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Review of  A Cognitive Linguistics View of Terminology and Specialized Language

Reviewer: Esther Nunez
Book Title: A Cognitive Linguistics View of Terminology and Specialized Language
Book Author: Pamela Faber
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Cognitive Science
Issue Number: 26.2594

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Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


The aim of this book is to explore how Cognitive Linguistics can provide a theoretical framework both for the research on Terminology and specialized language and for the elaboration of terminological resources.

As it is pointed out in Section 2.1, Terminology and Linguistics have mostly ignored each other in the past. Manuals in Terminology are generally practice-oriented and focus on issues such as database organization, term entry design, etc. The research on specialized language tends to focus on scientific discourse and its characteristics.

The authors, however, have a broader view of Terminology and specialized language. First of all, they see terms (“specialized language units” in this volume) as linguistics units and therefore susceptible to descriptive linguistic analysis. By analysing terms from a linguistics perspective, interesting insights about the semantic and syntactic behaviour of terms can be reached and that could help to elaborate better terminological resources. More importantly, the authors see terms as conveyors of conceptual meaning and vehicles of meaning transmission. From this viewpoint, Terminology has the conceptual description and structure of specialized knowledge at its core. This volume looks into how Cognitive Linguistics could provide a methodological framework to help Terminology address these issues.

The specific research framework proposed by the authors in this volume is Frame-based Terminology, a new approach that adapts the basic concepts of Frame Semantics to specialized language. The concept of frame is regarded as the core structuring principle of specialized domains. Frame-based Terminology is the brainchild of Pamela Faber and her team at the University of Granada.

Not forgetting the practical focus of Terminology, the volume also explores extensively the practical application of the marriage between Cognitive Linguistics and Terminology. EcoLexicon is the tangible result of such endeavour. It is an online knowledge base on the Environment that covers six different languages. The FrameNet Project is the practical application of Frame Semantics and it serves as model for EcoLexicon. The methodological principles that have guided the design of EcoLexicon are discussed in Section 3.1.

The main body of the book are Chapters Two, Three and Four, which are preceded by a short Introduction chapter and followed by the Conclusions chapter. Chapters Two, Three and Four are divided into large sections, each of them written by a team of authors. The Introduction and the Conclusions chapters have been written by Pamela Faber, who is the editor and co-author of most sections of this volume. Other members of her team complete the list of authors.

Chapter Two, almost 90 pages long, is devoted to “Basic concepts” and is divided into three sections. Section 2.1 is “Terminology and specialized language” (by Pamela Faber and Clara Inés López Rodríguez). It traces the evolution of Terminology theory, from its initial standpoint as a prescriptive discipline to the current focus on description and the growing interest in conceptual structure. Section 2.1 ends with a description of the methodology used to develop Eco-Lexicon.

Section 2.2, “Metaphor and metonymy in specialized language” (by Maribel Tercedor Sánchez, Clara Inés López Rodríguez, Carlos Márquez Linares and Pamela Faber), discusses metaphor and metonymy in specialized language, along with other concepts of Cognitive Linguistics such as Blending. This section ends with a corpus-based study on the use of metaphor in the field of environmental science.

Section 2.3, “Specialized language translation” (by Pamela Faber and José Manuel Ureña Gómez-Moreno) starts with an introduction on the translation process and the challenges of specialized texts. It ends with an exploration of what Cognitive Linguistics, a theoretical framework which focuses on meaning and context, could contribute to translation theory.

Chapter Three is entitled “Terms as specialized knowledge units” and includes a section on specialized language semantics and a section on specialized language pragmatics. Section 3.1, “Specialized language semantics” (by Pilar León Araúz, Pamela Faber and Silvia Montero Martínez), includes a comprehensive description of the theoretical principles of semantic roles, conceptual relations and qualia structure which underpin the design of EcoLexicon. It is well illustrated by many examples and a case study. EcoLexicon can be accessed at

Section 3.2, “Specialized language pragmatics” (by Pamela Faber and Antonio San Martín Pizarro), provides background information on pragmatics and its status under Cognitive Linguistics. It also explores the recent take of Pragmatics on Terminology in an effort to account for terminological variation. Lastly, this section proposes analysing terminological variation using notions such as Frame, Context and Construal.

