Differentiated Treatment of Cultural Items in Lexicographical Products: A Necessary Adaptation to the Digital Environment

Qian Li, Sven Tarp

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The paper focuses on the lexicographical treatment of cultural objects. It argues that second-language learning requires second-culture learning and that digital technologies call for new solutions to both old and new challenges. As an example, it takes traditional Chinese musical instruments and starts with a critical analysis of their treatment in five Chinese-English dictionaries for both foreign learners and native speakers. It continues with some reflections on media convergence and its consequences for lexicography and reaches the conclusion that the one-size-fits-all dictionary must be replaced with a variety of lexicographical products on different platforms. Lexicographers’ focus must therefore move from the dictionary to the database that supports these products. This leads to a discussion of equivalent and explanation types and the need to prepare four different database fields for equivalents and two for explanations. To exemplify this, the paper presents a lexicographical database with equivalents, explanations, and other types of culturally relevant items. It then uses a few examples to show how these lexicographical items stored in the database can be selectively employed on different platforms and adapted to specific user needs. The paper links directly to sound files and video clips with some of the discussed instruments. Finally, the paper provides some conclusions and perspectives for further improving the cultural dimension of learners’ lexicography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-117
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Media convergence
  • Chinese-English Dictionaries
  • Learners' dictionaries
  • E-readers
  • Digital devices
  • Lexicographical database
  • Equivalent types
  • Explanation types
  • Cultural items


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