Project description

In this PhD project, terminological variation is studied in the context of specialised translation. Terminological variation has long been given little attention in terminology research. This is due to a traditional view which claimed that terms should be used unambiguously to refer to clearly defined concepts (see e.g. Wüster 1979)1. This prescriptive view has dominated terminology research for quite some years. It has also determined the use of terminology in different areas of specialised communication (e.g. technical communication, legal communication, business communication, etc.).
The current project looks at how translators of specialised texts have been influenced by this view in their translation practice. One might expect that translators tend to ignore terminological variation in specialised translations for the sake of term consistency (see e.g. Merkel 1996)2. It has been argued in some studies, however, that ignoring variation in specialised translations may sometimes be problematic. In the case of medical translations, for instance, Bowker and Hawkins (2006: 80)3 claimed that "translators may actually over-standardize, creating consistency in places where the use of variants was deliberate and well reasoned".
In contrast to the prescriptive view, it has now been extensively demonstrated through corpus-based research that terminological variation is a common phenomenon in specialised communication, even occurring in highly specialised texts (see e.g. Freixa 2002)4. Based on these results, the PhD project aims to examine whether and how terminological variation occurring in source texts is reflected in specialised translations. It aims to find out whether certain patterns or tendencies can be derived from a comparative analysis of terminological variation in source and target texts. Currently, the analysis is carried out on English, Dutch and French texts related to biodiversity issues (including climate change, air pollution, invasive species, etc.). New insights about terminological variation in specialised translations could contribute to the development of a new type of specialised translation dictionary.

1 Wüster, E. (1979) posth.: "Einführung in die Allgemeine Terminologielehre und Terminologische Lexikographie". In: Bauer, L. (Hrsg.): Schriftenreihe der technischen Universität Wien. Wien – New York: Springer.
2 Merkel, M. (1996). "Consistency and Variation in Technical Translations a Study of Translators' Attitudes." In: Unity in Diversity, Translation Studies Conference. Dublin.
3 Bowker, L. and S., Hawkins (2006). "Variation in the organization of medical terms: Exploring some motivations for term choice." Terminology 12(1): 79-110.
4 Freixa, J. (2002). La Variació terminològica: Anàlisi de la variació denomitiva en textos de different grau d’especialització de l’àrea de medi ambient. PhD Thesis, Barcelona: University of Barcelona.



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