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Economic Terms and Beyond: Capitalising on the Wealth of Notions

How Researchers in Specialised Varieties of English Can Benefit from Focusing on Terms


Catherine Resche

This book, which is aimed at researchers in specialised varieties of English, provides an illustration of how linguists can use terms, i.e. the expression of concepts in specialised fields, as entry points to explore any specialised domain, whether academic or professional, and to get acquainted with its history, its culture, and the evolution of the ideas that have nurtured it. Choosing the field of economics as an example, the author approaches terms from a diachronic, descriptive and contextual perspective, focusing on neonyms, metaphorical, ambiguous or indeterminate terms, as well as interface terms likely to underscore the evolving character of the domain. The analysis points out the role of terms as milestones highlighting key discoveries that have shaped scientific fields; terms can also be considered as barometers of the evolution of knowledge in a specific field and of a changing social environment. Whoever thought terms were only interesting for their definitions or for translation purposes will no doubt be surprised at the insights that can be gained from considering them from a different angle and for other purposes.


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4. Insights from economic neonyms 83


4. Insights from economic neonyms The genius of democracies is seen not only in the great number of new words intro- duced but even more in the new ideas they express. Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America (1840) In specialised domains, neonyms are a source of information as to the vitality of the domain, since new concepts, objects or tools need to be assigned names for communication to remain possible. As the pace of technological progress or theoretical findings accelerates, so does the need to coin new terms. Analysing neonyms in the context of the peri- od of time when they first appeared can therefore provide a chronicle of the evolution of a discipline or a science, much as the growth rings of a tree are indicators of the tree’s life history and age. Neonyms can thus be approached as markers of culture and progress. Accordingly, this chapter is not exclusively devoted to terms that have appeared recently, all the more so as the perception of neonyms is a problem in itself: what some consider to be a neonym, others do not. In addition, there is no objective criterion by which to decide how old a term must be to cease being considered a neonym. The point here is to underline what those terms that have come to en- rich a field – and can be traced back to the specialist who crafted them, or to an event that prompted their emergence –can reveal about a given period of time and...

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