Some Important Reasons for Studying Terminology


     Language is the system of using words to communicate with other people. Specialized language has the same function but on a different level. Learning and dominating vocabulary of a domain would give us the opportunity to comprehend specific topics and communicate about them. For instance, for making conversations about politics we need to know the appropriate terms of the context to be able to utilize them in our discussions. If you are interested in reading articles about cinema or art, you first need to know the vocabulary of the domain.

Who requires terminology? Who needs to know about terminology?

     The use of terminology starts from very simple occasions in our ordinary life and develops to the higher communicative levels. However, if terminology for non-professionals is an option, for specialists is a necessity!

     Terminology is a necessity for all professionals involved in the representation, expression, communication and teaching of specialized knowledge. Scientists, technicians or professionals in any field require terms to represent and express their knowledge to inform, transfer or buy and sell their products. There is no specialty that does not have specific units to denominate their concepts (Cabré 2002). [My translation]

     Terminology plays an important role in the understanding of contexts and specialized texts. Understanding the intricate terminological details of the technical and scientific contexts helps students comprehend what the main message of the document is, and it helps specialists to transmit the content more effectively.

     Terminology helps individuals realize the interaction between the units of specialized texts and the whole context which is often a subconscious mechanism of knowledge acquisition. It also develops interests in the formation of new words and terms.

     Specialists in documentation and information science, as well as linguists practicing in language engineering and thematically specialized knowledge also require terminology. Even those general or theoretical linguists if they try to account for the global competence (general and specialized) of speakers and languages thoroughly they require to know about terminology” and specialized languages (Cabré 2002). [My translation]

How does terminology assist in improving our proficiencies? 

     Through studying terminology, specialists understand the function of various term formation mechanisms, how each mechanism affects the meaning and ways to effectively control the use of terminology in textual and oral productions. Translators have to study terminology to learn how terminological resources (i.e. term banks, glossaries, encyclopedic dictionaries, etc.) can be employed to make more consistent and coherent translations. Documentalists rely on the study of terminology to learn how terminological activities affect and improve their knowledge and how can facilitate the classifications, indexing, cataloging and many other tasks in which they are involved principally.

    Nevertheless, the study of terminology and the application of the terminology knowledge in our professions is recognized much broader than these above-mentioned examples. It goes much further and involves some specialties that we cannot imagine easily. For instance the role of terminology in journalism (explained by Jessica Mariani), in traductology (written by Olga Jeczmyk), interestingly in the development of successful luxury brands (Written by Prof Mounir Kehal), in designing websites (written by ) and many other unexpected examples.

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How does terminology contribute to language development?     

     Studying terminology is the foundation of all subject fields. Apart from creating solutions to the terminological difficulties and the challenges many specialists or non-specialists face, it paves the way for the development of the languages and terminology that improves the quality of communications, either internationally or nationally. Without studying terminology, technicians and specialists would probably never realize how important protecting and maintaining a language is for communicative purposes and cultural identity.

    Not only scientific and technical specialists inevitably need terminology, but also all communicative mediators dedicated to science popularization and promotion, specialized translators and interpreters, supervisors, technical writers, teachers of language for specific purposes and also language planning specialists need to get familiarized with terminology (Cabré 2002). [My translation]

    Additionally, studying terminology enhances the use of national or local languages by raising the awareness about the probable communicative and cognitive challenges the use of foreign languages would bring about.

What do we need to learn about terminology? 

     Indeed, the use of terminology is not limited to specialists and the terminology knowledge is not only needed by terminologists, translators, and linguists. However, the type of knowledge we need depends on our professional activities and the motivations for learning. In this process, the role of institutions and academic centers is significant. Their competency in offering diverse materials aiming at distinct groups of learners with different backgrounds is one of the most important characteristics that we should take into account.

      This competency in offering various opportunities for terminology learners, basically, is predicated on the polyhedral nature of terminology (In Cabré’s terms, 2002) and  it is important to perceive terminology in its triple aspect:

  1.  As a need, or rather, as a set of needs associated with information and communication.
  2.  As a practice or set of practices that fall into particular applications, such as vocabularies.
  3.  As a field of knowledge which is subject to being treated scientifically not only in its theoretical aspect but also in its descriptive and applied aspect.



Cabré, M. Teresa (2002). “Terminología y normalización lingüística”. Jornadas (EHU: LEIOA) Terminología y lenguajes de especialidad. Euskara Institutua EHU-LEIOAKO CAMPUSA País Basc.


Author: BesharatFathi

Terminologist, researcher, learner, teacher,...

11 thoughts on “Some Important Reasons for Studying Terminology”

  1. There is a lot of hoopla about terminology as a distinct and separate discipline, and an inherent danger in focusing too much on domain-specific words to the detriment of domain-specific texts. As Eugene Coseriu stated several times, translation deals with texts, not languages.

    Don’t get me wrong: I like terminology (it’s part of my PhD studies this coming semester), but I don’t see it nor use it in a vacuum or as the most important spear in my arsenal as a translator. In short, terminology is nothing without reading and writing specialty texts.


    1. Dear Mario. Thanks for the comment. I agree with you that terminology is meaningful in the context of specialized texts. In fact, terms are characterized in their pragmatic context or discourse. But there is no danger in focusing on terms. Maybe a wider perspective is needed to look at terminology not as a tool in translation, but as a science that can assist us in our occupations.


      1. In social sciences and applied translation theory, I can see a place for terminology as a complementary discipline. About the danger I spoke of, I see it all the time, as if terminology alone can be used as a quality yardstick for translation and specialized writing. Alas, it cannot be so. Terminology as a discipline needs to be paired to stylistics and to other areas in order to be truly useful and not a misguiding force.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As a terminologist, I reassure you that a basic goal of terminology is monosemy and mononymy within a given subject field. This means that terms are intended to have an ‘absolute’ semantic content even outside specific texts, but always within a specific text genre/language register. Although translation is a text-based process, terminological work is a concept-based process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment. The basic goal of terminology WAS monosemy and mononymy in “General Theory of Terminology”. But in modern terminology the debates are largely based on terminological variations, polysemy and diversity. It is not a personal reflection.



  3. Thanks for your reply. I’m afraid we say the same thing in different words: although modern terminology DOES discuss about terminological variations/polysemy/diversity, the GOAL remains among experts of any subject field. Terminologists, of course, study all aspects of our subject field (including variation etc.), but this in no way cancels the goal of monosemy/mononymy IN A GIVEN SUBJECT FIELD (excuse me for capital letters, I have no other way to underline the words I want to emphasise).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Panagiotis,

      First, thanks for following the conversation and for sharing your ideas. Can we say that it is due to the descriptive and prescriptive aspects of terminology? Also, I would say that it depends on the distinct scenarios (i.e. international, national, local terminology). I am sure that you know better than me that we cannot generalize the goal of terminology for all practices. So I presume that you might refer to prescriptive international terminology in which the biunivocity can be a great help to effectively improve the multilingual communication. Besides, I think terminological variation and mononymy cannot happen at the same time in a given subject field. So, if one of them is the focus of the study, the other one will be negated implicitly.

      Many thanks again for the comments and following my blog. I am looking forward to receiving more comments and recommendations.

      Warm regards,


      1. Good morning, dear Colleague. Yes, I mean exactly what you say. Thanks for clarifying the situation!

        Liked by 1 person

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