My SmarTerms 11: Terminometrics

Terminometrics is the measurement of terminology use within a subject field or, as defined by Bhreathnach, the study of term implantation.

Termium defines it as the “analysis of the usage of concurrent terms designating a given concept” and “the measurement of the use of a term or a terminology within a population”. It is comparative and diachronic. For example, the French term “dessin intelligent” (intelligent design) is of recent creation and not frequently used. So terminometrics measures the preference of the population for the term “dessin intelligent”, “dessein intelligent” or the English term “intelligent design” and the tendency of their usage throughout time.

Jean Quirion is the Director of the School of Translation and Interpretation and Associate Professor and member of Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the University of Ottawa and was the first to propose a scientific protocol to conduct terminometric studies. In his publication on the dynamics of terminology, Quirion explains how the “dynamics of terms deals with the evolution of terminology, and terminometric analyses measure this evolution. Based on an analysis of term usage in specialized communication in the domain of nanotechnology over a period of two consecutive years, his study demonstrated that terminometrics can produce a precise description of the dynamics of terms in multicultural, bilingual or multilingual settings.” Read More

MySmarTerms 10: Termhood and Unithood

Terminology extractionThese two little, strong terms are widely used in automatic term extraction (ATE) and I wanted to introduce them today as a first contact with the complex world of ATE, which can get highly technical. I wouldn’t dare to make up my own definitions and examples, so I think it is better to refer to the experts.

Unithood and termhood refer to the qualities of terms, or as Nakagawa calls it “two essential aspects of the nature of terms”, and they make part of the extraction tasks that are carried out during an automated extraction process. (The first task is corpus collection, then detection of unithood and termhood, then detection of term variants and finally evaluation and validation), as per Heylen and De Hertog.

Read More

MySmarTerms 9: (De-) (Re-) Terminologization

Terminologization. De-terminologization. Re-terminologization. Don’t fret! These are three long words that are easy to understand (Take a look at my illustration below). They are term formation methods. The new terms that we create by means of these methods would be ideal candidates to include in our termbase. Also, being aware of this process will help us identify good candidates when we are extracting terms from a corpus. In most cases, the words/terms do not lose their original meaning, but rather acquire double meaning, thus becoming polysemantic. Read More

My SmarTerms 8: The Synchronic and Diachronic approaches of terminology

Sand-Clock--29774The General Theory of Terminology (also known as the Traditional Theory) proposes as one of its approaches to terminology work that terms and concepts should be studied synchronically, that is, analyzed in one period in time, usually the present, without taking their history into account, while the diachronic approach studies the historical development and evolution of language. Read More

Termontography… What?

how-to-draw-dinosaurs-133It would almost seem like a word taken from a paleontology dictionary for most of us. So I present to you: Termontography!

Termontography is a hybrid term from Terminology, Ontology (the study of the categories of things that exist or may exist in some domain), and Terminography (the compiling of collections of the vocabulary of special languages). Read More

Deconstructing Designations: Term, Appellation, Symbol


Click to enlarge

In previous posts I have referred to conceptual systems, definitions, and the semantic triangle. Today I talk about designations. Together, they make up the basis that underpins terminology work. ISO 704 states it clearly: “Objects, concepts, designations and definitions are fundamental to terminology […]. Objects are perceived or conceived and abstracted into concepts which, in special language, are represented by designations and described in definitions. A set of designations belonging to one special language constitutes the terminology of a specific subject field.”

ISO 704 goes on to say that “designation acts as a synthesis of the definition. A designation is a representation of a concept by linguistic or non-linguistic means.” So, terminology is not just words. In natural language, concepts can take the form of terms, appellations, definitions or other linguistic forms; in artificial language, they can take the form of codes or formulae while in graphics, they can take the form of icons, pictures, diagrams or other graphic representations. There are three types of designations as defined by ISO 704:

Term: A term is a linguistic designation consisting of one or more words representing a general concept in a special language. A term may be simple, expressed in its basic form, that is, it contains only one root (e.g. “sustain”) or complex, containing two or more roots (a root word accompanied by another word or with added prefix or suffix {e.g. un+sustain+able}). It is typically a common noun or noun phrase. ISO 1087-1:2000 also defines it as a verbal designation of a general concept in a specific subject field. Terms may contain symbols and have variants, e.g. different forms of spelling.

