Terminology is the study of terms and their use. Terms are words and compound words or multi-word expressions that in specific contexts are given specific meanings--these may deviate from the meanings the same words have in other contexts and in everyday language. Terminology is a discipline that studies, among other things, the development of such terms and their interrelationships within a specialized domain. Terminology differs from lexicography, as it involves the study of concepts, conceptual systems and their labels (terms), whereas lexicography studies words and their meanings.
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. It does this through the research and analysis of terms in context for the purpose of documenting and promoting consistent usage. Terminology can be limited to one or more languages (for example, "multilingual terminology" and "bilingual terminology"), or may have an interdisciplinarity focus on the use of terms in different fields.
The discipline of terminology consists primarily of the following aspects:
- analyzing the concepts and concept structures used in a field or domain of activity
- identifying the terms assigned to the concepts
- in the case of bilingual or multilingual terminology, establishing correspondences between terms in the various languages
- compiling the terminology, on paper or in databases
- managing terminology databases
- creating new terms, as required
Types of terminology
A distinction is made between two types of terminology work:
- Ad hoc work on terminology, which deals with a single term or a limited number of terms
- Systematic collection of terminology, which deals with all the terms in a specific subject field or domain of activity, often by creating a structured ontology of the terms within that domain and their interrelationships.
Ad hoc terminology is prevalent in the translation profession, where a translation for a specific term (or group of terms) is required quickly to solve a particular translation problem.
Terminology as a discipline
A terminologist intends to hone categorical organization by improving the accuracy and content of its terminology. Technical industries and standardization institutes compile their own glossaries. This provides the consistency needed in the various areas--fields and branches, movements and specialties--to work with core terminology to then offer material for the discipline's traditional and doctrinal literature.
Terminology is also then key in boundary-crossing problems, such as in language translation and social epistemology. Terminology helps to build bridges and to extend one area into another. Translators research the terminology of the languages they translate. Terminology is taught alongside translation in universities and translation schools. Large translation departments and translation bureaus have a Terminology section.
Terminological theories include general theory of terminology, socioterminology, communicative theory of terminology, sociocognitive terminology, and frame-based terminology.
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