Descriptive Terminology In the Social Sciences
FRED W. RIGGS, MATTI MÄLKIÄ, AND GERHARD BUDIN
NOTE: This is a copy of a chapter in Handbook of Terminology Management, compiled by Sue Ellen Wright and Gerhard Budin (John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 1997) pp. 184-196. Links to related documents are added. Examples are drawn from INTERCOCTA GLOSSARY: Concepts and Terms used in Ethnicity Research, published under the auspices of the ISSC/COCTA (1985). Copies of the book may be secured from Fred Riggs and the data can also be downloaded for interactive use on a personal computer: contact Matti Malkia for details.
This work was designed as an example of what a comprehensive conceptual glossary ("nomenclator") for a selected field of study might look like. The basic logic of this onomantic design which reverses the familiar semantic premises followed in ordinary dictionaries and virtually all subject-field glossaries is explained in the Introduction to this work. See the graphic illustration of the three-dimensions of understanding needed to contextualize ethnic concepts reproduced by Johann Stockinger, who also helped with the reproduction of the Introduction. The concept-oriented glossary should not be viewed as a finished product, however. Much more work would be needed to bring it up to date and add missing material. For an example, see the concept records based on a paper called Turmoil among Nations
Terminology projects usually presuppose a well-established set of terms for the distinctive concepts of a subject field, as found in many scientific and technological domains. Or otherwise they presuppose a strong central organization capable of promoting new concepts and terms through traditional language standardization. Often, however, research is carried out in areas where concepts are not well established and the pertinent terms are ambiguous. Terminologists can help authors working in such fields -- which include virtually all of the human, social and behavioral sciences -- to clarify the key concepts required for their work and to develop a vocabulary that can be used unambiguously to express their ideas succinctly and clearly.
Such an approach has been developed during the past decade within the-INTERCOCTA project. INTERCOCTA stands for International and Interdisciplinary Co-operation in Conceptual and Terminological Analysis. The project comprises the main activity of the International Social Science Council, Standing Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis (ISSC/ COCTA), established in 1977. The Council represents all of the major global social science disciplinary associations and promotes interdisciplinary cooperation. In the field of conceptual and terminological analysis, the ISSC cooperates with member associations through the ISSC/COCTA. The project is used as a demonstration model for this discussion of a descriptive terminology. (For a complete list of relevant materials see Mälkiä and Riggs 1993). French and German versions of the INTERCOCTA Ethnicity glossary have been integrated into the project in conjunction with hypertext and multimedia environments. The INTERCOCTA project is used as a demonstration model for this discussion of descriptive terminology.
The descriptive approach has a learning orientation and thus pursues an educational goal. Consequently, we think of descriptive terminology management as learning oriented, or perhaps as "heuristic". By transmitting information about concepts and terms used in a subject field, its intention is to help scholars find better conceptual tools to work with and to avoid the use of confusing terms to designate the concepts they have in their minds. Through this process, we hope that scholars will be able to communicate their ideas more clearly and precisely. INTERCOCTA glossaries are available in both hard copy and hypertext form, but this article will focus on the advantages of the hypertext environment for achieving heuristic objectives. In fields where standardized terms are not available and where there is even resistance to terminology standardization, descriptive terminology analysis can be very helpful. On the basis of the available literature, we may attempt to:
NOTE: Since this article was written, I have proposed the
notion of a concept shelter to identify familiar words that have
acquired a cluster of closely related meanings, many of which overlap with
each other. Such words are often used by social scientists with the
expectation that readers can tell, from contextual clues, which of their
possible meanings are intended. Provided the context does, indeed,
clearly indicate the relevant concept, clear communication is possible.
However, quite often the context is inadequate and the author's precise
meaning cannot be determined.
The onomantic approach can be helpful in such situations by spelling out the various relevant concepts a word can represent, providing descriptive texts to identify each of them, and suggesting some terms that might be used without ambiguity to represent them whenever the context does not clearly indicate which meaning of a word is relevant. A theoretical discussion of this idea can be found at: shelter, and a visualization of the overlapping (Venn) circles used to explain shelter terms can be found on this slide. The slide is contained in a summary of different concepts that can be represented by globalization, a word that has become quite fashionable as a contemporary buzzword. The project seeks to disentangle the specific and theoretically relevant concepts users of this word have in mind.
2 PROCEDURES FOR A DESCRIPTIVE TERMINOLOGY PROJECT
2.1 Getting Started
The first step in a descriptive terminology project involves identification of a subject field and representative documentation of its literature. Although professional terminologists may give useful advice, the primary responsibility for this activity has to rest with subject-field experts themselves. The tasks they need to carry out include the following:
The materials compiled in this manner constitute a terminological corpus for a field. Such a corpus provides the foundation for all subsequent work, but of course the process of finding material for a corpus must continue so as to reflect further development in the field.
