32(2) - 2020

Altmanova, J., Centrella, M. & Russo, K. E. (Eds). (2017). Terminology & Discourse / Terminologie et discours. Peter Lang

Book review by Adam Renwick


Altmanova, Centrella and Russo’s volume contains papers from the Terminology and Discourse conference organized at the University of Naples “L’Orientale” on 10-11 November 2015, and three additional contributions. The nineteen papers are divided into five sections, complemented by a general introduction and conclusion. Eleven contributions are in French, eight in English. Almost all the contributions feature English terminology in some measure, but the focus of the volume is clearly on terminology and discourse in the Romance languages, with French being the most widely treated, but Italian and Spanish also featuring.

In the first section, (chapters 1-4), contributions by Cabré, Humbley, Rogers, and Condamines address methodological and epistemological issues in modern terminology. These issues cover the critical role of discourse in analyzing terms, and the consequences this has for the practical applications that are terminography and lexicography (Cabré), while Rogers shows that while the analysis of variation has made strides over the years, there remains more to be done, and argues for a typology of variation that takes account of cognitive, social as well as textual dimensions. Humbley’s contribution details how analyzing the use of terms in discourse has shaped the terminographer’s task of “finding the right degree of rigidity” (p. 87) in terminography work and that, as Cabré argued, taking account of discourse is a key common feature of the ‘opposing’ disciplines of terminography and lexicography. Finally, Condamines, building on the work of Picton (2009), Meyer (2001) and Aussenac-Gilles & Condamines (2001, 2009), indicates new possibilities for textual terminology, particularly through the use of Meyer’s (2001, p. 281) “knowledge rich contexts” combined with the use of relational markers in a top-down approach, to reveal metalinguistic structures directly related to a given phenomenon, while by means of a bottom-up approach, analyzing the distribution of terms can take account of the contexts in which terms appear as a whole in order to better interpret them. These methodological and epistemological issues serve as a general underpinning of the remaining four sections of the volume, representing what the editors call “Four areas of pivotal interest in recent terminology studies: translation, diachronic change and evolution, specialized contexts, media and popularization” (p. 11).

In the second section (chapters 5-9), Terminology and Translation, the contributions focus on the interactions between discourse and terminology in governmental structures. While Crouzet-Daurat and Le Tallec-Lloret describe the French government’s efforts to produce a terminology comprehensible for the everyman, contributions by Best and Cosmai, Pennisi, and Faini, focus on the EU context and issues of comprehension of terms that are seemingly transparent to the non-specialist, as well as the linguistic and organizational challenges inherent in the complex system of relationships between the nations of Europe (through both their languages and legal systems) and the processes necessary for publishing official documents in all EU languages. Rossi’s contribution continues her analysis of terminological metaphors (Rossi, 2015), but the interlinguistic transfer and translation of metaphors in scientific discourse is a marked thematic contrast to the other contributions of this section.

The contributions in the third section (chapters 10-12), Terminology, Change and Evolution, demonstrate, through analyses of Italian and French, that the shift from nomenclature to terminology can be seen as complete in the works of Lavoisier and Guyton de Morveau towards the end of the 18th century (Zanola), and also analyze the use of terminology in the 17th century precursor to the modern scientific journal (Grimaldi), and the strategies employed by Da Vinci and his role in the creation of terms for the anatomy of the heart (Piro).

The fourth section, Terminology and Variation in Specialized Contexts addresses issues of variation in terminology through three contributions, adding much-needed further works to the existing literature on terminological variation (Fernández-Silva & Kerremans, 2011, Alarcón-Navío, López-Rodríguez & Tercedor-Sánchez, 2016, and particularly Daille, 2017). In their contribution, Lisi and Frassi analyze the semantic scope of terms and their usage in both specialized and generalist corpora, and show that new meanings appear in context with bi-directional influence between specialist and generalist usages. Bonnadonna examines the terminology of a sub-domain of fashion in a remarkably long diachronic perspective, stretching from the 13th to the 21st century, through the analysis of highly varied documentary sources, which provides a kaleidoscopic view of the diachronic variation and evolution of these terms. In the final contribution of this section, Zollo concentrates on the terminology used by silversmiths, through the use of relational markers in knowledge-rich contexts, one of the numerous cases where the theoretical underpinnings of the methodological and epistemological issues raised in Section 1 arise.

