The Term


E.g.: a mares nest nonsense

Idioms cannot be separated into components. New meaning of idiom is created by unit as a whole though every element keeps its usual value.

E.g.: to grind ones teeth ( ) to grind has a phraseologically bound meaning, ones teeth serves as a determining context.

Phrasemes are always binary. One of the components has phraseologically bound meaning, the other serves as the determining context.

Idioms are classified into 2 types.

1. some contain obsolete elements not occurring elsewhere or elements in obsolete meaning. They are never homonymous to a free phrase and so they are completely independent of distribution.

E.g.: on the nick of time at the exact moment.

2. some idioms easily correlate with homonymous free phrases: dark horse, black sheep, red tape, white night etc.


Phrasemes and idioms are subdivided into movable and immovable. These qualities depend upon the structure of the unit. A phrase is called movable when one of its elements may vary

E.g.: the apple of ones (his, her, mothers, Marys etc.) eye somebody dear for a person.


The third classification of phraseological units was done by A.Koonin. It is based on the function units fulfill in speech. His system is based on the combined structural and semantic principle. According to his classification phraseological units are subdivided into 4 classes considering their function in communication determined by their structural and semantic characteristics.

1. Nominative phraseological units are represented by word groups including ones with one meaningful word and coordinative phrase of the type: well and good, wear and tear.

Here also belong word groups of predicative structure: see how the cat jumps (, ), the straw that shows which way the wind blows (, , ).

2. Nominative communicative phraseological units include word groups of the type: to beat the drum, to break the ice, to beat the air. They can be transformed in passive constructions.

3. Phraseological units neither nominative nor communicative. They include interjections: By George!, O my Lord!, God damn!, down with!

4. Communicative phraseological units represented by proverbs and sayings.

E.g.:Shes between two horns , Can the leopard change his spots? - .

1. The basics of the semiotic theory.

Semiotics is the science of signs. The signs that are of interest for Terminology are those concerned with the representation of concepts and of knowledge in the broader sense.

There are two types of signs, namely natural and conventionalised. Natural signs, also called "symptoms" (e.g. smoke fire; pain disorder in the organ) retain a natural relationship between the signifier and the signified. This relationship is not based on a convention, it is based on causality, i.e. on "cause effect" relationship. Conventionalised signs are based on an "agreement" express or tacit established between a minimum of two reasons. Thus there exists a fixed and relatively stable relationship between the concept and the sign. In the majority of cases, but not exclusively, this sign will consist of a word or term. Signals are not linguistic entities in the strictest sense, e.g. a particular sequence of tones on the telephone signals "engaged". Designations have in common the graphic element that according to its realization takes the following forms:

Ideogram, i.e. a figure normally stylised containing simple inequivocal messages, non-language-specific (e.g. "+" the mathematical sign for "plus");


Notation, a part of a graphically expressed system, e.g. the numerical notations of the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC);

Denomination, normally concerned with sequences of letters ordered in accordance with the established conventions, i.e. words. According to their function we call them "names" when they refer to individual concepts, or "terms" when they refer to a general concept. The latter constitute the greatest part of the category of designation.


2. Definition of the term. Cardinal differences between a word and a term.

The definition of a term (or a terminological unit) as given in ISO/R 1087 runs as follows: "Any conventional symbol for a concept which consists of articulated sounds or of their written representation (= of letters). A term is a word or a phrase." In other words, it is a verbal designation of a general concept in a specific subject field. It may contain symbols and can have variants, e.g. different forms of spelling. Taking the statement that a word is the sequence of letters between two blank graphic spaces as a point of departure, we can deduce that a word can be a term (e.g. management) and a group of words can form a term (e.g. sales management).

Leaving aside certain phenomena typical of LSP, it can be stated that from the point of view of linguistic form it is hardly possible to isolate elements characteristic of terms which cannot also be observed in words of LGP. However, the analysis of the contents of a term reveals a higher degree of precision and/or a special content unknown in LGP. As the term represents a concept that, in its turn, constitutes an element within the relevant system of concepts, the term constitutes an element in the corresponding system of terms the "terminology" of a special subject field.