2.2 Delineating the Subject Fields
The boundaries of most subject fields are fuzzy, especially when they involve research in two or more disciplines. In the social sciences, virtually every practical problem area is interdisciplinary. Furthermore, any field can be subdivided into narrower sub-fields, each of which may be viewed by its exponents as a whole field. Since different criteria are used to establish a field, overlapping subfields often emerge. Terminologists and classificationists must therefore avoid thinking of any field as a rigid intellectual category. Disciplinary boundaries are useful only to the degree that potential users find them acceptable and helpful in their research and writing. Such users tend to group themselves into overlapping fuzzy sets that we may think of as discourse communities insofar as they share similar interests and really communicate with each other.
In many fields, the concepts needed are still imprecise and fluid. Few agreements, or none, can be reached on the concepts themselves or on the terms used to designate them. Especially in such contexts, descriptive terminology management is needed to help members of a discourse community discover the concepts they need and, by organizing the market place of usage, to cultivate a process that enhances clarity of thought and communication.
2.3 Creating Conceptual Glossaries
The basic tool needed for this purpose is a conceptual glossary. Unlike a typical dictionary, its structure is not term-oriented. It does not list words or terms and describe their various senses nor does it prescribe a meaning for each of them. Rather, it has an onomasiological (concept-to-term) structure not found in legicograpical (traditional dictionary) entries. Its function is to help scholars designate the concepts, not to define words.
2.3.1 General Format for Data Elements
When the concepts to be designated are drawn from a corpus of seminal works by scholars working in a given subject field, they can be described and contextualized. The defining characteristics of each concept can be explicated, and the various terms used to name them can be listed. The following general format, as exemplified in Figure 1 has been selected for the entries (or records) used in conceptual glossaries. These entries may be understood as database records or as nodes in a hypertext glossary. They include, among others, the following data categories:
The main reason for this sequence of elements is that, in contrast to terminology standardization, no preferred term can be prescribed. The choice of any term to head an entry would inescapably convey the illusion that it is the preferred term for a given concept. In order to avoid this impression, conceptual description is given first, followed by several terms without showing preference for any of them. These terms are supported by concrete texts quoted from the relevant literature, indicating how, by whom, and in what theoretical contexts, the terms are actually used.
When glossaries like this are constructed, established terminological resources like vocabularies, dictionaries, terminology databases, thesauri and information systems provide a good starting point, but we must also be open to conceptual changes reflected in research reports, articles, or even oral communication. Descriptive terminology management provides efficient methods for documenting conceptual changes and presenting them in a user-friendly way through electronic or printed forms.
2.3.2 Types of Terms
Another important criterion for conceptual glossaries, as exemplified in Figure 1, is the way in which the available terms are classified to help users identify the most convenient and least ambiguous terms to use in the light of their own purposes and anticipated audiences. In our example, terms that identify only one concept in a given discourse community are called unequivocal terms (UT). However, when a term is marked as ET (equivocal term), potential users know that ambiguity is possible because the same word form can also designate other concepts within this field of work, and cross-references to records for the other meaning(s) of each equivocal term are needed.
A third type of term is more complex. When the editor concludes that all terms in use for a concept are unsatisfactory, additional terms may be suggested. However, such suggested terms (ST) should not be viewed as recommendations or preferred terms. In Figure 1, the term organized community is suggested as a convenient term that might be used for the concept described in this record. Such recommendations should properly come from specialists in a field, not from terminologists or the editor of a conceptual glossary.
NOTE: Since this article was written, various projects have been launched which illustrate how data can be collected to identify concepts and to suggest terms for those that lack good designations. One that is especially useful because it provides a set of colored slides to illustrate major points can be found at Globalization . This document offers a summary of data collected by means of a questionnaire to members of the International Sociological Association asking those who have written about "globalization" to provide texts illustrating what they had in mind in their own research contexts. These texts, the concepts identified through this process, and their logical relationships to each other together with some suggested terms for them, are all available on the Web and can be accessed through the document referred to above.
2.3.3 Citations and Source Information
Besides conceptual descriptions and terms, citations are needed to illustrate the use of each quoted term. Figure 2 shows a selection of contexts quoted from the literature to support the concept record for ethnic organization or ethnic group organization (concept [ERNEN3] in Figure 1) described in Figure 3).
