A termbase: Is not about the terms! (The concept-oriented approach)

Well, yes, a termbase is a repository of terms, but the central issue of termbases revolves around the organization of concepts. We have to differentiate between terminology work (the extraction of terms from sources) and termbase design (how terms are organized based on concepts). Once you identify the concept you look for its term. That is what they call in semantics and lexicology the semasiological approach: The grouping of words based on their meaning, or the concept-oriented approach.

Termbase creation starts by concept (or conceptual) analysis to clarify the definition of each concept and its scope or boundaries and identify its main characteristics to isolate it from other concepts. To identify concepts for analysis we need a concept system to organize them by subject field, and this is achieved by designing a concept map: a graphic representation of concepts and their relationships. Concept maps may be as simple or as complex as you want them to be, depending on the amount of information you are working with and the level of complexity of the termbase you are designing. In the concept maps you connect terms to each other based on the whether they are broad or narrow concepts. Here are one simple and one complex concept maps:

concept map image

complex concept map








Concepts are structured in hierarchical (generic and partitive) or non-hierarchical (associative) relationships. Hierarchical relationships may be generic or partitive. In the generic hierarchy we find superordinate and subordinate concepts. The superordinate (also called generic or broader) concept is the general concept under which we have all the subordinate concepts that “inherit” characteristics from the superordinate concept (e.g. dog breeds: Labradors, bulldogs, Chihuahuas). Partitive hierarchy concepts are easy to identify because they are “part of” something (e.g. house, roof, door). In non-hierarchical or associative relationships, concepts do not share essential features, that is, they do not inherit characteristics (e.g. producer-product: bake-bread)

Concept analysis and mapping are very useful during termbase design because they help us come up with a clear structure for our termbase.

Sources and further reading:

  1. Pavel tutorial on hierarchies. Read here.
  2. Concept analysis. Read here.
  3. Wikipedia on semasiology.
  4. Semantic Relationships used in Controlled Vocabularies. Read here.
  5. Concept Systems for Terminological Analysis. Read here.
  6. The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them. Read here.

My blog has been nominated! ¡Gracias!

I am really excited about being nominated. Thank you so much for supporting my blog. I am really surprised that I have achieved so much in less than a month when I launched it. My hope is that as time goes by I will be able to provide more and more useful information.

You can still vote for my blog 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.

Check out my new section “More Terminology Blogs”

I have only found three blogs on terminology so far but they are really good. Do you know of another one? I’m pretty sure there’s more out there Let me know!




New subsection “Sample Termbases”

Check out my new subsection on sample termbases. Go to the “Main Ingredients” menu, then “AnTermbase: What You Should Know”. You will find some sample termbases from Trados, DejaVu, and TermStar. 

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. isocat.org 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.

Trustworthiness of websites during term search

Termbase creation and updating requires a lot of research. When looking for terms on the Internet, be careful and ask yourself the following questions: Read More

New section on terminology in French

I had planned to postpone this because I have still so much information to share, but I couldn’t pass the chance to include it when I found it today on Twitter. Check it out under my new Ressources terminologiques en français.

New section under Training

I started a section on specialized terminology training. My first source is provided by Rosado Professional Solutions, a translation company specialized in translation and interpretation (English and Spanish). See Training.

Infographics on communication

It is true that this might not be related directly to terminology, but it’s about the evolution of communication and I believe it is worth sharing and taking a good look at how it has evolved. Nice job!



Twitting and blogging IMOT

So much to do, so much to learn. I’m starting to use Twitter again a long time after I opened my account and hopefully more blogging here. My idea is to blog about information that is already here to let people know what they can find, and let them know when I had new things. We’ll see!