Frame-Based Terminology (Faber et al. 2005; Faber et al. 2006; Faber et al. 2007) is a very recent cognitive approach to terminology, which shares many of the same premises as the Communicative Theory of Terminology (Cabré 2000ab, 2001ab, 2003; Cabré et al. 1998) and Sociocognitive Terminology (Temmerman 1997, 2000, 2001, 2006). For example, it also maintains that trying to find a distinction between terms and words is no longer fruitful or even viable, and that the best way to study specialized knowledge units is by studying their behavior in texts. Because the general function of specialized language texts is the transmission of knowledge, such texts tend to conform to templates in order to facilitate understanding, and are also generally characterized by a greater repetition than usual of terms, phrases, sentences, and even full paragraphs. This is something that specialized translators capitalize on when they use translation memories. Scientific and technical texts are usually terminology-rich because of the quantity of specialized language units in them, and they also are distinctive insofar as the syntactic constructions used.
Specialized language units are mostly represented by compound nominal forms that are used within a scientific or technical field, and have meanings specific of this field as well as a syntactic valence or combinatory value. Naturally, such noun phrases have configurations that may vary from language to language. The heavy concentration of such units in these texts points to the specific activation of sectors of domain-specific knowledge. As a result, understanding a terminology-rich text requires knowledge of the domain, the concepts within it, the propositional relations within the text, as well as the conceptual relations between concepts within the domain. This is the first step towards creating an acceptable target language text. All of these elements are targeted by frame-based terminology.
Conceptual categories and category design
As its name implies, Frame-Based Terminology uses certain aspects of Frames Semantics (Fillmore 1976, 1982, 1985; Fillmore & Atkins 1992) to structure specialized domains and create non-language-specific representations. Such configurations are the conceptual meaning underlying specialized texts in different languages, and thus facilitate specialized knowledge acquisition.
The concept of domains is problematic both in Terminology and Linguistics. The structure of categories of specialized concepts is and always has been a crucial issue in Terminology, precisely because the General Terminology Theory (Wüster 1968) opted for an onomasiological rather than a semasiological organization of terminological entries. However, in the type of conceptual representation proposed by the General Terminology Theory, there is no effort made to create representations with explanatory adequacy from a psychological perspective.
Even though domains are also essential to the Communicative Theory of Terminology and Sociocognitive Terminology, this focus has not as yet been accompanied by a systematic reflection on how to elaborate, design, and organize such a structure. For example, in even the best terminology manuals, the question of how to develop such configurations is never truly explained, and as a general rule, they are regarded as a product of the terminologist’s intuition, which is afterwards validated by consultation with experts.
Regarding conceptual domains, in Terminology there seem to be two views on the matter, which are not necessarily incompatible with each other. A domain sometimes refers to the knowledge area itself, and other times, refers to the categories of concepts within the specialized field. Evidently, whether a domain is defined as one or the other has dramatic consequences for its internal structure.What is needed, however, is a model of categories and category structure that can be realistically applied to language on a broader scope.
Methodological foundations of Frame-Based Terminology
Frames are a type of cognitive structuring device based on experience. They provide the background knowledge and motivation for the existence of words in a language as well as the way those words are used in discourse. However, frames have the advantage of making explicit both the potential semantic and syntactic behavior of specialized language units. This necessarily includes a description of conceptual relations as well as a term’s combinatorial potential. Frame Semantics and its practical application, the FrameNet Project (Fillmore & Atkins 1998; Fillmore et al. 2003; Ruppenhofer et al. 2006), assert that in order to truly understand the meanings of words in a language, one must first have knowledge of the semantic frames or conceptual structures that underlie their usage. Evidently, the same can be said for specialized language units.
Frame-based terminology focuses on: (1) conceptual organization; (2) the multidimensional nature of terminological units; and (3) the extraction of semantic and syntactic information through the use of multilingual corpora. In frame-based terminology, conceptual networks are based on an underlying domain event, which generates templates for the actions and processes that take place in the specialized field as well as the entities that participate in them.
Our methodology derives the conceptual system of the domain by means of an integrated top-down and bottom-up approach. The bottom-up approach consists of extracting information from a corpus of texts in various languages, specifically related to the domain. Our top-down approach includes the information provided by specialized dictionaries and other reference material, complemented by the help of experts in the field.
