Lexicography and the Relevance Criterion

  • Theo J.D. Bothma Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa and visiting professor, Centre for Lexicography, Aarhus, Denmark
  • Sven Tarp Centre for Lexicography, Business and Social Science, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark and visiting professor, Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Keywords: lexicography, function theory, cognitive situations, communicative situations, operative situations, interpretive situations, pre-lexicographical phase, intra-lexicographical phase, post-lexicographical phase, information science, relevance theory, topica


Until recently, lexicography and information science could rightly be considered two disciplines which had developed along parallel lines but with no or very little formal relation between them. Although the two disciplines developed in almost complete isolation from each other, during the last few years it has nevertheless become increasingly clear that they have a lot in common. This trend began within lexicography which started viewing lexicographical works as a special kind of tool designed to be consulted in order to obtain information. Upon this basis, it has been suggested that lexicography should be considered a part of information science and, hence, integrated into it (cf. e.g. Bergenholtz and Bothma 2012, Tarp 2009). It is evident that this integration of two hitherto independent disciplines with long traditions of their own is not something to be solved overnight and neither can it be a unilateral process. This article will explore the concept of relevance in both disciplines in more detail and show, at the hand of examples from lexicographical tools, how the theoretical frameworks of both disciplines can complement one another. This will be done within the framework of the function theory of lexicography, as discussed in the many works of Tarp and Bergenholtz (e.g. Bergenholtz and Tarp 2002) and others, and relevance theory in information science as defined by Saracevic (1975, 1996), Cosijn and Ingwersen (2000) and others. Keywords: lexicography; function theory; cognitive situations; communicative situations; operative situations; interpretive situations; pre-lexicographical phase; intra-lexicographical phase; post-lexicographical phase; information science; relevance theory; topical relevance; cognitive relevance; situational relevance; socio-cognitive relevance; affective relevance
How to Cite
Bothma, T. J., & Tarp, S. (2012). Lexicography and the Relevance Criterion. Lexikos, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.5788/22-1-999