The Incorporation of Specialised Data in Lexicographical Meaning Explanations: A Discussion Based on Sports and Fitness Terms

Heidi Agerbo


There is a problematic treatment of field specific words in both general language dictionaries as well as specialised dictionaries, which in this paper is exemplified using the sports and fitness subject fields as the point of departure and focusing on meaning explanations. Particu­larly the treatment in general dictionaries in many cases results in inadequate solutions that cannot sufficiently accommodate the dictionary users' needs if we consider these from the viewpoint of the function theory, according to which a dictionary is designed to help a specific user type with a punctual information need that has occurred in a specific type of extra-lexicographical user situa­tion. In this study, a total of 44 general and specialised information tools in English and Danish were analysed. The first part of the investigation involved an analysis of the introductory matter to determine the intended user situation(s) and user(s) of each tool. In the second part, a selected number of sports and/or fitness related lemmata in the dictionaries were analysed. These test words and their meaning explanations were in each dictionary compared to the dictionary's men­tioned user situation(s) and user(s). Based on this comparison, a number of identified problems with the meaning explanations are discussed, and a set of principles for best practice when pro­ducing meaning explanations of specialised terms is suggested. The study revealed that quite a number of these information tools either do not clearly specify their functions or, to some extent, cannot live up to their intended functions. Some additional interesting findings were also made as some of the dictionaries either explicitly or implicitly are designed with operative and interpreta­tive functions, which are functions that have yet not been fully incorporated into lexicographical theory. The overall findings from the study have led to a suggested function-based definition of meaning explanations to be applied in all types of information tools.


meaning explanation; function theory; introductory matter; user type; user situation; general dictionary; specialised dictionary; sport; fitness

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ISSN 2224-0039 (online); ISSN 1684-4904 (print)

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