Lexicography involves writing dictionaries keeping in mind the context, history, grammar, and pronunciation of words in a language. The dictionary becomes the chief focus of study in lexicography and the professional working on lexicography is known as a lexicographer. 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.
The etymology of lexicography is derived from the Greek lexikographos which translates to “word”+”write”. The existence of lexicography can be traced back to the 5th century CE when Hesychius , a grammarian from Alexandria developed a lexicon of obscure and ancient Greek words. In China, Sima Guang, a historian was responsible for compiling a dictionary in the 11th century.General lexicography was in use in the 16th century making great strides in the study of the etymology and other modern aspect of the dictionary in the 17 and 18th centuries. In 1911, the concise Oxford dictionary was developed by the lexicographer, Henry Watson. Lexicography as an art as been around since long in major countries of the world.
Lexicography is identified by the two branches of Practical Lexicography and Theoretical Lexicography. While Practical lexicography involves writing and editing dictionaries, Theoretical lexicography focuses on the study of language and its vocabulary in the 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 lexicon. A lexicon includes lexemes or word stems which are the minimal units, linking related forms of words in a language.Thus the lexicon deals with the semantics of word meanings and also structural information regarding the etymology of a word.
General lexicography involves the art of writing, compiling, designing, using and editing dictionaries that describe language as used in general. General dictionaries that give a description of language in general use is also known as Language for General Purpose (LGP) dictionary. As opposed to general lexicography is the specialized lexicography which focuses on work on specialized dictionaries which contain factual information and linguistic details of specialist subjects such as legal lexicography. Specialized dictionaries may focus on single specialist field or may be multi field or sub-field specialized dictionaries.
Initially lexicography was regarded as ‘a sub-branch of applied linguistics’ but today lexicography has evolved as an independent scholarly discipline. In fact lexicography has simplified the task of the linguists in learning languages. Lexicography studies the vocabulary and establishes the connections to the culture of the language.A lexicographer are a linguist having the required expertise in compiling dictionaries. The expertise includes understanding the nature of words, their meanings, how speakers use and understand the meaning of words, and the structure and relationship of words in a language.