Lexical field theory

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Lexical field theory, or word-field theory, was introduced on March 12, 1931 by the German linguist Jost Trier. He argued that words acquired their meaning through their relationships to other words within the same word-field. An extension of the sense of one word narrows the meaning of neighboring words, with the words in a field fitting neatly together like a mosaic. If a single word undergoes a semantic change, then the whole structure of the lexical field changes. The lexical field is often used in English to describe terms further with use of different words.

Trier's theory assumes that lexical fields are easily definable closed sets,[1] with no overlapping meanings or gaps. These assumptions have been questioned and the theory has been modified since its original formulation.[2]


  1. ^ David Kronenfeld and Gabriella Rundblad in Regine Eckardt, Klaus von Heusinger, Christoph Schwarze, Words in Time, Walter de Gruyter, 2003, p68. ISBN 3-11-017675-0
  2. ^ Richard M. Hogg, Norman Francis Blake, R. W. Burchfield, Suzanne Romaine, Roger Lass, John Algeo, The Cambridge History of the English Language: The beginnings to 1066, Cambridge University Press, 1992, p403. ISBN 0-521-26474-X


  • Bussmann, Hadumod (1996), Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics, London: Routledge, s.v. lexical field theory.
  • Grzega, Joachim (2004), Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu? Ein Beitrag zur englischen und allgemeinen Onomasiologie, Heidelberg: Winter.
  • Lehrer, Adrienne (1974), Semantic Fields and Lexical Structure, Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Trier, Jost (1931), Der deutsche Wortschatz im Sinnbezirk des Verstandes, Ph.D. diss. Bonn.

See also[edit]

Semantic field