Lexicography (2020) 7:97–101



Pedro A. Fuertes-Olivera: The Routledge Handbook of Lexicography

Routledge, London, 2018, 838p, ISBN-13: 978-1138941601, ISBN-10: 1138941603

Xiangming Zhang1*

Received: 3 March 2020 / Accepted: 27 March 2020 / Published online: 23 April 2020

Dictionary compilation has a long history of over 5000 years from the global per­spective, and lexicography as an academic discipline is generally regarded to initiate its development in the 1970s, with the publication of Manual of Lexicography, a masterpiece on lexicography written by Ladislav Zgusta (1971). In the recent years, a number of academic books on general lexicography have been published, and exhibit the prosperous development of lexicography worldwide. These books pre­sent us the current status of lexicography from different perspectives. The Blooms­bury Companion to Lexicography “aims to give a broad overview of the discipline, dealing with the main trends and issues in the contemporary study of lexicography” (Jackson 2013: 3); The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography acts as “a guide to the most significant contours in the geography of the lexicographical world” (Durkin 2016: 1); and International Handbook of Modern Lexis and Lexicography “con­trasts traditional methods of lexicography with newly emerging electronic and corpus-driven approaches” (Hanks and de Schryver 2016: 2). In comparison, The Routledge Handbook of Lexicography (RHL) provides an overall description of the major approaches to lexicography and their applications within the field of diction­ary compilation, and features key case studies and cutting-edge contributions from an international range of practitioners, teachers, and researchers. It “offers a bal­anced view of the main approaches to lexicography in general and to some of its specific aspects” (Fuertes-Olivera 2018: 33). RHL is regarded as the most recent one in time, the most comprehensive in content, and also the most international in cover­age among the books of the similar topic.

The editor Pedro A. Fuertes-Olivera is a Full Professor at the University of Val­ladolid in Spain, and has published several books in the field of lexicography, such as Pedagogical Specialised Lexicography (Fuertes-Olivera and Arribas-Baño 2008), Specialised Dictionaries for Learners (Fuertes-Olivera 2010), e-Lexicography: The Internet, Digital Initiatives and Lexicography (Fuertes-Olivera and Bergenholtz 2011), and Theory and Practice of Specialised Online Dictionaries: Lexicography versus Terminography (Fuertes-Olivera and Tarp 2014). The 61 contributors of the handbook are lexicographers, linguists, and engineers from over 20 countries of Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, and Oceania. Over half of them are from European institutions, indicating that Europe can still be considered the center of the lexicographical circle.

RHL is a comprehensive overview of current and global lexicography in 47 chap­ters segmented into six parts, namely ‘Foundations of Lexicography’, ‘The Inter­disciplinary Nature of Lexicography’, ‘Types of Dictionaries’, ‘Innovative Diction­aries’, ‘World Languages, Lexicography and the Internet’, and ‘Looking into the Future: Lexicography in the Internet Era’.

Part I explores the nature and foundations of lexicography as an academic field in five chapters in terms of the nature of lexicography, dictionary management, dic­tionary access, meaning explanation, and dictionary criticism. It defends the propo­sition that lexicography is an independent science with its own independent core and a big interdisciplinary vocation. Part II discusses the interdisciplinary nature of lexicography in nine chapters with applied linguistics, corpus linguistics, termi­nology, language policy, culture, natural language processing, information science, and domain ontology, which are all closely related to dictionary compilation. Part III presents various types of dictionaries in seven chapters from the perspectives of general dictionaries, dictionaries for text reception, dictionaries for text production, dictionaries for translation, dictionaries to assist teaching and learning, specialized dictionaries, and terminological knowledge bases, all of which are observed in the latitude of purpose or utility.

Part IV analyzes the type of dictionaries which are compiled in an innovative way in terms of data description, data access and/or data presentation in eight chapters, mainly in terms of learners’ dictionaries, English variation, FrameNet, sign diction­aries, the Alicante dictionaries, the wine dictionary, the accounting dictionary, and Wordnik. Part V examines the current state of lexicographic theory and practice in the internet era in the various parts of the world, mainly African, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish lexi­cography. Part VI describes specific tools, theories, and methods that are changing the theory and practice of lexicography from the following seven perspectives: elec­tronic dictionaries, web usage, information retrieval, dictionary usage research, user participation, dictionary portal, and international directory of lexicography.

