Research studies

The Impact of The Chaos of Applying Linguistic Methods to Terminography


Prepared by the researcher :  Dr. Safia Zivingi – Damascus University /2

Democratic Arab Center

Journal of cultural linguistic and artistic studies : Twenty-sixth Issue – December 2022

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin.

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
 ISSN  2625-8943

Journal of cultural linguistic and artistic studies


Although terminography has become a multidisciplinary science, most notably philosophy, linguistics, technologies, informatics and others, it is still chaotic and turbulent, especially in the field of applying various linguistic methods; logical (normative), comparative, historical, descriptive, structural, Semantic fields, generative and technical, and at different linguistic levels, phonemic (linguistic borrowing),  morphology (derivation,  synthases), and semantics (traditional words, colloquial words, and various semantic forms, from synonymy, homonymy, polysemy…..). It was noted that there is no regularity in the preparation of terms, as it is marred by chaos,  so the terminographical problems were dominated by the multiplicity of terms,  at various linguistic levels (semantic, morphological and phonetic). Therefore, this study sought to provide solutions to organize some of the linguistic problems that face their application to terminology, from the various linguistic methods previously mentioned.

  • Introduction

There is a tendency towards multilingualism across cultures, proved by the necessity for direct and effective professional communication in modern terminology, where local languages are used as communication tools for marketing products and information sharing. Many efforts are made to diversify languages through state-supported language planning projects and standardization of terminology resources. These projects reshape cultural identity, encourage international relations, and low global terms become part of a huge linguistic group. (Bidnenko, 2018 : 221)

We should first point out that there is a confusion between the two terms, terminology and terminography. We will not elaborate on that in this research paper. We briefly point out that dictionaries address the definition of terminology while neglecting the definition of terminography. For example, in a general linguistic dictionary that defines terminology:

1: the technical or special terms used in a business, art, science, or special subject . 2: nomenclature as a field of study (Merriam Webster: 2022)

It is a brief definition that is not very clear, but it does not differ much from its definition in a specialized dictionary of linguistic terms:

terminology : The collection of defined technical terms within a scientific system, which differs from everyday usage in that the terms are defined exactly within a specific system.( Bussmann, 2006)

A European Linguistics Symposium (LSP 1993) summarized the difference between these two sections: Terminology includes topics such as conceptual theory, terminology, and term structure. Terminography includes topics such as data design, standard logging, term extraction, definitions, and encyclopedias.( 9th European Symposium, 1993)

The difference between them can be summarized that Terminology means the theoretical study of terms, but Terminography relates to the practical and applied aspects of developing, classifying and explaining terms.

This paper processing the practical problems encountered in the development of terms. It falls within the field of terminography, and it also deals with theoretical issues related to terminology, particularly the topic of synonyms.

In terminology, three main tendencies emerged by the three schools in Vienna, Prague and Moscow. The best known, Vienna or Austrian school of terminology was based on the works of E. Wüster and adopts the principles formulated in his “General  Theory of Terminology”. The Vienna school  has developed a systematic corpus of principles and methods that constitute the basis of theoretical terminology and practice from the needs of modern technicians and scientists to standardize the terminology fields for efficient communication among specialists. Czech scientists and linguists focused on the theoretical and practical research  of   Terminology. The Czech school was almost exclusively concerned with the structural and functional description of special languages, in which terminology played an important role; it focused on the standardization of languages and   terminologies. The Russian school was mainly interested in the standardization of  concepts  and terms because  of  the multilingualism in  the former Soviet Union. All these three terminology schools were based on linguistics, theoretical structure and methodology. Analyzing the development of these three terminology schools, we can identify three different approaches to terminology: The first approach considers terminology to be an interdisciplinary but autonomous discipline of science and technology. The second approach focuses on philosophy, investigating the logical classification of concepts and organization of knowledge. The third approach focuses on linguistics, studying the component of special language or terminological system (Bidnenko, 2018: 216- 217)

There are approaches governing the process of  development and transmission terminology. It has been shown that these approaches are a reflection of the sciences affecting each era, which influenced different cognitive areas, including linguistic and terminology, and summarized these approaches, they began in the old form of simulation of the sounds of nature, and then evolved in the Middle Ages, through the control of logical criteria over linguistic sources at the time. In modern times, linguistic and terminological approaches have been influenced by some scientific theories, including Darwinian natural theory, Newtonian postural theory, Einsteinian relativism, from which different linguistic sciences emerged, such as comparative linguistics, historical, descriptive, structural, analytical, contextual, generative …

In the contemporary era, technological influences have emerged, which have benefited from most linguistic methods and developed them through their various technologies. They have controlled and organized terminology and then coordinated it among various parties and spread it around the world through communication networks . Terminography has thus combined different sciences, from ontology and epistemology , and is constantly developed through various computer and informatics technologies.

