Lexical knowledge

Lexical knowledge is a term used for knowledge in the form mainly facts, figures, data and information in general taken from reliable sources, such as published documents, etc.

In the developed countries where keeping and processing records/data is an industry on its own, and a major supplier of services to all the rest, there is a cult for lexical knowledge, and a high prestige is attached to the knowledge of difficult or rare words, the longer, the better. It is also a part of the university admission procedures to check the applicant's familiarity with the vocabulary of science and rhetorics.

That means that there is a confusion about the concept word; people often mistake the knowledge of a word with the knowledge of the thing that the word is name of. This is also the origin of fierce debates about the meaning of, and the difference between a lexicon and a dictionary.

Towards a definition

The scope of lexical knowledge is wide apart from some individual collections and productions (such as reciting a railway timetable or the names of all footballers of the national teams of the world, etc.) their systematic collection and organisation in the human mind and/or memory is a fruitless exercise.

Lexical knowledge is considered to be a pejorative phrase since it is deemed to be mainly the product of rote learning, or just a memorable encounter with a fact, and it is often contrasted with thinking and the knowledge produced as a result of mental operations more complex than the recall of such a memento, or answering a one million pound question.

Thinking is deemed to be not just more complex and taking longer time, but being more productive, or more creative and yielding wider benefits, then the simple recall of a piece of lexical knowledge, often not more than a trivia. This approach suggests that the essence of knowledge is thinking in algorithms, the knowledge of "how to…", whereas its input of somewhat lower grade, a piece of data, would be the real material to be worked on by the mind, recently reasonably substituted by computers, for the sake of efficiency and speed.

===What do you know, when you "know" a word?===
We are capable of making a mental note of that word at the first instance, then recall it, pronounce or spell it properly, use it at the right time and at the right place, in compliance with grammar rules, or substitute it with another word, inflect it, recognise it's other forms, it's collocations, it's parts of speech category, it's meaning, it's broader term, its narrower term, etc.

But all that is not a part of linguistic, or language paradigm, and such a knowledge would be hard to come by at the very same place. The various collections of words and reference books taken together would have that knowledge associated with those words and things that words denote.

Narrowing this knowledge, however to the knowledge of the word itself, you get this list with the indication of the probable locations:

* The written form of a word (spelling) - a spell-checker program, a spelling dictionary
* The spoken (audible) word (pronunciation) - transcript, audio dictionary, programs to read a text on a screen aloud
* The meaning - monolingual dictionary, bilingual dictionary
* The definition - monolingual dictionary
* The synonyms - dictionary of synonyms
* The relationship with other words - - thesaurus
* Parts of speech, syntactic relationship and other taxonomies - thesauri, nomenclatures, classification systems
* Parts of speech - bilingual dictionary
* Environment - collocations
* Occurrence in phrases - idioms
* Inflected and derived forms - paradigm tables
* Associations with the word (connotation) - in your own mind
* Most frequent associations (trivia) - dictionary, essays, studies, literary works
* Stylistic features, usage, categorisation - monolingual dictionary, literary criticism
* Word in context/corpus - monolingual dictionary, KWIC index, corpus linguistics

The collections or repertories of words based on the above features are generally lists sorted in alphabetic order, taking the form of a book or similar genre/media. With the advent of the computer, however, a new relationship may be established with respect to a particular word in a text, without the need to have the word selected and the appropriate text related to it next to one another in the physical space, and/or with no chance to alter this relationship dynamically, including the sequence of the words and the associated texts/passages.

Another novelty brought about by the computer is the possibility of linking up a selected word to a picture or a sound, and the progress from one word to another word or another modality for that matter is a question of clicking with a mouse only. That subject is discussed in details under hypertext; the main point here, however is the possibility and capability to count and sort the occurrences of a text along with the study of their context and frequency (concordance).

The problem of not knowing a word
Not knowing a word in practice means that the speaker hesitates, trying to find an adequate phrase or a substitute, or makes a blunder. Missusing a word is quite common, see false friends and other related subjects, such as homophones or chunking. Precise and apt usage is taught from the first year of schooling along with the alternative phrases, thus the use of recursion in everyday communication. This amount of learning is grossly reduced later and written work (composition) and chatting and talk tend to become impoverished, one of the reasons being a tendency to rely on context (and thus be economical). Therefore, young people sometimes find it difficult to keep on talking and/or writing for more than three minutes on any subject.

An even more critical issue is when you do not even have a passive knowledge of a word, neither are you motivated to get one. Normally, we are content with a minimum amount of association of knowledge with a word, whether it is of category A or B, and we are not bothered even if we cannot repeat such a word on the first instance of hearing it. Then we again recourse to recursion and use fillers, such as what-nots, stuff or you name it types of phrases.
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