Grammatical Description Of Lemmas In English And Russian Substandard Lexicography


The article deals with lexicographic tools used to describe grammatical features of a slang lemma in substandard dictionaries. The language material for the lexicographic analysis in the article embraces slang units with sports meaning or those used in or by sports circles, namely by athletes, coaches, sports public, supporters, fans, and workers of sports industry. The list of the analyzed slang units consists of both single words and set expressions. The lexicographic analysis is made in the following steps: 1) of a lemma’s part-of-speech features; 2) of lexical and grammatical features of the parts of speech revealed. It is found out that the part-of-speech features of the Russian sports slang units are described with special grammatical labels or final morphemes while those of the English sports slang units are defined with special grammatical labels only. The common lexical and grammatical feature of the English and Russian lemmas is the category of number of the nouns. The unique feature of the Russian slang units is markers of grammatical categories of the nouns (gender, collectivity, grammar invariability) and verbal categories (aspect, impersonality and verbal government). The unique feature of the English slang words is markers of verbal categories of transitivity - intransitivity, voice and mood.

Keywords: Slangsocial lexicographysubstandard dictionarieslabels


It is a well-known fact that the vocabulary of any language is a very complicated system united by a great number of different relations and links. Probably, the best way to investigate and analyze vocabulary is to describe it in dictionaries, which is undoubtedly one of the most urgent issues of modern linguistics (Nesova, 2014). Lexeme (a word or an idiom) is a compound lexical item that embraces its phonetic form, its semantics, relations with other lexemes and extralinguistic information. In lexicography the defined lexemes are called lemmas. The described features of the lemma are treated in the dictionary’s microstructure. An analysis of the microstructure allows a user to extract all the parameters of a lemma, supplied there by the compiler. The lemma’s parameters are manifested in a set of special labels or some other lexicographic means which provide a user of a dictionary with information about a lexical unit, namely and usually about its phonetic, grammatical, stylistic, derivational and some other traits, conditioned by many factors, including e.g. the type of a dictionary and even the compiler’s background.

Problem Statement

Despite a wide use of all kinds of labels in practical lexicography, their theoretical foundations and linguistic analysis leave much to be desired (Blinova, 2014), as the number of theoretical works is still insufficient. Lexicographic labels used to describe a linguistic world-view in English explanatory dictionaries and their sociolinguistic function have been examined by V. Yu. Derevyanko (Derevyanko, 2014). Labels used in German lexicography and their practical application to pedagogy have been studied by G. A. Baeva (Baeva, 2016). Another researcher of dictionary labels V. Yu. Kryakvin analyzes and compares stylistic labels on German and Russian idioms (Kryakvin, 2015). Stylistic and functional labels in Russian explanatory dictionaries as well as their introduction in the microstructure are investigated by M. A. Tikhonova and T. V. Tikhonova (Tikhonova &Tikhonova, 2014). Labels applied to treat a lexical unit in Russian and English substandard dictionaries have been meticulously described in G. V. Ryabichkina’s dissertation (Ryabichkina’s, 2009). Perhaps, the most thorough theoretical study of normative and stylistic labels in Russian academic dictionaries, as well as their linguistic analysis, has been provided in the monograph by a group of Russian scholars, but grammatical labels as an object of the analysis are left out (Кruglov, et al., 2015). However, labels, as it has been mentioned, are not necessarily the only means to treat a lexical item in dictionaries of any type, as there may be other ways of representing linguistic and extralinguistic information about the lemma. Unfortunately, these ways, common to practical dictionary compilers, most often stay out of sight of theoretical linguistics. This paper aims at filling this blank somehow, at least as far as substandard lexicography is concerned.

Research Questions

The research questions therefore are as follows:

  • What grammatical features can a slang lemma have in substandard dictionaries?

  • What techniques and representations of grammatical features are applied in the most authoritative English and Russian substandard dictionaries?

Purpose of the Study

The practical purpose of the study is to reveal ways of treatment of the lemmas’ grammatical features in Russian and English substandard lexicography, with their following comparison.

In order to achieve this purpose, I need to solve the next problems:

  • to make a selection of dictionary article entries referring to the field of sports out of two substandard dictionaries;

  • to examine all possible grammatical features of the lemma in the structure of the dictionary article entry;

  • to research ways of lexicographic treatment of the lemma’s grammatical features;

  • to carry out a comparative analysis of the revealed ways of lexicographic treatment of the lemma’s grammatical features on the basis of the two substandard dictionaries.

