A Context-Rich Dictionary with a Relational Structure:
A Tool for Economic Translation
By Jeanne Dancette (Université de Montréal, Canada)
Abstract & Keywords
This paper focuses on knowledge acquisition in the field of global economics and labour. It presents the domain and outlines some features of the language of globalization. More generally, it shows how psycho-cognitive approaches have informed the design of specialized multilingual dictionaries for translators that foster comprehension and learning about new concepts. The present paper outlines the principles used when designing the Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour / Dictionnaire analytique de la mondialisation et du travail / Diccionario analítico de la globalización y del trabajo (DAMT) and illustrates how both the relational structure of the dictionary (thesaurus) and its encyclopaedic nature help meet the needs of translators in search for linguistic equivalents and contextual information. Emphasis is placed on the value of semantic relations for information retrieval and lexicological precision.
Keywords: terminology, organization of knowledge, globalization and labour, thesaurus
©inTRAlinea & Jeanne Dancette (2015).
"A Context-Rich Dictionary with a Relational Structure:"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2150
Economic globalization and labour issues give rise to a huge production of texts in all the languages of the world. The theme is of burning actuality: unemployment, low wages, poor working conditions, slow progress in labour regulation – even regression in some countries, gender and racial discrimination, growth inequalities. Today, these are major concerns across the world. These issues are being monitored by international organizations, primarily by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). They are also studied by university research groups, such as the Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work / Centre de recherché interuniversitaire sur la mondialisation et le travail (CRIMT).
The CRIMT is composed of economists, labour lawyers, industrial relations experts and sociologists. As a member of the CRIMT, we were given access to research in the fields studied by the CRIMT and started to write dictionary articles on globalization and labour. We built a corpus of English, Spanish and French texts and selected some 6000 terms (combining the three languages). The Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour / Dictionnaire analytique de la mondialisation et du travail / Diccionario analítico de la globalización y del trabajo (DAMT) is a dictionary for translators, students in industrial relations, labour law and economics, and civil society at large.
In this paper we intend to discuss the dictionary as a tool for translators. It is designed as a multilingual knowledge base. That means that it combines the features of an encyclopædia, with structured articles, and those of a thesaurus with knowledge units (concepts) being related by the means of explicit semantic relations. This idea was already in our mind when we designed the online version of the Dictionnaire analytique de la distribution / Analytical dictionary of retailing (Dancette and Réthoré 2000, Dancette 2005). It was one of the first specialized dictionaries to implement a large number of semantic relations. Since, technology has allowed us to build a thesaurus, the DAMT (Dancette 2013a), with relatively little technical and financial support.
2. The domain of Global economy and Labour
2.1. Multifaceted Domain
Our corpus incorporated many source documents including the OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprise, ILO reports and declarations, and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) and all surveys providing knowledge in the area of social and work-related policies. Special reference should be made to the ILO Thesaurus (2011) and the European industrial relations dictionary (Eurofound 2013). Figure 1 below illustrates the various dimensions of globalization of labour. Globalization concerns modes of production (esp. the multinational enterprise); it raises trade union issues and takes place in a legal, economic and social context.
Figure 1. The domain of Globalization and Labour
From the many journal articles, textbooks and reports we gathered, hundreds of terms were extracted and grouped in eight subdomains: Economy, Fair Globalization, Labour Regulation, Production Organization, Trade Union, Transnational Corporation, Workers and Work Sectors.
2.2. Transversality of concepts
Globalization and labour concepts pertain to different fields of knowledge, as can be seen in Figure 2 below.
Figure 2. Transversality of Concepts
2.3. Interpenetration of discourses
Discourses originate from a wide range of sources, as illustrated in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Interpenetration of discourses
The corpus built and the terms selected reflect cross-fertilization between fields and discourses.
2.4. The language of globalization: Linguistic and sociolinguistic features
Some of the points presented here were developed in Dancette (2008 and 2013b). Here are some of the more salient points:
Many terms are domain-specific. The fields of finance, accountancy, public accounts and management, for example, have developed their own conceptual apparatus and therefore their own terminology: foreign direct investment, gross national product, outsourcing. However, a noticeable feature of the language of globalization is the large amount of words of the general language that take on specialized meanings when used in the context of economics, sociology and labour: growth, development, migration, dumping, flexibility, decent work.
