Terminology and Attitudes towards Language

September 13, 2017 9:55 am

One of the most prominent area in which terminology has a role to play is in the corpus and status (language) planning. The development and the expansion of terminology during the 1980s was also due to the debates in language planning and sociolinguistics. The history simply shows that studying terminology has always been connected to the studies in sociolinguistics and planning for languages.

Terminology and Attitudes towards Language banner - Planet Earth and the word "Language" in several languages

The term language planning was first “introduced by the linguist Einar Haugen in the late 1950s” (Deumert, 2000, p. 384) and it is defined as follows:

[Language Planning] refers to all conscious efforts that aim at changing the linguistic behavior of a speech community. It can include anything ‘from proposing a new word to a new language’ (Haugen 1987: 627).

According to Fishman (1987, p. 409), language planning is:

[…] the authoritative allocation of resources to the attainment of language status and corpus goals, whether in connection with new functions that are aspired to, or in connection with old functions that need to be discharged more adequately. (as cited in Jernud, 1993, p. 133)

In Cooper’s terms, “language planning refers to deliberate efforts to influence the behavior of others with respect to the acquisition, structure, or functional allocation of their language codes” (Cooper, 1989, p. 45).

Language status is the position of a language in relation to other languages. Thus, status planning deals with any attempt to govern or to manipulate this status. For example, the language of the courts (juridical status of a language), or the norms for the official languages, the dominant language of literature or the language of the education are consequences of status planning, which are undertaken by authoritative bodies and legislators.

Status planning, on the one hand, deals with the identification of problems and allocation of norms; and on the other hand, it takes part in language cultivation by evaluation and correction (Based on Einar Haugen’s model).

The language corpus refers to the form and structure of languages where the implementations of decisions result in the changes in the structure of the language. According to Haugen (1950), language corpus planning deals with the codification (standardization procedures) and elaboration (functional development).

In the context of language planning, terminology is not only about proposing a new term but also “changing the attitude of others toward a language by manifesting the abilities and potentials of a language in scientific domains” (Fathi, 2017, p. 37).

M. Teresa Cabré is one of the terminologists that has stressed the importance of terminology and terminology planning in the framework of language planning systems. She believes that to achieve the desired status of a language across the development of the corpus, planning for the specialized language or language of science is indispensable.

Teresa Cabré believes that unstable or recently stabilized languages require terminology to be entirely at the service of language planning goals.

“The underlying belief of this type of language planning is that the use of an unstable language can change with systematic, strategic intervention carried out by official bodies, with the right legislation and appropriate measures aimed at implementing the change”. (Cabré, 1999, p. 14)

In this sense, “not only terminology assists the development of a language by expanding its vocabulary and its functioning in all areas but also it supports the political rights and conditions of languages” (Fathi, 2017, p. 37).


  • Cabré, M. T (1999). Terminology: Theory, methods, and applications. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. [English edition of La Terminologia. La teoria, els mètodes, les aplicacions. 1992]
  • Cooper, R. L. (1989). Language planning and social change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Deumert, A. (2000). Language planning and policy. In Introducing sociolinguistics. R. Mesthrie, J. Swann, J. Deumert, & WL Leap (Eds.), Edinburgh, 384-418.
  • Fathi, B. (2017). PhD thesis, Unpublished.
  • Jernudd, B. H. (1993). Language planning from a management perspective: An interpretation of findings. In Language conflict and language planning. Jahr, Ernst H (ed.). De Gruyter Mouton, 133–142.

Besharat Fathi

Written by Besharat Fathi, a PhD student at Universitat Pompeu Fabra at IULA where she participates actively in some ongoing projects of the institute mainly related to terminology and specialised corpora.

Prepared by Pedro Ramos. Translator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg).

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