The theoretical purpose of the study is to find out the most acceptable and efficient ways of conveying the grammatical features of slang units in substandard dictionaries and, more generally, to contribute to the development of substandard lexicography to some degree.

Research Methods

The practical material used in the paper is restricted to sports slang units from “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” (“Bolshoi slovar russkogo zhargona”) by Prof. V. M. Mokienko and Prof. T. G. Nikitina (Mokienko & Nikitina, 2000) and from “A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English” by E. Partridge (Partridge, 1984). The choice of the two dictionaries is conditioned by their authority on non-literary vocabulary in English and Russian. They are well known among social lexicographers and in many respects are the most exemplary pieces of lexicographic work, with the list of entries including thousands of lexical items of different social milieus and stylistic traits. Sports milieus are undoubtedly very representative in terms of slang vocabulary due to the popularity of sports and its ever increasing social meaning. The extracted English and Russian slang units are used by athletes, sports industry workers, team supporters and fans, journalists, and sports public in general, which is confirmed by special sociolinguistic markers found in the slang lemmas’ microstructure.

In order to use proper methodology, methods and techniques of the analysis of the material I take into account the theoretical and practical work on substandard lexicography by G. V. Ryabichkina (2009, pp. 14-15; 296-297). In particular, I apply the method of comparative lexicographic analysis of the entries’ microstructural organization to reveal and classify lexicographic tools used to describe sports slang units in terms of grammar. I also refer to the reference book by O. S. Akhmanova (1966) and the one by O. M. Karpova (2010) to find and clarify grammatical terminology and to define the contents of some linguistic, mainly lexicographic, concepts and terms, like aspect , entry , label , lemma , lexeme , marker , microstructure , reference .

Some of the dictionary entry articles used as examples have been shortened a little so as to provide only the most useful information and to avoid unnecessary and distracting details.

When giving an example, I never refer to a particular page of the dictionaries as they are compiled in alphabetic ordering.


The data of the lemma’s grammatical features, including a grammatical reference, are part of the entry’s microstructure in the two dictionaries and therefore lay the foundations for their lexicographic comparison. The grammatical information about the lemma encompasses 1) its part-of-speech features and 2) its lexical and grammatical features, which determines the structure of this paper.

Part-of-speech markers

In the materials from “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” the information about the lemma’s part-of-speech features contain markers subsuming a slang unit under adverbs, interjections and (with some reservations) nouns, which are materialized in corresponding italicized labels: нареч . (= наречие ‘adverb’), междом . (= междометие ‘interjection’), сущ . (= существительное ‘noun’). In the materials from the Partridge Dictionary special labels subsume a slang unit under nouns (label n .), adjectives (label adj .), verbs (label v. ), adverbs (label adv .), verbal nouns (label vbl n. ) and past participle adjective (label ppl adj. ). These positions need a further and more detailed description with illustrative examples and commentaries.

A) Noun

In the Partridge Dictionary the label n. is introduced quite systematically after the lemma, being cut from it with a comma, e.g. Tab-socking, n. A boxing contest against Cambridge University (‘the Cantabs ’) Oxford University boxers’: ca. 1895-1914. In many cases the lemma (not necessarily a noun) has no part-of-speech label or any other grammatical reference. See the following example of an entry containing no grammatical information: professor. A professional: cricketers’: C.20.

In “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” the lemma is provided with the label сущ . only when the lemma is a derivational conversive in one of its meanings. See a single use of this kind, in which the meaning of the adjective is opposed to the meaning of the noun: ДЕЛЬТАНУ́ТЫЙ , -ая, -ое. Спорт. Шутл. 1. Занимающийся дельтапланеризмом. // -ого, в знач. сущ. Дельтапланерист. In all the other uses the belonging of a sports slang unit to nouns is displayed right after the lemma by pointing the stressed (if necessary) ending, typed in Roman, in genitive case and then - the italicized standard label of gender: м. – мужской род ‘masculine gender’, ж. – женский род ‘feminine gender’, ср. – средний род ‘neuter gender’ (e.g. ФЛАЖО́К , -жкá, м . 3. Спорт. (д/пл.). Дельтапланерист, который летит впереди по маршруту и непроизвольно обозначает своей траекторией восходящие потоки).

B) Adjective

In the Partridge Dictionary the label adj . is quite systematically placed after the lemma, being cut from it with a comma, e.g. tea-pot, adj. A spoonedstroke: cricketers': ca. 1885-1910. B. & L.