Many expressions look more like terminologized discursive formulas, or even proper nouns, than terms: corporate social responsibility, New international economic order.
A large number of multilexemic terms (noun + noun, adj + noun) are observed: multinational enterprise, global value chain.
In these domains of social sciences the terminologization process is very simple, when compared with the scientific or medical vocabulary. The meanings of terms can usually be inferred from daily life.
Many terms are predicates (prominence of gerund forms in English, suffixes –tion, -ción in French and Spanish respectively): outsourcing / insourcing, offshoring / backshoring, benchmarking, auditing.
This morphosyntactic form may contribute to translation instability. To express a process, equivalences in Spanish and French may be terms, fixed phrases or free expressions, such as illustrated by the examples below.
réalisation à l’externe
sourçage à l’interne
réalisation à l’interne
The pivotal role of English in the language of globalization is also observed. Direct loan words and internationalisms shape a global language.
The vectors of diffusion are primarily international and regional organizations, such as the United Nations, the International Labour Organization, the World Bank, the European Union and Mercosur. From there, global language spreads to all public spheres through national and local governments, media and civil society organizations.
The domain of globalization is also characterized by high terminological creativity. Due to rapid evolutions in the domain, many concepts are emerging. They may be:
- Neologisms referring to new forms of production organization: transnational enterprise, hollow firm, value chain, original brand name manufacturer (OBM) / original design manufacturer (ODM), export processing zone;
- Terms referring to new regulatory tools and business practices: auditing, labelling, benchmarking, offshoring, sourcing;
- Abstract and ill-defined terms or discursive formulas. They are often ideologically loaded and used as buzzwords: global governance, flexicurity, decent work.
If it is possible to speak of a language of globalization, it is not because of the opacity of terms in the domain but rather because of their varying meanings and connotations. Novice translators should be aware of the difficulties involved.
2.5. Pitfalls for novice translators
Translators must learn to contextualize and be familiar with usages that vary over time. Here are some typical pitfalls in the field of economic translation and their solutions.
Illusory transparency → Learning concepts
growth and development are not synonyms.
Evolution of usages → Knowing the authority (source of the text)
multinational corporation (MNC) and transnational corporation (TNC) are not used interchangeably; they have different connotations. For example, if the International Monetary Fund (IMF) uses the more neutral term multinational, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will preferably use transnational, an adjective conveying the idea of corporations being above national authority.
Evolution of mentalities → Knowing context of appearance of terms and expressions
The following expressions have been successively used in different historical contexts to refer to the poorest countries of the world: third world countries, underdeveloped countries, developing countries, least developed countries, South, Global South. It would be an error to use them in the wrong context. The concept of governance best illustrates the contextuality of meanings. Though the term first appeared in French in the 14th century, the English term governance appears in the 1980s in corporate discourse, reflecting shareholders’ need to have control over the board of administrators in a corporation. In the 1990s, the World Bank started to use the term in response to the need to control corruption in country partners receiving international public aid. Since the 2000s, civic society organizations generally use it as the right of stakeholders to be consulted in decision-making processes. Thus the term takes up different meanings in different contexts:
governance = <accountability>
governance = <fight against corruption>
governance = <consultation>
Such examples once more illustrate the prominent place of culture and context in the field of economic and social sciences. A dictionary for translators therefore should include, to a feasible extent, cultural and contextual information about concepts in order to meet their needs for both documentation and multilingual queries (terms, collocations and phrases). Knowledge organization provides the general framework for the design of a dictionary such as the DAMT.
3. Theoretical and technological advancements in terminology and knowledge organization
Before presenting the DAMT, we wish to situate it within a theoretical framework. Couched in our experience as a translator and translation professor, the dictionary reflects a personal and intellectual trajectory, from the analysis of translation strategies and comprehension processes (Dancette 1995) to a multilingual terminological knowledge base. This evolution is rooted in theoretical and practical advancements. Here are some theories and models illustrating advancements made.
