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.

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