n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Korrek, volledig, relevant. Dít is die vraag aan leksikografiese definisies : research article

Volume 47, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


In verklarende woordeboeke, hetsy woordeboeke vir algemene taalgebruik hetsy vakwoordeboeke, is die leksikografiese definisie 'n belangrike aanduider waardeur die betekenis van 'n gegewe lemma weergegee word. Waar die leksikografiese praktyk deur taalkundige beskouings oorheers word, is daar veral vroeër dikwels 'n onderskeid gemaak tussen die aanbod van ensiklopediese en semantiese inligting in definisies. Hierdie artikel toon dat so 'n onderskeid nie relevant vir die leksikografie is nie. Wat ter sake is, is dat woordeboekdefinisies die inligting moet verstrek wat vir die teikengebruikers van daardie woordeboek ter sake is. Woordeboekdefinisies moet feitelik korrek wees en daar word gewys hoe foute soms in hierdie verband gemaak word. Wat ook van belang is, is dat definisies volledig genoeg moet wees om 'n ondubbelsinnige inligtingsoordrag moontlik te maak. Vervolgens word aangetoon dat die belangrikste kenmerk van 'n goeie leksikografiese definisie sy relevantheid vir die betrokke teikengebruiker in 'n spesifieke gebruikersituasie is. Met die oog hierop word verskillende gebruikerstipes onderskei en word 'n aanduiding gegee van hulle onderskeie behoeftes. Die benadering van leksikografiese funksies word gebruik om die gebruikersbehoeftes vas te stel en die aard en omvang van die verskillende definisies te bepaal.

In explanatory dictionaries, both general language dictionaries and dictionaries dealing with languages for special purposes, the lexicographic definition is an important item to present the meaning of a given lemma. Due to a strong linguistic bias, resulting from an approach prevalent in the early phases of the development of theoretical lexicography, a distinction is often made between encyclopaedic information and semantic information in dictionary definitions, and dictionaries had often been criticized when their definitions were dominated by an encyclopaedic approach. This used to be seen as detrimental to the status of a dictionary as a container of linguistic knowledge. This paper shows that, from a lexicographic perspective, such a distinction is not relevant. What is important, is that definitions should contain information that is relevant to and needed by the target users of that specific dictionary. The contents of dictionary definitions need to be factually correct and factual errors should not occur. However, they do occur and examples are given of dictionary definitions not adhering to the principle of factual correctness. In this paper the notion of correctness is not regarded as extremely interesting to lexicographers because it merely reflects the degree to which a dictionary applies certain lexicographic principles. Dictionaries should convey enough information and it is emphasized that dictionary definitions should be comprehensive enough to ensure an unambiguous transfer of information. It is shown how certain definitions are so brief and abridged that users have difficulties in retrieving the necessary information. The lack of important semantic information due to attempted briefness can also be regarded as a lexicographic mistake. Examples from dictionaries are given to illustrate this. The paper focuses on the notion of relevance and indicates explicitly how important it is that a good dictionary definition should be relevant for the target user in a specific user situation. With regard to the relevance of dictionary definitions a distinction is made between different types of dictionary users and an indication is given of their different needs. It is shown how information regarding the general language competence of dictionary users, their competence in the language of a specific subject field and their knowledge in that subject field can help to constitute different types of dictionary users. No less than thirty different user types are identified and the possibilities of more types resulting from different combinations of user characteristics are mentioned. The notion of lexicographic functions is introduced and the different types of lexicographic functions, their role in the decisions regarding user-driven dictionaries and their relevance in devising criteria for the selection of relevant lexicographic definitions are discussed. With regard to dictionaries dealing with languages for special purposes the user types are linked with an existing distinction, i.e. between experts, semi-experts and lay persons. It is shown how each one of these user types will impose different demands on a dictionary definition. The suggestions for different user types are complemented by suggestions for dictionary definitions that would be applicable in dictionaries for the identified target user types. By giving these definitions it is illustrated that the same word should be defined in different ways for different user groups. Here the notion of correctness is not merely determined by the contents of the definition but rather by its aptness for a specific user situation. Finally it is stated that a dictionary does not have to reflect the whole truth but only that section of the truth that is relevant to the identified target user group in the envisaged dictionary user situation. In the words of Hanks (1993:105) : "For many words, there are a number of different but equally true statements that can be made, and the lexicographer has to choose those likely to be most relevant to potential users (not those that are 'essential' or 'invariably true')".

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