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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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6. Insights from indeterminate terms with relation to discourse 199


6. Insights from indeterminate terms with relation to discourse Indeterminacy in contexts of strategic interaction […] is an issue that is constantly swept under the rug because it is often disruptive to pristine social theory. But the theory is fake: the indeterminacy is real. Russel Hardin Indeterminacy and Society (2005) How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress. Niels Bohr, quoted in R. Moore, Niels Bohr, the Man and the Scientist (1967: 140) Keeping in mind the efforts of economists to have their field recog- nised as a respectable science (Chapter 3), it might seem incongruous to mention the inclusion of loose, equivocal, ambiguous, euphemistic or oxymoronic terms in economics. Inevitably, they raise the question of the compatibility of indeterminacy, vagueness and uncertainty with science in general and with economics in particular. They also beg the question of the viability of indeterminate terms and require investigat- ing further into what can justify their raison d’être. The aim of this chapter is to present different types of terms that can be considered as “anomalous” with reference to the ideal of stable, transparent, univo- cal terms. Section 1 first offers an overview of the concept of indeter- minacy and its manifestations and then considers the issue against the background of a broader analysis of the evolution of sciences. Section 2 presents the case of economics, and the positions of some econo- mists on precise terms, concepts and definitions, before going on to deal...

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