In a parallel way, we specify the underlying conceptual framework of a knowledge-domain event (Faber & Jiménez 2002; Faber et al. 2006). The most generic or base-level categories of a domain are configured in a prototypical domain event or action-environment interface (Barsalou 2003). This provides a template applicable to all levels of information structuring. In this way a structure is obtained which facilitates and enhances knowledge acquisition since the information in term entries is internally as well as externally coherent (Faber et al. 2007).
One of the basic premises of this approach is that the description of specialized domains is based on the events that generally take place in them, and can be represented accordingly (Grinev & Klepalchenko 1999). Each knowledge area thus has its own event template (see figure below).
Accordingly, generic categories are configured in a domain event or action-environment interface (Barsalou 2003: 513; Faber et al. 2005), which provides a frame for the organization of more specific concepts. The specific concepts within each category are organized in a network where they are linked by both vertical (hierarchical) and horizontal (non-hierarchical) relations.
Accordingly, each subdomain within the event is characterized by a template with a prototypical set of conceptual relations. This logically places much emphasis on terminological definitions, which are regarded as miniknowledge representations or frames. Such definitions are not entered in a cut-and-paste fashion from other resources. Rather they are based on the data extracted from corpus analysis, which is the main source of paradigmatic and syntagmatic information about the term. This is evident in the following description of erosion.
For example, erosion is a process that conforms to the process template within the context of the Environmental Event. A process takes place over a period of time and can be divided into smaller segments or phases. It can happen at a specific season of the year, and may occur in a certain direction. It is induced by an agent (natural force) and affects a specific geographical place or environmental entity, thus producing a certain result that is often a modification in the affected entity.
The study of corpus data (in this case, concordances from specialized language texts) are used to elaborate definitions of terms and also obtain information about their combinatory potential in one or various languages. Propositional representations are extracted that can be activated in different ways, depending on the language involved and its rules for term formation. Such argument constructions provide the basic means of clausal expression in a language.
For example, constructions such as X causes Y can be regarded as basic units of language. According to Goldberg (1995: 5), constructions involving basic argument structure are shown to be associated with dynamic scenes: experientially grounded gestalts, such as that of someone volitionally transferring something to someone else, someone causing something to move or change state, someone experiencing something, something moving, and so on.
She proposes that the basic clause types of a language form an interrelated network, with semantic structures paired with particular forms in as general a way as possible. This is extremely useful in the analysis of syntax in specialized language texts, and in the specification of definitional templates.
Accordingly, the organization of information encoded in definitions can be structured in regards to its perceptual salience as well as its relationship to information configurations in the definitions of other related concepts within the same category (Faber et al. 2001; Faber 2002). Martin (1998) underlines the fact that frames as definition models offer more consistent, flexible, and complete representations.
Use of images
Another important aspect of frame-based terminology is that it has the virtue of dealing with the role of images in the representation of specialized concepts. It explains how the linguistic and graphical description of specialized entities are linked, and can converge to highlight the multidimensional nature of concepts as well as the conceptual relations within a specialized domain (Faber et al. 2007). It advocates a multimodal conceptual description in which the structured information in terminographic definitions meshes with the visual information in images for a better understanding of complex and dynamic concept systems.
Traditionally, images have been classified according to their morphology in categories of photographs, drawings, animations, videos, diagrams, charts, graphics, schemes, views, etc. (Darian 2001; Monterde 2002). However, it is more useful to categorize images in terms of their most salient functions (Anglin et al. 2004) or in terms of their relationship with the real-world entity that they represent. The typology of images is based on the criteria of iconicity, abstraction and dynamism as ways of referring to and representing specific attributes of specialized concepts (Prieto Velasco 2005):
- Iconic images resemble the real-world object represented through the abstraction of conceptual attributes in the illustration.
- Abstraction in an illustration is a matter of degree, and refers to the cognitive effort required for the recognition and representation of the concept thus represented (Levie & Lentz 1982; Park & Hopkins 1993; Rieber 1994).
- Dynamism implies the representation of movement (i.e. video and animation, as well as images showing different stages of a superordinate process respectively). However, such a representation need not include explicit movement if it illustrates the succession of discrete steps that make up the process.
In this way frame-based terminology endeavors to give a full accounting of the information necessary to fully describe a term, and which should be included in fully specified terminological entry.
This section is an adapted excerpt from the article:
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