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Review of  Systematic Lexicography

Reviewer: Verginica Mititelu
Book Title: Systematic Lexicography
Book Author: Juri Derenick Apresjan Kevin Windle
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): Russian
Issue Number: 20.2341

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AUTHOR: Apresjan, Juri Derenick
TRANSLATOR: Windle, Kevin
TITLE: Systematic Lexicography
SERIES: Oxford Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2008

Verginica Barbu Mititelu, Romanian Academy Research Institute for Artificial

This book is a collection of articles written by J. Apresjan and published
mainly in the 1990s, with the exception of the first chapter, which dates back
to 1979. The English translation of these articles, originally written in
Russian, was made by Kevin Windle. The unity of this book is ensured by the fact
that in each chapter, in a more or less evident way, the author presents the way
lexicography can make use of the latest research in linguistic theory.

The articles are organized in two parts: the first is concerned with Problems of
Synonymy and the second with Systematic Lexicography.

Part I. Problems of Synonymy
Chapter 1, ''English Synonyms and a Dictionary of Synonyms'', presents an
experimental bilingual dictionary of 400 English synonyms, created with the aim
of offering Russian readers a modern instrument to help them attain a good
command of a part of the English vocabulary (i.e. be precise in speech, obey the
lexical and syntactic co-occurrence constraints, be able to paraphrase, be able
to select the words that best fit the circumstances of utterance and the
personality of the participants to the speech act). The structure and
composition of the entries serve the aims of the dictionary: for each headword
(that is, a synonymic series) there are an explication zone (in a standardized
language that describes the meaning, the presuppositions, semantic associations
and connotations, etc.), a translation into Russian (the corresponding synonymic
series), a meaning zone (describing the similarities and differences between the
members of the series), notes (which list the meaning of the words in the series
that are close to the meaning under consideration), a syntax zone (detailing the
syntactic and morphologic distinctions between the synonyms), lexical, semantic
and referential co-occurrence constraints, and illustrations (that are both the
basis for the above descriptions and the demonstration of how the features are
manifested in various contexts).

Chapter 2, ''Types of Information in a Dictionary of Synonyms'', is a survey of
the way information is structured in the ''New Explanatory Dictionary of Russian
Synonyms''. Each heading is a synonymic series; unlike the previous chapter, here
the synonymy conditions are relaxed: for instance, words belonging to different
parts of speech or derived from the same stem are accepted as synonyms provided
that they fulfill identical syntactic functions. The linguistic information
about each series is richer than in the experimental dictionary of English
synonyms. Although not clearly enumerated, the aims of this dictionary of
Russian synonyms are the same as those stated in the first chapter: help the
user get a good command of a part of the Russian vocabulary by means of a modern
instrument (based both on authors' files and on a machine corpus).

Chapter 3, ''The Picture of Man as Reconstructed from Linguistic Data: An Attempt
at a Systematic Description'', is like a small treatise of human anatomy and
physiology realized with linguistic instruments. Besides overviewing the
research on the naive picture of the world, a general format for the
lexicographic description of the human being is proposed as the foundation of
systematic lexicography.

Chapter 4, ''The Synonymy of Mental Predicates: schitat' [to consider] and its
Synonyms'', rounds up the content of the first and second chapters: this chapter
and those following it compensate the absence of a complete example in the first
two chapters of this book. After presenting the principles of systematic
lexicography, the author includes a dictionary entry from the ''New Explanatory
Dictionary of Russian Synonyms''.

Chapter 5, ''The problem of factitivity: znat' [to know] and its Synonyms'', is a
further example in the economy of the book: systematic lexicography operates
with two central concepts: lexicographic types and lexicographic portraits. This
chapter illustrates how the latter should be treated in the ''New Explanatory
Dictionary of Russian Synonyms'', combining generic and individual features of a

Chapter 6, ''Khotet' [to want] and its Synonyms: Notes about Words'', provides a
last example of a dictionary entry: the synonymic series of wishing verbs, which
shows, again, how lexicographic types and portraits are intertwined in their

Part II. Systematic Lexicography
Chapter 7, ''Metaphor in the Semantic Representation of Emotions'', deals with the
vocabulary of emotions and presents the two approaches to describing it: a
meaning-based one and a metaphorical one, the latter with clear advantages over
the former. Thus the author uses it for some experimental explications of
emotions given as examples.

Chapter 8, ''On the Language of Explications and Semantic Primitives'', presents
two approaches to the semantic metalanguage used in lexicography: the approach
of the Russian semantic school and that of the Polish one. Similarities and
differences between the two approaches are mentioned critically.

Chapter 9, ''Lexicographic Portrait (A Case Study of the Verb byt' [to be])'',
introduces the concept of lexicographic portrait, illustrated with the
dictionary entry for the verb ''byt'''.

Chapter 10, ''A Lexicographic Portrait of the Verb vyiti [to emerge, come out]'',
gives the dictionary entry for the verb ''vyiti'', after a short theoretical
introduction about lexicographic portraits and the types of information recorded
in a modern dictionary.

The book also contains an index of Russian lexemes, a subject index and one of

The target readers of the book are lexicographers, theoretical linguists,
semanticists, students in Russian.

The kind of dictionary entry presented here is exhaustive with regard to the
linguistic information contained; it is meant to help the reader to get a good
command of a language that is considered a whole system in which each element
has its own, unique place, ensured by the relationships established with other
elements, relationships that are explicitly expressed in the entry. Given the
quantity of information, such a dictionary is extremely helpful for research. A
machine-readable version of such a dictionary would make it even more helpful
and useful in various tasks in computational linguistics.

Another important topic of these articles is synonymy, which is given different
interpretations, from a narrow one to a very broad one. However, the treatment
of synonyms in the dictionary is the same in all articles: as perfect synonymy
is extremely rare in a language and in most synonymic series the members display
some specific characteristics, it is the lexicographer's duty to make them known
to the reader, thus ensuring his/hers good understanding of the respective
lexemes, so his/her ability to use it in appropriate contexts.

Verginica Barbu Mititelu is a researcher in Artificial Intelligence with
interests in corpus linguistics, ontology, corpora annotation, sematic
relations, lexicon.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0199554250
ISBN-13: 9780199554256
Pages: 306
Prices: U.S. $ 45.00