A Comparative Study of Terminological Variation

A Comparative Study of Terminological Variation


This article presents an ongoing project in which terminological variation is studied in the context of specialised translation. The project aims to fi nd out whether certain patterns or tendencies can be derived from a comparative analysis of terminological variation in source texts and their translations. New insights about terminological variation in specialised translations could contribute to the development of a new type of specialised translation dictionary which will better account for the different ways in which a given thought is expressed. In this article, I will present the methodology that was set up in this project to carry out the comparative analysis. Currently, the analysis is carried out on English, Dutch and French texts related to biodiversity issues (including climate change, air pollution, invasive species, etc.).

The concept – which is the starting-point of the terminological analysis – is identifi ed by means of an original term and its meaning is explained in a definition.

Koen Kerremans

The view that terms should be used unambiguously to refer to clearly defi ned concepts (see e.g. Wüster 1979 or Felber 1981) has dominated terminology research for quite some years. To a large extent, it has determined what information should be taken up in specialised dictionaries and how this information should ideally be presented to the dictionary users.

This article presents a research project which looks at specialised dictionaries from the perspective of the translator, one of the most important users of these dictionaries (Collet 2004a). Translators who need to translate a domain-specifi c text, consult specialised dictionaries to acquire a better understanding of particular concepts or the subject fi eld, to familiarise themselves with the terminology and to look up possible translation equivalents of terms they encountered in their source text. Previous studies have pointed out that specialised dictionaries only partially meet the requirements of translators in this respect because they very often lack a specifi cation of how a term really ‘behaves’ in specialised discourse (e.g. Collet 2004a, Gerzymisch-Arbogast 2008). Questions such as ‘are there any collocational restrictions?’ or ‘what term fi ts best in the context of my translation?’ remain very often unanswered.

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