The title of Chapter Four is self-explanatory: “Contextual information in specialized knowledge representation: linguistic contexts and images”. Section 4.1, “Contextual selection for term entries” (by Arianne Reimerink, Mercedes García de Quesada and Silvia Montero Martínez), deals with the first of those topics: linguistic context. It looks into the criteria for devising meaningful and knowledge-rich contexts as provided in term entries and analyses the types of conceptual relations that are more helpful in devising linguistic contexts.

Section 4.2, “Graphical information” (by Juan Antonio Prieto Velasco and Pamela Faber), analyzes the value of visual representations in terminological resources. It proposes a grammar to understand the morphological, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic information in images and a typology of graphical information based on the criteria of iconicity, abstraction and dynamism.


This volume achieves its goal of exploring the importance of Cognitive Linguistics for Terminology. It shows how the principles of Cognitive Linguistics can be successfully applied to specialized language, paving the way to a whole new field of research that would benefit both Terminology and Linguistics.

After reading this volume, it is easy to see how Cognitive Linguistics, and especially Frame Semantics, come as such a natural progression for Terminology. After all, both fields place enormous importance on the organization and structure of concepts. The idea of developing terminological resources inspired by the way concepts are organized in the mind is a very attractive one. It is also easy to see the advantages of resources that incorporate information on the semantic and syntactic behaviour of the terms as dictated by their argument structure. Add the extra bonus of having more than one language and you can see why terminological resources developed according to this pattern would be extremely useful for translators and other users of terminological resources.

That the adaptation of Frame Semantics to Terminology comes naturally after reading this volume doesn't mean that the practical application of this framework is an easy task. For me, this is where the true value of the book lies. The sections on the elaboration of EcoLexicon (Sections 2.1 and 3.1) provide an insightful reading. EcoLexicon is a complex and well-researched tool. The fact that it includes information on six languages is more proof of the hard work that has gone into creating it.

Moreover, as the authors point out, the marriage between Cognitive Linguistics and Terminology could prove a fruitful one for both parties. Specialized domains constitute an excellent test ground for Cognitive Linguistic theories. Metaphors for example are very productive to build models and elaborate scientific theories (see Section 2.2). Up until now, concepts such as that of frame have not been applied to specialized discourse. The new approach developed in this volume opens up a whole new field of research that would provide feedback and new insights to the field of Cognitive Linguistics.

Terminologists and terminology managers would certainly benefit from the theoretical approach adopted in this book and the way it was implemented to produce EcoLexicon. Cognitive linguists would benefit from the insights into specialized language and the new possibilities opened up by the research in this field. Chapter Four also deals with innovative ways of applying the Cognitive Linguistics framework to the design of terminological resources, and would certainly be of interest to many readers.

Another strong point of the volume is that most sections are illustrated by an abundance of practical examples, many of them extracted from a corpus of specialized texts. This contrasts with the classical studies in Cognitive Linguistics, which aren't usually grounded on usage.

The structure of the volume is a bit confusing. Sections 2.2. and 2.3 aren't really well placed under a chapter named “Basic concepts” as they deal with two independent areas of study: metaphor and metonymy in specialized discourse and translation. Some of the basic concepts dealt with in Chapter Two have also been included in other sections, making the reading a bit repetitive, while some basic concepts are only addressed in a particular section. Section 2.3 on translation doesn't fit well with the rest of the book. The ideas in that section are worth exploring, but probably after a more detailed studied has been carried out.

Missing is a discussion of research that could be carried out under the scope of Frame-based Terminology--a discussion that is generally included in a Conclusions section. I feel that after successfully bridging the gap between linguistics and applied disciplines such as terminology, this volume lacks a discussion on future avenues of research, which is particularly important for newly developed approaches such as this.


Croft, William and D. Alan Cruse. 2004. Cognitive Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
I am an editor and translator. I work mainly developing teaching resources and as a legal translator/interpreter. I previously worked teaching Spanish at undergraduate level. I've got a postgraduate degree in linguistics. From a professional point of view, I am interested in translation teaching, interpreting training and terminology and I would like to train as a computational linguist. From a more personal point of view, I have a keen interest in bilingualims and minority and regional languages.