LINGUIST List 27.716

Mon Feb 08 2016

Diss: Applied Ling, Lexicography, Semantics, Text/Corpus Ling: Antonio San Martín Pizarro: 'La representación de la variación contextual mediante definiciones terminológicas flexibles'

Editor for this issue: Ashley Parker <>

Date: 05-Feb-2016
From: Antonio San Martín Pizarro <>
Subject: La representación de la variación contextual mediante definiciones terminológicas flexibles
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Institution: Universidad de Granada
Program: Programa Oficial de Posgrado en Estudios Avanzados de Traducción e Interpretación
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2016

Author: Antonio San Martín Pizarro

Dissertation Title: La representación de la variación contextual mediante definiciones terminológicas flexibles

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Dissertation Director:
Pamela Faber Benítez
Pilar León Araúz

Dissertation Abstract:

Definitions are one of the most important components of any high-quality terminological resource as well as a privileged medium for knowledge representation since they offer a direct natural-language explanation of the content of a concept. The adequacy of the definitions thus largely determines the overall usefulness of the terminological resource for the user. This study has been motivated by the observation that terminological definitions often do not meet the needs of users.

In this PhD thesis, we apply premises of cognitive linguistics to terminological definitions and present a proposal called the flexible terminological definition. This consists of a set of definitions of the same concept made up of a general definition (in this case, one encompassing the entire environmental domain) along with additional definitions describing the concept from the perspective of the subdomains in which it is relevant.

Our proposal specifically applies the following cognitive theories: frame-based terminology, (Faber et al. 2006, 2009; Faber 2012), grounded cognition theories (Barsalou 1993, 1999, 2003), frame semantics (Fillmore 1976, 1977, 1982), prototype theory (Rosch 1975, 1978) and the theory theory (Murphy 1993, 2000).

Since cognitive linguistics proves that context is a determining factor in the construction of the meaning of lexical units (including terms), we assume that terminological definitions can, and should, reflect the effects of context, even though definitions have traditionally been treated as the expression of meaning void of any contextual effect.

The main objective of this thesis is to analyze the effects of contextual variation on specialized concepts with a view to their representation in terminological definitions. Specifically, we focused on contextual variation based on thematic restrictions, i.e. how different areas of knowledge conceptualize differently the same concepts, and how this can be reflected in the definition.

To accomplish the objectives of this thesis, we conducted an empirical study consisting of the analysis of a set of contextually variable concepts and the creation of a flexible definition for two of them.

As a result of the first part of our empirical study, we divided our notion of domain-dependent contextual variation into three different phenomena: modulation, perspectivization and subconceptualization. These phenomena are additive in that all concepts experience modulation, some concepts also undergo perspectivization, and finally, certain concepts are additionally subjected to subconceptualization.

In the second part, we applied these notions to terminological definitions and we presented guidelines on how to build flexible definitions, from the extraction of knowledge to the actual writing of the definition.

This thesis contributes to the improvement of the quality of terminological definitions because, with our approach, the user is presented with a definition tailored to the domain that they have chosen, thus multiplying the probabilities that the definition will offer them the information they need. Furthermore, flexible terminological definitions provide a knowledge representation that better resembles the human conceptual system than traditional definitions. As a consequence, a flexible definition not only provides more relevant information, but it also accomplishes this in a way that potentially facilitates and enhances knowledge acquisition.

This thesis is written in Spanish, except for a long summary, the results, and the conclusions, which are written in English.

Page Updated: 08-Feb-2016