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Language Acquisition: Words, words, words: Lexicography for students of English

Course 2010-2011

Admission Requirements



The aim of Words, Words, Words is to instill in its participants a fascination for and preferably even an obsession with words and dictionaries. English is a fascinating starting-point for the study of lexicography: according to the Guinness Book of Records it has the largest vocabulary of all languages (this itself is food for thought: Is this true? Who did the counting? How did they count?). In the first part of this course we will study English words from different angles. We will explore the vocabulary of different user and use varieties of English and discover how geography, but also age, gender, ethnicity and style define our vocabulary. We will also make brief forays into pronunciation and spelling. And we will travel back in history and forward into the future to see how time affects the meaning of words. In the second half of the course, we will focus on how words are recorded in dictionaries. What kinds of dictionaries exist? How are dictionaries made? Who decides which words are entered in a dictionary? How does one explain words? Throughout the course, students will be asked to embark on small projects and to report on their findings in class.
Furthermore, the course instructor is active in the field of legal lexicography and will be preparing the publication of a bilingual dictionary of criminal law terminology. Students may be invited to participate in the preparation of this publication, although they will be welcome to pursue their own lexicographical interests.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course students will have a sound knowledge and understanding of the many different ways in which words are studied. They will have knowledge of and be able to identify and evaluate research in the different areas of lexicography and to discuss their findings in appropriate terminology. Finally, thanks to the final project they will have some practical experience with lexicographical work.


The timetable will be available from July 1 onwards on the Department website.

Mode of Instruction

Two-hour seminar per week.


  • Class participation and mini-presentations and short writing assignments (40%)
  • Final paper (small-scale specialized dictionary with critical introduction) (60%)


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Jackson, H. (2002). Lexicography: An introduction. London: Routledge
  • Folder with background reading [Available for inspection at the English Department]


Students can register through uSis.

Contact information

English Department, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103c. Phone: 071 527 2144, or mail: