Terminological Analysis: Where to Begin?

An analysis is to look for the meaning of things. It is to look for the objectives, to predict the consequences of a series of actions, to detect and discover the fundamental elements, or to anticipate the results and outcomes of a planned strategy.  An analysis is to ask how thing(s) function and what they do or will do under a certain circumstance and why they function or react as they do. Analysis is a kind of thinking that we do in our work life and in academic life. It is one of the most common acts of our mental activities. According to Concise Oxford Dictionary, analysis is “Resolution into simpler elements by analyzing (opp. synthesis); statement of result of this” (1976, ed. J. B. Sykes).  In Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, analysis is defined as “The process of breaking a concept down into more simple parts, so that its logical structure is displayed” (1996, by Simon Blackburn). Another definition is provided by Antoine Arnauld & Pierre Nicole:

Now analysis consists primarily in paying attention to what is known in the issue we want to resolve. The entire art is to derive from this examination many truths that can lead us to the knowledge we are seeking. (as cited in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Beaney, 2014)

There are various conceptions of analysis. For instance, in Aristotelian Analytics, an analysis is a methodology for discovery and for Immanuel Kant analysis accounts for achieving a general concept.

There are two ways in which one can arrive at a general concept: either by the arbitrary combination of concepts, or by separating out that cognition which has been rendered distinct by means of analysis (as cited in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Beaney, 2014).

However, all of these definitions represent that analysis is beyond description and it is a kind of examination or explanation that can demonstrate the relation between things, ideas, objects, elements, etc.

Rosenwasser & Stephen in their book “Writing Analytically“, give an interesting perspective to the notion of “analysis”. They believe that “whether you are analyzing an awkward social situation, an economic problem, a painting, a substance in a chemistry lab, or your chances of succeeding in a job interview, the process of analysis is the same”. They  present this process as follows:

  1. Divide the subject into its defining parts, its main elements or ingredients.
  2. Consider how these parts are related, both to each other and to the subject as a whole.

These definitions and processes can also apply to terminology. In other words, terminology as a scientific and knowledge domain follows the main principles and philosophy underlying the whole science. There could be some differences in terms of the methodology, theoretical arguments, procedures or any other differences originated from the intrinsic characteristics of subject fields.  However, the main notion and the role of analysis remain the same for all domains of study. Analysis in terminology, on the one hand, is very close to investigations in social sciences, and on the other hand, it is connected to linguistic research. It involves various types of demonstrations and methodologies including quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Which aspects of terminology can be analyzed?

All aspects of terminology science, from terminological units and their constituent parts to the sociology of terminology and interdisciplinary aspects can be studied. The literature also shows that during the history of terminology, from its birth to now, diverse methodologies and perspectives have been used to address various aspects of terminology. The earlier studies on terminology tended to focus on linguistic aspects; however, it has developed through the recent decades to comprise sociolinguistic, sociopolitical, economic, geographic, sociocultural and sociocognitive aspects as well. The interdisciplinary nature of terminology implies that there is no limit for the terminological studies. In other words, methodologies and analytical approaches for addressing particular issues in terminology are infinite. Nevertheless, the most crucial element in the use of methodologies and the application of interdisciplinary approaches is to know how and where and for what these methodologies are employed.

This suggests that a broad knowledge of interdisciplinarity and a profound knowledge of terminological mechanisms are necessary for an analysis to be appropriately designed and conducted. Besides, as the applied nature of terminology implies, terminological analyses are likely to find a solution or provide a resolution to an existing issue.

Why do we analyze terms?

The simplest answer is “for finding the patterns and for using these patterns in scientific progressions and knowledge development“.  Analysis of terms, their characteristics and their behavior is a series of attempts with the aim of “formulating questions and proposing explanations” in the context of their real use. Terms, the relation among terms, the behavior of them in the context, the patterns, their constituents, and many other aspects can be analyzed to respond the issues associated with classification, organization, management, planning and creation of terms. Some frequent and general aspects that have been addressed thus far are as follows:

  • How do terms fit together in a certain context?
  • What do they have in common? (Tendencies of medical terminology or management terminology, etc.)
  • What are the differences among terms? (Inside a certain domain or in comparison with other domains)
  • What does a particular terminological behavior mean in a context; and what does not mean?
  • How a certain terminological behavior could be explained, verified and generalized?


[1] Arnauld, A. & Nicole, P., LAT, La Logique ou l’Art de penser, Paris: Savreux, 1st ed. 1662, ed. and tr. as Logic or the Art of Thinking, based on the 5th ed. of 1683, by Jill Vance Buroker, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; also tr. as The Art of Thinking, based on the 6th ed. of 1685, by J. Dickoff and P. James, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1964 [known as the Port-Royal Logic; I, chs. 13-14, II, ch. 16: defs.; IV: ‘On Method’, esp. chs. 2-3 on analysis and synthesis].

[2] Rosenwasser, D. & Stephen, Jill (2011). Writing analytically. Cengage Learning.

[3] https://plato.stanford.edu/index.html 


Author: BesharatFathi

Terminologist, researcher, learner, teacher,...

4 thoughts on “Terminological Analysis: Where to Begin?”

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