  • Linguistic problems in terminography

The most important problems of these approaches, on both the morphology and semantic levels, can be summarized in the following points:

Historical and comparative studies that emerged from Darwin’s natural theory of evolution, which classified languages into families based on the common linguistic foundations in the nature of the structure of languages.

The comparative approach affected terminography through the use of some morphological forms of the languages of the same language family.

From that, in the field of chemical terminology, English benefited from the Latin syntactic suffixes, which are of Greek origin :

(-Ide): Sulphide، Glycerid ، Fluoride، Chloride، Carbide.

 )-Ite: (Ammonite، Dynamit، Ebonite، Fluorite.

(-Ine): Alpine، Asinine.

(-Um): Uranium، Aluminum ، Gadolinium Gallium، Glucinum. Sodium.

The historical method also affected terminography by making use of historical vocabulary, and reviving old or obsolete morphological standards.

Semantically, the historical method revived the phenomenon of using traditional vocabulary in new terms, but it ran into problems, the most important of which was that it might lead to a linguistic arrest, in addition to the difference in the concept of the new term from the old one, which leads to confusion and misunderstanding, especially on the semantic level.

Morphologically, according to the historical linguistics approach, there are problems related to the growth of morphological formulas and the change of semantic relations. Some of them may witness stagnation or death, and some vocabulary may expand and grow, and new formulas and new words may arise, from one era to another.

The contrastive approach also affected terminography by imitating the structure of the foreign term, by placing morphological forms corresponding to foreign inflectional syllables.

There are contrasting problems related to the transfer of terms between languages, including the structural incompatibility between languages, the lack of symmetry in derivations and inflections between different languages, such as the diversity of a formula in one language versus its lack or absence in the other language, or vice versa.

For example, in the English language, there are many suffixes denoting nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Among the suffixes that indicate nouns are (ment, ness, sion, tion, ty, al), and among the suffixes denoting adjectives are (ful, ic, able, ous, y, ive). There may not be something in the other corresponding languages that corresponds to all English inflections, or vice versa. In other languages, inflections may be organized to denote certain things, but English may be devoid of them. For example, in the Arabic and Kurdish languages, there are organized rules for deriving tool names in them, but in English it is common to use the suffix of the subject (er), to refer to the tool names. There are no regular rules in the formulation of tool names. (Zivingi: 2021: 179)

The descriptive approach emerged in the middle of the twentieth century and its branches (from structural, functional, distributive and generative). The descriptive method was a reaction to the old historical method by focusing on observing linguistic reality and recording its rules from living examples, and not being satisfied with old standards.

The descriptive approach highlighted the use of modern languages, including colloquial dialects, in the vocabulary and morphology levels, to enrich the terminological sources. However, this method was faced with a number of problems, such as geographical (horizontal) and social (vertical) differentiation, as the factors of confusion from the geographical point of view lie in the regional tendency that leads to confusion. As for the problems of social differentiation, they are related to the different social levels of the speakers, from the popular and the educated, and from the common people and specialists, in addition to the multiplicity of professions.

Structuralism influenced terminography by making use of some morphological anomalies that were forbidden by the old logical standards, in order to enrich the morphological sources.

The functional approach has the greatest impact on terminography, as it has made morphological affixes multi-functional  .

There are several prefixes or suffixes that may express the same meaning, such as prefixes : dis- , il- , im-, in- , ir- , mis- , un- ,in addition to the suffix: -less.

There are prefixes such as (bi-) and (di-) which mean binary, double, or both. And there are prefixes, as well as synonyms for the same meaning as, dualism, duality, binary.

 (multi-) and (poly-), which mean multiple.

There are several examples of prefixes that mean (in front of) or (begin), such as, pre- , pro-, proto-, ante- .ante- ..

There are also other prefixes that mean (between), such as: inter-, trans-

There may be no symmetry in some of the derivations and affixes between languages, such as the Arabic language lacking what is equivalent to some of these formulas in English, and English may lack the derivation in which Arabic abounds.

