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What is lexicology?

According to the Dictionary of the Spanish language, lexicology is the study of the lexical units of a language and the systematic relationships established between them . That is, lexicology studies words, how they are composed and what their components mean. Regarding their systematic relationships, lexicology is in charge of classifying and studying words according to the patterns and functions that are observed in the use of language as a system.

lexicology and lexicography

While these two terms have a lot in common, they refer to different activities. While lexicology is responsible for the study of words, lexicography is responsible for collecting these words and gathering them in dictionaries.

If we look at the etymology of both words, we can see that it is in the wording of the dictionaries where the key element of differentiation is found. Lexicology comes from the Greek leksikós (λεξικόν), which means a collection of words and and “–logy”, a term that also comes from the Greek (-λογία) and means study; while the lexicography ends with the Greek word “gráphein” (γραφειν), which means among other things to write.

They are two sister disciplines that need each other for a complete analysis of the lexicon and its correct representation and grouping in general or specialized dictionaries.

Lexicology and syntax

Within linguistic studies, every time we want to specialize the focus of our research we must resort to more detailed subspecialties. This is the case of syntax in relation to lexicology. Syntax is the study of the set of rules and norms that regulate the possible combinations of words within a sentence . The order of these words and how we could replace some element within the sentence are topics that we can clarify thanks to the syntax and the study of the syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships of the words.

With this definition of syntax, we leave aside lexicology and its study of words as independent entities and full of meaning, and we enter into their use within a more or less flexible system of rules and parameters for the construction and analysis of language. .

Lexicology, grammar and phonology

Other linguistic subspecialties that are often confused with lexicology are grammar and phonology. This is because the three share a general study object, which is the language or language. But, as we have said before, each specialty tries to focus its attention on a different aspect of the language, in order to analyze it in greater depth.

In the case of grammar, words are studied to know their rules of formation and use. This study is located above the syntactic studies and also covers other levels of analysis: the phonic, the morphological, the semantic and the lexicon. But always from the point of view of the rules and parameters for a “grammatically correct” use of the language.

Phonology, on the other hand, studies the sound system of a language. We continue studying words and sentences, but from their sound composition. Unlike lexicology, phonology does not study meaning, and limits its attention to the production and alteration of the sounds that make up the words of a language.


Escobedo, A. (1998) Lexicon and dictionary. ASELE. Proceedings I. Cervantes Virtual Center. Available at https://cvc.cervantes.es/ensenanza/biblioteca_ele/asele/pdf/01/01_0247.pdf

Halliday, M. (2004). Lexicology and Corpus Linguistics. A&C Black.

Obediente, E. (1998) Phonetics and phonology. University of the Andes