Appellation: An appellation is a linguistic designation of an individual concept. It is a unique concept. It derives from the French word “appeler” which means to name. It becomes unique when you give it a unique name (Nike, Chanel, George Washington, Internet, etc.). In a blog post (see source 4) Barbara Inge says: “Technically, appellations are not translated but remain in their original language. However, an individual concept may have an appellation in different languages.” Good examples are international organizations which tend to have appellations in all languages of the member states, such as the European Union, die Europäische Union, or l’Union européenne”.


Symbol: Designates both individual and general concepts. A symbol should be simple and easy to recognize and, if possible, self-explanatory, monosemic in a specific context, unambiguous, easy and economical to reproduce, and consistent and appropriate, i.e., designed to permit coordination with and differentiation from other related symbols.

Formula: Non-linguistic designation consisting of symbols or symbols related to other mathematical, physical or chemical characters.

NOTE: When the concept depicts a single object, it is called an individual concept and is represented in special language as an appellation (e.g., United Nations, Internet, Worldwide Web) or a symbol (e.g: the Möbius Loop icon). When the concept depicts a set of two or more objects, it is called a general concept and, in special languages, the designation takes the form of a term (e.g., floppy disk, liquidity, money market fund, etc.) or a symbol (©, ≥, $).


Imbalances between designations and concepts may result in ambiguity during concept analysis. For example, in synonymy one concept has several designations (e.g. (cell phone [US] mobile [UK], handy [DE].); in polysemy, one designation represents two or more concepts sharing certain characteristics (e.g. bridge: structure to carry traffic over a gap; dental plate), and in homonymy one concept represents two or more unrelated concepts (e.g. bat the animal and the instrument used to hit a ball, or Apple the brand and the fruit).

Finally, take a look at the presentation called “Rethinking Terminology Standards: 704 & 1087” (from page 15) in which the authors provide a different perspective on designations as defined by those two ISO standards (see source 6).

Sources and further reading:

  1. What can be an Object of Terminological Description in a Term Bank? Igor Kudashev of University of Helsinki. Read here.
  2. Introduction to Terminology Management for Localization by Sorrell Ritter. Read here.
  3. A Flexible XML-Based Glossary Approach for the Federal Government: The Next Generation by Ken Sall. Read here.
  4. Blog entry in Bikterminology: Jump List? Or what should we call it? By Barbara Inge Karsh. Read here.
  5. Language, concept and definition. Read here.
  6. Rethinking Terminology Standards: 704 & 1087 (July 2013) by Rute Costa and Christophe Roche Read here.
  7. Glossary of terminology management by TermCoord. Read here.
  8. Terminology. Tutorial for ISO/TC 211Project Leader, Experts and Delegates, by Andrew Jones. Read here.

MySmarTerms 5: The Semantic Triangle: Words don’t mean; people mean

Foolish Questions” (William Cole)

Where can a man buy a cap for his knee?
Or a key for a lock of his hair?
Can your eyes be called an academy
Because there are pupils there?
In the crown of your head, what jewels are found?
Who travels the bridge of your nose?
Could you use in shingling the roof of your mouth
The nails on the end of your toes?
Could the crook in your elbow be sent to jail?
If so, what did he do?
How can you sharpen your shoulder blades?
I’ll be darned if I know, do you?
Can you sit in the shade of the palm of your hand
And play on the drum of your ear?
Do the calves of our legs eat the corn on our toes?
Then why does it grow on the ear?
Can the calf of his leg eat the corn on his toe?—
There’s somethin’ pretty strange around here.


According to the Oxford Dictionary, the 500 most used words in the English language have at least 14,070 different definitions. This is an average of 28 meanings per word. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our communication attempts sometimes fail because of misconceptions and ambiguity. We need to have clear and precise concepts connected to our terms in order to design reliable termbases and glossaries.

Given that one of the goals of terminology management is to facilitate communication and avoid misunderstandings and confusion, it would be helpful to understand the basics of the semiotic triangle, not only because it introduces and explains some of the basic elements upon which terminology is grounded, but also as a foundation for further reading and research.

Englishmen Charles Kay Ogden and Ivor Armstrong Richards wrote the book “The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism” (1923), and the semantic triangle was the means they used to explain that understanding comes from within the people rather than from the words they just interpret or, as the saying goes, words don’t mean; people mean.

