ИБАС. The Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Dictionary Making Art In Russia



«Словарь… есть собрание и хранилище языка, из которого всякий писатель выбирай что ему надобно и всякий читатель узнавай что он знать желает»[1].

—А. С. Шишков (1754-1841).


IBASAs one can note, several centuries ago it was clearly realized the enormous weight of the strenuous work of a lexicographer. Therefore, lexicography requires not only diligence, selflessness and eruditions, but it also requires a special linguistic gift of eloquence.  Not just ordinary, but an «extraordinary linguist» could only succeed in lexicographical toil.

However, life always comes to surprise us by chance and prove us otherwise by providing us such humble names in history who had absolutely no formal educational background in either linguistics or lexicography, but they achieved more than «extraordinary specialists» could have ever claimed they had, and left behind monumental lexicographical shiny examples, standing high above any criticism.

          Vladimir Dahl[2] himself was just a modest army doctor of medicine, and an ambidextrous talented surgeon! Samuel Johnson, a simple teacher of elementary trivium was not born as a lexicographer! He even did not have a degree and worked as an usher! «James Murray had been joined by a second editor, Henry Bradley, an erstwhile corresponding clerk [a simple secretary] from Sheffield and, like Murray himself, an autodidact  with an enviable zest for knowledge[3] whose achievement was and still is the Oxford English Dictionary! And finally, Émile Littré, a doctor of medicine who made his first steps into lexicography in 1844 when he was almost 43 years old! Even though he mastered the English and German languages, classical and Sanskrit literature, and philology at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. At this time his  Dictionnaire de la langue française was not even close to be completed until thirty years later.

          By the official decision of UNESCO the entire cultural world declared the year 2001 to be dedicated to the bicentennial jubilee of the birth of Vladimir Dahl.

          Russian people are the genuine author of the Russian language. A lexicographer is not the editor of the Russian Language, but perhaps is the editor of the dictionary, the lowest maid or the general janitor[4] and the humble dvornik of the Russian language, always ready to cleanse the language from the filth und die schmutz. The lexicographer needs no formal background other than to be the sole monarch of common sense, superbly developed taste towards words (словесности) and the possessor of a brilliant memory,abstaining from every voluntary act of mischief and corruptions[5] as any doctor must.

          To begin with,any lexicographer whilst determining the meaning of a word is guided by the corpus of quotations harvested from written sources where the word is represented. Then later, being guided by his own professional mastery, by the character of word combination, by data gathered from other dictionaries, tradition, intuition, demarcating different senses and the usage of a word.  In this respect, the very procedure of determining senses of the vast majority of words in a dictionary requires a great skillful practice, innate talent, a great taste, mastery in stylistics; and in many cases, this procedure actually represents itself as a special art of defining the text, which includes the determination of terms and toponyms which could not, to this present day, be replaced by any computing machines»[6].

The lexicographer’s final product of mental torture, regarding words is the dictionary, or sometimes called, alvery calepin, catholicon, glossary, ortus, polyglot, lexicon, thesaurus etc., a book that contains relatively all individually known and unknown words of the Russian language, usually set in  alphabetical order, and is intended to set forth strict rules for each word’s grammatical aspect, orthography, pronunciation or stress, signification and usage, sometimes their synonyms, derivatives, word combinations, idioms, phraseology, etymology of foreign words already naturalized in the Russian language. It could also provide information about some facts from the history of words elucidated thoroughly and illustrated generously by utilizing the most appropriate quotations from Russian literature representing the most authoritative writers of the best caliber. Therefore, the lexicographer is not a dictator of the language, but rather the servant and the slave of it; here one can talk about any writer; written with a quill, though impossible to cut down with an axe («Что написано пером, не вырубишь топором»)[7]: as the language is a big tree, whereas the  lexicographer is a small axe!

Every scientific research study starts from the gathering of necessary materials needed for any particular project.  In order to compile a dictionary, it is vital to have enough examples of usage of words in very different contexts.  The information about every word is written on cards.  As a result, lexicographers end up with a card index system at their disposal which serves (sometimes underutilized!) as a basis for creating a new dictionary based on common sense which gives to words their ordinary significations, and common sense is the characteristic of humanity. The ordinary signification of a word is formed by gradual progress and in the constant presence of facts; so that when a fact presents itself which seems to come within the meaning of a known term, it is received into it, as it were, naturally…[8].


Авторы: С. А. Головань, М. Ф. Карамян.


«Словарь… есть собрание и хранилище языка, из которого всякий писатель выбирай что ему надобно и всякий читатель узнавай что он знать желает»[9].

– А. С. Шишков (1754-1841).



Practical lexicography is the science, art or craft of compiling dictionaries.

Theoretical lexicography is the theory or scholarly discipline of analyzing and describing dictionaries.

The term lexicology is used variously. Some of us use it as a synonym for theoretical lexicography, others use it for a branch of linguistics, pertaining to the treasure of words in a particular language.

          Dictionary. A dictionary is a list of words with their definitions, a list of characters with its glyph or a list of words with corresponding words in other languages. Many dictionaries also provide pronunciation information, word derivations, histories, or etymologies, illustrations, usage guidance, and examples in sentences.



  1. Users – who will use the dictionary?
  2. Uses – what will the dictionary be used for?



  1. macrostructure – overall structural organization of volume, typically:

front matter, introduction, user guidelines;

body – entries and definitions (plus often other lexicographical material), typically organized alphabetically;

end matter – appendices and additional information, e.g. personal names, geographical names, borrowed words etc.

