An overview of concept relationships and why they are important in Terminology – PART 3
I my previous two posts in this subject, Part I on hierarchical relationships and Part II on associative and equivalent relationships, I reviewed the basics on what they are and how they are represented. This is the third and last part, to briefly touch upon the importance to understand how concept relationships work.
ISO 704 establishes that “The relations between the concepts shall be used to determine the basic structure of the concept system.” Effective terminology work cannot be performed without a clear understanding of how specialized knowledge is organized, and without a good description of concepts that designate terminological units and how they are related to each other.
Right off the bat, the first thing you need to do is gather your documentation and structure it, that is, figure out what concepts belong to what field and map them accordingly. Making your diagrams (itemized list, tree diagram, arrow diagram, etc.) will help you get a better understanding of your material. This terminological analysis is key to what will come ahead, for small and large projects alike.
ISO 704 also enumerates the advantages of developing a concept system, as it serves to:
- model concepts and relations between them based on specialized knowledge of a subject field;
- clarify the relations between concepts;
- form the basis for a uniform and standardized terminology;
- facilitate the comparative analysis of concepts and designations across languages;
- facilitate the writing of definitions;
Model concept structures: Allows to better understand and acquire new knowledge, organize concepts within a specialized field, and make a clear identification of characteristics for concept differentiation, especially when dealing with new study fields.
Clarify the relations between concepts: When we are doing concept analysis in a new field of knowledge, we might encounter organizational chaos. Drawing up diagrams and conceptual maps will help us write unambiguous definitions for concepts and evaluate and agree upon terms to ensure conceptual clarity.
Form the basis of a uniform and standardized terminology: It allows for harmonized and unified concepts and concept systems. The ultimate goal of terminology is to standardize terms with a view to avoiding inconsistencies and ambiguity and thus to facilitate communication.
Facilitate the comparative analysis of concepts and designations across languages: Dealing with multiple languages can be overwhelming, and having a clear concept structure for each language allows us to make sure that the term in one language corresponds exactly to another languages or languages.
Facilitate the writing of definitions. Concepts are expressed through definitions, and establishing the relationships between the concept and its related concepts not only is a prerequisite but also will help you every time you need to write definitions.
To sum up, effective terminology management requires that we have a clear understanding of how the specialized field is organized and once we organize it through concept representation, we will be sure to start our work on the right foot. I hope this introduction to concept relationships will help you in your future terminology work.
Sources and further reading:
- A. Bean and R. Green “Relationships in the Organization of Knowledge”.
- C. Bean, A Role for Controlled Vocabularies in Developing Structures for Sharing Medical Knowledge
- Getty, Paul “Relationships in Controlled Vocabularies”
- Harpring, Patricia Developing authority files for art information: CCO, CDWA, and the CONA model