Language-for-specific-purposes dictionary

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A language-for-specific-purposes dictionary (LSP dictionary) is a reference work which defines the specialised vocabulary used by experts within a particular field, for example, architecture. The discipline that deals with these dictionaries is specialised lexicography. Medical dictionaries are well-known examples of the type.



As described in Bergenholtz/Tarp 1995, LSP dictionaries are often made for users who are already specialists with a subject field (experts), but may also be made for semi-experts and laypeople. In contrast to LSP dictionaries, LGP (language for general purposes) dictionaries are made to be used by an average user. LSP dictionaries may have one or more functions. LSP dictionaries may have communicative functions, such as helping users to understand, translate and produce texts. Dictionaries may also have cognitive functions such as helping users to develop knowledge in general or about a specific topic, such as the birthday of a famous person and the inflectional paradigm of a specific verb.

Different types

According to Sandro Nielsen, [1] LSP dictionaries may cover one language (monolingual) or two languages (bilingual), and occasionally more (multilingual). An LSP dictionary that attempts to cover as much of the vocabulary in a subject field as possible is classified by Nielsen as a maximizing dictionary, and one that attempts to cover a limited number of terms within a subject field is a minimizing dictionary.

Also, Nielsen 1994 distinguishes between the following types of dictionaries: An LSP dictionary that covers more than one subject field is called a multi-field dictionary, an LSP dictionary that covers one subject field (e.g. a dictionary of law) is called a single-field dictionary, and an LSP dictionary that covers part of a subject field (e.g. a dictionary of contract law) is called a sub-field dictionary.

Usage dictionaries

A common form of LSP dictionary is a usage dictionary for a particular field or genre, such as journalism, providing advice on words and phrases to prefer, and distinctions between easily confused usages. Probably the best known of these for new style writing is the AP Stylebook . Many such works also have elements of a style guide, though most of the latter are not in dictionary format, but arranged as a series of rules in sections, and more concerned with grammar and punctuation. Some usage dictionaries are intended for a general rather than specialized audience, and are therefore more comprehensive; two major ones are Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage and Garner's Modern English Usage .

See also

Related Research Articles

Dictionary Collection of words and their meanings

A dictionary is a listing of lexemes from the lexicon of one or more specific languages, often arranged alphabetically, which may include information on definitions, usage, etymologies, pronunciations, translation, etc.. It is a lexicographical reference that shows inter-relationships among the data.

Lexicography is divided into two separate but equally important groups:

A monolingual learner's dictionary (MLD) is designed to meet the reference needs of people learning a foreign language. MLDs are based on the premise that language-learners should progress from a bilingual dictionary to a monolingual one as they become more proficient in their target language, but that general-purpose dictionaries are inappropriate for their needs. Dictionaries for learners include information on grammar, usage, common errors, collocation, and pragmatics, which is largely missing from standard dictionaries, because native speakers tend to know these aspects of language intuitively. And while the definitions in standard dictionaries are often written in difficult language, those in an MLD use a simple and accessible defining vocabulary.

Terminology is a general word for the group of specialized words or meanings relating to a particular field, and also the study of such terms and their use. This is also known as terminology science. Terms are words and compound words or multi-word expressions that in specific contexts are given specific meanings—these may deviate from the meanings the same words have in other contexts and in everyday language. Terminology is a discipline that studies, among other things, the development of such terms and their interrelationships within a specialized domain. Terminology differs from lexicography, as it involves the study of concepts, conceptual systems and their labels (terms), whereas lexicography studies words and their meanings.

Henning John Bergenholtz is a Danish linguist, who is head of Center for Lexicography at Aarhus School of Business in Denmark. Professor Bergenholtz has contributed to lexicography as a science with publications on theoretical lexicography as well as several printed and electronic dictionaries.

Sandro Nielsen is a Danish metalexicographer, Associate Professor at Centre for Lexicography at the Aarhus School of Business, Denmark, from where he received his PhD in 1992. Nielsen has contributed to lexicography as a theoretical and practical lexicographer with particular reference to bilingual specialised dictionaries. He is the author and co-author of more than one hundred publications on lexicography, theoretical papers, printed and electronic (online) dictionaries.

Legal lexicography is the complex of activities concerned with the development of theories and principles for the design, compilation, use, and evaluation of dictionaries within the field of law, see e.g. Nielsen 1994.