The characteristics of the term distinguishing it from the non-term are precision and the fact that it belongs to a system of terms. That the system of terms is the linguistic representation of a certain system of concepts can exert an important influence on the term formation.

S.D. Shelov pointed out that traditional distinguishing characteristics of terms do not always bear close scrutiny: unambiguity, precision and lack of emotive connotations. The extent to which a sign (word or phrase) is "terminological" is greater in proportion to the amount of information required to understand it. The increased degree of the coding manifests itself most clearly in the definition of some signs through others.

A term or terminology unit in a specialized language is distinguished from a word in general language by its single-meaning relationship with the specialized concept that it designates (monosemy) and by the stability of the relationship between form and content in texts dealing with this concept (lexicalisation). The status of the term is revealed by its frequency of use and its relatively fixed contextual surroundings (its co-occurents) and by typographical enhancements (italics, boldface print, quotation marks, etc.). A final indicator is its rather limited set of morphological and lexical structures: noun (simple, derived, or compound), verb, adjective, noun phrase, verb phrase, or adjective phrase.


3. Relations between the concept and the term.

The concept, its definition and the system of concepts into which it enters are all elements which require a linguistic realization since without the existence of a possibility for realization the concept remains incapable of communication.

There are several models that seek to describe the relationship between the content (= concept) and the linguistic realization or expression (= term, in the case of LSP). One of the prevailing theories contends that a word (in terminology, a term) has two aspects: 1. content (the semantic value) and 2. expression (the communicable linguistic form). Another model considers the concept and the term as two separate entities united arbitrarily.

Still the problem can be approached from a more pragmatic angle that has produced useful results. For the expression of a concept a sign is required. This sign is, in one respect, also a concept, although of a special type since it, too, is the product of abstraction and synthesis. A sign without a semantic load, without a content, is invalid, just as a concept without a sign is invalid. To have communicative value the sign must possess a content and that content must be known to both sender and receptor in the communicative act.

The concept "sign" has been divided in various ways. One is that based on the models and ideas of E. Wüster.



natural sign conventionalised sign

signal designation


ideogram number notation denomination

name term



4. Types of term-concept relations.

Monosemy ("the single-concept principle")

The term is monosemous if it designates one concept only. If this concept, in its turn, is capable of realization solely by the same term we can speak of absolute monosemy, or in E. Wüsters words, "the term ist eineindeutig". All of the terms that designate a concept are in a monosemous relationship with this concept in a specialized language: each one designates only this concept. Conceptterm monosemy involves the single-concept principle according to which the terminologist must deal with one concept at a time, whether it be on a monolingual or multilingual terminology record or in a specialized vocabulary entry. This is the exact opposite of the principle of polysemy that is applied in general-language dictionaries in which the lexicographical entry comprises a series of senses, each reflecting a different concept.

Needless to say that monosemy represents in terminology the optimal situation as regards the term-concept relationship. However, this occurs very rarely. The achievement of monosemy has long been the goal of standardization. The situation is both problematic and unstable since there is no way of preventing terms from acquiring additional content through extended application. This leads to polysemy.



Polysemy occurs when a term denote two or more distinct concepts which are related in some respects, although they do not necessarily belong to the same system of concepts. The relationship often resides in characteristics which are relatively inconspicuous but which are shared by the concepts designated by the same term. E.g. bridge in construction, part of a string instrument, in dentistry. The element which renders the semantic link between these three concepts, completely distinct as they are, is "the establishment of a connection between two separate points".

There has been a considerable amount of discussion as to whether "polysemy" and "homonymy" do not in fact describe the same phenomenon. It must be admitted that it is no easy matter to propose objective distinguishing criteria. Starting from the concept, all that may truthfully be said is that the concepts concerned are very distinct and that the degree of similarity is irrelevant, although in this particular example it remains clearly perceptible. A criterion one often meets is that if the semantic link is recognizable the relationship may be described as polysemy. However, this criterion depends on the variable and subjective factor of "personal cognition". The etymologists will be able to trace more semantic links than those lacking training in etymology.

