A lexical set is a group of words. Many definitions for this linguistic concept specify groups of words that have the same topic, have the same kind of construction, or function in the same way. Different kinds of lexical sets are useful for various linguistic tasks, or in conversational or language models applied to technology such as artificial intelligence.
One way to analyze a lexical set is through understanding parts of speech in a language. The lexical set may be broad enough to include all of a certain class, for instance, of nouns, verbs or adjectives. Other lexical sets may include more narrow categories of parts of speech. For example, a particular lexical set used in educational projects may include only phrasal verbs, auxiliary or helper verbs, or other kinds of specific verb constructions.
As a bounded set of words, a lexical set may be useful in certain kinds of educational games or other linguistic activities. Another application of lexical sets is in scientific observation of how humans use language. Upper-level linguistics or computer science departments may use lexical sets as part of an analysis of the use of language, for completing linguistic research, or for building computer models of language. The lexical set also applies to studies of phonology or phonetic systems.
Frame semantics is a field in which lexical sets are particularly useful. In this particular type of semantic study, scientists proceed from the theory that one word is not useful without a greater category of words. In this kind of scientific process, the lexical set is a critical part of establishing which sets of words complement each other in terms of meaning.
Linguists also benefit from comparing and contrasting lexical sets. For example, a linguist could look at two different lexical sets that represent word associations. They can use these models to compare the exact ways that speakers or writers link two different sets of single words to form unique communicated concepts, or how the final results of each set are perceived by a listener or reader.
A lexical set basically represents a formal approach to examining speech. The set is a kind of quantitative tool. It limits a category of words to specific units. Lexical sets may be shown visually in linguistic textbooks to help readers understand their contents or uses. This can help to demonstrate more high-level linguistic ideas or language models.