A specialized dictionary is a dictionary that covers a relatively restricted set of phenomena. The definitive book on the subject includes chapters on some of the dictionaries included below:

Law dictionary

A law dictionary is a dictionary that is designed and compiled to give information about terms used in the field of law.

Legal translation

Legal translation is the translation of language used in legal settings and for legal purposes. Legal translation may also imply that it is a specific type of translation only used in law, which is not always the case. As law is a culture-dependent subject field, legal translation is not necessarily linguistically transparent. Intransparency in translation can be avoided somewhat by use of Latin legal terminology, where possible, but in non-western languages debates are centered on the origins and precedents of specific terms, such as in the use of particular Chinese characters in Japanese legal discussions.

Lexicographic information cost is a concept within the field of lexicography. The term refers to the difficulties and inconveniences that the user of a dictionary believes or feels are associated with consulting a particular dictionary or dictionary article. For example, the extensive use of abbreviations in articles in order to save space may annoy the user, because it is often difficult to read such condensed texts and understand the abbreviations, thereby increasing the lexicographic information costs.

Specialized lexicography is an academic discipline that is concerned with development of theories and principles for the design, compilation, use and evaluation of specialized dictionaries. A specialized dictionary is a dictionary that covers a relatively restricted set of phenomena, usually within one or more subject fields. An alternative term for this type of dictionary is LSP dictionary.

A multi-field dictionary is a specialized dictionary that has been designed and compiled to cover the terms within two or more subject fields. Multi-field dictionaries should be contrasted with single-field dictionaries and sub-field dictionaries.

A single-field dictionary is a specialized dictionary that has been designed and compiled to cover the terms of one particular subject field. Single-field dictionaries should be contrasted with multi-field dictionaries and sub-field dictionaries.

A sub-field dictionary is a specialized dictionary that has been designed and compiled to cover the terms of one sub-fields of a particular subject field. It is therefore a sub-division of the class of dictionary called a single-field dictionary. Sub-field dictionaries should be contrasted with multi-field dictionaries and single-field dictionaries.

Centre for Lexicography is a research centre affiliated with the Aarhus School of Business, University of Aarhus Denmark, and was established in 1996. The Centre's aim is to carry out lexicographic research into needs-adapted information and data access, i.e. research work into dictionary theory in general and it has built a solid, international reputation in that field.

Electronic dictionary Dictionary whose data exists in digital form and can be accessed through a number of different media

An electronic dictionary is a dictionary whose data exists in digital form and can be accessed through a number of different media. Electronic dictionaries can be found in several forms, including software installed on tablet or desktop computers, mobile apps, web applications, and as a built-in function of E-readers. They may be free or require payment.

Bilingual dictionary Specialized dictionary used to translate words or phrases from one language to another

A bilingual dictionary or translation dictionary is a specialized dictionary used to translate words or phrases from one language to another. Bilingual dictionaries can be unidirectional, meaning that they list the meanings of words of one language in another, or can be bidirectional, allowing translation to and from both languages. Bidirectional bilingual dictionaries usually consist of two sections, each listing words and phrases of one language alphabetically along with their translation. In addition to the translation, a bilingual dictionary usually indicates the part of speech, gender, verb type, declension model and other grammatical clues to help a non-native speaker use the word. Other features sometimes present in bilingual dictionaries are lists of phrases, usage and style guides, verb tables, maps and grammar references. In contrast to the bilingual dictionary, a monolingual dictionary defines words and phrases instead of translating them.

A foreign language writing aid is a computer program or any other instrument that assists a non-native language user in writing decently in their target language. Assistive operations can be classified into two categories: on-the-fly prompts and post-writing checks. Assisted aspects of writing include: lexical, syntactic, lexical semantic and idiomatic expression transfer, etc. Different types of foreign language writing aids include automated proofreading applications, text corpora, dictionaries, translation aids and orthography aids.

Language for specific purposes (LSP) has been primarily used to refer to two areas within applied linguistics:

  1. One focusing on the needs in education and training
  2. One with a focus on research on language variation across a particular subject field



  1. Nielsen (1994).


  • Sandro Nielsen (1994): The Bilingual LSP Dictionary, Gunter Narr Verlag.
  • Henning Bergenholtz/Sven Tarp (eds.) (1995): Manual of Specialised Lexicography, Benjamins.
  • Sandro Nielsen (2010): Specialised Translation Dictionaries for Learners. In: P. A. Fuertes-Olivera (ed.): Specialised Dictionaries for Learners, de Gruyter (Lexicographica. Series Maior 136), 69-82.