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Methods Inf Med. 1998 Nov;37(4-5):353-60.

The nature of lexical knowledge.

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  • 1National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD, USA.


This paper considers the nature of lexical knowledge and its role in language and information processing. The lexicon is the central component of language and plays a pivotal role in current linguistic theory [3, 4] and, increasingly, in natural language processing systems [5-7]. The lexicon embodies information about the lexical items of the language and serves as the foundation for morphologic, syntactic, and semantic processing. The differences as well as commonalities among dictionaries, thesauri, and lexicons are discussed, and distinctions between words, lexical items, and terms are drawn. Next, the scope and content of the SPECIALIST lexicon are presented, followed by a discussion of certain writing conventions that can be troublesome for text processing applications. One approach to handling orthographic and other lexical variation is discussed in a section that reports on the design and implementation of the SPECIALIST lexical programs. The paper concludes with a discussion of controlled terminologies for the medical domain. Throughout the discussion, examples are drawn from the SPECIALIST lexicon and from the other UMLS knowledge sources [8, 9].

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