Lexitation: ontologization of lexicographic abilities

for use in the fields of applied linguistics

Last update: April 8, 2009

General description of the project

This three-year multidisciplinary project, which started in April 2007, is part of the research activities of the Observatoire de linguistique Sens-Texte (OLST). It puts together a team of researchers in linguistics, natural language processing, educational technologies and didactics. Four fields of investigation are primarily targeted:

  1. lexicology and lexicography;
  2. didactics and language teaching;
  3. educational technologies;
  4. text mining.

We target the ontological modeling of knowledge and competence (know-how) involved in lexicology and lexicography, which we call lexicographic abilities, in order to transfer these abilities to, primarily, applications in language teaching.

Our study is based on the following assumption: lexicographic abilities have a crucial role to play not only in lexicology, but also in the teaching and acquisition of lexical knowledge. This assumption is supported by the observation that the mastering of lexicographic abilities considerably increases the functional autonomy of language professionals; it allows them to perform optimally in situations where the analysis of linguistic phenomena has to be done instantaneously—for instance, in language teaching during class interactions.

This research relies heavily on the use of experimental technics of knowledge extraction, that we intend to apply to lexicographic abilities, in order the achieve the construction of an ontological modeling of these abilities.

Our methodology is organized around fives complementary research tasks:

  1. elicitation of lexicographic abilities that are already conceptualized in a semi-formal way in our theoretical to lexicology framework: the Explanatory Combinatorial Lexicology (ECL)—see [2] and [1];
  2. study of methods and tools for accessing linguistic data in lexicology and lexicography, with application of text mining technics, that are traditionally used in the context of information retrieval;
  3. eperimental extraction of lexicographic abilities through simulation of lexicographic activities; then analysis of detailed data on these activities, that will be recorded in laboratory conditions at the Laboratoire-Observatoire de Recherche en Ingénierie du Téléapprentissage (LORIT, Télé-Université, Montréal);
  4. ontological modeling of lexicographic knowledge and competence; validation, testing and revision of the ontological model;
  5. exploration of the potential of our model of lexicographic abilities for applications in didactics and language teaching.

We expect the results of this research to be applicable in all fields where the mastering of the systemactic organization of lexical and terminological knowledge plays a central role. More specifically, we hope our work to be directly applicable in the field of language teaching. It will contribute to the present trend that shows a refocussing on the teaching and learning of lexical knowledge.

The team


  • Jacqueline Bourdeau (LICEF, Télé-Université, Montréal)
  • Pascale Lefrançois (Didactics, Université de Montréal)
  • Igor Mel’čuk (Linguistcs and translation, Université de Montréal)
  • Alain Polguère (Linguistics and translation, Université de Montréal), principal investigator
  • Claude Rigault (LICEF, Télé-Université, Montréal)


  • Évelyne Arbour Barbaud, Université de Montréal
  • Lucie Barque, postdoc linguistics, Université de Montréal
  • Sophie Comeau, M.A. linguistics, Université de Montréal
  • Claudia Fecteau, Université de Montréal
  • Anne-Laure Jousse, Ph.D. linguistics, Université de Montréal and Paris 7
  • Thi Hoa Lê, Ph.D. didactics, Université de Montréal
  • Sara-Anne Leblanc, Ph.D. linguistics, Université de Montréal
  • Olivier Taïs, Université de Montréal and Bordeaux 3
  • Ophélie Tremblay, Ph.D. didactics, Université de Montréal


This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), with a 140,700$ grand over three years: April 2007 to March 2010.


[1] Igor Mel’čuk. Explanatory Combinatorial Dictionary. In G. Sica, editor, Open Problems in Linguistics and Lexicography, pages 225–355. Polimetrica, Monza, 2006.

[2] Igor Mel’čuk, André Clas, and Alain Polguère. Introduction à la lexicologie explicative et combinatoire. Duculot, Paris / Louvain-la-Neuve, 1995.