The fifth section is the most homogenous of the volume, combining four contributions analyzing the ways that the distance between specialized terminology and non-specialist reader/viewership is bridged in concrete cases drawn from the modern world, with corpora varying from journalistic discourse to the institutional documents of the European Commission, scientific blogs and TED talks. While in some cases the corpora used are small (hundreds of documents, collected over very specific time periods), the authors remain appropriately cautious in their findings, underlining the necessity for additional confirmatory studies to supplement those presented. United by their common theme of analyzing how specialized terminology is rendered for non-specialized audiences, the contributions align in their findings that reformulations, recontextualizations, as well as appeals to storytelling narratives, are deployed in similar ways to communicate specialized terminology to non-specialized audiences. The contributions also make particular note of the idea of specialists creating a sense of affect or even empathy with non-specialist audiences to gain and maintain their attention.

Given the rationale of dividing the volume into five parts based on the terminological issues the individual contributions address, the balance of languages within the given sections is inevitably haphazard, varying from section four, Terminology and Variation in Specific Contexts, with no English contributions, to the final section, Terminology in the Media, where there is a solitary contribution in French. With eleven contributions in French and eight in English, this book inherently limits its audience to speakers of both languages. The barrier this may represent for some readers is only somewhat obviated by the presence of French-language abstracts for English contributions, and vice versa, as well as by the general introduction and general conclusion, provided in French as well as English. Although the editors note that “The studies collected in this volume thus devote great attention to contextual information and discourse as the natural habitat of terms” (p. 10), the lack of a systematic requirement that terms, and particularly contexts, be glossed/rendered into the language of the contribution places further limits on the reader, with the nuances of the authors’ arguments becoming more difficult to discern. This volume would also have benefited from a more rigorous linguistic revision of the contributions, as, beyond the inevitable more cosmetic linguistic errors, further cases persist where linguistic errors obscure the contributors’ arguments.

Although the editors’ logic in placing the contributions into the four sections corresponding to the topics they noted in their introduction is clear, some of the contributions however do not seem to fit so neatly into their assigned sections. When this is combined with the questions of linguistic balance within and between sections, a more thematically harmonious distribution might have been possible by allying the third and fourth sections into one larger section addressing change, variation and evolution of terminology and discourse. While it does suffer from some of the issues of cohesion that are the inherent in the wider scope of conference proceedings, this volume offers further welcome and considered insight into the relationship between discourse and terminology.


Alarcón-Navío, E., López-Rodríguez, C. I. & Tercedor-Sánchez, M. (2016). Variation dénominative et familiarité en tant que source d’incertitude en traduction médicale. Meta, 61(1), 117–144.

Aussenac-Gilles, N. & Condamines, A. (2001). Entre textes et ontologies formelles: les bases de connaissances terminologiques. In M. Zacklad & M. Grundstein (dir.), Ingénierie et capitalisation des connaissances (pp. 153-176). Hermes.

Aussenac-Gilles, N. & Condamines, A. (2009). Variation syntaxique et contextuelle dans la mise au point de patrons de rlations sémantiques. In J.-L. Minel (dir.), Filtrage sémantique (pp. 114-149). Hermes/Lavoisier.

Daille, B. (2017). Term variation in specialized corpora. Terminology and lexicography research and practice, 19. John Benjamins.

Fernández-Silva, S. & Kerremans, K. (2011). Terminological variation in source texts and translations: A pilot study. Meta, 56(2), 318–335.

Meyer, I. (2001). Extracting knowledge-rich contexts for terminography: A conceptual and methodological framework. In D. Bourigault, C. Jacquemin & M.-C. L’Homme (Eds.), Recent advances in computational terminology (pp. 279-302). John Benjamins.

Picton, A. (2009). Diachronie en langue de spécialité. Définition d’une méthode linguistique outillée pour répérer l’évolution des connaissances en corpus. Un exemple appliqué au domaine spatial (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Université Toulouse 2, Toulouse.

Rossi, M. (2015). In rure alieno. Métaphores et termes nomades dans les langues de spécialité. Peter Lang.


DOI 10.17462/para.2020.02.07

October 18, 2020
  32(2) - 2020