How does molecular biology terminology develop in English and French?

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This study deals with the creation of neologisms as a part of the process of improving understanding in the domain of molecular biology. We endorse Sapir's ideas on the language habits of groups of people, adopt ideas on the "energy" of language and the power it creates through the use of grammatical variation in expressing one's ideas (Halliday), and show how science and knowledge need language and terminology to materialize. We carry out a "unit of understanding analysis" on discourse produced by specialists. The process of neology is studied in French and contrasted with English, and the language and culture-boundness of terminology creation based on domain-metaphorical understanding is demonstrated as well as the problems of finding French equivalents of abbreviated forms that were initially created in English. Our data indicate that current language habits of French molecular biologists are hybrid, i.e. strongly influenced by the English language.
Translators should be well aware of this before engaging in secondary term creation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTraduire aux confins du lexique
Subtitle of host publicationLes nouveaux terrains de la terminologie
EditorsMarc Van Campenhoudt, Nathalie Lemaire, Rita Temmerman
Place of PublicationBrussels
PublisherEME Editions
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)978-2-8066-1142-0
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014

Publication series

NameCahiers de Linguistique

Bibliographical note

Philippe Blanchet


  • neologisms
  • scientific language
  • molecular biology
  • spliceosome
  • metaphor
  • abbreviations
  • terminology in translation
  • secundary term creation
  • domain metaphor


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