3.1. Theory of knowledge → Knowledge-based translatology and terminology
Psychologists and cognitive scientists (Hofstander& Sander 2013) point to the role of analogy and categorization as central activities in thinking and reasoning. Analogy, based on correspondences between known entities, is “the fuel and fire of thinking”. Metaphoric language and cognitive flexibility come from shifts of categories, also called mental leaps.
Educational psychologists exploit the same idea in the theory of learning. Eggen&Kauchak (1998) use the metaphor of scaffolding to explain how learners build coherent sets of knowledge piece by piece, on the basis of previous pieces of knowledge.
In the field of translation, the ability to select from paradigmatic sets of related terms is to be encouraged and fostered for both creativity and understanding. In translation studies since the 1980s and 1990s, research has focused on the empirical analysis of translation processes (Krings 1986, Lörscher 1991, Kussmaul 1995, Dancette 1997). Among a wide range of cognitive abilities, empirical observation (think-aloud protocols) focused on the way translators processed understanding units in texts to be translated (Dancette 2010). Expertise, observes Shreve (2002: 161), is a “matter of what kinds of things one knows and how those things are cognitively arranged, represented, and stored in or retrieved from a knowledge accumulation process […]”.
3.2. Mental frames and knowledge representation models → Information retrieval, ontologies and thesauri
The first models in artificial intelligence were built on the premise that mental frames represent our knowledge of the world. A semantic frame can be thought of as a conceptual structure describing an event, relation, or object and the participants in it (Schank& Abelson 1977). The semantic networks developed by cognitive scientists (Johnson-Laird 1983, 2006) led to the Semantic Web and WorldNet in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, linguists developed the theory of meaning called frame semantics (Fillmore 1977, Rastier 1991). The model of conceptual frames is based on the semantic roles played by the predicate and its arguments (Fillmore’s FrameNet lexical database).
In translatology the semantico-cognitive school led to the use of conceptual maps to foster understanding and learning in specialized domains (Lundquist 1998, Olohan 2000, Dancette 2003 and 2009, Dancette & Halimi 2005). The premise is similar: The recovery of information in a knowledge field is made easier when concepts have been structured and when their relationships have been established. Visualizing the logical and ontological relations between concepts (such as causal, instrumental, property, agent, or the generic/specific relations) facilitates understanding and, as a consequence, makes lexical choices easier and more adequate.
Figure 4 below illustrates the concept department store with its semantic relations. It provides basic information on the concept in a visual manner: A department store is a sales outlet (generic). As opposed to a discount store (contrast), it sells upmarket products (object). It is usually located downtown (location) and uses self-selection selling (property). It can be part of a corporate chain (multiple), etc.
Figure 4. Conceptual map of department store
Knowledge representation also led to the development of ontological models. It opened up new avenues in terminology, such as multilingual terminological knowledge bases (Meyer 1991, Dancette 2011). Two currents are to be mentioned: the ontoterminological projects around the TOTh group (Terminologie & ontologie, Théories et applications, Roche 2007) and the termontological projects at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Kerremans & Temmerman 2008). The goal is to establish formal mechanisms by which terms from any language can be connected to a semantic description of the concept it represents and to sets of related concepts.
Many institutions adopted the thesaurus format either for research purposes, sometimes with short definitions, as for example the ILO Thesaurus (2011), or just for indexing purposes, as for example the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) or The American Psychological Association (Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms).
3.3. Semantic and lexicological models → Formal definition of terms and tables of related terms
We must also mention, in conjunction with Fillmore’s semantic nets, the formalism used by the Meaning-Text Theory (Mel’cuk et al. 1995). Here, we only present the aspects that have greatly impacted lexicography and terminography.
Semantic graphs represent the linguistic knowledge of a text. They include the actancial structure of lexical units (the predicates and their arguments) and lexical functions (LFs), defined as the set of paradigmatic and syntagmatic links between lexical units. A product of the Meaning-TextTheory is the Dictionnaire explicative et combinatoire du français contemporain (Explanatory and Combinatorial Dictionary, Mel’cuk et al. 1984-99, 4 volumes).
