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This is a Wednesday’s Wonderful Words post, in which I chose a word, well-know or otherwise, and discuss why I think it’s so wonderful.




1. Of or pertaining to the words or vocabulary of a language, especially as distinguished from its grammatical and syntactical aspects.

2. Of, pertaining to, or of the nature of a lexicon.


From Greek

1836, from Greek lexikos “pertaining to words”, + suffix -al


For linguists, words like lexical and intervocalic and homophonic are treasured, but don’t tell the other words. It’s like having a favourite child, but not quite as bad. Anyway, they need to be favoured by someone, because who else would like them?

The 1800s saw many loan words into the English language, many of which came from classic languages.

There was an increased self-conciousness about language and more class-mobility which would be helped by using “posher” language.

And so, in came the loanwords; the inkhorn terms.

Did you know that the vocabulary on English words derived from Latin and Greek (this includes affixes such as -ism and and anti-) is actually larger than the vocabulary of Latin and Greek?

That’s how bad it was.

But it means that us linguists have a useful word which means “word” but sounds far more intelligent.

We can say “The lexical items in the above passage…” which sounds more intelligent than “the words”. We can say “Lexical and morphosyntactical features change at a conscious level, while phonological and grammatical features change from below the level of consciousness.

See? I sound like I have a six digit IQ.

Lexical has the added bonus of having an x in it. Words with “x”s are great to know, because sentences like “sixty lexical foxes boxed the waxy pixie”.

And so, with that fine nonsensical sentence, I rest my case.