No area in the study of human languages has a longer history and a higher practical significance than lexicography. Ever since its beginnings more than 4500 years ago, this tradition was determined by the format in which the various properties of words can be represented — by the two dimensions of a written or printed document, as best exemplified in the conventional dictionary. In fact, the mere idea that the lexicon of a language can be described in some other form than by a dictionary is difficult to imagine. But the advent of the computer made precisely this possible, in ways which go far beyond the digitisation of materials in combination with efficient search tools, or the transfer of an existing dictionary onto the computer. They allow the stepwise elaboration of what is called here Digital Lexical Systems, i.e., computerized systems in which the underlying data — in form of an extendable corpus — and description of lexical properties on various levels can be efficiently combined. This paper discussed the range of these possibilities and describes the planned German »Digital Lexical System of the Academy«, to be realised at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences ( www.dwds.de ).
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.