Lexicographical Contextualization and Personalization: A New Perspective

  • Sven Tarp Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, Stellenbosch University, South Africa; Centre for Lexicographical Studies, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China; International Centre for Lexicography, Universidad de Valladolid, Spain; and Centre for Lexicography, University of Aarhus, Denmark
  • Rufus Gouws Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Keywords: contextualization, e-reader, extra-dictionary, gloss, glossary, information science, information tools, personalization, scribes, writing assistant


Contextualization, i.e. to provide solutions to users' information needs directly in the situation or context where these needs occur, played a significant role in the work of the Greek scribes who inserted glosses into manuscript copies of the works of Homer and other earlier writers in order to explain obsolete and unusual words. After the invention of the glossary, a schism developed within lexicography. On the one hand, there was the new compilation of glossaries and dictionaries of a still more complex and sophisticated nature. On the other hand, there was the traditional insertion of glosses into manuscript copies of books from previous periods. Although the advent of dictionaries diminished the use of contextualization procedures they were still adhered to in some publications. This paper discusses the occurrence of contextualization and personalization procedures in different eras and environments and it is shown how these procedures also introduced a lexicographic practice to some extra-dictionary environments. The importance of contextualization and personalization in modern-day lexicography is stressed. Lexicographers often have had unfulfilled dreams of new possibilities within the digital environment. However, the lack of adequate technology has made their dreams impossible – at that stage. Today new technologies and collaboration between lexicography and information science offer numerous new challenges that can be met by lexicographers. It is shown how lexicographical products being integrated into information tools little by little are closing the more than two thousand year old schism in European lexicography, i.e. reuniting contextualization and personalization. Lexicographers, the modern-day scribes, have to endeavour to make the seemingly impossible possible.
How to Cite
Tarp, S., & Gouws, R. (2019). Lexicographical Contextualization and Personalization: A New Perspective. Lexikos, 29(1). https://doi.org/10.5788/29-1-1520