All the sources identified in these nodes are reproduced in the bibliographic node illustrated in part in Figure 4. This list enables users to identify the range of documents consulted in the preparation of a conceptual glossary and also to discover gaps that need to be filled in order to make the reference work more complete.
2.3.4 Conceptual Relations
In a conceptual glossary, there are several ways to present relations between different concepts. In our example they are presented by:
In terminology databases, especially in hypertext systems, these relations serve as the basis for conceptual browsing in that they identify concepts that are linked with one another in different ways. In this example, any term used in the concept description that is also described elsewhere in the collection appears in upper case. These terms are called entailed terms and can be accessed directly from the initial term entry in the hypertext version of the program.
It is also useful. to know where the terms treated in a given entry recur as characteristics used to describe other concepts. These instances are called "tracings" in the INTERCOCTA glossaries and can be accessed via the "tracings" buttons shown in the second segment of Figure 1.
2.3.5 Classification Schemes
At the macro-level, one or more classification schemes are needed. Each such scheme provides a framework for linking all or some of the concepts identified in a conceptual glossary so as to facilitate concept discovery. Portions of the scheme used in the ethnicity glossary are reproduced in Figures 5, figure 6 and figure 7 . The scheme is based on Dahlberg's proposition that the four categories of form -- entities, activities, properties, and dimensions (Dahlberg 1984)-should be used as a basis for classifying interdisciplinary concepts. The rest of the scheme follows disciplinary categories. The main goal is to facilitate user searches to find not only known concepts, but also related concepts for which no term comes to mind, and even to discover unreported concepts. This discovery serves to support recommendations for new concept records to describe them and for recommending new terms to designate these concepts.
Computerization permits more than one classification scheme for a set of concepts, illustrating that the same concept may play different roles according to its context. This is not possible, of course, in a printed document where one cannot easily re-shuffle relations between entries.
2.3.6 Personal Revisions and Revised Versions
Descriptive glossaries can be distributed as read-only documents so that all users can communicate more easily with each other based on the same information. A personal revisions button available in each concept record node enables users to make a revised version of this record for personal use, while retaining the original record intact. Ideally, feedback in the form of revised versions would facilitate dynamic updating and supplementation of the conceptual glossary.
The hypertext version of the glossary used here as a demonstration model distinguishes between substantive nodes and control nodes, or between the substantive (informative) and control (guidance) functions of a single node. In a terminological context, there are several kinds of substantive nodes. The most important are the concept nodes, as illustrated in Figures 5, 6, and 7) and bibliographic references (Figure 4).
On the multilingual level, hypertext technology can prompt jumps from any concept in one language to the nearest equivalent concept in another language. Instead of pairing equivalent terms, the focus is on conceptual equivalence, and identifying the target language words or phrases that can most appropriately identify the concepts presented in context in the source language.
In projects with the kinds of fuzzy, shifting concept-field boundaries like those described here, thoughtful decisions by an editor are needed, perhaps with the help of an advisory board. It is necessary to determine whether any changes in the description of a concept merely clarify it without changing it, or whether in fact they identify a different concept, which consequently requires a new entry. Degree of equivalency and terminological directionality also affect the implementation of hypertext links between multilingual entries.
Electronic communication networks in the form of Listserv mailing lists, computer conferences, electronic journals, and World Wide Web pages can be set up to organize interactions among the users of a conceptual glossary. Such networks can serve to:
Translators and technical communicators may play a pivotal role by helping members of a multilingual discourse community develop parallel concepts and terms expressed in different languages. The development of descriptive terminology resources, together with the required linking between even the most disparate and culture-specific terminologies, requires extensive research in the languages concerned and multilingual reference tools. Such conceptual glossaries assist indexers in creating precise multilingual indexing tools.
Finally, students and other nonspecialists baffled by the arcane rhetoric of specialized fields can use conceptual glossaries to gain entry to specialized knowledge. Copies of such documents should be available in research libraries to help their users not only understand new findings, but also learn the major concepts, theories, and terms used in a field that is not yet totally familiar.
Dahlberg, Ingetraut. 1984. Logical Arrangement of Concepts in Systematic Glossaries. Unpublished manuscript, March 1994.
Mälkiä, Matti, and Fred W. Riggs. 1993. Bibliography of Books and Articles on the INTERCOCTA Project. Unpublished manuscript, available through ftp.uta.fl, directory/pub/cocta/, file: INTERCOCTA-Bibliography.
Riggs, Fred W., ed. 1985. Ethnicity. INTERCOCTA Glossary. Concepts and Terms Used in Ethnicity Research. Pilot Edition, Paris: International Social Science Council, Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis. International Conceptual Encyclopedia for the Social Sciences, Vol. 1.
