Specialized dictionary

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A specialized dictionary is a dictionary that covers a relatively restricted set of phenomena. The definitive book on the subject (Cowie 2009) includes chapters on some of the dictionaries included below:


Dictionaries of idioms and slang are common in most cultures. Examples include (of French) the Dictionnaire des expressions et locutions, edited by Alain Rey (Paris: Le Robert 2006), and (of English) Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (8th edition, London: Routledge 2002). [1] In the area of language learning, there are specialized dictionaries for aspects of language which tend to be ordinary for mother-tongue speakers but may cause difficulty for learners. These include dictionaries of phrasal verbs, such as the Oxford Phrasal Verbs Dictionary (2nd edition, Oxford University Press: 2006), and dictionaries of collocation, such as Macmillan Collocations Dictionary (Oxford: Macmillan 2010). [2]

One of the most common types of specialized dictionary is what is often referred to in English as a technical dictionary and in German as a Fachwörterbuch. These dictionaries cover the terminology of a particular subject field or discipline. As described in Nielsen (1994), dictionaries of this type can be classified in various ways. A dictionary that covers more than one subject field is called a multi-field dictionary; one that covers one subject field is called a single-field dictionary; and one that covers a limited part of a subject field is called a sub-field dictionary. A technical dictionary that attempts to cover as much of the relevant terminology as possible is called a maximizing dictionary, whereas one that attempts to cover only a limited part of the relevant terminology is called a minimizing dictionary.

Specialized dictionaries can have various functions, i.e. they can help users in different types of situation. Monolingual dictionaries can help users understand and produce texts, whereas bilingual dictionaries can help users understand texts, translate texts and produce texts, as described in e.g. Nielsen (1994) and Nielsen (2010).

See also

Related Research Articles

Dictionary Collection of words and their meanings

A dictionary is a listing of words in one or more specific languages, often arranged alphabetically, which may include information on definitions, usage, etymologies, pronunciations, translation, etc. or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, sometimes known as a lexicon. It is a lexicographical reference that shows inter-relationships among the data.

Lexicography is divided into two separate but equally important groups:

Colloquialism or colloquial language is the linguistic style used for casual communication. It is the most common functional style of speech, the idiom normally employed in conversation and other informal contexts. Colloquialism is characterized by wide usage of interjections and other expressive devices; it makes use of non-specialist terminology, and has a rapidly changing lexicon. It can also be distinguished by its usage of formulations with incomplete logical and syntactic ordering.

Idiom dictionary Dictionary or phrase book that lists and explains idioms

An idiom dictionary is a dictionary or phrase book that lists and explains idioms – distinctive words or phrases having a figurative meaning that goes beyond the original semantics of the word(s). For example, the phrase "keep your breath to cool your porridge" is more likely to be a rebuke to mind your own business than literal advice at breakfast.

A Monolingual learner's dictionary (MLD) is a type of dictionary 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 a monolingual learner’s dictionary aim to be simple and accessible.

Eric Partridge 20th-century New Zealand-born lexicographer, editor, and author

Eric Honeywood Partridge was a New Zealand–British lexicographer of the English language, particularly of its slang. His writing career was interrupted only by his service in the Army Education Corps and the RAF correspondence department during World War II.

Collocation Frequent occurrence of words next to each other

In corpus linguistics, a collocation is a series of words or terms that co-occur more often than would be expected by chance. In phraseology, collocation is a sub-type of phraseme. An example of a phraseological collocation, as propounded by Michael Halliday, is the expression strong tea. While the same meaning could be conveyed by the roughly equivalent powerful tea, this expression is considered excessive and awkward by English speakers. Conversely, the corresponding expression in technology, powerful computer is preferred over strong computer. Phraseological collocations should not be confused with idioms, where an idiom's meaning is derived from its convention as a stand-in for something else while collocation is a mere popular composition. The ability to use English effectively involves an awareness of a distinctive feature of the language known as collocation. Collocation is that behaviour of the language by which two or more words go together, in speech or writing.

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 language-for-specific-purposes 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.

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

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

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.

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.

In linguistics, phraseology is the study of set or fixed expressions, such as idioms, phrasal verbs, and other types of multi-word lexical units, in which the component parts of the expression take on a meaning more specific than or otherwise not predictable from the sum of their meanings when used independently. For example, ‘Dutch auction’ is composed of the words Dutch ‘of or pertaining to the Netherlands’ and auction ‘a public sale in which goods are sold to the highest bidder’, but its meaning is not ‘a sale in the Netherlands where goods are sold to the highest bidder’. Instead, the phrase has a conventionalized meaning referring to any auction where, instead of rising, the prices fall.

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.

John McHardy Sinclair was a Professor of Modern English Language at Birmingham University from 1965 to 2000. He pioneered work in corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, lexicography, and language teaching.

Beryl T. (Sue) Atkins is a British lexicographer, specialising in computational lexicography, who pioneered the creation of bilingual dictionaries from corpus data.

Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, also known as MEDAL, was first published in 2002 by Macmillan Education. MEDAL is an advanced learner’s dictionary and shares most of the features of this type of dictionary: it provides definitions in simple language, using a controlled defining vocabulary; most words have example sentences to illustrate how they are typically used; and information is given about how words combine grammatically or in collocations. MEDAL also introduced a number of innovations. These include:

<i>A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English</i> book by Eric Partridge

A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English is a dictionary of slang originally compiled by the noted lexicographer of the English language, Eric Partridge. The first edition was published in 1937 and seven editions were eventually published by Partridge. An eighth edition was published in 1984, after Partridge's death, by editor Paul Beale; in 1990 Beale published an abridged version, Partridge's Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.


  1. Eric Partridge. "The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English" . Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  2. Michael Rundell. "Macmillan Collocations Dictionary" . Retrieved September 14, 2016.

Further reading