Interview with Mojca Pecman

Interview with Mojca Pecmanfeature

Mojca Pecman is Associate Professor on translation studies at the Department of Intercultural Studies and Applied languages – Etudes Interculturelles de Langues AppliquĂ©es (EILA) – of UniversitĂ© de Paris where she teaches terminology, phraseology, discourse analysis, term management and database design. She obtained PhD in scientific discourse analysis and contrastive phraseology from the University of Nice (presentlyMojka Pecman University Cote d’Azur) in 2004, and joined Paris Diderot University (presently UniversitĂ© de Paris) in 2006. In 2017, she obtained the “Habilitation Ă  Diriger des Recherches (HDR)”. Her research focuses on terminology management and the analysis of language phenomena operating at the lexico-discursive level, which involve studies in a number of related disciplines: lexicology, terminology, phraseology, discourse analysis, LSPs, specialised translation, dictionary-making and corpus linguistics. She is in charge of a research project on the creation of terminological and phraseological resources within ARTES (Aide Ă  la RĂ©daction de Textes Scientifiques), an online multilingual and multidomain database for improving specialised language-related research and studies. She is the author of a book Langue et construction de connaisSENSes. Energie lexico-discursive et potentiel sĂ©miotique des sciences (L’Harmattan Editions, 2018), and of a number of articles published in various journals (Terminology, Meta: Translators’ Journal, The Journal of specialised translation (JoSTrans), Fachsprache, Revue française de linguistique appliquĂ©e, etc.). She also serves on the advisory board of Terminology journal (John Benjamins publishing). She speaks Croatian (first language), French and English (second languages).


Where does your passion for terminology stem from?

My passion for terminology stems from my passion for sciences. Terminology allows me to work on various fields of knowledge and to keep discovering new scientific concepts. It allows me to observe the way our knowledge evolves and the way it takes shape in different languages and cultures. Terminology allows me to reflect upon the way we conceptualise knowledge through terms. All progress, evolution in sciences is generally embedded in terms. At the same time, our capacity to create new terms can breed progress. As a student, and later on as a young researcher, I was interested in all fields of linguistics, and progressively I narrowed the scope of my interests to lexis, grammar and discourse analysis. I thus became first passionate about phraseology, and in particular transdisciplinary phraseology, which allowed me to connect lexis, grammar and discourse analysis to epistemology. Thus, at the very beginning of my research years, my combined passion for language and sciences lead me to specialise in phraseology and dictionary making, as information on phraseology is still not systematically recorded in the dictionaries, while it can be of great help for translators and language users. I became passionate about terminology a decade ago when I discovered how phraseology and terminology “collaborate” to create meaning in specialised texts. My first interest in terminology was thus related to term variation. Term variation is one of the core language processes that allows for moving science forward, creating novelty, and contrasting information that is regarded as well-established with the propositions for a new paradigm of knowledge. Consequently, working on transdisciplinary phraseology led me to explore, for instance, how we formulate disagreement, express a general belief about something or indicate opportunities. Likewise, working on terminology allowed me to discover and investigate many interesting concepts, how they emerge and potentially give rise to variation, such as strange attractor in chaos theory and fractal geometry or fear of missing out (FoMO) in psychology.

In your opinion, should terminology be regarded as a discipline in its own right or as a combination of several different disciplines?

In my opinion it should be regarded as a discipline in its own right which relies on a number of, more or less, closely-related disciplines, such as lexicology and lexicography, semantics, contrastive linguistics and translation, ontology, information sciences, corpus linguistics, database management, and so on. Although it relies on many other disciplines, terminology should be regarded as a discipline in its own right because terms have a specific role and status in society, and require specific working methods, as much in research as in professional practices, that can respond to those societal needs.

“Terminology allows me to work on various fields of knowledge and to keep discovering new scientific concepts. It allows me to observe the way our knowledge evolves and the way it takes shape in different languages and cultures”

A big part of your research focuses on terminological and phraseological databases and on specialized dictionaries. Furthermore, you are responsible for the ARTES project (dictionary-assisted writing tool for scientific communication). Which are the main differences between ARTES and IATE? What is the added value of ARTES compared to any other terminological database?