Compared to other similar handbooks on lexicography, RHL is worth recom­mending for the following four main reasons.

First, the coverage of various types of dictionaries and diversified aspects in lexi­cography indicates the comprehensiveness in research objects. RHL is among the lexicographical books of the largest size and the widest coverage in research topics published recently worldwide. Among the whole six parts of the handbook, Part III is specifically designed to analyze various types of dictionaries, such as dictionar­ies for text reception, dictionaries for text production, dictionaries for translation, pedagogical dictionaries, specialized dictionaries and terminological dictionaries. Part IV explores some innovative dictionaries, such as learners’ dictionaries and online dictionaries. In RHL, a deep analysis is made of the theoretical foundations of lexicography, specifically in terms of the nature of lexicography, dictionary man­agement, dictionary access structure, meaning explanation, and dictionary criti­cism. Moreover, a systematic exploration is made to the interdisciplinary relations between lexicography and some other closely related disciplines, such as applied linguistics, corpus linguistics, terminology, language policy, culture, natural lan­guage processing, and information science. Dictionary compilation is in great need of the cooperation of experts in a number of relevant disciplines. Thus, the study of the disciplinary nature of lexicography plays a more important role in contemporary lexicography.

Second, the bridge over the gap between different languages and cultures among lexicographers indicates the globalization in research perspectives. With the help of communication science and technology, researchers from different countries com­municate with each other much better than before, which enhances to a large extent the development of dictionary compilation and lexicographical research. RHL has collected 61 contributions from over 20 countries. Part V is intentionally designed to analyze world lexicography, which covers 11 important languages/language groups used in the world, as African, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Indonesia, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. This part “analyzes the current lexicographic work published in languages that are spoken by around 75 percent of the world population, and therefore constitute a test bed for observing future lexico­graphic trend” (Fuertes-Olivera 2018: 43). What is worth mentioning is that the last chapter ‘Towards an international directory of lexicography’ analyzes the ten key issues in lexicography from a global perspective.

Third, the wide discussion on the lexicographical skills and dictionary compila­tion process indicates the practicality in research contents. In RHL, many chapters are intended to satisfy the practical needs for the compilers in dictionary making, such as ‘Dictionary management’, ‘Explaining meaning in lexicographical informa­tion tools’, ‘Revising the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles’, and ‘A case study of contemporary sign lexicography’, to name just a few. In Chapter 2, a detailed discussion of two dictionary projects shows how dictionary management is executed step by step. This discussion has the potential to inspire different types of dictionary compilers. Chapter 25 presents a case study about the Online Diction­ary of New Zealand Sign Language to show how contemporary sign dictionaries can be compiled in various steps: ordering entries, searching entries, creating example sentences, and recording lexical variation. Also in Part IV, the explicit analysis of the wine dictionary and the accounting dictionary shows how a specialized diction­ary is planned and compiled, and the practical introduction of FrameNet and Word- nik helps illustrate how lexicographic tools are employed in dictionary compilation.

Moreover, the overall layout of the macro-structural and micro-structural com­ponents in the handbook indicates the systematicity in research structure. RHL is well organized and logically structured in both macro-structural and micro-struc­tural ways. From the perspective of macro-structure, the handbook consists of front matter, body, and back matter. At the beginning of the body is the ‘Introduction’ section written by the editor, giving readers a brief summary and overview of the 47 chapters. Part I and Part II explore the theoretical foundations and interdiscipli­nary nature of lexicography; Part III and Part IV analyze different types of diction­aries and innovative dictionaries; Part V and Part VI illustrate the development of lexicography in global and future aspects. From the perspective of micro-structure, each chapter is generally composed of ‘Introduction’, ‘Historical perspective’, ‘Core issues and topics’, ‘Looking to the future’, and ‘Conclusion’. What’s more, at the end of each chapter are ‘Related topics’ and ‘Further reading’, from which readers can extend their relative vision and construct their knowledge network.

