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Lexicography is the art of writing 'words' in dictionary format. The word Lexicography is derived from the Greek word ‘lexikos’, an adjective derived from noun ‘lexis’ meaning "speech" or "word", and graphe meaning "writing". Lexicography or 'writing of words', which has an important place in the history of language study, include the history, theory, methodology and typology of dictionary-making. A dictionary is usually developed in the context of the culture of the language. Hence it is common to find information in the dictionary regarding the background and evolution of a word, apart from finding the spelling and meaning of a word. At times even the synonyms and antonyms of the word as well as the pronunciation is mentioned. Initially lexicography was regarded as ‘a sub-branch of applied linguistics’ but today it has evolved as an independent scholarly discipline.
Lexicographers are professional linguists who research, write, compile and edit special books such as dictionaries, encyclopedias or various other reference texts such as law and medical dictionaries or abridged dictionaries designed for specific audiences, such as children or college students. A lexicographer involves working on dictionary entries that covers matters such as pronunciation, definition of grammatical terms, various languages, dialectical variation and etymology. While doing this, they consider several matters like understanding the nature of words, their meanings, how the vocabulary of a language is structured, how speakers use and understand the meaning of words, the structure and relationship of words in a language and so on.
Lexicography is divided into two branches namely Practical Lexicography
and Theoretical Lexicography.
- Practical lexicography involves the process of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries.
- Theoretical lexicography also known as Metalexicography focuses on the study of language and its vocabulary in context of the culture, and develops the best method to compile dictionaries. The concern of Theoretical lexicography is to develop theories of the semantic and structural relationship of words used in the dictionary.
The major responsibility of all types of Lexicographer's is not just writing definitions but writing the right definitions for the right people. While performing their tasks, a lexicographer should :
Lexicography is a field which requires a great deal of hard work and full responsibility. Those who love to have adventure with words of various languages can excel in this interesting and challenging career. Since the work of lexicographers is used by millions of people for the sake of their perfection, they are supposed to be the highly educated and respected persons in the society.
Educational Qualification :
Candidates intended to become a Lexicographer should obtain Master's or Doctoral degree in English or any other concerned language. To excel in this field, they have to pursue advanced degrees/ diploma/ doctorate courses in Lexicography/ Linguistics. Earning advanced degrees in Linguistics, English, language translation, or a language other than English will be an added advantage for getting knowledge, experience and more flexibility with the usage of words.
There are several universities in the country that offer Lexicography courses in various languages like English, Hindi, Sanskrit, Punjabi, Tamil etc. Graduation in the concerned language is the minimum qualification required for Master’s degree course. Some institutes conduct their own entrance examination for admission to Master degree courses. Post Graduates can apply for doctoral programs which is considered as an additional qualification for lexicographer. After the completion of the course, interested persons can obtain work experience by joining publishing houses.
Some institutes in India offering courses in Lexicography and its related fields are Department of Sanskrit and Lexicography, Deccan College in Pune; Department of Linguistics and Punjabi Lexicography, Punjabi University in Patiala; School of Tamil and Dravidian Languages, University of Madras; Bharathiar University's Department of Linguistics in Coimbatore; Department of Linguistics, Central University of Kerala etc.
Personal Attributes required for Lexicographers
A Lexicographer should have deep knowledge of the language they are handling. They should possess excellent command of English, curiosity about language, good reading habit, research and analytical skills, team work & written communication skills, effective time management and organizational skills. Lexicographers should have excellent knowledge in grammatical and computational linguistics, the ability to use grammar correctly and identify instances of incorrect usage, the ability to work rapidly and logically with complex information, the ability to recognize slight differences between meanings, ability to describe a complex idea in a few words. They should possess active listening skills to understand the suggestions given by their superiors. Good critical thinking skills, open-mindedness, excellent eye for detail for spotting errors and for identifying inconsistencies of presentation style are yet other qualities needed for a lexicographer.
Many dictionaries are now digitized and computers have the ability to track and maintain entries much better than using paper, pens, and human recollection. So the Lexicographers should have computer knowledge i.e., the ability to use specialist database software for research purposes, and creativity in developing search strings. They should be well aware of emerging new technologies and how they can support the dictionary, e.g. online dictionaries, e-books, etc. Lexicography is basically a collaborative process, so one should exchange ideas and discuss problems continually with other editors, both formally and informally.
Lexicographers publish dictionaries either in print, online or both and they usually work with many publishing houses. They can start their career as assistant editor or junior of editorial assistant, and after gaining publishing experience they can progress to the role of editor or Lexicographer. Since lexicography is a small field, there is only few positions as senior editor or managing editor.
Some publishing houses offer on the job training to beginners in this field for making online dictionaries and e-books. By this, one can acquire knowledge about various specialist software packages and databases used in lexicography.
The work of the lexicographer is almost entirely office-based. Freelance lexicographers can work on a part time basis. Some of them start their own publication or publishing company. Some may move into creating and delivering training in the field. Lexicographers can also develop their career by working on other types of reference books.
Lexicographers work on different types of dictionaries including bilingual/ translation, multilingual, educational, historical, biographical, geographical, special dictionaries etc. The roles and responsibilities of lexicographers vary with the type of dictionaries they work for.
Lexicography is not a highly-paid profession and many lexicographers do the work principally for the love of it. A lexicographer working in a publication house can expect a starting salary between Rs.15,000 to Rs.20,000 per month which increases with years of experience. Many lexicographers work on a freelance basis, charging varying amounts per project. Those who develop their own publication can earn more.
Click on the following links to get the details of institutes/ colleges offering courses in Lexicography :
Tagswriting career , dictionary making , linguistics
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