  1. microstructure – internal structure of dictionary entry blocks, typically:

headword (lemma, form to be looked up) – spelling;


part of speech category or word class;

semantic specification – senses and reference;

cross-references to related items, related by sense;

collocations, co-occurrence strings;

usage with examples;

etymological or historical notes.


Nature of Headwords. What is a word: are the following words? желать, желание, желанный, желающий; коллектив, коллективиизм, коллективный, коллективнисть и. т д.

 How many words are there in: Эти глаза , голубые, как небо, сияли такою любовью, что всядуша покорялась ей (БАС 4:260).

The following shall be distinguished:

1. orthographic word – written word surrounded by spaces word but what about compounds, hyphenated forms, grammatical factors, syntagmatic and paradigmatic changes of words etc?

2. phonological word – sequence of sounds that forms phonological unit, determined by rules of syllable structure, stress etc.

3. lexeme – item of vocabulary that may occur as dictionary headword. Lexemes can be more than one orthographic word.

Lexeme is an abstract concept – it is the set of word forms that comprise a paradigm of related words forms, e.g. sing – sings – singing — sang – sung (cf. talk – talks – talking – talked – talked) – regular and irregular paradigms;

word-form is inflectional variant of lexeme;
headword is typically the citation form of a lexeme (difficult when language is highly inflectional and especially prefixing as root lexeme is never found alone and hence not meaningful to speakers.

need to be established on language particular basis – notion vs formal characterization;
open word classes versus closed word classes;
open classes: noun, verb, adjective, adverb;
closed word classes: pronoun, determiner, adposition, conjunction.


central lexicographic task is capturing the meaning of word in a definition;

many words have more than one meaning – polysemy;

lexemes may sound the same as other lexemes – homonymy; how is it established or to be written the same as other lexemes, homographies?

it is necessary to understand the reference between denotation and connotation; and sense as relations between lexemes and to encode these in a structured way.

                Entry order. Dictionaries of alphabetic languages list words in alphabetical order (e.g. БАС, МАС etc.). However, in idiomatic dictionaries alphabetical order is not used. Word classes and word categories are used in this case (e.g. Русский семантический словарь под редакцией академика Н.Ю. Шведовой). Most Russian dictionaries are compiled on the bases of alphabetical order.

                Special-purpose dictionaries. There are different types of dictionaries, including definitive, normative,  active, passive, monolingual, bilingual, multilingual, historical, biographical, encyclopedic, terminological, dialectical, synonymic, grammatical, geographical dictionaries etc. In many endangered languages communities it makes sense to construct topical dictionaries e.g. fishing and fisherman’s terms, sailing terms, before launching into a full dictionary.

                Glossaries. Another variant is the glossary, an alphabetical list of defined terms in a specialized field, such as medicine or science. The simplest dictionary, a defining dictionary, provides a core glossary of the simplest meanings of the simplest concepts. From these, other concepts can be explained and defined, in particular for those who are learning a language for the first time. In Russian the commercial defining dictionaries typically include only one or two meanings of under 2000 words. With these, the rest of Russian, and even the 4000 most common Russian idioms and metaphors, can be defined.

                Thesaurus. Organized thematically according to meaning groupings. These can be extremely useful for language learners wishing to expand their word knowledge in a given domain. However, thesaurus in Russian lexicography has a different meaning, i.e. Academician Alexey Shakhmatov’s Dictionary of the Russian Language where the word thesaurus is used exactly according to its definition: treasure (chest), where the entire bulk of the language is registered.

Variations between Dictionaries: Prescription and Description. Dictionaries come in two basic philosophies, prescriptive and descriptive. Most modern dictionaries, including the Great Academic Dictionary of the Russian Language, are descriptive, although many, such as the Oxford English Dictionary dictionaries make extensive efforts to provide information on the best usage, and almost all dictionaries provide some information on words considered erroneous, vulgar, or easily confused. In any case, in the long run, usage alone determines the meaning of words, although dictionaries provide conservative continuity, even the most descriptive. Language community issues can often be a determinant of what to include and what to leave out.

                Other Variations. Since words and their meanings develop over time, dictionary entries are organized to reflect these changes. Dictionaries may either list meanings in the historical order in which they appeared, or may list meanings in order of popularity and most common use.

Dictionaries also differ in the degree to which they are encyclopedic, providing considerable background information, illustrations, and the like, or linguistic or philological, concentrating on etymology, nuances of meaning, and quotations demonstrating usage.

                Making dictionaries. According to Soviet and Russian lexicographical tradition, the first step in actually writing the dictionary is:

the scope or the size of the dictionary;

making a card index system for usages;

cataloguing word selection which are to become head words or run-ons in dictionary entries. There are three methods:

translating wordlists in the lingua franca into the source language as is suggested in most field manuals, at least for the basic vocabulary;

extracting words from a text corpus;

eliciting words by techniques which encourage the dictionary helpers to produce wordlists without translation.

          Tools for practical lexicography. There are several tools that have been developed for practical lexicography:

Traditional or conventional – compiling dictionaries as if none of the below tools were available. The Great Academic Dictionary is compiled on the bases of conventional methods of lexicographical available tools: human mind, human hands and human retrieval memory;

Toolbox – has a predefined lexicon structure that enables rich multilingual lexical specification of sense and reference, along with examples. The MDF (Multi Dictionary Formatter) export from Toolbox produces RTF files with richly specified format (including images) that can then be opened in a word processor and printed. Toolbox supports images and sound but is not multimedia;

DDP – Dictionary Development Process is a set of Toolbox files that includes a thematically structured vocabulary in a source language (English, French, Spanish and Malay are available) which allows rapid harvest of lexical materials in a target language;

Lexique Pro – a program that reads/writes Toolbox (FOSF) files and implements sense relations as hypertext links, displays images and plays sounds, and automatically generates a finder-list. Lexique Pro can produce either HTML files for a web-based dictionary or a stand-alone lexicon that can be distributed as a run-time package.

