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A Comprehensive Definition and Systematic Subdivision of Hydrography

Lars Schiller

The concept of hydrography is subject to constant change. The science continues to develop, its methods develop further, the view on the object of investigation changes, the objective is formulated differently. Someone who uses the term ‘hydrography’ today means most likely something different than he did 20 years ago when he used this term too. Perhaps he is even aware of it.

But actually, is there a guarantee that speakers and listeners have the same concept of hydrography? That the two parties share the same idea of hydrography? Unfortunately, no.

Why is that? Why could technical communication fail?

The main reason is that the concept of hydrography is indeed defined – for example, in general language encyclopaedias, technical dictionaries and standards –, but that these definitions do not always express the same thing, they are focused on different aspects, and sometimes they are even contradictory. Normally, in a conversation about hydrography it is not mentioned to which definition one refers.

Another reason is that the definitions – especially if they have been written by experts in hydrography – do not meet the requirements that lexicographers have on a definition. To make matters worse, very few definitions are clear and vivid.

Finally, it plays a role that the term ‘hydrography’ does not only denote the scientific discipline, but the term can take at least ten more different common meanings.

Therefore there is the need to present an up-to-date definition.

This newly presented definition is comprehensive and meets the lexicographic requirements. It is intelligible to everybody, clear and vivid, and it is completed by a systematic subdivision according to the object of investigation.