In their book they presented three theories: The Meaning Theory (There is not a single “correct” meaning associated with each and every word because each word means something different to each person); the Definition Theory (In order to avoid this ambiguity we need to define terms or concepts) and the Symbol Theory (words evoke images and personal meaning is based on experience). Communication breaks when people attempt to communicate through the use of arbitrary words. Words have no exact or clear meaning, and meaning depends on context.

You will find different triangles with different terminology, so I mention here the most common ones: The Sign or Symbol or Term (Representation) is the actual word, term, or sign; the mental image or idea that the person has of this representation is the Thought or Reference or Concept. If the Thought is adequate, the hearer is able to connect it to the Referent or Object.

semiotic-triangletriangle orage










All meaning is elicited through symbols, or is arrived at through personal interpretation. The meaning does not go with the word, it emerges by the person hearing it, thinking about it and ultimately arriving at meaning. (See this Prezi presentation for more examples and also the video I included as Source 6 below).

Richards and Ogden’s triangle has been challenged over the years by other semioticians, such as Umberto Eco, who maintain it is overly simplistic. According to Sue Ellen Wright (see Source 2 below) “One of the major deterrents to using the triangle is its numerous interpretations and the variable of terminology associated with the nodes of the triangle”, but then she adds that the triangle is useful “particularly for non-linguists approaching terminology practice for the first time”. And even in more advanced terminology work and studies, the semiotic triangle has proven to be useful as a basis for further research. See, for example, the article “Semiotic Triangle Revisited for the Purposes of Ontology-based Terminology Management” by Igor Kudashev and Irina Kudasheva, in which they adapted the traditional triangle and suggest an alternative model for their terminology project TermFactory. Also, take a look at Source 5 below, in which the authors compare the triangle used in traditional Terminology theory versus the sociocognitive Terminology theory.

Terminological data must be handled efficiently and effectively through careful terminology planning and analysis as we constantly process specialized and complex information on how objects are perceived, how we come up with concepts for new or existing terms, and how these perceptions are represented and described. So just by looking at the terminology works mentioned above it is more than evident that understanding the semantic triangle is a relevant topic for terminologists.

The Semantic triangle is also known as Triangle of Semantics, Triangle of reference, the Semiotic Triangle, the Referent Triangle, Triangle of Meaning, the Ogden-Richards Triangle, and the Meaning of Meaning Model.

In my next SmarTerm I will talk about Designations (Term, Appellation, and Symbol) a subject closely related to this topic.

Sources and further reading:

  1. Introduction to Richards, by Peter Muntigl
  2. Semantic Triangle of Meaning for Interpersonal Communication. A YouTube video by Nadine CiChy, Associate Professor at Sinclair Community College
  3. Semiotic Triangle Revisited for the Purposes of Ontology-based Terminology Management” by Igor Kudashev and Irina Kudasheva
  4. Standards for the Language Industry, by Sue Ellen Wright in Terminology, Computing and Translation (Google Books)
  5. The Meaning of Meaning Model by
  6. Towards New Ways of Terminology Description. The Sociocognitive Approach, Rita Temmerman (in Google Books).
  7. Understanding and being understood by Dr. Sandford I. Berman (PDF shared by the Department of Communication of the University of California.
  8. What Do You Mean: A Brief Look at Ogden and Richards’ Theory of Meaning by A. Bosco. 2002

MySMARTerms 4: The onomasiological and semasiological approaches

Try to pronounce these two terms without getting tongue twisted! Sometimes terms are created to make people think that knowledge is beyond their reach, but the truth is there is always an easier way to explain things. Unless you want to get a PhD in Linguistics, we don’t need to do the fancy talk.

Read more here.

MySmartTerm 2: Terminology, terminography, lexicology, lexicography

These concepts, all derived from applied linguistics, are usually subject to debate. The following descriptions may seem simplistic to the more experienced person, but my intention is to provide simple explanations and, if your curiosity is piqued, go to the more detailed sources below.

Terminology is the study of special-language words or phrases associated with particular areas of specialist knowledge (also called “language for specific purposes”, LSP). It is concept-based, which means that terminology work starts from the concept and then tries to find the terms. See MySmartTerm1 for more definitions of terminology and my section on Termbase for more details on the concept-based principle.