We Say – a web-based programme being developed by SIL that allows native-speaker lexicographer to populate a thematically organized lexicon;

Kirrkirr, a software for the exploration of indigenous language dictionaries – a lexicon visualization tool that takes XML dictionary files and visualizes them as two dimensional spaces where sense links are shown as coloured lines between lexical bubbles – also support images and sound.


          Thousands of words and word combinations used on a daily basis representing socialist political and economic order were complied in GAD1 by using traditional or conventional tools (i.e. абсентеизм, абсолютизмавтократия, авторитет, анархизм библия, бойкот, гегемония, гласность, глобализация, глобальный, господство, демократия, евангелия, империализм, индустриализация, инициатор, кандидат, капитализм, класс, колхоз, коммунизм, консенсус, король, коррупция, кризис, лидер, меритократия, монополия, многопартийность, общество, общественный, пацифизм, перестройка, политбюро, политическая власть, плутократия, политический плюрализм, противоречие, рабство, репрессия, рынок, собственность, социализм, средства производства, труд, сталинизм, урбанизация, феодализм, чиновник, экономический кризис, эксплуатация etc.) have appeared in a vulnerable state caused by an ideologically prepared definition system. Almost 100 [1917-1991] years of Russian literature, language, history, science, press, television, textbooks were exacerbated by the ideological flood of vocabulary praising socialist and communist doctrines.

«Кому нужно, чтобы изменения слов в языке и сочетание слов в предложении происходили не по существующей грамматике, а по совершенно другой? Какая польза для революции от такого переворота в языке? История вообще не делает чего-либо существенного без особой на то необходимости. Спрашивается, какая необходимость в таком  языковом перевороте, если доказано, что существующий язык с его структурой в основном вполне пригоден для удовлетворения нужд нового строя? Уничтожить старую надстройку и заменить ее новой можно и нужно в течение нескольких лет, чтобы дать простор развитию производительных сил общества, но как уничтожить существующий язык и построить вместо него новый язык в течение нескольких лет, не внося анархию в общественную жизнь, не создавая угрозы распада общества? Кто же, кроме донкихотов, могут ставить себе такую задачу?» [10]&[11].

«[Новый] Большой академический словарь БАС является нормативным словарем, т. е. словарем, отражающим нормы современного употребления слов, и уже потому не представляет собой словарь строго исторического типа. Однако словарь, который ставит своей задачей описание лексики русского языка почти двух веков — от эпохи Пушкина до наших дней, — не может обойтись без экскурса в историю конкретных слов, так как в течение указанного времени некоторые лексические единицы в своем значении, употреблении, произношении и т.п. претерпели существенные изменения, которые, естественно, должны быть отражены в словаре. Включение в Словарь лексики, стоящей вне пределов словарных норм современного литературного языка, но употреблявшейся в литературном языке XIX и начала XX веков, обусловлено тем, что русская классическая литература является неотъемлемым элементом современной культуры, читается и изучается широкими массами населения, а лексика и фразеология, встречающаяся в ней, составляют важную часть языкового сознания общества нашего времени. В то же время отражение в Словаре неологизмов объясняется появлением в последнее десятилетие в речевой деятельности общества слов, называющих новые явления общественной жизни, культуры, науки, техники, промышленности и т. д.»[12].

          БАС относится к строго нормативным словарям глубоко филологического типа с историческими элементами. БАС «не может обойтись без экскурса в историю конкретных слов» и дает немало сведений энциклопедического характера, которые рассредоточены по разным зонам словарной статьи и объективируются в ней то эксплицитно то имплицитно.

БАС переполнен исторической информацией. Эта информация дается в зоне толкований в виде указания на хронологические рамки бытования реалии перед толкованием со специальными пометам: В дореволюционной России, В советское время, В старину, В средние века, В середине XVIIIXIX вв. и др. или в виде исторического комментария после него. Сосредоточием исторической информации оказывается справочный отдел, замыкающий обычно словарную статью.

БАС, единственный из всех современных толковых словарей, который дает читателю хотя бы приблизительные представления об исторических истоках слова, времени его появления в языке, его исходном первичном значении (а в первых томах трех БАС1 – и употреблении). БАС содержит в себе краткую лексикографическую историю кодификации того или иного слова, его отдельных форм, характера произношения и написания на протяжении всего периода существования русского литературного языка.

В основе справочного отдела БАС лежат около шестидесяти справочников разных типов и родов: толковых и энциклопедических, словарей иноязычных заимствований и энциклопедических словарей. Рече идет не только об обычной этимологии, сопровождающей заимствования нового времени во многих толковых словарях (например, Словаре Ушакова, МАС1, МАС2, БАС1, БАС2 и т д.). Основной фонд русского языка составляет исконная лексика, входившая в состав церковнославянского, а позднее – древнерусского языка. Установить генетическую принадлежность слова языку древнейшего периода, датировать, хотя бы грубо, время появлении лексики более поздних периодов – задача справочного отдела БАС. Хотя «фактическая жизнь слова в многочисленных ее проявлениях находит отражение в лексикографических ‹календарях› через долгие сроки молчания… тем не менее, ни один историк русской лексики не может отрицать ценных наводящих сведений и указаний, содержащихся в историко-лексикографических справках Словаря»[13].

