Lexical field theory

Lexical field theory

Lexical field theory, or word-field theory, was introduced in 1931 by the German linguist Jost Trier. According to Trier, lexical changes must always be seen, apart from the traditional aspects, in connection with the changes within a given word-field. This means:

  • The meaning of a word is dependent on the meaning of the other words of the same lexical or conceptual field.
  • A lexical or conceptual field has no gaps in it.
  • If a single word undergoes a semantic change, then the whole structure of the lexical field changes.


  • 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.

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