Lexicology & Lexicography

As the two names imply, both of these disciplines have something to do with investigation into the lexicon. Both lexicology and lexicography can benefit to a large extent from research using corpus linguistic techniques. Below, we want to illustrate the differences and similarities in the approaches taken by them, as well as providing some simple definitions.


Lexicology is the general study of the vocabulary of languages. It investigates both diachronic aspects – such as the etymology of individual words or the development of morphological features for specific word classes, etc. – and synchronic aspects related to contemporary meaning, usage and collocation. Important concepts in lexicology include the grouping of words according to such semantic notions a semantic/word fields, thesauri, and of course prototypes.


While lexicology investigates the lexicon as a research object per se, lexicography pursues a much more practical aim, i.e. to represent the meaning of words and their associated usage to either native speakers or learners of a language. It usually does this in the form of various different types of dictionaries. In order to achieve this, it is important for lexicographers to have an idea about which core vocabulary items can/should be used in order to explain other entries, something that can be at least partially achieved by investigating the most frequent entries in word lists, although the notion of what constitutes core vocabulary is by no means a well-defined one yet. Other techniques from corpus linguistics, such as concordancing or collocational analysis, can either be used in order to identify appropriate example sentences or to illustrate the grammatical environments applicable to an entry.

Sources & Further Reading:

Barnbrook, Geoff. (1996). Language and Computers. Edinburgh: EUP.

Ooi, V. (1998). Computer Corpus Lexicography. Edinburgh: EUP.