The Forms and Functions of Specialised Dictionaries for Practical Purposes

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Specialised lexicographers agree on the necessity of compiling systematic information on terms, but disagree on how it should be presented. As terms are simultaneously linguistic units of specialised knowledge communication and conceptual units of specialised knowledge construction (cf. Lerat 1995), specialised lexicographers seem to be facing a Gordian knot. Should they prefer a communicative orientation and focus on the linguistic properties of terms in discourse, cutting out knowledge and leaving it to experts (cf. L’Homme et al. 2010)? Or should they - conversely - prefer a cognitive orientation and focus on the ontological properties of terms, cutting out language and leaving it to linguists? Or, perhaps, should they combine both approaches, as in specialised dictionaries for learners (cf. Fata 2010)? In reality, there are no Gordian knots to cut. According to Tarp (2010), choices should always be determined by the genuine purpose of the dictionary. Is it to help the foreseen user group in cognitive situations, in communicative situations, or in both, and if so, to what extent? Clear answers to these questions are crucial for the proper functional configuration of the dictionary. In the last few years, metalexicography has thoroughly mapped out all three orientations. This paper studies a fourth orientation, in which the overarching purpose of the dictionary is to help users make decisions and carry out practical tasks, e.g. purchasing real estate, buying shares as part of a retirement scheme, selecting a dish from a menu in a restaurant abroad. The paper investigates the forms and functions of a number of dictionaries and dictionary concepts for practical purposes in different settings, such as real estate, investment, and tourism. It demonstrates how communicative, cognitive and operative functions are subordinated to the overarching practical purposes, and how they support each other in order to assist decision-making processes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLexicography: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives : Papers submitted to the Seventh ASIALEX Biennial International Conference
EditorsKaoru Akasu, Satoru Uchida
Number of pages10
Place of publicationKyoto
PublisherAsian Association for Lexicography
Publication date2011
ISBN (Print)978-4-9901771-1-9
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventAsialex - The Biennal Conference on lexicography 2011: Lexicography: Theoretical and Practical Perpectives - Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 22 Aug 201124 Aug 2011


ConferenceAsialex - The Biennal Conference on lexicography 2011: Lexicography: Theoretical and Practical Perpectives

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