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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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5. Insights from metaphorical terms 133


133 5. Insights from metaphorical terms Economic conditions are constantly changing and each generation looks at its own problems in its own way. Alfred Marshall Principles of Economics (1920: 1) In spite of the Wüsterian call to avoid terms with any connotation, which may once have led some people to consider the unit “metaphor- ical term” as an oxymoron, later approaches to terminology (Meyer et al. 1997; Temmerman 2000; Humbley 2005) have taken metaphors into account, though from a somewhat different perspective than that which is offered here. In Specialised Varieties of English such as in the field of economics, it is important to pay special attention to meta- phorical terms, and not to be content with just any metaphor that we may come across in the semi-specialised economic press, for example. Metaphorical terms make a difference because they denote concepts that are essential for economic theory and therefore reflect the theoret- ical frame that prompted their adoption. Metaphorical terms may not strike today’s economist as metaphorical, simply because overuse may have stripped them of their figurative sense, so that they are consid- ered as lexicalised. The linguist, however, as an “outsider” to the spe- cialised domain will be alerted by the apparent incongruity of these terms: their metaphorical ring cannot and should not escape the care- ful observer’s eyes. Undeniably, these very terms represent a precious source of information when their origins and the context that led to their emergence in the field of economics are investigated. The...

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