Though not designed for terminology, Mel’cuk’s model found an application in specialized dictionaries. Definitions are written according to a linguistic formalism, and sets of related terms or collocates are identified by their lexical functions. To name just a few, let’s mention Binon et al. Dictionnaire d’apprentissage du français des affaires (2000), the DiCoInfo (L’Homme 2005), Le dictionnaire fondamental de l’environnement DiCoEnviro (Éclectik OLST 2009), and Faber et al. EcoLexicon (2011) using prototypical semantic roles (agent, process, state, result, local). An analysis of the use of lexical functions in terminology is given in Dancette (2007) and Dancette & L’Homme (2004).
The electronic version of the Dictionnaire an alytique de la distribution /Analytical Dictionary of Retailing (2005) implements a model of 25 semantic relations derived from Mel’cuk’s model of lexical functions. It may be worthwhile to explain the advantages of explicitly naming the type of relations between terms, because this tagging proved of utmost importance in later work. The examples below illustrate the model:
Hierarchical relations: Specific/Generic, Part/Totality, Multiple/Singular
Spec(shopping center) = specialty center, factory-outlet center, megamall
Part(checkout counter) = cash register
Sing(clientele) = customer
Tot(subsidiary) = enterprise
Associative relations described as typical: agent, cause, localization, medium, property
Ag(auction) = auctioneer
Ag(bid) = bidder
Ag(franchising) = franchisor
Caus(back order) = inventory shortage
Loc(electroniccouponing) = web site
Loc(auction) = auctionroom
Loc(inventory) = stockroom
Med(direct mail advertising) = flyer
Prop(assortment) = depth/shallowness, breadth/narrowness, length/shortness
Prop(department store) = (very wide) assortment
Prop(cashcow product) = (high) profitability
Other parts of speech, such as verbs and adjectives (derivatives and collocates)
Verb(bid) = tobid
Verb(auction) = to hold an auction
Verb(shop) = to set up shop
Verb(auction) = to knock down, to strike off
Adj(store, shopping centre, etc.) = well patronized
Adj(product, brand) = high-end, upmarket
3.4. Socioterminology → Descriptive terminography
Terminology is a social practice. As seen previously, concepts and terms are context-sensitive; they have a history and take on various forms. That explains why terminology should adopt a comparative and descriptive approach taking culture into consideration (Cabré 1999, Gaudin 2003) and accounting for the symbolic and social dimensions of terms (Depecker 2000).
In both the Analytical Dictionary of Retailing and the Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour, articles include detailed information about the realities referred to by the concepts; they are structured in different subheadings to facilitate information retrieval.
3.5. Easy-to-use databases, Internet-based technologies and free servers
Advances in technology have made building electronic dictionaries such as the DAMTmuch easier than it was only ten years ago, both financially and in terms of manpower. In the case of the DAMT, massive financial investment and sophisticated technical support were not required, especially given our expertise in the field and access to user friendly thesaurus software.
4. The DAMT – Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour
4.1. Methodological choices: Decisions for designing a database
Based on the above theories, our methodological choices can thus be summarized:
- Terminology geared toward translators’ needs (human translation), i.e. providing multilingual equivalents and basic information about the concepts;
- Structured terminology; the information is organized to respond to different types of queries (definition, description of concepts, historic facts, examples, semantic relations);
- Maximal navigability; a term is linked to an article and its related terms. A language directs to another language;
- Authorship and referencing; textbooks, academic journals, international declarations and conventions, laws and guidelines are quoted, and hyperlinks open to the texts.
As for its format, the DAMT combines the features of an encyclopædia and those of a thesaurus. Table 2 below compares the advantages of both:
Cluster of terms
Limited (hyperlinks on words only)
Search by terms, types of SRs, domains, languages
Outputs of indexes and lists of terms
Table 2. Comparing enyclopædia and thesaurus
Similarly to the Analytical Dictionary of Retailing, the DAMT was designed from the start so as to include encyclopædic information and tables of related terms. Technology advancements allowed for the construction of a knowledge base. A semi-dynamic interface was achieved thanks to query buttons that help users individualize their search process and functionalities for generating lists of terms, of relations and indexes in a subdomain.
