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Mental Lexicon and Language Lexicon

A lexicon is a group of words within the same language. Also known as thesaurus, a lexicon arranges the mental vocabulary of a language according to certain values. The lexicon of a language is the groupings of words, expressions, and vocabularies. A person’s mental lexicon, or lexical understanding, or idea is the individual’s knowledge of vocabulary. It also refers to organization of words in an individual’s mind. The grammar in mental lexicon contains morphological, syntactic, and semantic in individual words. A word is stored together with its phonological images, which go together with syntactic and semantic aspects.

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According to Kirkness (2004), a lexicon is a vocabulary of a language because it is found between the lines of what speech sounds, or the symbols mean in language. You cannot know a language if you do not know the lexicon because every culture has its lexicon and language. Phonetics and phonemes are important features of a language, and they make it different. In mental lexicons, the words of the same type are held better than words learnt separately; words are tied to one another by sight, meaning, form, and sound.

Likewise, language lexicon is seen as a connection between a language and the knowledge of message conveyed in that language. Hedge (2000) agrees that different languages have different vocabularies, and every language give the grammar mechanisms of combining its words to express a range of concepts. Bejoint (2000) conforms that language lexicons differ in grammar, words, and the thought they express.

The differences in the language lexicons are attributed to several factors. The first one is accidental; where the differences result from sound choices, and where to draw boundaries to a certain word. The second variation is systematic; where the language of a grammar establishes how conceptual structures are lined as strings of words in a sentence. For example, English and Chinese put the verb in the middle of a sentence, the subject first, and the object at the end, as compared to Latin and Japanese, which places the verb last. The third variation is cultural; where concepts expressed by a language are decided by culture of persons who speak the language, environment and activities done. The concepts expressed by grammar and words belong to the extra-linguistic awareness about the world.

Furthermore, Landua (2001) argues that when a person learns a new word, he stores it in his mind where it can be recalled when needed, and also bring it out from the mind’s store. A person is able to recognize and understand a word in listening and reading, and can produce it when writing. Understanding and identifying the word during reading and listening are processes in a person’s memory which has mental lexicon or lexicons if it involves two languages. This can be termed as individual mental dictionary or word store.

In conclusion, a mental lexicon plays a big role in language discernment and production, and also how the words from mental lexicon are accessed. The language lexicon organizes the mental vocabulary on a speaker’s mind. A lexicon comprises of the lexemes used to actualize words which are generated according to morpho-syntatic rules and convey sememes. Mental vocabulary in a speaker’s mind is organized by a lexicon. It determines how a vocabulary in a language is structured, how individuals use the words, and how they store them, and their ability to learn words and write them clearly.


Bejoint, H. (2000). Modern Lexicography: An Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Hedge, T. (2000). Teaching and Learning in Language Classroom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kirkness, K. (2004). Lexicology. In A. Davies & C. Elder (Eds.), The Handbook of Applied Linguistics (pp. 292-314). Oxford: Blackwell.

Landau, S. (2001). Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography. (2nd ed.). California: Cambridge University Press.

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