«10.1.         Словарные статьи сопровождаются особым справочным отделом, составляющим отдельный абзац.

          10.2. В справочном отделе приводятся:

                    а)       сведения о первой фиксации слова в словарях русского языка, начиная с XVIII века, а также в Словаре древнерусского языка академика Срезневского (или в Словаре русского языка XIXVII веков) и Лексиконе славеноросском П. Берынды 1627 года);

б)      сведения об изменении форм, произношения, написания слов, если эти особенности отмечены с начала XIX века в последующих словарях вплоть до современного состояния слова;

                    в)       сведения об этимологии иноязычных слов;

                    г)       устарелые, просторечные и другие грамматические формы, не отвечающие (или не полностью отвечающие) современной норме, но встречающиеся в художественной литературе.

10.3. В справочном отделе могут быть указаны формы слов, отступающие от норм современного употребления, но помещенные в словарной статье для показа исторического развития какихлибо свойств слова (морфологических, акцентологических и т.п.). В этом случае наряду с указанием на ограниченность употребления слова приводится помета: (прим. см. выше), например: ВИШНЁВЫЙ… ▭ Устар. Вишневый. На кудри мягкие надета Ермолка вишневого цвета. Лерм. Тамб. казначейша.С иным (устар.) удар.: вишневый…»[14].

Историческая информация в БАС содержит сведения не только о бытовании той или иной реалии, но и дает сведения по истории слова. Помимо исторический информации БАС включает следующее:

■ информацию исторического характера, содержащую указания на сферу преимущественного употребления слова или границы распространения реалии. Такие элементы толкования, как В Сибири, В Западной Европе, В древней Руси, В древнем Риме и т. п., В горном деле, В медицине, В математике или В речи моряков, Б речи охотников, В речи рыбаков, В Сказках, В восточной поэзии, В греческой мифологии и. т. п. вполне традиционны в БАС;

■ культурологическую информацию, указывающую на литературный источник, к которому восходит переносное значение слова или его символическая нагрузка, мотивировку возникновения того или иного значения слова, устойчивого сочетания или фразеологизма;

■ информацию научного значения, содержащую оценку того или иного явления с мировоззренческих позиций, с точки зрения результатов познавательной деятельности. Она находит свое отражение в традиционных формулах: В религиозных представлениях, По суеверным представлениям якобы и т п. или свободном авторском комментарии;

■ информацию идеологического характера, отражающую восприятие слова или явления с точки зрения его политический оценки (БАС1 и БАС2).

Помимо указанных источников энциклопедической информации, не менее значимы и иллюстрации, включающие множество познавательных сведений из истории, медицины, психологии, культуры и иных сфер общественной жизни (например: Дизель, Калашников, Паровоз и т. д.).

Опираясь на исторический опыт многих поколений, на коллективное создание нации, любой словарь отражает достижения своей национальной культуры. Однако границы и глубина этого отражения зависят от типа словаря. Обращение БАС к языковому прошлому сделало его поистине энциклопедией русской жизни, материальной и духовной культуры русского народа на протяжении всей его многовековой истории: от истоков до первой половины XXI в. включительно и поставило его в один ряд словарям и В.И Даля и А.А. Шахматова. В БАС представлены все исторические этапы развития русской лексики с древнейшей поры до последних дней редактирования нового издания БАС. Городской и крестьянский быт, его устои, церковные и народные праздники, обряды с их атрибутикой, веяния моды, блюда русской кухни и др. черты национального уклада, вытесненные после Октябрьской революции приметами нового времени, сохранились в словаре как культурно–исторический памятник.

Принципиальное отличие БАС  от других толковых словарей русского языка в том, что, располагая богатым арсеналом дифференцированных лексикографических средств введения энциклопедической информации, он гораздо полнее и шире охватывает то языковое прошлое, которое обеспечивает непрерывность культурных традиций. Поэтому вполне естественно, что многие значения и устойчивые сочетания, представленные в БАС, остаются вне поля зрения других академических толковых словарей (БАС1, БАС2, МАС1 и МАС2).

БАС – единственный из всех толковых словарей русского языка, который позволяет своему пользователю увидеть историю языка а соответственно, и историю русской культуры, в хронологически расчлененном виде, причем не только благодаря справочному отделу с его первой фиксацией и лексикографической историей, но и благодаря принципам интерпретации словоупотреблений, характеру иллюстрирования. Недаром каждое значение, а нередко и словоупотребление имеет не менее трех цитат, относящихся к разным этапам развития языка.

В БАС, как в зеркале, отражается русский менталитет с законами чести, гостеприимства и хлебосольства, истинным патриотизмом, национальной гордостью, крайностями в любви и ненависти. Фонд цитат отражающие русский менталитет, хранящихся в БАС, не только свидетельствуют об устойчивости национального склада, цикличности исторических событий и повторяемости социально–психических ситуаций, но и обеспечивает ему запас современности. В. И. Чернышев писал о БАС как о словаре – справочнике, предназначенном для «всех тех, кто пользуется языком как средством культурного общения, средством усвоения, выражения и распространения науки, литературы, русской цивилизации вообще»[15].

В БАС широко представлен национальный быт других народов, по существу вся мировая культура в том ее объеме, в котором она питала русский менталитет, органично пополняя представления русского человека о мире, в котором он живет. Речь идет не только о собрании этнографизмов, служащих наиболее яркими приметами национального уклада (см. голубцы, долма, икибана и т. п.)

