Lexicographic information cost

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Lexicographic information cost is a concept within the field of lexicography. The term refers to the difficulties and inconveniences that the user of a dictionary believes or feels are associated with consulting a particular dictionary or dictionary article. For example, the extensive use of abbreviations in articles in order to save space may annoy the user, because it is often difficult to read such condensed texts and understand the abbreviations, thereby increasing the lexicographic information costs.

The important point in connection with lexicographic information costs is the relation between the information costs anticipated by the user and the information value the user expects to gain from consulting a dictionary or dictionary article. The more easily a user can navigate a dictionary and its articles, the lower the information costs and, hopefully, the more content with the dictionary the user will be. The higher the information costs of a dictionary, the more dissatisfied the user will be. There are two general types of lexicographic information costs:

  1. the search costs are the efforts required by users when searching for something in dictionaries, i.e., the look-up activities required to find what they are looking for; and
  2. the comprehension costs, which are the efforts required by users to understand and interpret the data in dictionaries.[1]

The concept of lexicographic information costs was first proposed by the Danish scholar and metalexicographer Sandro Nielsen (see below). The concept is relevant to lexicographers when planning and compiling a dictionary; for the users when consulting the dictionary; and for reviewers when evaluating a dictionary.

See also[edit]



  • Sandro Nielsen: "Mediostructures in Bilingual LSP Dictionaries". In Lexicographica. International Annual for Lexicography 15/1999,90-113.
  • Sandro Nielsen: "Textual Condensation in the Articles of de Gruyter Wörterbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache". In H. E. Wiegand (Hrsg.): Perspektiven der pädagogischen Lexikographie des Deutschen II. Niemeyer 2002, 597-608.
  • Nielsen, Sandro (2008), "The Effect of Lexicographical Information Costs on Dictionary Making and Use", Lexikos, 18: 170–189