In “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” the belonging of a sports slang unit to adjectives is always displayed with gender endings (of feminine and neuter gender), typed in Roman, in singular, e.g. ШИЗОКРЫ́ЛЫЙ , -ая, -ое. Спорт. (д/пл.). Шутл. Увлекающийся дельтапланеризмом.

C) Verb

In both the dictionaries the verbal lemma is introduced as infinitive.

In the Partridge Dictionary the label v. is introduced quite systematically after the lemma, being cut from it with a comma, e.g. figure, v. In billiards (—1891), to single out or 'spot'.

In “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” the lemma’s features as a verb are demonstrated with stressed verb endings in first and third person, typed in Roman, and with the italicized label of imperfective ( несов. ) and perfective ( сов .) aspects, e.g. ОТОБРА́ТЬСЯ , -берýсь, -берётся, сов. Спорт. Попасть в команду по результатам отборочных соревнований.

D) Adverb

In the Partridge Dictionary the label adv . is introduced quite systematically after the lemma, e.g. dogged. Adv., very, excessively: mainly sporting (—1819).

In “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” theitalicized label нареч . provided right after the lemma, is obligatory, e.g. КАБЕРЁМ , нареч. Идти каберём. Спорт. (конн.). Неодобр. Идти неправильным ходом (передние ноги рысью, задние — галопом) — о рысаке.

E) Interjection

The label of interjection is found only in the entries in “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang”. It is italicized and introduced after the lemma, e.g. ФИЗКУ́ЛЬТ-ПРИТУ́Х , междом. Спорт. Шутл.-ирон. Прощание выигравшей команды с проигравшей.

F) Verbal noun

The label of verbal noun is found only in the Partridge Dictionary in the next entry: flooring. Vbl n., in sense of to floor, q.v., but esp. among pugilists:—1819.

G) Past participle adjective

The label of past participle adjective is found only in the English material in the next entry: shot, (ppl adj., always be shot). 'To make a disadvantageous bet which is instantly accepted' (F. & H.): the turf: from ca. 1880.

Markers of lexical and grammatical features of the parts of speech

A) Nouns

The studied lexicographic materials represent such lexical and grammatical categories of slang nouns as number (plural and singular), gender , collectivity , invariability .

In the Partridge Dictionary plural is represented quite constantly, e.g. organ-pipe. 2. In pl. it was, ca. 1840-90, used among boxers for the nostrils. Here the label of plural in the shortened form ( in pl. [= plural]) is entered before the rest of the microstructure. Meanwhile, the markers of singular are very rare, probably, due to its commonness to nouns. In the next example the unabridged label in singular is bracketed after the lemma as part of the grammatical reference: ogles. (Extremely rare in singular.) Eyes: mid-C. 17-20: c. until ca. 1805, then boxing s. until ca. 1860, finally low gen. s.; ob.

In “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” number is represented by plural (label мн. ) and is italicized after the ending, e.g. КАЛМЫКИ́ , -óв, мн.Мол., спорт. Футбольная команда «Уралан». No labels of singular are found in the studied materials.

The grammatical category of gender is found only in the Russian materials and includes masculine, feminine and neuter gender, labeled as м. , ж. , and ср. respectively. The label of gender is obligatory; it is placed after the lemma’s ending in genitive case and is italicized. See an example:

a) of the masculine gender label: ФОНА́РЬ , -я, м. 5. Спорт. (л/атл.). Предупреждение на дистанции (спортивная ходьба);

b) of the feminine gender label: СОПЛЯ́ , -и, ж. 7. Спорт. (альп.). Неодобр . Самая мелкая зацепка в скале для 1-2 пальцев, особенно скользкая в жаркую и дождливую погоду;

c) of the neuter gender label: КРЫЛО́ , -а, ср. 3. Спорт. (д/пл.). Обшивка дельтаплана.

The category of collectivity is found only in the Russian dictionary. It is materialized in the italicized label собир . (= собирательное ‘collective’), e.g. ЖЕЛЕ́ЗО , -а, ср., в знач. собир. 1. Спорт., культ. Гантели, гири, штанги и другой инвентарь культуриста.

Grammatical (morphological) invariability of nouns is found only in the Russian materials. It is displayed by the label неизм . (= неизменяемое ‘invariable’), placed after the lemma and typed in Roman, e.g. ЛО́КО , неизм., м. Спорт., мол. Футбольный клуб «Локомотив».