В корпус БАС вливались имена греческих, римских, западноевропейских и восточных богов и героев, мифологических существ, литературных персонажей и исторических лиц, испытавших на себе смысловые метаморфозы и получивших благодаря мифам, легендам, бродячим сюжетам свои символические нагрузки. Многие из этих имен узаконили  свое положение в составе русского литературного языка только благодаря БАС.

Этнографическое название древнейших народов, оставивших свой след в истории человеческий цивилизации, заняли свое место наряду с современными этническими наименованиями. Названия различных направлений общественной мысли, вероучений и общественных движений как национального, так и интернационального характера нашли достойное место в БАС.

Особый пласт мировой культуры представляет в БАС культовая и христианская лексика. В эпоху массового атеизма, отчуждения произведений религиозной литературы во всем многообразии ее жанров, недоступности Библии (БАС1 и БАС2) для широкого круга читателей БАС знакомил с библейскими персонажами и событиями, с атрибутикой христианских обрядов и их символикой, с религиозно–этическими нормами, поддерживающими в БАС идеалы высокой нравственности.



Words and their features are studied by both lexicology and lexicography. The sum total of all the words available in the Russian language forms the vocabulary or the lexical stock of the Russian language. Although each word is an independent linguistic entity in the GAD, it is indirectly related to other lexical items both paradigmatically and syntagmatically. While the paradigmatic relation of words in the GAD is based on the interdependence of words within the lexical system, syntagmatic relations show words in their patterns of arrangement. The vocabulary of a language is not an arbitrary frame of diversified phenomena; it is a well-defined system that consists of elements which, although independent, are interrelated in some way or another.

As a phonological, grammatical and semantic unit, a Russian word is made up of a particular group of sounds, and it has grammatical and semantic functions. Lexicology studies a word in all these aspects exploring the patterns of its phonological, morphological and contextual behavior as well as its semantic relationships. A word often undergoes changes in its form and meaning with respect to its origin resulting from its development and current usage. Since a word does not occur in isolation, its combinatory possibilities are also studied in lexicology including its phrasiological, idiomatic and proverbial functions.

The domain of Russian lexicology is both diachronic (i.e. historical) and synchronic (i.e. descriptive). From the diachronic viewpoint it deals with the origin and development of the form and meaning of lexical units in a particular language across the time scale. From the synchronic perspective it studies various aspects of the vocabulary of a language at a particular point of time, i.e. from Pushkin to the present day. This implies that in lexicology words cannot be studied in isolation without close reference to other fields.

Lexicological study of Russian words can be general and special. While general lexicology is concerned with general features of words common to all languages, special lexicology studies words with reference to a particular language. Furthermore, lexicological studies can be comparative and contrastive, based on the lexical systems of any two languages. Functionally, lexicology fulfills the needs of different branches of applied linguistics such as lexicography, stylistics, language teaching, etc.

Based on Zgusta the lexicography also studies lexicon but from a different angle. While lexicology concentrates on the general properties and features that can be viewed as systematic, lexicography typically deals with the individuality of each lexical unit. Λεξικογραφία is thus defined as the art of writing a dictionary or the science of compiling a dictionary. While λεξικολογία studies words as elements of a system, lexicography approaches words as individual units with respect to their meaning and usage. Using a dictionary in order to learn about words in the process of language learning, comprehending a text in a better way or checking correct spellings and pronunciations of words, etc.

A word may have varied sets of characteristic feature, all of which may not be needed to a dictionary maker, since his work is mostly guided by the purpose of dictionary and the type of users. Words are presented in a dictionary in alphabetical order. For instance, whatever theoretical basis for enumerating different meanings of polysemous words is accepted, meanings are arranged and presented keeping in mind the practical utility purpose of the dictionary of different users. While a lexicologist presents materials according to his view of the study of vocabulary, a lexicographer is guided by the retrieval  memory and retrieval data.

In principle, lexicology provides a theoretical basis to lexicography. A dictionary maker may know all the semantic details of a lexical unit, but he has to decide which details to include in the definition. Lexicological study of words is governed by theories of semantics and word formation. In lexicography definitions are often subjective and are not free from the bias of a dictionary maker.

Lexicology is not language specific, since it deals with universal features of words. Lexicography is more or less language specific in spite of its universal theoretical background. Lexicography has no other relevance except for its practical applicability. Lexicology is more theory oriented, lexicography is more concrete in application of theories. In a certain sense, “lexicography may be considered a superior discipline to lexicology, for results are more important than intentions and the value of theoretical principles must be estimated according to results” (Doroszewski[16] 1973: 36).

Lexicology usually covers a wide range of interests and approaches to lexical study. It includes reconstruction of meaning and semantic change of words, lexical variation and change across time scale, evolution of vocabulary over centuries, neologism and word- loss within languages, lexical borrowing and derivation over time, structural and etymological analysis of lexical items, etc. with close interface between semantics, syntax, and pragmatics. Lexicography serves simply as a store house of information. In order to perform this task adequately, it collects information from different sources and presents them within the scope of the dictionary users.

Writing and editing the Great Academic Dictionary may seem a disarray to an inexperienced person in lexicography. However, the task for making the GAD is overly organized, and the word selection is proportionally  focused from the centre to the periphery, the entire vital domain of the classical and contemporary Russian language.

