SIL International Home

The Linguist's Shoebox

Integrated data management and analysis for the field linguist

Tip

How do lexicographers decide between different words and different senses?

When a single form can function in more than one category without any explicit derivation, the lexicographer must decide whether to handle it as homonymy (same form but unrelated meaning, therefore separate lexemes) or as polysemy (same form with a range of related meanings, therefore subentries or multiple senses of the same lexeme). The critical evidence for deciding between different words and different senses is a corpus of natural text examples. Serious lexicography assumes the presence of a large body of natural text and a way to cull through it to see the range of meaning of lexemes—mental searching by itself is inadequate. In Shoebox, you can use the Text Corpus command on the Project menu and the Concordance command on the Tools menu to search for lexemes in context. For more information, read section 6.3 in Making Dictionaries.

Index of tips: homonyms lexicography; senses
List of tips