Semantic field theory influenced terminography by establishing a symmetry between the semantic fields between the two languages, the receptor and the transmitter. Taking into account the cultural specificity of languages, this theory deepened with the linguistic relativity theory of Sapir Whorf (influenced by Einstein’s theory of relativity).

However, the problem of the semantic fields approach is that these fields differ quantitatively and qualitatively. Certain semantic fields in one language may witness great diversity, in contrast to the poverty of these fields in the other language.

For example, the English language includes several synonyms denoting the same meaning, while other languages may not include such a number of synonyms. Examples of English synonyms.

goal, objective, object, end, aim, intention, intent, purpose

aeon, age, era, epoch, period

apparatus , appliance , instrument, utensil, equipment, gear, tackle, tools, outfit, paraphernalia, machinery, materiel

reduce, lower, impair, lessen…

deduction , abatement, rebate, discount

Lexical units of any given specialized domain can be classified into three different categories: technical terms, semi-technical terms and general vocabulary frequently used in a specialized domain. Semi-technical terms are subject to polysemy and they are often created due to the extension of meaning through analogy. Their usage is not restricted to specific or scientific contexts; on the contrary, they can be common to several fields. (NAGY, 2014: 268)

The contextual distribution of synonyms may vary. (Context can not only limit the use of synonyms, but also broaden the traditional definition of synonyms) .( Wei: 2010: 1318)

And generative theory influenced terminography by organizing the morphological and derivational correspondences on the internal levels in the same language and on the external level, ie with regard to the transfer of terms between languages.

There are generative problems related to the lack of consistency between the lexical significance and the morphological significance, as it is not systematic in the language.

 The problems of terminographical approaches at the level of phonetics ( like the phenomenon of linguistic borrowing), contrasting problems, which are manifested in the lack of symmetry of all phonetics between languages, and historical problems related to the irregular transmission of phonetics between languages over the ages. And descriptive problems related to the different pronunciation of letters, in the symmetrical letters common to languages, or in letters that have symmetry in writing and differ in pronunciation between languages.

There are a lot of compounds which can be very long, imposing abbreviations for practical use, long sentences with a complex internal structure (sentences based on noun phrases), and the use of passive constructions. (NAGY, 2014: 266)

 Usually, in expressing these long names, it is sufficient to mention the first letters that make up their words. This usage is common in the names of inventors, companies, parties, theories, scientific certificates, and others. For example: (Aids), which is an acronym for (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), an (UNICEF) acronym from ( United International Children’s Emergency Fund). The term (Euro), the common European currency, is an abbreviation of (European).

This method has risks that may threaten the structure and privacy of languages, as its adoption will lead to the fabrication of foreign materials from the language, such as verbs, nouns, adjectives, and others. It is a limited method, given that most of the symbols are repetitive in most terms, and can be difficult to memorize.

The electronic revolution of automated terminology has played a role in developing the entry, storage and processing of this data, and it has changed the working methods of terminologists in various fields.

 ‘Ontology’ is intended as a framework that can enhance the definition of conceptual, linguistic, and referential units by outlining their hierarchical relations. Its ultimate goal is that of facilitating the representation and transmission of knowledge. The notion of ontology in contemporary terminology theory and applications is very important in information science, as the interrelation of this discipline with terminology has played a signify cant role especially in the last decades. (Leonard , 2012: 19 -20).

  • Solutions for processing terminographical problems

Nowadays, scientists operate theoretical and practical foundations of  modern  multi-paradigm terminology  as  an interdisciplinary  branch  of linguistics. This process requires adaptation of systemic linguistics knowledge, general theory of terminological research methods by developing a special technique based on theoretical and practical methodology in order to integrate it into global terminology databases. (Bidnenko , 2018 : 222)

It was noted that there is no regularity in the preparation of terms, as it is marred by chaos and turbulence,  so the terminographical problems were dominated by the multiplicity of terms,  at various linguistic levels,(semantic, morphological and phonetic).

The proposed solutions to address the terminological problems are summarized in the following points:

Logical solutions, in creating a regular basis for formulas and semantics, so that they are ready to be used when creating any new concept.

– Comparative solutions, deduced from some formulas or words, which share some features of the same language family.

– Solutions of the historical method, by expanding and developing some ancient formulas , and making use of the heritage and old vocabulary, as well as from the  wasted of words to indicate new meanings.

