SIL International Home

The Linguist's Shoebox

Integrated data management and analysis for the field linguist


A dictionary can be organized either by roots or by lexemes.

For their own convenience, linguists tend to organize dictionaries by root morphemes (emphasizing structural units). However, local audiences—and often others, including other scholars—generally have less difficulty finding information when it is organized by surface-form lexemes (an emphasis on units of meaning). Early in compiling a dictionary, you should choose one strategy as primary over the other, keeping in mind the associated advantages and disadvantages. Whichever one you choose, you can use Shoebox to manage your lexical data. For more information, read section 4.6 in Making Dictionaries. The authors recommend a lexeme-based dictionary that also contains basic entries for root morphemes and affixes to show the morphological parts of the language and to handle interlinearization.

Index of tips: lexemes; lexicography; roots
List of tips