Designing the thesaurus was greatly facilitated by the use of the software Multites, which we adapted to our needs in order to accommodate long texts and a wide range of relations. Multites allowed us to pair and align terms used as interlinguistic equivalents, verify the consistency of terms and systematize semantic relations.
The DAMT is the result of collaboration between a small team of terminologists from the Department of Linguistics and Translation and colleagues of the research group on globalization and labour, the CRIMT (University of Montréal), who provided specialized texts, answered specific questions and checked the accuracy of information gatheredat various times. The dictionary has been hosted on the CRIMT site since 2008 as it is used by students in industrial relations and labour economics as a starting point for their own research. It has also been tested (Löckinger 2014) and used in translation classes (in Montréal and other translation schools in Canada and abroad) as preliminary documentation and reference for translation.
One of the most original features of the DAMT is its relational structure (thesaurus). It contains 6300 terms (equivalences in English, French and Spanish, including synonyms and variants), 1600 hierarchical relations, 17,000 associative relations, 50 syntagmatic relations (verbs, adjectives), 2000 clickable source texts (in the 3 languages). The most difficult part of the work, albeit the most valuable, was the attribution of semantic roles to terms in relation to others, because sometimes the logical ties between concepts are fuzzy and variable in context. In this regard, some semantic relations – such as “typical place”, “instrument”, “actor” or “factor”– are to be used as schematizations of the complex links between concepts, as noted in Dancette 2011. However, we insisted on naming semantic relations because of their value to help structure conceptual representation.
4.2. Principles implemented
The following principles were implemented.
- Principle of relevance of terms to be included in the dictionary
Domain specificity, as opposed to general vocabulary, was the criteria. Thus we defined:
MNE, multinational enterprise
but not enterprise
but not work, nor atypical
but not nationality
FDI, foreign direct investment
but not investment
We included many multilexemic terms (noun +adj); but as a category, very few adjectives are included because they often have meaning in the general language. We defined those that have specialized meaning: transnational, integrated, protectionist, regulatory. Similarly, the verb category did not prove very productive: to offshore, to outsource, to audit, to denationalize, to label.
- Principle of consensual definition of terms
It happens that a same term applies to different realities, as seen with the term governance. The definition must then reflect a variety of realities. Articles therefore aim to offer a synthesis of various points of view, from the emergence of new practices or new concerns to the coining of terms (proof of new conceptualization).
- Principle of contextualization
When deemed necessary, the dictionary articles include information on historical or political aspects about the concept, including ideological and pragmatic dimensions. For example, the article multinational enterprise includes points of criticism made by anti-globalization and left-wing groups.
- Principle of limited redundancy
Information does not always need to be repeated. Excessive redundancy can be prevented. If a core concept has been defined in the dictionary, there is no point defining related terms that share common information, as illustrated by the example below.
The terms semi-skilled worker and highly-skilled worker have been thoroughly covered in the dictionary; as such it is superfluous to provide detailed information about the related conceptssemi-skilled labour, semi-skilled work, unskilled work, and skill.
This is the beauty of semantic relations. Though not integrally repeated, the basic information is not lost but transferred through the explicit meaning of semantic relations.
Semi-skilled labour = “multiple” of semi-skilled worker
semi-skilled work = “action” of semi-skilled worker
unskilled worker = “contrast” of semi-skilled worker
skill = “property” of skilledworker
Thus, not all articles are full-length articles.
- Principle of linguistic equivalence
If there is no readily coined term available as an equivalence in a language, then periphrasis or loan-words were used. For example, the term workfare is a contraction of welfare and work. There is a play on words that cannot be translated in French or Spanish. As such and since the concept is better known in Anglo-Saxon countries, the loan word is frequently used in French and Spanish texts. In the DAMT however a periphrastic form has been provided as a translation: allocation conditionnelle in French, asistencia social condicional in Spanish, in order to make the concept understandable.