– Descriptive solutions, by focusing on living spoken languages, observing the linguistic reality, recording its rules from living examples, and linguistic uses, as they are in circulation and used, and in the event of multiple terms, the most frequent, common and used term is chosen.

– Structural solutions can enrich terminology with new sources through the use of linguistic anomalies and  (morphological and semantic), which were forbidden by the normative linguists.

– Functional solutions, in the diversity of morphological (functionally and semantically)

– Contrastive solutions by simulating foreign terms, synthetically and semantically. As for the transfer of terms between different languages, functional symmetry can be adopted as equivalents for terms.

 –  The theory of semantic fields by establishing a symmetry between the semantic fields, structurally and semantically, at the level of two languages, between the sending and receiving languages.

– Computer and information solutions resulting from investing most of the results of these terminological curricula and developing them through various computer technologies in preservation, merging, reduction, retrieval, and others.

– It is possible to solve the problems of using ancient heritage terms in different ways, including making use of the historical method based on the classification and control of old terms to link the relationship between the old and new concepts, or by adopting the descriptive approach by conducting a field study for comparison, reconciliation between old and modern terms, or by taking computer technologies that help to conduct a survey of heritage words, preservation and investment them.

– As for the problems of using colloquial dialects, there are  descriptive solutions represented in collecting terms from different countries speaking the same language, in all their regional dialects, and from their different social levels, by organizing and developing them using computer technologies to facilitate this processing.

– Solutions related to phonemic substitutions. One of the two approaches can be followed, either by following the historical approach, or through the method of the ancient classical linguists’ paths in phonemic alterations, with its disturbances, and the lack of organization and coordination of regularities in phonemic transpositions among the ancients. Or by following the descriptive approach by representing the voices or phonemes as they are actually pronounced in the dominant language, without returning to the original or sending language.

– Lexical solutions, there are historical and descriptive solutions that store all existing dictionaries on the computer and network them on the Internet and link them for organization and standardization, thus saving effort and time. There are functional solutions by choosing terms in proportion to the level of readers, including terminators, translators, or students of varying levels, as well as taking into account these levels in the explanations of the materials as well. In order to solve the problems of arranging multiple terms, there are different methods, including adopting the historical method by giving preference to ancient terms over modern ones, or applying the descriptive approach by choosing the most frequently used and frequent terms, in addition to the method of arranging terms according to concepts, then arranging them internally according to alphabetical order. And the need to develop laws related to the protection of copyright in the field of terminology, which were subject to circulation and spread without protecting the rights of their creators or authors, at both the levels of individual contributions and the contributions of the institutions concerned.

  • Conclusion

There is a general problem common to the different linguistic levels, which is the phenomenon of  multiple terms for one term, which remains one of the most common problems facing the unification, prevalence, organization and coordination of terminology. This is done on both the internal (i.e. within the same language) and external (with other languages) levels, and on the different linguistic levels, phonetic (in the borrowed words), through disturbances in phonemic transpositions and asymmetries between languages. At the morphological level, through a specific morphological formula that may indicate various meanings, or vice versa. At the semantic level, a specific term may denote several concepts or vice versa; several words denote one meaning. We have suggested some solutions to processing some of the problems facing the application of different linguistic methods to terminography at different linguistic levels.

The references

  • Bidnenko, Nataliya . Practical and theoretical issues of modern terminology. Studies in Philology № 1 (15)(2018)
  • Bussmann, Hadumod . Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics. translated and edited by Gregory Trauth and Kerstin Kazzazi . London and New York, 2006
  • 9th European Symposium on LSP, web 17 feb 1993
  • Leonardi, Natascia. ‘Ontology’ and Terminological Frameworks: an Overview of Issues and Term(s), Hermes – Journal of Language and Communication in Business no 48-2012
  • Merriam Webster Dictionary : 2022
  • NAGY, Imola Katalin . English for Special Purposes: Specialized – Languages and Problems of Terminology . ActaUniversitatis Sapientiae, Philologica, Hungarian University of Transylvania(Târgu Mureş, Romania), 6, 2 (2014)
  • Wei Xing, Fuchun Peng, Huishin Tseng, Yumao Lu, Xuerui Wang, Benoit Dumoulin Yahoo! Labs , Search with Synonyms: Problems and Solutions . Beijing, August 2010
  • Zivingi , Safia. Comparative Study of Drafting Tool names (in Kurdish , English, and Arabic). Journal of Afro-Asian Studies : Democratic Arab Center, Germany – Berlin. Ninth Issue – May 2021 .

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