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Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus (SPiL Plus)

On-line version ISSN 2224-3380
Print version ISSN 1726-541X


GOUWS, Rufus H.. From thematic to alphabetic to thematic ordering in dictionaries - interaction between theory and practice. SPiL plus (Online) [online]. 2017, vol.53, pp.133-148. ISSN 2224-3380.

Early dictionaries were characterised by a thematic ordering. Alphabetical ordering came to play a dominant role only later in lexicographic practice, although thematic ordering has been maintained in certain dictionaries. Modern-day lexicographic practice reflects a new approach to macrostructural ordering with a hybrid product of successive macrostructures in which both alphabetical and thematic principles have an ordering role to play. This article focuses on the development of the lexicographic practice and the reasoning behind a thematic ordering in early dictionaries. Subsequently the transition to a predominantly alphabetical ordering is described. Developments in theoretical lexicography and the interaction between theory and practice resulted in various adaptations in the macrostructural product. Apart from strict alphabetical ordering, modern-day sinuous ordering involves horizontal ordering of lemmata, leading to article niching and article nesting. This type of ordering mostly prevails in printed dictionaries. Morphological and semantic reasons have a role to play in adaptations in the macrostructural ordering. In addition to purely alphabetical and purely thematic dictionaries, there are many dictionaries these days that offer a hybrid ordering. In the macrostructural series of a single dictionary, certain texts are ordered alphabetically, while others are ordered thematically. These changes are not done in a haphazard way but according to the user perspective, which plays a dominant role the lexicographic practice. Innovative macrostructural approaches to optimise dictionary consultation for specific target user groups in specific user situations and situations of use are discussed in the context of existing dictionaries. The importance of a dictionary having a sound theoretical foundation serves as a point of departure.

Keywords : alphabetical ordering; hybrid macrostructures; macrostructural series; macrostructure; thematic ordering.

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