In focusing our attention to consider the treatment of the semantic system in the Great Academic Dictionary, the editors face several perplexing problems. If one function of the Great Academic Dictionary is more important than its many others, then surely that function is to define the meaning, the signification of words.     Definition is central to the Great Academic Dictionary and quite obviously it is involved with semantics. Principally, it deals with individual words in isolation from other words and thus does not ignore, to a considerable degree, the systematic, relational side of Russian semantics. Another problem is that although quite a lot of information is known about the system of Russian phonology and the grammatical system, our understanding of the semantic system is very substandard. Much of what is known about semantics does not come very obviously into play in a dictionary. Still, it will be a glimpse of this system when the dictionary treatment of synonyms is considered seriously. In the meantime, there is much to be researched about the defining of words. Perhaps the first thing that is needed is to be reminded of the meaning of a word, employed artificially and conventionally.

Meaning does not precisely reside within the word. It is resonated in the minds of those who hear or read the word. This fact alone assures that meaning is, to a great degree, amorphous. No two individuals have had exactly similar experiences with a word, referring to the meaning of the word slightly or greatly different from each carrier of the language, regardless of native or non-native origin. It is apparent, then, that the Great Academic Dictionary which set itself the task of defining the meanings of words in their entirety would be an impulsive and unscrupulous enterprise. Therefore, the Great Academic Dictionary editors invoke the traditional distinction between denotation — the direct and specific part of meaning which is sometimes indicated as the total of all the referents of a word and is shared by intellectually alert and sound layers of the educated society who use the word and connotation: the more personal associations and shades of meaning that gather about a word as a result of individual experience which may not be widely shared. The GAD concerns itself essentially with the denotations of each words within its word selection.

For the editors of the Great Academic Dictionary the defining process began long before they actually sat down to analyze critically the definitions of the previous editions and to formulate trial definitions. It began with reading and marking. Generally, each editor spends a segment of the working day by reading a variety of newspapers, magazines, and books, looking for anything that might be useful to a definer of Russian words. Due to limitations of time and staff, the scope of Russian seems nearly unlimited, changes in subject matter, geographical area covered, and individual publications must be made from time to time in a way carefully calculated to ensure the range and depth as well as the continuity of lexical coverage of the vocabulary of Russian.

The editors of the GAD who are reading and marking will, of course, be looking for examples of new words and for unconventional applications of familiar words that suggest the possible materialization of a new meaning. However, they will also be concerned to provide evidence of the current status of variant spellings, inflected forms, word formation and the stylings of compound words, to collect examples from Russian literature that may be quotable as illustrations of typical use in the GAD.

In each instance the reader will underline the word or phrase that is of interest and mark off as much context as is considered valuable in elucidating the meaning. This example of a word used in context is called a citation of the word. Ideally, the editors like all citations to illuminate the meaning of the word, but some passages will remain obscure no matter how far they extend, and sometimes one must mark a citation simply for the occurrence of the word or meaning, trusting that the reading-and-marking process will yield more helpful examples in the long run.

In the case of ephemeral words, of course, this may never happen, but truly ephemeral words will not need to be defined for the GAD. At this early stage of the dictionary-making process the editors do not make judgments about the likelihood of a word’s establishing itself in the language. If a possible citation has even the barest potential to be useful at a later time, it is marked and catalogued to expand the Great Dictionary Card Index System.

          These samples of words in bracketed context are put onto cards, and the citation slips are placed in alphabetical order in rows of filing cabinets at the Institute for Linguistic Studies. The samples will be used by the editors in their roles as writers of definitions and certain other parts of entries systematized for inclusion in the GAD.

The editors participating in this third and new edition of the Great Academic Dictionary have reviewed every citation that had gathered since the Dictionary of the Russian Language by academician Jacob Grot which was prepared in the early 1850s, marking the beginning of the Great Dictionary Card Index System. Upon necessity, the editors of the GAD also sketch upon the supplementary resources of “consolidated” files, those that contain all the citations (over eight million) that had been accumulated in the Institute for Linguistic Studies since the mid XIX century and had been used in the editing of the many other academic dictionaries.

The actual defining process begins with a number of special assignments called “group defining projects”, which may range from a small set of words like those for the days of the week or the letters of the Russian alphabet to the vocabulary of a large subject area such as art or science for which parallel, formulaic definitions are required. When these assignments have been completed, defining proceeds alphabetically, with the editors responsible for the entire lexicon, terminology of the life sciences or the physical sciences and related technologies working independently of the editors responsible for defining the general vocabulary.

The task for making the Great Academic Dictionary does not end here. There are many other concerns of greater complications regarding the language system in the Russian language.

The major systems that make up the broad comprehensive system of the Russian language itself are several in number: alphabet, phonology, morphology, lexicon, grammar, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.  The most essential system that the Great Academic Dictionary dictionary editors and dictionary users are most directly concerned with is the vocabulary or lexicon, the multitude of words and word elements which are harmonized in various ways to form larger units of discourse: phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and so forth.  Russian lexicon is governed by rules that permit specific word formation, make others dubious, and render still others clearly impossible.

In Russian the reader might say переобсуждение without irresolution if he needed such a word and could not for the moment think of судить, even though the former is not normally part of our everyday working vocabulary; but философия might give the reader considerable interlude, and любознательность he would simply never verbalize.

The magnitude of the lexicon varies considerably from literary language to low parlance language.  The Russian language of an isolated villager or a prisoner, for example, may be perfectly adequate with a relatively small and fixed vocabulary, since it has no need of the coinages attendant upon modern technology, while Russian has enormous stocks of words, to which they add day by day at a great rate.  Since the Great Academic Dictionary is centrally and proportionally focused upon the normative literary lexicon, the discourse of the other systems of language, as it proceeds, will be largely concerned with how they are related to the lexicon and thus are consequential within the GAD.

