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Terminology in English Language Teaching

Nature and Use


Roger Berry

Based on original research and novel concepts, this book investigates the nature and use of terminology from linguistic and applied viewpoints. Throughout, problems with terminology, such as overuse by teachers and cases of synonymy and polysemy, are considered and solutions are offered.
Part One looks firstly at some basic concepts, then draws important distinctions between pedagogic and scientific terminology, and between transparent, opaque and iconic terms, before examining the historical, lexical and grammatical nature of terms.
Part Two attempts to estimate the value and relevance of terminology in language teaching and describes the use and knowledge of terminology in various language-teaching-related constituencies: learners, teachers, textbooks, grammars and research. It concludes with a discussion of the criteria for evaluating terms and an analysis of terms used in ELT.


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CHAPTER SEVEN The place of terminology in language teaching


1. Introduction The major issue that confronts teachers in their daily work is not the nature of terminology – what terminology is like, as per Part One – but whether and how to use it. This chapter is concerned with the first of these two questions in particular: whether to use terminology in language teaching. I hope to show that this is not really a question that can be answered in black and white, and that there may be other ques- tions that need to be asked. First of all, however, we need to consider the main arguments for and against the use of terminology. 2. For and against terminology A number of arguments against terminology can be put forward. Borg (1999) gives seven arguments but these basically boil down to three. The first is the extra load it imposes on learners – what Carter (1995), playing devil’s advocate, calls ‘excess baggage’. Using termi- nology implies learning terminology, which takes time and results in learners knowing words that are unlikely to be of use outside the classroom. However, we should ask how extensive this load really is. The evidence to be presented in the following chapters will suggest that even for advanced learners between fifty and a hundred terms will suffice. When this is set against a learning life of perhaps ten years, implying an average of between five and ten terms per annum, it does 124 not seem excessive. It is miniscule compared to the number of vo- cabulary items that learners...

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