- Principle of meaning-oriented navigability within multilingual conceptual frames
Below is a possible schema for navigating between terms. It shows how one entry can lead to another, from one language to another. The clusters of terms linked by semantic relations construct conceptual frames. (In the example below, the semantic relations are indicated between parentheses.)
social regulation → social labelling (“instrument”) → code of conduct (“legislation”) → index of social performance (“quantifier”) → corporate socialresponsibiity (“result”) → responsabilidad social empresarial (“equivalence”) → globalizaciónjusta (“result”) → regulación social
- Principle of referencing for the sake of further reading or authorship
The DAMT refers to all ILO Conventions. For example, the articles core labour standards and age of entry into employment refer to C182 Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention. It can be read by just clicking on the link provided.
4.3. Architecture of the DAMT
The Dictionary can be opened in English, French or Spanish. The homepage features various search options as shown in Figure 5: INDEX (terms can be listed in total or restrained by selecting one of the eight domains), SEARCH (by typing in the word looked for) and SEMANTIC RELATIONS (this option lists all the relations between terms; 20 types of SRs).
Figure 5. Homepage (http://zedamt.herokuapp.com/)
The sample entry corporate social responsibility illustrates the dictionary microstructure. A typical article has synonyms, interlinguistic equivalents, a definition followed by a text describing the concept, a context, and a table of semantic relations. Full-length articles are very structured, and allow users to access quoted source texts.
This paper has illustrated how psycho-cognitive approaches on learning and translation informed the design of specialized multilingual dictionaries for translators. The idea of conceptual representation, which has been used in translation to foster comprehension or learn about unfamiliar concepts, led to a new current in terminology: knowledge-rich databases exploiting a wide range of semantic relations.
The multilingual dictionaries mentioned in this paper, the Analytical Dictionary of Retailing and the Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour, occupy a special place in terminology not only because of the extended description of concepts therewithin, but also because of their relational structure that provides search tools to exploit the model of semantic relations. They were built on the premise that a relational format helps users build their own conceptual representation according to their needs. Semantic relations in this regard can be seen as tags for scaffolding knowledge.
Additionally, these dictionaries provide information about usages and ideological connotations. In this regard, the DAMT, which links to a wide range of online documents and official texts, can be considered a useful corpus for nalysing the discourse of economic and social globalization. It clearly demonstrates that concepts are cultural products, be they at the local or global level.
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I wish to express my thanks to Daniel Gallego who invited me to the International Conference on Economic, Business, Financial and Institutional Translation / Congreso Internacional de Traducción Económica, Comercial, Financiera e Institucional in Alicante, 29-31 May 2014. This conference gave me the opportunity to reflect on my personal itinerary. My thanks also go to my research assistants Rosa Castrillón and Crystal Crow, and to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for funding this research.
 Contrary to geographical definitions, the “Global North” includes Australia, New Zealand; and the “Global South” includes the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) and all of Africa.
 The authors start from the premise that knowledge of a specific situation is stored in the human mind as a script. A script is a structure that describes sequences of events in a particular context. Understanding a familiar situation implies the activation of a stored script of this situation. When encountered with a new situation, people resort to plans. A plan contains the general information that connects events. Plan understanding is a process including the goals of the actors in a situation.
 WorldNet is a lexical database for the English language. Words are organized into sets of synonyms and hyponyms. The database provides short definitions, and names the various semantic relations between these sets of words. It is a combination of a dictionary and thesaurus.
FrameNet defines some 1000 conceptual frames. In a frame, a predicate calls for arguments that fill semantic roles.
 The formalism of associative relations can offer valuable information in a very succinct form. When combined with the article defining a concept, it serves as an aid to learn about concepts.
 More ambitious projects in knowledge engineering and computational terminology involve large teams of terminologists and computer scientists. Automatic ontology building, for example, would require much larger means than those we had for our own projects.
 Workfare is “an alternative model to the welfare system in which social benefits are granted provided that the recipient fulfills certain obligations, such as performing community service or actively seeking employment.” (DAMT 2013)
 Full-length articles cover head terms, which are written in capital letters. Other terms, such as social responsibility standard, are not delved into, but they are all tied to fully developed articles.