Topics: Theory, Scientific method, Linguistics Pages: 43 (14247 words) Published: May 14, 2013
Theories of terminology
Their description, prescription and explanation
M. Teresa Cabré Castellví

During the past decade, the theory of terminology has been a subject of debate in various circles. This article examines some of the reasons why this topic has been receiving so much interest lately. I will first discuss the theory developed by Wüster and analyse the motivations behind his model. Then, I will explain why the Wüsterian theory was not questioned or challenged for a long time. This will lead us to the reasons why so many critical voices have been raised recently, both from inside traditional viewpoints and outside. I will also look at the reception these new ideas have had in terminology circles. Finally, I will present my own definition of a theory of terminology, by examining important issues such a theory should take into account and see what I can offer to this debate. Keywords: theory of terminology, history of terminology, General Theory of Terminology, Communicative Theory of Terminology

It is surprising that after many years of inactivity in terminological theory all of a sudden there has been a rush of critiques of established principles and suggestions proposing new alternatives to the traditional theory. This movement is evidenced by several seminars, organised in 2003, devoted to reestablishing the foundations of a theory of terminology on its own or in contrast to linguistics or lexicography, in particular the Workshop on Theory of Terminology at the International Congress of Linguists in Prague, the XIVth European LSP Symposium in Surrey, a Colloquium about Terminology as a Scientific Discipline in Paris, a Round Table on theory of terminology at the Congress of the Portuguese Association of Linguistics in Lisbon and a seminar Terminology 9:2 (2003), 163–199. issn 0929–9971 / e-issn 1569–9994 © John Benjamins Publishing Company

164 M. Teresa Cabré Castellví

on terminology and lexicography convened by the European Association for Terminology, also in Lisbon. Over the last 15 years, in contrast to the previous 30, numerous publications have appeared on this topic. Among those most representative of this type of concern we cite Gaudin (1993), Volume 18 of Cahiers de Linguistique Sociale (1991), the proceedings of the colloquia on Terminologie et Intelligence Artificielle (TIA) (1995, 1997, 1999, 2001), Cabré (1999b), the proceedings edited by Cabré (1999c) and Cabré and Feliu (2001a), both outcome of international summer seminars held at the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, number 21 of Terminologies Nouvelles, entitled Terminologie et diversité culturelle, a volume of essays edited by Béjoint and Thoiron (2000), and especially Temmerman (2000). Parallel to this welter of publications, but before the many meetings of 2003 mentioned above, two other seminars are worth recalling which have been particularly meaningful for this discussion of theories of terminology: the restricted seminar on theory of terminology held in Barcelona in January 1999, the papers of which were published in Terminology (1998/1999) and the seminar Terminology science at the crossroads?, held in Vasa in 2001 as part of the European LSP Symposium, published as Volume 13 of Terminology Science & Terminology Research (2002). The Barcelona seminar assembled specialists in linguistics, psychology, history of science and philosophy who through their publications had expressed critical views about the so-called traditional theory of terminology as represented essentially by the works of E. Wüster. The Vasa seminar assembled supporters of the traditional theory with the purpose of analysing the meaning and significance of the existing critical opinions. These experts in terminology, who themselves have taken a critical stance regarding Wüster’s work, propose to supplement the deficiencies of this theory. Both seminars have led to certain conclusions. The first underlined the need to develop a theory about...
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