Polysemy provides a relatively frequent procedure for the creation of new terms. It adapts itself well to the human inclination to proceed from the known and compare with it the new in the creation of new terms. Still the occurrence of polysemy is not always a desirable factor. It may result in obstruction or total breakdown of the communication process, especially if polysemous terms appear in the same system of terms or subject field. If the term designates a concept from a remote subject field confusion does not arise.



In case of synonymy two or more terms from the same language designate exactly the same concept. The essential factor here is the identity of the concept. E.g. table salt=NaCl=common salt=sodium chloride.

Sometimes there exist certain characteristics that distinguish the terms, for instance, the application of the term in different professional spheres, regional differences (e.g. subway, US underground, GB). These differences may be reflected even in standards. If we consider terminology from a diachronic point of view, another factor, namely time can throw distinctions into relief.

In general, synonymy is unwelcome in terminology. It makes communication more difficult by insinuating non-existent differences. This is contrary to the basic principles of terminology unambiguity and transparency of communication.

Factors that may lead to the occurrence of synonymy include:

- ad hoc alternative invention created through a lack of knowledge of the terminology of the subject field;

- the influence of various different branches, schools, enterprises, etc.;

- unsuccessful standardization;

- ad hoc alternatives inventions created by translators through ignorance of the correct term.

There may be such a high degree of similarity between the concepts that the terms are frequently confused and even professionals, although alert to the conceptual differences, habitually use terms of this category in professional communication as though they were in fact synonymous, e.g. relation relationship. These two words are used in terminology as synonyms, even by native speakers. However, there do exist differences in both semantic content, connotation, and possible syntactic patterns and collocations appropriate.

When dealing with pseudo-synonymy we are not concerned with genuine synonyms but rather with the equivocal use of terms which the user believes to be synonymous. The reason for this is a lack of professional training. E.g., elasticity plasticity.


If a term designates two or more concepts between which no semantic relationship exists the phenomenon is called "homonymy". There is no universal agreement on the definition of homonymy. One school of thought stipulates conceptual independence and the absence of a common etymological root. Another postulates that if the relationship between the concepts has ceased to exist in the memory of the present language user the criteria of homonymy are fulfilled. Homonymy constitutes a relatively minor obstacle in communication and virtually never leads to serious misunderstandings unless the homonyms occur within the same subject field or within one and the same system (which is worse). E.g. bark 1. of a tree; 2. a sound of a dog; 3. sailing vessel.


Synonymy and equivalence denote very similar phenomena. The only difference lies in the fact that synonymy refers to identity of concepts designated by different terms in the same language while equivalence refers to the same phenomenon expressed in two or more languages, e.g. table = der Tisch = mesa. Examples of total and absolute equivalence are not frequently encountered outside LSP, neither do they occur in all LSPs. In some subject fields of a highly international character the situation it is quite possible, in other cases the systems barely coincide although they might well be expected to.

Theoretically it is possible to distinguish between total equivalence, partial equivalence and absence of equivalence. But these categories are of limited validity since only the extreme points are fixed. Between them there may exist any degree of equivalence whatsoever. The translator or lexicographer (terminographer) must take into account whether the equivalence proves acceptable or depends on many factors. Without the context it is not possible to judge whether in a given situation a conceptual difference is important. The common basis for the determination of equivalence remains the definition. It proves the only reliable instrument for the analysis of equivalence. Though often the similarity of terms also indicates identity of concepts this does not provide a reliable guideline for the terminologists, e.g. arsenic (Fr.) As

arsenik (Da.) As2O3 (arsentrioxid).