The grammatical system of the Russian language governs the way in which words are amalgamated together to form the larger units of discourse mentioned earlier.  Grammar, of course, varies a great deal from literary language to colloquial language just as the lexicon does: in Russian, word order is not a dominant factor in determining meaning, while the use of inflectional endings to mark the grammatical function of individual words within a sentence plays a clearly dominant role.

 The semantic system of the Russian language deals with meanings and thus with the relation between the conventionalized symbols that constitute language and the external reality about which every Russian speaking person needs to communicate through language.

The phonological system of the Russian language is what allows a speaker of Russian to transform a grammatical unit assimilating a meaning into a flow of pronounced sounds that can be heard and interpreted accurately, according to literary norms developed by another speaker of Russian.  This system is always very solidly organized.  The inventory of basic meaningful phonemes within Russian is never very large compared with the number of words and word elements in the lexicon; most speakers of Russian manage with approximately 50-70.  Phonemes are identified by the fact that in some pairs of words they create a contrast that signals a difference in meaning.  The speaker considers the vowel sounds of кровь бровь and дверь зверь to be different phonemes because the difference in vowel sounds is the sole determinant of their being unmistakably distinct words.  Only their consonant sounds are dissimilar.  Similarly, the initial consonant sounds of дом том, балка палка, голоши колоши, and змей смей are contrasting phonemes.  On the other hand, the sound at the beginning of сон and at the end of нос are phonetically quite different, but as they do not juxtapose  meaningfully to the speaker he does not perceive them as distinct phonemes.  The integrations of these phonemes permitted in the Russian language are severely restricted, as are the strategies in which speech sounds occur in conjunction with other significant elements of the phonological system such as forced or intensified accent and intonation, the elevation and reduction in pitch of the voice as it moves through an exclamation.

All of the systems of language are constantly in functioning mode, and in a given language at a given time they may seem almost to be monolithic or at least to have sufficient identity that it makes sense, for example, to talk of the grammar of Russian. And, indeed, how could it be otherwise? Language would be a far more imperfect tool of communication than it is if the speakers of Russian were not functioning within a system sufficiently integrated and unified to permit almost constant mutual intelligibility.  Nevertheless, the impression of unity which the speaker receives when he takes a broad descriptive look at a single language at a particular synchronic point of view is more than a little misleading because it has failed to take account of the enormous variation that exists within the Russian language.

Every  person speaks a distinctive form of Russian which is not identical in every particular way with the form spoken by anyone else. This individual variety of a language as identified as an idiolect. Those who speak idiolects sharing certain features of vocabulary, grammar, and phonology that are distinctively different from corresponding features shared by others who live in a different geographical area or belong to a different social group or who differ in some other way that affects their language are said to speak a dialect of the language. The GAD comes to unify the Russian language and exemplify the usage based on different norms, established by classical and contemporary Russian literary language.

The Institute for Linguistic Studies has always identified a number of different geographical dialect areas within Russia, rather clearly marked on the Northern territorial districts but progressively less well defined as one moves east; yet, the dialects of St. Petersburg and Pskov do not differ overall very greatly from one another; some dialects of southern Russia are more strikingly divergent in phonology, for example, than are any two dialects within Russia, and some dialects approach the condition of mutual unintelligibility that is often taken to divide separate dialects from each other, and literary Russian likewise.

Nor is variation in language by any means confined to matters of idiolect or dialect.  Issues regarding idiolect and dialect are well researched and documented in regional dictionaries. Only a slight part of idiolect and dialect have became part of the word selection for the Great Academic Dictionary.

Variation may also be related to the several functional varieties of the Russian language that people move it closer to the centre of the core of  the word selection specified for the GAD and abandon as their roles and relationships change on an hourly basis throughout the day.  Such variation can involve vocabulary, pronunciation, and even grammar which is studied very thoroughly by lexicographers at the Department of Dictionaries.

If variation of the Russian language is one of the most affluential characteristics of Russian as one considers it at the present time, the ineluctable and mandatory fact that manifests from considering Russian historically from a diachronic point of view, is changeChange itself is the main and only subject of historyChange never takes place without definite presence of time. Therefore, the Great Academic Dictionary with its vocabulary range from Pushkin to the present day is nothing but a massive change in language that makes this reference publication to appear as a historical dictionary of its very own kind, and not as a dictionary that has been compiled on historical principles, clearly resembling the established style for “historical dictionaries”.

No living language is stationary, however we wish at times that it would.  Change over the short run is most readily noticed in the lexicon, as a comparison of successive editions of the Great Academic Dictionary definitely does show; in grammar and phonology, the shift of stress etc.  The forces of change typically operate much more slowly within the periodical range from Pushkin to the present day. The cumulative effect of changes in Russian that are unobtrusive and indistinguishable as they occur can be impressive when measured across the time period from Pushkin to the present day.  The Russian of those three to five generations apart from each other might not sound so very different from one’s own.  It is proven by an axiomatic differential method of presently spoken Russian from Lermontov’s Russian. However, this cannot be the same case for the English language which has gone through many unrecognizable “face lifts“  just from Old English to Middle English to  Early Modern English to Modern English to finally King’s English to BBC English to Current English: from some unknown to another unknown, from Chaucer to  Shakespeare, from King James to Byron, from Byron to the present day.  Perhaps it might seem a bit stiff and formal, a bit old-fashioned in its vocabulary, but the differences would not be dramatic.  If we could somehow listen to an English-speaker of King Alfred’s time, however, we would hear what all but a few scholars of historical English would take to be a foreign tongue, which would be the joke of the Universe. This is not a secret! One shall just try to use the Oxford English Dictionary to comprehend this historically questionable enormous change on that little island, or as they call it there, “Great Britain”, where the word normative seems to have descended from another planet.

