Sixth Terminology Seminar in Brussels (TSiB 2013)

Organised by CVC & Termisti

Theme: "Translation at the Frontiers of the Lexicon: The New Fields of Terminology"


This year's speakers will discuss how multilingual terminology should deal with lexical units that lexicographers are often hesitant to include into specialised dictionaries: names of official bodies, brand names, product names, company names, initialisms, acronyms, toponyms, anthroponyms, natural phenomena, molecules, culinary specialities, local products, hapax legomena, etc.

Traditionally, lexicographers have been reluctant to include into general dictionaries many lexical units that users will intuitively refer to as "words". For instance, toponyms and anthroponyms are excluded because they do not have a signified, but rather a single referent. An analysis of dictionaries reveals that this position quickly becomes untenable when it comes to antonomasias (un venturi [fr], een jan-van-gent [nl] or, conversely, The Pentagon [en], der Reich der aufgenhenden Sonne [de]), derived nouns (a nobelist [en], onusien [fr], zapatista [es], kafkaësk [nl]), wind names with or without a capital depending on the typographical standard of the relevant language (l’alizé [fr], der Zephyr [de], el mistral [es], de sirocco [nl]) or syntagmas that include a proper noun (el número de Avogadro [es], le principe de Bernoulli [fr]). This proper noun is not necessarily stable within a single language, nor across languages (Brandt's syndrome = Danbolt-Closs syndrome = enteropathic acrodermatitis [en] translates as acrodermatite entéropathique [fr]).

The argument of the untranslatability of proper nouns has long been dismissed, and linguistic engineering cannot do without a detailed description of their use in languages. They have been integrated into object classes, and semantics has acknowledged the possibility to establish semantic relations between seemingly unrelated units. The same goes for the specific meronymic relation between Alioth and Grote Beer [nl] or for the hyponymic relation between Leclerc and char de combat [fr], or between Saturn and Planet [nl]

Names of brands or products, institutions, meteorological phenomena or molecules are often categorised as proper nouns by default. In any case, beyond issues related to onomastics, the varying degrees of specialisation of these terms exclude them from general language dictionaries in the first place. Still, the corporate, legal or scientific environments can create many new realities whose designations are relevant to linguistics and translation studies: Velaro® refers, in all languages, to a type of high-speed train developed by Siemens, while Xyzal®, Xazal™, Xozal™, Xusal™, Xuzal™, and Xyzall™ are all commercial names for levocetirizine developed by UCB Pharma; Hadopi 2 refers to a French legal concept; the ocean current El Niño has lent its name to a climatic phenomenon that seems to be consistently referred to under its Spanish name.

As they are tasked with switching content from one language to another, neither translators nor interpreters can always follow the lexicographers' reluctance. Faced with an unreferenced term, or one deemed unreferenceable, they must at the same time master the equivalent term – and therefore its meaning –, its pronunciation, grammatical gender, plural form, synonyms (including the brachygraphic forms), antonyms, possible derived terms, as well as know whether an article or a determiner must be used and be able to avoid the pitfalls of homonymy. Teachers of languages for specific purposes cannot either exclude these expressions, as they must comply with the needs of learners who are specialists in a certain field.

In order to compile databases that meet these requirements, must terminographers free themselves from lexicographical practice? In the tradition of the Vienna School and of ISO standards, the conceptual approach allows to refer to many types of designation as terms, as well as to identify unique concepts. From a terminological perspective, however, the inclusion of "marginal" lexemes raises a number of questions. Is the terminological record in its traditional form well suited to their comprehensive description? Should they be isolated in a separate database? Would a typology of such terms allow for the determination of inclusion criteria, and would these criteria be language-independent? To what extent can the wishes of the sponsor or the diversity in language use be taken into account without resulting in noise or confusion?

These questions, and many others, are likely to yield interesting debates and to be of interest to the traditional audience of the annual joint terminology seminars organised by Termisti and CVC, which gather professionals from institutions and companies, as well as teachers, researchers and students in terminology and translation studies.


You can read the short summaries of the presentations here.

  • Thierry Grass (Université de Strasbourg), La traduction des noms propres
  • Dieter Rummel (Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union, Luxembourg), Really boring terms: The usefulness of unspectacular terminology
  • Gérard Petit (Université de Paris Ouest), Hybridation et traduction : deux inconciliables ? Le cas du nom de marque déposée
  • Ralf Steinberger (European Commission's Joint Research Centre, Ispra), JRC-Names - A freely available multilingual name variant spelling dictionary
  • Rita Temmerman (Erasmushogeschool Brussel – Vrije Universiteit Brussel), The dynamic process of understanding and term creation in the life sciences: from mRNA splicing to spliceosomes. Reflections on primary term creation in English and secondary term creation in French and Dutch
  • Dardo de Vecchi (Euromed-Management, Kedge Business School), La terminologie vue du côté du besoin de l’organisation
  • Guadalupe Aguado de Cea (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), DBpedia and Terminology: back to basics?
  • Kira Peshkov (Université d’Aix-Marseille), L’abréviation dans le discours juridique et la traduction
  • John Humbley (Université Paris Diderot), Final Summary – Synthèse finale