B) Verbs

The treated grammatical features of the verbs in the English and Russian slang materials bear no resemblance, thus, being unique tothe English and Russian slangs.

In “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” the verbal features of slang units are represented by markers of aspect, impersonality and verbal government, which are materialized in italicized labels.

See the examples of aspect markers labeled сов . (= совершенный вид ‘perfective aspect’) and несов . (= несовершенный вид ‘imperfective aspect’) and respective verbs:

a) of perfective aspect, e.g. ОКУ́ЧИВАТЬ , -аю, -ает, несов. 4. Спорт. Сильно бить, ударять (напр., по мячу);

b) of imperfective aspect, e.g. ХЛЕБАНУ́ТЬ , -нёт, сов. Спорт. (байд.). Набрать воды от волн (о лодке).

The category of impersonality is represented by the italicized label безл . (= безличное ‘impersonal’), e.g. ВЫ́ДУТЬ , -ет, сов., безл., кого. Спорт. (д/пл.). О непроизвольном выходе из зоны высокой скороподъемности (из восходящего потока).

Special features of verbal government are defined with italicized interrogative words demonstrating a certain case form of the dependent word. See the following example, in which the verbal dependence is manifested in interrogative words кого , что, i. e. in the forms of accusative: КИ́НУТЬ , -ну, -нет, сов. 6. также Спорт. кого, что. Опередить, победить кого-л.

Not only the verbs but also set slang expressions (or slang idioms) manifest special features of government in a similar way, e.g. МЯ́СО ,-а, ср. Запустить (сбросить) на мясо (на бифштекс) кого. Спорт. (д/пл.). Отправить в полет (на дельтаплане) на разведку погоды.

In the Partridge Dictionary special markers point at verbal categories of transitivity-intransitivity , voice and mood .

Verbal transitivity is displayed by the label v.t. [= verb transitive] while verbal intransitivity is displayed by the label v.i. [= verb intransitive], e.g. lark, v. 5. V.t., to ride (a horse) across country: from ca. 1860: sporting s. >, ca. 1880, coll.; ob.; draw off. V.i., to throw back the body in order to hit the harder: orig. (ca. 1860) pugilistic s. When the verb is both transitive and intransitive, both the labels are applied, e.g. fib, v. Hence, 4, in C.19 pugilism, v.t. and i., to punch in rapid repetition.

The voice category is represented by the passive voice and is expressed by the label in passive , e.g. rubbish, v. 2. Mostly in passive, as 'The fate the board rider dreads is the "wipe out". This is when he is "rubbished" or tipped violently off a wave'( Sun-Herald, 22 Sep. 1963), like so much rubbish: Aus. surfies', esp. teenagers': since ca. 1961.

The mood category is represented by the imperative and is expressed by the label imperative , e.g. weigh in. To start; in imperative, go ahead!: sporting: late C.19-20.


Thus, I have studied the ways of grammatical treatment of lemmas in dictionary article entries containing sports slang units in the two fundamental dictionaries of English and Russian substandard vocabulary. It has been revealed that the description of the part-of-speech features of sports slang units in “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” is completed a) directly – with special labels, b) indirectly – by providing ending morphemes and corresponding morphosyntactical relations. In the Partridge Dictionary the part-of-speech features of sports slang units are manifested by special labels only, which are more diverse than those in the Russian Slang Dictionary. On the whole, one can state the correspondence only in the description of nouns and adverbs.

The information about lexical and grammatical features of the parts of speech in the studied material shows similarity only in the category of noun number. Other grammatical features of nouns, such as gender, collectivity and grammar invariability, are introduced with special labels only in the Dictionary of Russian Slang.

The grammatical features of verbs in both the dictionaries do not have any correspondence. The description of the English slang verbs involves underscoring their following features: transitivity - intransitivity, voice and mood. The description of the Russian slang verbs involves underscoring their aspect, impersonality, and verbal government.

The introduction of grammatical data in the dictionary article entry and their graphic (script) design in both the dictionaries also have distinctive features. In the Partridge Dictionary the lemma’s grammatical features are introduced in its microstructure rather non-systematically and do not have a clear graphic distinction, while in “The Unabridged Dictionary of Russian Slang” the lemma’s grammatical features are obligatory and have a clear graphic distinction.

In the main, the lexicographic tools used to describe grammatical features of the sports lemma in the studied dictionaries are diverse. Despite the compression and conciseness of the grammatical data about the lemma, the tools make it possible to reveal and clarify different grammatical features and are quite sufficient to display grammatical features of the referred slang unit.


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