Fourth Terminology Seminar in Brussels (TSiB 2011)

Theme: "Neology and Specialised Translation"


This year’s speakers will examine the links between neology and specialised translation, and attempt to provide an overview of the many new lines of research that have been opening in this area. When working in a specialised field, translators are often confronted with the problem of neology. They must relay a new lexical creation encountered in the source language, which clearly reveals the appearance of a new concept: translators therefore take part in “secondary term formation” as defined by Juan Sager (1990: 80ff.). In this context, they are required to have skills that go beyond what is traditionally referred to as “neological competence”, which all native speakers possess. More than often exposed to a lack of reliable terminographic resources, translators must display original qualities reinforced by an ad hoc training. In all cases, they must act both as lexicologists and terminologists, with knowledge of semantics and lexical morphology, they must be able to lead detailed investigations involving field specialists, and they might have to resort to loanwords or even original lexical creations in their native language. Does this secondary term formation rely on other models than those observed in specialised corpora? Would these models be specifically related to the equivalency process? Considering that equivalency is heavily context-dependent, under what conditions is the translator's neology more than a mere hapax legomenon?

In the field of terminology, the triangular relation between neology, specialised translation and terminological production was not always approached as one of mutual dependence. The strategic push towards separating terminology from lexicology has led some to speak of neonymy, sometimes establishing a distinction between this linguistic event from that of neology. It would be interesting to examine how neology specialists have less interest for syntagmatic construction, and how terminologists have less interest for semantic neology. It is not easy to identify these two phenomena in the corpus, and the tools currently offered by linguistic engineering do not help isolate them.

In contexts where linguistic policy is stronger, neologisms have sometimes been used to compete with loanwords, which are unwelcome since they rely on “external” models. In such contexts, should “translation” neology be perceived as competing against “official” neology? When considering the translation of neologisms, whether in studies or in reference manuals, little emphasis is put on cognitive, sociological, pragmatic and even economic aspects. If undue importance is attached to the content of large terminological databases, is there not a risk that specialised languages could see an increase in inadequate equivalents that specialists themselves will consider to be neologisms?

As research centres based in Brussels, we naturally include a European dimension to how we approach these issues. Europe’s founding fathers have granted the same status to all languages, including through Article 55 of the consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union. However, despite explicitly respecting linguistic diversity, the European institutions have not developed a strong policy in favour of language planning, leaving the matter in the hands of each state or even of the “linguistic market” (Bourdieu 1982). Little basic research has been financed in language dynamics and issues related to neology in translation. At the same time, official texts are more and more often drafted in English only, which forces translators to perform the difficult activity that is secondary formation, using the few tools that they are provided with. It is therefore legitimate to be concerned that the translation process could result in a single interpretation of European texts, whereas our linguistic and cultural diversity should allow for a variety of possible readings.

Bourdieu (P.), 1982: Ce que parler veut dire : L'économie des échanges linguistiques, Paris: Fayard.

Sager (J.C.), 1990: A Practical Course in Terminology Processing, Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.


  • John Humbley et Natalie Kübler (CLILLAC-ARP, Université Paris Diderot), Néologie d’origine, néologie de transfert : à la recherche d’une complémentarité
  • Gisle Andersen (Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration [NHH], Bergen), The corpus-driven approach to neology and its relevance for terminology
  • Pascaline Dury (CRTT, Université Lumière Lyon 2), Le sentiment d’un « besoin néologique » chez les experts pour remplacer des termes à connotation péjorative : quelques exemples tirés du domaine médical
  • Maria Teresa Musacchio (Faculty of Political Science, University of Padova), Neology in popular science between synchrony and diachrony
  • Jean Quirion (École de traduction et d'interprétation, Université d'Ottawa), Perception et concurrence néologiques en situation linguistique minoritaire
  • Joaquín García Palacios and Lara Sanz Vicente (Grupo Neousal, University of Salamanca), The role of translation in secondary term formation
  • Antoinette Renouf (RDUES, Birmingham City University), Defining neology to meet the needs of the translator
  • Reuben Seychell (Dipartiment tal-Malti, Kummissjoni Ewropea, Direttorat Ġenerali tat-Traduzzjoni), How we neologise in Maltese
  • Rita Temmerman and Koen Kerremans (Centrum voor Vaktaal en Communicatie, Erasmushogeschool Brussel), Secondary term formation in EU translations: a case of 'monitored laissez-faire'?
  • Teresa Cabré et Rogelio Nazar (IULATERM, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), Vers une nouvelle stratégie de détection de néologismes

Seminar proceedings in Neologica 6 (2012)

The presentations of the seminar have been published in the periodical Neologica. Revue internationale de néologie (ISBN: 978-2-8124-0568-6). The reference of this special issue is:


Humbley, John, ed. 2012. Neologica. Revue internationale de néologie. 6. Paris: Editions Classiques Garnier.