In spite of the above-mentioned positive features, RHL could have benefited from a number of additional features. For one thing, as the handbook is written by various contributors from different academic and cultural backgrounds, some topics are not balanced and coordinated properly, notwithstanding the big effort the chief editor has done in terms of overall structure. In Chapter 41, the historic description of elec­tronic dictionaries seems too concise, and no discussion is made about the typology of electronic dictionaries and there is little specific concern with mobile dictionaries. Chapter 32 mainly focuses on the historic development of Chinese lexicography and little analysis is made of the current status of lexicography in the Internet era. It may leave the reader with the illusion that the Internet is not widely employed in Chinese lexicography. As the chief editor mentions in the Introduction, “The Internet is not much used in Chinese lexicography, and the authors do not document online Chi­nese dictionaries” (Fuertes-Olivera 2018: 45). This statement is actually not accu­rate. Chinese lexicographers also make full use of the Internet in the various stages of their dictionary compilation. The Xinhua Dictionary (The Chinese Academy of Social Science 2011), the most widely used dictionary in China, has already been put online for a number of years, and users can consult it free. For another, there are more case descriptions than extractive summarizations of some specific dictionar­ies and lexicographical tools in RHL, especially in Part IV ‘Innovative dictionaries’. Lexicographers and dictionary users can be inspired and encouraged by dictionaries as sign dictionaries, wine dictionaries and accounting dictionaries, and lexicographi­cal tools such as FrameNet and Wordnik. However, it would be better for lexicogra­phers and dictionary users if the guiding principles for dictionary compilation were extracted and summarized in more detail.

As a whole, RHL is one of the most comprehensive and detailed handbooks on lexicography published recently. It is most comprehensive in that it explores the dic­tionaries of various types, of many important languages and cultures in the world, and from different perspectives. It is most detailed in that it analyzes in deep detail the specific lexicographical principles and tools as well as various sample diction­aries. RHL is distinguished from its peers in that the contributors are all the active lexicographers and linguists from various countries and of different cultural back­grounds, and thus all the contributions are predominant and representative in their specific fi elds. RHL also presents the re aders a fu ture vision of the further devel­opment in the various aspects of lexicography, and proposes “a series of possible developments that might be influencing the near future of the field” (Fuertes-Olivera 2018: 37). It is informative and inspiring for both scholars of lexicography and users of dictionaries for its broad coverage of lexicography and its systematic layout of various information elements.

Acknowledgements This work was funded by the China Scholarship Council (Grant number 201808440099). I would also like to thank Prof. Hans C. Boas with the University of Texas at Austin for his valuable comments and corrections and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful suggestions for my manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


Durkin, P. (ed.) 2016. The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fuertes-Olivera, P.A., and A. Arribas-Baño. 2008. Pedagogical Specialised Lexicography. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Fuertes-Olivera, P.A., and H. Bergenholtz (eds.). 2011. e-Lexicography: The Internet, Digital Initiatives and Lexicography. London: Continuum.

Fuertes-Olivera, P.A., and S. Tarp. 2014. Theory and Practice of Specialised Online Dictionaries: Lexi­cography versus Terminography. New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Fuertes-Olivera, P.A. (ed.). 2010. Specialised Dictionaries for Learners. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Fuertes-Olivera, P. A. (ed.). 2018. The Routledge Handbook of Lexicography. London: Routledge.

Hanks, P., and G.-M. de Schryver. (eds.) 2016. International Handbook of Modern Lexis and Lexicogra­phy. Berlin: Springer.

Jackson, H. (ed.) 2013. The Bloomsbury Companion to Lexicography. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

The Chinese Academy of Social Science (eds.). 2011. The Xinhua Dictionary, 11th ed. Beijing: The Commercial Press.

Zgusta, L. 1971. Manual of Lexicography. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Publisher’s Note The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


* Xiangming Zhang
simon.xmzhang2019@gmail.com; xmzhang@gdufe.edu.cn

1 School of Foreign Studies, Guangdong University of Finance and Economics, Guangzhou, China