Meanwhile, Russian normativity and the time period that has been presented to us, will stay unchanged, from Pushkin to the present day. This justification in change denounces and promises us a lot about ourselves as Russians. If in doubt, refer yourself to the Great Academic Dictionary going back all the way to the Dictionary of the Russian Academy and annals, known as летописи!

There are many different types of Russian dictionaries, which have different types of content and coverage and are designed to serve different needs and users. The GAD and other numerous academic dictionaries in style and purpose for use are themselves very different. While the GAD focuses on the current language and practical usage, the СРЯ11-14, СРЯ11-17 and СРЯ18 show how words and meanings have changed over time.

The dictionary content in the GAD focuses on contemporary Russian literary language and includes modern meanings and uses of words. Where words have more than one meaning, the most important and common meanings in modern Russian are given first, and less common and special or technical uses are listed below. The GAD, on the other hand, is a historical dictionary  in its own right and it forms a record of all the core words and meanings in Russian for over more than 300 years, from Pushkin to the present day, and including many obsolete and historical terms. Meanings are ordered based on logic in the GAD, according to which literary material is correctly recorded in Russian, so that senses with evidence of correct usage appear within the corpus of the GAD as a supreme lexical atlas of the Russian language. 


[1] Шишков А. С., Некоторые замечания на предполагаемое вновь сочинение Российского Словаря // Изв. Российской Академии. СПб., 1815. Кн. 1. С. 21.

[2] Vladimir Dahl (1801-1872), one of the greatest Russian writers, ethnographers, folklorists and lexicographers, the author of the legendary Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian Language, the master of six languages, including English; the founder of the Russian Geographical Society.

[3] Linda Mugglestone, Lost for Words, The Hidden History of the Oxford English Dictionary, page 3, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2005; ibid. R. Bridges, ‘Henry Bradley. A Memoir’. In R. Bridges (ed.[itor]), The Collected Papers of Henry Bradley, Oxford: Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, 1928, 1-58.

[4] Генеральный уборщик или генеральная уборщица.

[5] Hippocrates, The Oath of Hippocrates, The Harvard Classics, Alumni Edition De Luxe, volume 38, page 3, New York 1910 & G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Entered at Stationer’s Hall, London, 1897.

[6] Alexander Heard, Lexical Meaning of the Word and Sense: The Actual Problems of Theoretical and Applied Lexicography, Interinstitutional Collection of Works, page 195, Ivanovo, 1997.

[7] Vladimir Dahl, Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian Language, Treatise on the Russian Dictionary, 1860, Third Edition by Baudouin de Courtenay (1845-1929), volume I, page 27, Moscow, 2004.

[8] Françoise Pierre Guillaume Guizot, History of Civilization in Europe, The Yale Classics, Timothy Dwight Edition, volume 10, page 6, London & New York, 1899.

[9] Шишков А. С., Некоторые замечания на предполагаемое вновь сочинение Российского Словаря // Изв. Российской Академии. СПб., 1815. Кн. 1. С. 21.

[10] См. Joseph Stalin, Marxism and Problems of Linguistics. Примечание. Статья И. Сталина фактически завершила дискуссию о так называемом «Новом учении о языке» Н. Я. Марра, которую проводила газета с 9 мая. Дискуссия в «Правде» началась неожиданно, в разгар последнего наступления марристов (шедшего с конца 1948 г.), которые в ходе масштабной «проработочной» кампании до сих пор одерживали верх (в том числе административными средствами, вплоть до увольнения) над всеми действительными и мнимыми оппонентами. Выступление Сталина повернуло кампанию на 180 градусов; вместо очередной волны проработок и, возможно, репрессий против оппонентов «Нового учения» сам марризм был окончательно развенчан и сошёл со сцены.

[11] И. В. Сталин И.В. Марксизм и вопросы языкознания, Сессия отделений общественных наук Академии Наук СССР, посвященная годовщине опубликования гениального произведения И. В. Сталина «Марксизм и вопросы языкознания». Издательство Академии наук СССР, 1951 г.

[12] Н.В. Соловьев, Большой академический словарь, Том 1 (А–Бишь), РАН ИЛИ, Москва & Санкт-Петербург, 2004, С. 7.

[13] В. В. Виноградов, Тезисы докладов, С. 3.

[14] Н.В. Соловьев, Большой академический словарь, Том 1 (А–Бишь), РАН ИЛИ, Москва & Санкт-Петербург, 2004, С. 30.

[15] В. И. Ченышев, Принципы построения академического Словаря современного русского литературног языка. // В кн.: Б. И. Чернышев. Избранные труды, Москва, 1970. Т. С. 342.

[16] Witold Doroszewski. Elements of Lexicology and Semiotics. Page 36. Mouton De Gruyter; First Edition edition, Berlin, 1973..

Витольд Ян Дорошевский (Doroszewski) Витольд Ян (1899, Москва-1976 Варшава), польский языковед-славист. Специалист по общему языкознанию, лексикологии, диалектологии, филологии. Профессор Варшавского университета (с 1929), член Польской АН (1952). С 1932 редактор журнала «Poradnik językowy». Под редакцией Д. вышел «Словарь польского языка» (тт. 1‒11, 1958‒69).

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