There are many differences between the ARTES and IATE DB. IATE is an official term base devoted to the languages of Europe and covering a variety of disciplines. The EU institutions maintain it, which guarantees the quality of data recorded in the DB, and of sources and procedures used for their compilation. ARTES is an experimental project oriented towards teaching and professional objectives of the translation training programme at the Department of Intercultural Studies and Applied languages of UniversitĂ© de Paris. The methodology we use for training future specialised translators relies on corpus linguistics tools, collaborative teamwork with domain experts and terminology management. That is where ARTES DB enters into scene. It offers us a template for raising students’ skills for addressing terminology and various problems arising from term translation. All the data in the DB is constructed and recorded by Masters students, on the basis of terminological, phraseological and ontological analysis used for identifying the key concepts of a domain, the terms that express them and all relevant knowledge-rich information for understanding, using and translating them. The students are encouraged to work on emerging fields of knowledge. Consequently, the added value of ARTES, compared to any other terminological database, is its focus on emerging concepts, and on combining terminological, phraseological and ontological approach to the concepts. The information recorded in the DB is accessible online and students can easily interrogate it and discover how much such a tool can be of use for their future work. The ARTES DB is specifically destined for trainee translators, but as it is an online DB, it can be also consulted and used by professional translators and all those who need help with terminology and phraseology when writing specialised texts. From a training perspective, the DB allows us to offer to our students a comprehensive approach to terminology, which affords them opportunities to pursue their professional career as terminologists; however the main professional outlet for our graduates is a career in specialised translation. This overall teaching framework built around the ARTES DB and corpus linguistics tools is a fruit of long-term collaborative work among teachers and researchers of my department, namely Natalie Kübler, Claudie Juilliard, Alexandra Mestivier, John Humbley, Christopher Gledhill, GeneviĂšve Bordet, Nicolas Froeliger etc. Besides this general context – of development, intended purposes and target users –, which differ greatly between the two databases, IATE and ARTES also differ in their structure, language and domain coverage. For instance, in ARTES we devote special attention to providing information not only on definitions, synonyms, contexts, sources, and equivalents in target languages, but also on most frequent collocations and on semantically-related terms. In the ARTES DB, we also teach students to record and analyse transdisciplinary phraseology. In respect to languages, IATE is devoted to all the languages of Europe while ARTES generally collects resources in the languages taught in our Department: French, English, Spanish, German, and to a lesser extent Japanese and Chinese.

The 2nd year students of the Master’s Studies in Language Industry and Specialised Translation (Paris Diderot University) have to write a dissertation on a field of specialization that they choose, consisting of three parts: commentary on documentary research, terminology and translation. What are the challenges students face when dealing with problematic terms? What steps do you suggest they take to overcome these difficulties and appropriate the terminology of the chosen field?

One of the examples of the problems these students encounter is term variation. Their dissertation is based on a translation task using contemporary texts, which involves many examples of emerging terminology, and emerging terminology is often unstable, prone to variation. The students find it difficult to manage the term variation in term records, to find appropriate equivalents in the target language and to decide whether the variation should be maintained in the target text or avoided. I teach them how to analyse the origin and role of variation, and how to identify the available equivalents in the target language, before making translational choices. Another difficulty they face working on emerging knowledge texts is the absence of equivalents in the target language, often related to the issue of domain loss. For this type of issue, I get them to reflect upon which translational techniques allow them to propose an acceptable equivalent (borrowing, transposition, modulation, reformulation
) and to engage in a collaboration with an expert who can help them make the appropriate choice.

What are the best practices that you would recommend for extracting and managing terms from a specialized domain, i.e. from a domain-specific corpus?

I find that the best practice is a semi-automatic one, consisting of retrieving terms form corpora with computational tools (such as TermoStat, AntConc, TXM, etc.) and then performing manual analysis in order to select the relevant terms from automatically generated lists. For managing the terms appropriately, it is very useful to look back into corpora for knowledge-rich information and to analyse the terms in their various contexts. I also find very constructive to combine corpus analysis with an ontological approach where it is useful to place concepts in the overall organisation of domain knowledge, and thus achieve a clear understanding of them. Finally, compiling one’s own specialised comparable corpora can be of great help as one can have control over the sources integrated into the corpus, however in many instances using already existing and available corpora can be timesaving and efficient too.