5. Term formation. Pragmatic aspects of term formation.

There is no doubt that with the explosive growth of human knowledge the number of concepts requiring expression continues to increase every day. The possible gap must be closed. Term formation is the process of naming the concepts required by a particular special language community for the development of cognitive processes and communication. It is a conscious human activity that differs from the arbitrariness of general word formation processes by its greater awareness of pre-existing patterns and models and of its social responsibility for facilitating communication and the transmission of knowledge.

Term formation always occur in a particular environment, e.g., in a research laboratory, a design office, a workshop or in any other situation where people have a need for new forms of expression. Modes of term formation differ according to the subject area in which it occurs, the nature of the people involved and the origin of the stimulus for term formation.

Subject-field related factors. Since some conceptual relations are expressible in patterns of term formation, the inherent knowledge structure of a subject filed can suggest through its internal relations the preferred patterns for combining linguistic elements into terms. In an ideal situation, term formation obeys strict rules that mirror conceptual relations as far as the linguistic rule system permits. In such a case, we speak of transparent terms because readers are assumed to have a better grasp of the meaning of a term if they can recognize the conceptual structure of a complex concept through the pattern used to combine lexical elements. Such regular naming processes are best illustrated by the nomenclatures of the biological sciences and chemistry. In this sense, term formation attempts to overcome the arbitrariness of natural language designation.

Human factors. Since term formation is a deliberate human activity, the people involved in such processes variously influence the creation of terms. Their education and their command of native and foreign linguistic resources gives them more or less flexibility of expression and hence ability to create new terms. E.g., in many European languages the knowledge of Latin and Greek has always been highly influential in the development of special subject. The social responsibility and the role of these people make them aware of the need for systematicity in term creation and the maintenance of an open and transparent system of communication.

The stimulus for term formation. Since term formation responds to different stimuli, it may be foreseeable and predictable or totally ad hoc. In chemistry, e.g., where the derivation of new substances can be theoretically planned, potential names can be held in readiness for naming the successful combination of elements. In naming of motor car models, a series of related names may be proposed by advertising specialists for selection by the design and marketing teams. In scientific processes, the presence of a method and the vicinity of other scientific names usually provide a limited range of naming possibilities. In cases of surprise discovery and inventions naming is completely unprepared and often arbitrary.

6. Primary and secondary term formation. Types of term formation (terminologization, composition, compounding, derivation, blending, conversion, borrowing, loan-words, etc.).

A major distinction should be made between primary and secondary term formation. These two processes are ruled by different motivations and influences. The fundamental difference lies in the fact that in primary term formation there is no direct linguistic precedent, though there may be more or less strict rules for the formation of appropriate terms. In secondary term formation there is always the precedent of an existing term with its own motivation. The former may be spontaneous, the latter is influenced by the existence of a term and can be designed and engineered.

Primary term formation is the process of terminology creation that accompanies concept formation as a result of scientific and technological innovation or change in a linguistic community. It is, therefore, usually monolingual. It may be provisional, i.e. accompanied by a stipulative or otherwise temporary definition until a definitive name is accepted, or it may be seen as definitive.

Secondary term formation is the process of creating a new term for an existing concept and happens in two distinct situations: a) when a designation is changed at a later date as a result of monolingual revision of a terminology, e.g., for the purpose of producing a standards document; b) on the occasion of the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge from one linguistic community to another which is carried out by means of term creation. Secondary term formation is more often subject to guidelines than primary term formation because the new term to be created may have to be justified in some way and this justification may include reference to the form of existing terms.

In general, the manner in which new terms are created differs very little from the methods observed in LGP. There are, of course, certain differences but they are closely related to the language in question. It is also true to say that some methods of forming terms prove more productive in LSP than in LGP. Term formation, like word formation, can consist of the absolute invention of a new combination of phonemes or graphemes, but this happens extremely rarely. Usually term formation relies on existing lexical elements and combines them in particular ways that can be described and used as models for subsequent formation processes. It is possible to say that the formation of terms is carried out by three different methods, namely by:

a) the use of existing resources;

b) the modification of existing resources;

c) the creation of new linguistic entities.

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