Terminography is concerned exclusively with compiling collections of the vocabulary of special languages. The outputs may be called terminology, specialized vocabulary, glossary, or termbase. Also the approach is descriptive but it can also be prescriptive (as it may be subject to standardization) particularly in scientific, technical and medical work where safety is a primary consideration.

Lexicology is the study of words, (also lexicon [a collection of lexemes] or vocabulary) also called “general purpose language”, GPL (not involving a specialist knowledge). Dictionaries, for example, are the main product of lexicology work, and you start with a term which may contain more than one concept.

Lexicography is the writing of the word in some concrete form, i.e. a dictionary. It is also called applied lexicology because it is the output of the lexicology process. Also, the approach is only descriptive, not prescriptive.

The treatment of synonyms , polysemes, homonyms is different in terminography and lexicography:

Terminography (e.g. glossary, termbase)
Lexicography (e.g. dictionary)
synonyms of the same subject field are grouped together (in the same entry in a termbase)
synonyms are presented separately scattered throughout the dictionary
polysemes and homonyms are presented separately (different entries) because they represent different concepts.
polysemes are presented in one entry (dictionary entry) and homonyms are presented as two headwords and grouped together

In terms of grammar, a dictionary (lexicology’s main output) may include any word, while a glossary or a termbase (terminology’s outputs) only include a specialized-language word or phrase.

Sources: An Introduction to Lexicography by D.P. Pattanayak; Terminography and Lexicography by Anja Drame (TermNet); The Importance of Terminology by the Department of Computing of the University of Surrey (UK), Lexicography by the Wikipedia.

MySMARTerm1: What is Terminology?

I thought about SMART terms while I was listening to a terminology webinar on the business case. I already knew the acronym*, but I thought it was a smart idea (pun intended!) to use it as terminology management is indeed a smart idea (Did I just say smart again?) because in the long run it saves time, money and energy. Smart, isn’t it? 🙂

My first SMART term, of course, had to be “terminology”. When you study terminology, a differentiation is always made in its definition as it refers to two concepts. (The definitions provided were taken from some of the major sources available):

As a study field:

1.   ISO 1087-1:2000 defines it as the “science studying the structure, formation, development, usage and management of terminologies in various subject fields”.

2. In the Glossary of Terms used in Terminology it is defined as “The study of terms, concepts, and their relationships.”

3. Pavel’s tutorial defines it as “the language discipline dedicated to the scientific study of the concepts and terms used in specialized languages.”

4. For TerminOrgs “it is the name of an academic and professional discipline associated with studying and managing terms. Considered a branch of linguistics, terminology is closely related to lexicology (defining words and creating dictionaries), but with a focus on concepts (analysis, definition, denotation) in special domains. The field of terminology typically supports content creation, translation and other forms of knowledge management.”

5. Birger Hjørland says that “Terminology (with capital T) is the study of terminology”.

6. UN’s Guidelines for terminology policies says “Terminology science is the subject field that investigates the structure, formation, development, usage and management of the terminologies in various subject fields, and that prepares the methodological foundation for many applications.”

7. If course, I had to include what the Wikipedia says: “Terminology is the study of terms and their use… Terminology is a discipline that studies, among other things, the development of such terms and their interrelationships within a culture… Terminology is a discipline that systematically studies the “labelling or designating of concepts” particular to one or more subject fields or domains of human activity.”

As an activity:

1. defines it as a “set of designations belonging to one special language” (ISO 1087-1:2000). Same definition provided by IATE’s TermCoord in its glossary.

2. For TerminOrgs it is “a set of terms in a specialized area, such as “networking terminology” or “automobile manufacturing terminology”.

3. Pavel’s tutorial defines it as “the set of special words belonging to a science, an art, an author, or a social entity.”

4. Birger Hjørland says that “Terminology (with small t) is a technical vocabulary, i.e. a collection of terms, which has a certain coherence by the fact that the terms belong to a single subject area.”

5. I personally love it with someone defines terms in simple words, such as Silvia Cerella Bauer when she says in her ebook that it is “a vocabulary of words, terms and phrases that are used for a specific industry, organization, or field of study.”

As in any study field, you could always say more, but my intention is to give you just a few so that you get smarter about terminology.

*The SMART criteria are used when setting objectives. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-based.

Note: I will be saving these SMARTerms on a separate page, so you can see the list as they are published.