Four kinds of lexical items: Words, lexemes, inventorial items, and mental items
Martin Haspelmath
February 2024

This paper gives an overview of four senses of the terms “lexical (item/entity)” and “lexicon”, as well as several senses of the term “lexicalization”. That these terms are used in different senses in the literature has been discussed before, and it has been noted that this polysemy is sometimes confusing, but here I provide not only concrete definitions of word(-form) and lexeme and succinct discussion of the relevant issues, but I also propose two new terms: INVENTORIUM (the unpredictable elements of a language) and MENTALICON (the elements that a speaker stores in memory). The latter two are crucially different because all speakers store many predictable elements. The four different senses can thus be distinguished clearly by using the four terms word-form, lexeme, inventorial item, and mental item. In the final section of the paper, I note that the term “lexicalization” also has multiple senses, but its most important sense is inventorization.
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Reference: lingbuzz/007880
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: word-form, lexicon, lexeme, lexicalization, morphology, syntax
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