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.

Terminologization: We transform a general language word into a technical term (or special-language term). Information technology is a rich source of terminologization: Think that we went from a regular apple to the brand name Apple, a window is now also an operating system, and a mouse is now an animal and an electronic device.

De-terminologization (introduced by Ingrid Meyer and Kristen Macintosh): A technical term is incorporated into general language as a widely known word, that is, the “technicality sense” is drained out of the term and transformed into a regular word was. Meyer and Macintosh gave the example of the word “virtual”: Today its “virtual reality” meaning has little to do with virtual reality per se: virtual sex, virtual office, virtual money, even virtual corpus and virtual dictionary. It has become a buzzword.

In a blog post Barbara Inge Karsch published on this subject (see link for examples), she mentioned that there are two categories of de-terminologization: (i) The “new” word retains the same meaning and it becomes so popular that everybody knows “how to use it” (and it might acquire other meaning); and (ii) the “new” word now describes a different concept and no longer shares the essential characteristics of the original term. Pascalina Dury gives as examples the words “ecosystem” and “niche” as technical words that everybody understands nowadays, although originally they were terms coming from ecology and originally most people didn’t understand.

Re-terminologization: Is the transition of the term from one terminological system into another, preserving or changing its meaning. For example, the term “introspection” that is used in Physics and Psychology, in the didactic context receives the meaning of self-analysis and self-knowledge. Another easy example is the word “virus”, as illustrated below.

new pic terminolog

Sources and further reading:

  1. BIK Terminology. Terminology blog by Barbara Inge Karsch “A home run is a home run is a home run?
  2. Dury, Pascaline. Terminology and Specialized Translation: the Relevance of the Diachronic Approach (2005).
  3. Guidelines for terminology policies. Formulating and implementing terminology policy in language communities. Prepared by Infoterm UNESCO, Paris 2005
  4. Ingrid MEYER, Kristen MACKINTOSH, School of Translation and Interpretation, University of Ottawa, Krista VARANTOLA, Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere. From Virtual Sex to Virtual Dictionaries: On the Analysis and Description of a De-terminologized Word. EURALEX 1998 Proceedings.
  5. Pasichnyk, Nataliya. The notion of the didactic term. The didactic terminological system.
  6. Linguistic Mapping Reveals How Word Meanings Sometimes Change Overnight. Technology review. Nov. 2014.

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