“Terminology allows me to reflect upon the way we conceptualise knowledge through terms. All progress, evolution in sciences is generally embedded in terms. At the same time, our capacity to create new terms can breed progress”

In a world driven by technological and scientific advances, how do terminologists address the growing number of neologisms?

Indeed neological activity in specialised languages is very productive in a world driven by technological and scientific advances. The contribution of terminologists for providing language users with solutions is crucial, in particular when transferring knowledge across languages and cultures. Terminologists address the growing number of neologisms in a intergrated collaborative approach: they endeavour together to cover the variety of domains, in their research and practice, to identify different cases of neology, and develop procedures for dealing with each case appropriately. I think we ought to develop further collaborative approaches to neologism management. For instance, we could unite forces around projects such as Neoveille: a collaborative international project aiming at the identification and analysis of neologisms in seven languages. The Neoveille project, launched by Emanuel Cartier from Université Paris 13, focuses on the general language. I think it would be interesting to develop such a project for specialised languages (Neoveille Spé), as an observatory of neologisms in specialised languages. It could also allow us to systematize some tasks, at least partially, and to produce useful results for updating term databases.

Your research also focuses on the construction of meaning and of specialized knowledge. How do you define these two processes and how do they integrate into the terminology and translation processes?

I think that these two processes play an important role in terminology and translation as terminology management and translation tasks consist in working and handling specialised knowledge and transferring meaning across languages and cultures. I think that terminology, as a science and as a practice, lies at the heart of the study on the processes of meaning and specialised knowledge construction. In my research, I consider that language in general, and the most specifically terminology and phraseology, act like tools, linguistic tools, for constructing our knowledge. In this point of view, language and the discourse appear as a means for creating new concepts, and hence for innovation.

Some of your students, as part of their apprenticeship, work as terminologists in public or private institutions, such as the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance or the French Ministry of the Interior. What are the points of convergence and divergence between terminology in the academic world and terminology in the professional world that you may have noticed through their experience as terminologists?

One of the main divergences I could observe is the relatively minor use of corpora and corpus linguistics tools for term management in professional settings. In contrast, in academic settings, and specifically at our university, the corpus has gained over recent years a central role in term management and specialised translation. Another point of divergence concerns domain coverage. In academic settings, we often work on various domains for training purposes, while in professional settings, terminologists are working specifically on the terms of their domain, which gives them long term experience and enhances their knowledge of domain terminology. As a point of convergence, I have noticed that in both private and public institutions terminology work is considered and organised essentially in terms of projects and teamwork. I have also observed a common interest for improving our methods, and a desire among public and private institutions to work jointly towards innovative procedures. One last observation I would like to make: I have noticed that our global approach to specialised languages, embracing a terminological, phraseological and ontological approach, appears to be an efficient method for helping our students to integrate professionally into different sectors.

Corpus linguistics occupies an important place among the courses offered at Paris Diderot. What is its role in discourse analysis? To what extent can corpus linguistics address the problem of terminological variation?

In many instances, and especially for emerging concepts, the corpus is the sole reservoir of information for extracting term variants. Corpora offer students a well-structured reservoir of authentic language contexts. By paying attention to different contexts where different variants appear, the students can efficiently conduct the analysis of term variants. For instance, the variants found in different text types (e.g. specialised, popularising, institutional, etc.) display an example of variation across registers. If the variants are found in texts from different periods, they display diachronic variation. Often the variants can be found in a same text and display a variational paradigm over different textual moves with the purpose of achieving specific effect, like attracting readers attention to a new, problematic, concept. So, corpus linguistics offers reservoirs of data and the necessary observational tools for investigating term variation efficiently.

In what interesting projects have you been recently/are you involved? Could you elaborate?

