A Lexical Entry for an Explanatory-Combinatorial Dictionary of English (hope II.1)
- Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America
- Dictionary Society of North America
- Number 8, 1986
- pp. 1-54
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A LEXICAL ENTRY FOR AN EXPLANATORY-COMBINATORIAL DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH (hope ILl) JAMES STEELE This paper describes some general features of an Explanatory -Combinatorial Dictionary (or ECD) and presents one sense of the noun hope as a sample ECD entry. Unlike most dictionaries, an ECD is a theoretically-oriented lexicon not intended for casual reference by the general public: its definitions are cast in an unconventional propositional form, and its methods of describing the syntactic and phraseological properties of a headword require preliminary study. Moreover, an ECD gives no information about either the pronunciation of words or their etymology—aspects of language that are adequately treated in other types of dictionary—and supplies no historical data for their diachronic study. What an ECD does provide, however, is a highly detailed and rigorously systematic account of the semantic, syntactic, and collocational properties of particular word senses. Each entry, in fact, is intended to provide a thoroughly comprehensive description of the delicate ways in which a "lexeme" (or word sense) functions at the present time within a language system. One of the central premises of an ECD, therefore, is Ferdinand de Saussure's insight that the systematic properties of any language are essentially either paradigmatic (i.e., implying "associative" sets of alternatives for particular word senses) or syntagmatic (i.e., implying syntactic patterns for combining elements selected from the paradigmatic sets). An ECD is called "explanatory" partly because it defines a lexeme's meaning by identifying the basic semantic components involved1 and partly because it explicitly describes the "semantic functions" inherent in those elements, that is to say, the roles of all "actants"2 that belong to the meaning's structure and establish the range of its syntactic powers. It is called "combinatorial" because it spells out by means of a comprehensive formula called a "government pattern" (or GP) all the ways in which a lexeme's semantic actants can be realized at the level of surface syntax and because it identifies the collocational properties of any lexeme 1 A Lexical Entry for an ECD by describing the term's "lexical functions," that is to say, the regular dependency relationships obtaining between a headword and certain units of language other than its own actants. An ECD thus correlates semantics with syntax and provides a systematic basis for describing collocational patterns. Moreover, when ECD entries are combined with more general rules relating to semantics, communicative structure , syntax, morphology, and phonology, they form a basic component of a model of natural language as a system. ECD lexicography in this larger context becomes a fundamentally important part of modern theoretical linguistics. The particular field of linguistic study to which all ECD entries are related is the Meaning-Text Model of language, a theory developed by Alexander Zholkovsky and Igor Mel'cuk together with their colleagues in Moscow and Montreal.3 The goal of the M-T Model is to describe the linguistic correspondence that exists between any "meaning" and all "texts" that synonymously express that meaning (and vice versa) and thus to elaborate the purely linguistic rules logically requisite for the production (or understanding) of an utterance. While a "text" in this theory is simply any utterance, whether oral or written, a "meaning" is represented by a formal construction called a Semantic Representation. For any given text in any language, a Semantic Representation consists of a network of semantic elements, which can be translated into actual lexemes of the language under analysis. The Semantic Representation also represents in graphic form the communicative or pragmatic structure of a text's message (the organization of its emphasis and the division of textual elements into "topic and comment" and "given and new"). To explain the relations between a Semantic Representation and an uttered or written surface text, the M-T Model postulates five intermediate levels describing the syntactic, morphological, and phonological shapes that a "meaning" theoretically assumes in the course of becoming an articulated phonetic product or, conversely, that a "text" assumes in the course of becoming comprehended as a "meaning." Each of these levels contains all the information needed for it to be translated into either the level above or the level below, James Steele although the...