share meaning parts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 87-96
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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