I have been recently/am currently involved in several interesting projects. For instance, in the course of 2019, I was working with my team on the development of a new interface for ARTES DB. In comparison with the old one, developed back in 2010, this new interface is much more user-friendly and more clearly separates disciplinary data (related to terms) form transdisciplinary data (related to expressions or lexico-grammatical structures). Another interesting on-going project, launched in 2017 within the PROTEUS Campus France scheme concerns colleagues from the University of Ljubljana. The students of French and Translation studies from this university, working with their teacher, Sonia Vaupot, have taken part in enriching the ARTES DB by adding Slovene terminology and resources. This project thus aims to bridge our experience on teaching terminology and phraseology to translation students through the ARTES database. Another example of a project in which I took part in 2019 is the MUST (Multilingual Student Translation) project, launched by the colleagues form Louvain-la-Neuve University, Sylviane Granger and Marie-Aude Lefer. This project aims at collecting a large multilingual student translation corpus from both Learner Corpus Research and Corpus-Based Translation Studies. I participated in discussions and tests of a standardized translation-oriented annotation system designed within the framework of the project. This annotation scheme is different from the one currently used by my team, the MeLLANGE error typology, which was also developed by the members of my team and by the initiative of Natalie KĂŒbler. Another example of the project I am currently working on in collaboration with CĂ©cile FrĂ©rot from UniversitĂ© Grenoble Alpes consists in publishing a collective book on corpus linguistics in specialised language research. The purpose of this project is to discuss the current tendencies in specialised language modelling and analysis with special emphases on the role of corpora therein. The book is expected to be published in the course of the next year. One last project I will mention that I am currently working on is a contribution to a collective book in honour of Maja Bratanić, a specialist of Croatian terminology and previously in charge of the Institute for Croatian language and linguistics (Zagreb, Croatia), and of Croatian national term base STRUNA. With this contribution, I decided to reflect on the role and position of the ARTES DB project in the present landscape of term base projects.

Which book and/or paper would you recommend to translators, terminologists and/or student to read?

It is very difficult to select one book and/or paper. Here are few of them which I find useful for developing necessary skills to be able to deal with the issues of neology, term variation, to work with corpora and corpus linguistics tools, in both term management and specialised translation, and also to understand better the link between terminology, translation, knowledge and the cognitive processes at stake:

  • Humbley, John 2018. La nĂ©ologie terminologique ou Comment se forment les termes. Limoges : Lambert-Lucas. ISBN : 978-2-35935-226-9.
  • Kahneman, Daniel 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin books. ISBN: 9780141033570.
  • KĂŒbler, Natalie, Rudy Loock et Mojca Pecman (Dir.) 2018. « Traductologie de corpus : 20 ans aprĂšs Â». NumĂ©ro spĂ©cial de la revue META : Journal des traducteurs / Meta: Translators’ Journal 63(3).
  • L’Homme Marie-Claude 2008. Initiation Ă  la traductique. 2e Ă©dition revue et augmentĂ©e. PrĂ©face de Claude BĂ©dard. MontrĂ©al : Linguatech. ISBN 978-2-920342-52-1.
  • L’Homme Marie-Claude 2004. La terminologie: principes et techniques. MontrĂ©al : PUM. SBN: 2-7606-1949-4
  • Pavel, Silvia 1993. Neology and phraseology as terminology-in-the-making. In Sonneveld, H.B. and K.L. Loening (Eds) Terminology: Applications in Interdisciplinary Communication. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 21–34.
  • Pecman, Mojca 2018. Langue et construction de connaisSENSes. Energie lexico-discursive et potentiel sĂ©miotique des sciences. PrĂ©face de Marie-Claude L’Homme. Paris : Editions L’Harmattan. ISBN : 978-2-343-11731-7.

Dan-Madalin PAVELInterviewed by Dan-Mădălin Pavel, translation trainee at the Romanian Translation Unit (European Parliament).

Mădălin holds a BA in Applied Modern Languages from Babeș-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca (Romania) and an MA in Language Industry and Specialized Translation from Paris Diderot University (France); his master’s thesis focused on the information disclosure in English medical law, with a particular focus on legal translation, terminology and phraseology. He spent one year at the University of Nantes as an Erasmus+ student. Mădălin worked as a translator-terminologist at the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance. He is currently studying law at Paris II PanthĂ©on-Assas University (France) as he is preparing for a career as a lawyer-linguist. Mădălin is passionate about politics and public policy.