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Lexicalization describes the process and the result of the change of meaning, which leads to the fact that the meaning of a word can no longer be deduced from the meaning of its components. Lexicalization is a term in linguistics that is used within various fields of research:

Lexicalization as idiomatization

The meaning of some compound words (more precisely: compound lexemes ) cannot be predicted by general rules based on the meaning of their components ( morphemes ). Readings have developed for them over time. An example of this is the German word Junggeselle , since it does not necessarily have to be young or a journeyman in the narrower sense. The word simply means an unmarried man. This process is also known as idiomatization .

In the context of the theory of the mental or internal lexicon , it is required not to include all compound words when presenting a vocabulary as a lexeme enumeration. Instead, only words should be included whose meaning has been subjected to the process of idiomatization - which can no longer be described as the sum of their parts. This requirement reduces the number of lexicon entries.

Lexicalization as demorphologization

When words have developed idiomatic readings, as shown in the previous section, members of the respective language community no longer perceive them as the sum of their parts (see also: Frege principle ). These idiomatic words are perceived as an appropriate expression in the respective context: The word bachelor z. B. is rarely consciously perceived as a composition of its parts young and journeyman .

When this point is reached, processes can start that obscure the boundaries between the smallest meaningful components (see also: Phonology ). A complex word becomes an expression that is neither derived nor compound. In addition to a compound word (example 1.), the starting point can also be a group of words (more precisely: syntagma ) (example 2):

  1. New High German knife , developed from West Germanic Matiz-Sahsa "food sword"
  2. Italian alarm "alarm", originated from all'arme! "to the weapons!"

In this usage it is a question of historical linguistics .

Generative semantics

In the context of generative semantics , the term is usually associated with the operation lexical insertion and then describes the "insertion" of abstract units of meaning into a lexeme . For example, one would say that in the lexeme killing the components dying and causation are lexicalized.

Leonard Talmys Lexicalization Patterns

This approach is interested in the differences in how languages ​​encode or lexicalize certain elements of meaning in their words (see also: Language typology ). There is conceptual overlap here with cognitive linguistics .

See also


  • Blank, Andreas (2001): "Pathways of lexicalization." In: Haspelmath, Martin & König, Ekkehard & Oesterreicher, Wulf & Raible, Wolfgang (eds.): Language Typology and Language Universals (HSK 20) , 1596–1608. Berlin / New York: De Gruyter, ISBN 978-3110114232
  • Brinton, Laurel J. & Traugott, Elizabeth Closs (2005): Lexicalization and Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Talmy, Leonard (1985): "Lexicalization patterns: Semantic structure in lexical forms." In: Shopen, Timothy (ed.): Language typology and syntactic description. Vol III: Grammatical categories and the lexicon , 57-149. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521318990

Web links

Wiktionary: Lexicalization  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. In: Wiktionary, The free dictionary. Processing status: 05:51, May 25, 2008 UTC. URL: http://de.wiktionary.org/wiki/Lexikalisierung (accessed: August 18, 2009, 18:46 UTC)
  2. ^ Blank, Andreas (2001): "Pathways of lexicalization." In: Haspelmath, Martin & König, Ekkehard & Oesterreicher, Wulf & Raible, Wolfgang (eds.): Language Typology and Language Universals (HSK 20), 1596–1608. Berlin / New York: De Gruyter, ISBN 978-3110114232