Riggs, Fred W. 1988. The INTERCOCTA Manual: Towards an International Encyclopedia of Social Science Terms. Paris: UNESCO. UNESCO, Reports and Papers in the Social Sciences, No. 58.
Riggs, Fred W., and Matti Mälkiä. 1992b. Hypertext Manual for INTERCOCTA Nomenclators. Version 0.98 (1992-08-26; uncompleted). Hypertext document, distributed through ftp.uta.fl, directory/pub/cocta, included in a file: ethnic.zip.ver 100.
FIGURES FOR DESCRIPTIVE TERMINOLOGY
UT: ETHNIC ORGANIZATION; ETHNIC GROUP ORGANIZATION
ET: COMMUNAL GROUP <ERN6>; ETHNIC GROUP <ERN6>; MINORITY
GROUP <ERN6> <ERST7>
ST: ORGANIZED COMMUNITY
Classification scheme: <ESN -ERNEN3>
Index: <E030 -ERNEN3.>
Tracings: <ERGID1 >, <ERGID2>, <ERGD4>, <ERGIK1 >, <ERGO5>, <ERGUM1 >, <ERKA23>,<ERKU6>,<ERNOD1>, <ERNOK1>, <ERSID4>
Personal revisions: <ernen3.rev>
<EB0023> An ethnic group therefore is a collection of persons who occupy an ethnic platform (markers), recognize and value their common occupancy, share an identity, and are organized and therefore have a common interest in maintaining their association. (Jackson 1979, 5)
<EB0023> Ethnic group signifies an ethnic category that has acquired the additional characteristics of identity and organization. (Jackson 1979,33)
Figure 2: A Selection of Contexts Quoted in
the Concept Node for 'Ethnic Organization' (Mälkiä 1995a,
80023> An ethnic group therefore is a collection of persons w o occupy
an ethnic platform (markers), recognize and value their common occupancy,
share an identity, and are organized, and therefore have a common interest
in maintaining their association. (Jackson 1979, 5)
<EB0013> The communal group which controls the center need not represent a majority of the polity but is usually the largest constituent group. (Esman 1975, 394)
<EB0023> Communal group and minority group are synonymous with
ethnic group (Jackson 1979, 26)
<EB0004> In my view, much can be gained by regarding this very
important feature as an implication or result, rather than a primary and
definitional characteristic of ethnic group organization. (Barth 1969,
<EB0032> The most important part of the program, though, was the giving of grants to ethnic organizations to help them preserve their culture. (Porter 1975, 287)
<EB0030> The fact that a segment of a cultural group becomes an
ethnic group does not mean that all members of the cultural group thereby
become an ethnic group. (Patterson 1975, 310)
Cited in: p. 284 <ERHO5 -EB0032>, <ERFO25 -EB0032>, <ERRE5
- EB0032>; p. 287 <ERNEN3 EB0032>
<EB0031 > Peterson, William: On the Subjugation of Western
In: Glazer, Nathan & Moynihan, Daniel P. (Eds.): Ethnicity: Theory
and Experience. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1975. p. 177-208.
<EB0032> Porter, John: Ethnic Pluralism in Canadian Perspective. In: Glazer, Nathan & Moynihan, Daniel P. (Eds.): Ethnicity: Theory and Experience. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1975. p. 267-304.1
<EB0033> Pye, Lucian W.: China: Ethnic, Minorities and National Securities. In: Glazer, Nathan & Moynihan, Daniel P. (Eds.): Ethnicity: Theory and Experience. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1975. p 489-512.
<EB0034> Seton-Watson, Hugh: Nationalism, Nations, and Western Politics. Washington Quarterly, 1979, Vol. 2, No. 1, p. 91-1
<EB0035> University of Hawaii, Ethnic Studies Program: Ethnic Studies Glossary. Unpublished memorandum, July 1982.
Figure 5: The Main Classification Scheme Used in the Ethnicity Glossary
(Riggs & Mälkiä, 1995a, part of the node start.txt)
Figure 6: Partial Presentation of the Second Level of the Classification Scheme Used in the Ethnicity Glossary (Riggs & Mälkiä 1995a)
Part 4: (M/O) ETHNIC ENTITIES
Figure 7:. Partial Presentation of the Bottom Level of the Classification Scheme Used in the Ethnicity Glossary (Riggs & Mälkiä 1992a, node [ESN])
N Ethnic Collectivities
NE Types of Ethnic Community [ERN6]
NEK Communities characterized by social level
NEN Communities characterized by structure
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