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Colloque « Re-thinking synonymy », Helsinki, 28 au 30 octobre 2010

Onomia participera conjointement avec l'équipe Condillac au colloque :

"Re-thinking synonymy : semantic sameness and similarity in languages and their description"

à Helsinki, du 28 octobre au 30 octobre October 2010

Voici le résumé de notre soumission intitulée "Synonymy in Terminology: the Contribution of Ontoterminology"

"Defined as a “set of designations [a designation is a “representation of a concept by a sign which denotes it”] belonging to one special language” [ISO 1087-1], the main goal of terminology is to eliminate ambiguity from technical languages by means of standardization.

In order to achieve such an objective, the General Theory of Terminology (GTT) postulates principles. One of them is bi-univocity. It means a term for a concept and a concept for a term (monosemy). Others principles are the priority of concept over designation (term) and the universality of concept independently of the diversity of languages.

In theory, since terminology has to be normalized, there is no synonymy in terminology (from the GTT point of view). Nevertheless, in practice, since term is used in texts as any word, term owns sense (signified) which must not be confused with concept – the lexical structure extracted from corpora does not match the conceptual structure directly built by experts in a formal language (it means that subsumption is not hyponymy) . Terms in usage are bound into linguistic networks and in particular with synonymy.

The aim of this article is to present the contribution of ontoterminology for understanding synonymy in terminology. An ontoterminology is a terminology whose conceptual system is a formal ontology – an ontology, from the knowledge engineering point of view, is a specification of a conceptualization; it means a shared description of concepts and their relationships of a domain expressed in a computer readable language. Ontoterminology separates and links the two different linguistic and conceptual systems of which terminology is composed of.  Concepts and terms in ontoterminology exist in their own right and term definitions written in natural language are separated from concept definitions written in formal language. The conceptual level is language-independent and bi-univocity is not mandatory – polysemy is available and only normalized terms are monosemic. It is then possible to consider for synonymy the two dimensions, semantic and stylistic, along which the meaning of terms can vary.

In ontoterminology, two terms are said synonymous if they denote the same concept – difference in form generally corresponds to difference in usage (stylistic, sociolinguistic features). The total synonymy, i.e. same denotation (concept) and same connotation (usage), is not so rare in technical domain. Ontoterminology allows to distinguish different kinds of plesionymy (structural, functional) according to the different types of relationships between the denoted concepts (is-a, part-of and function) and in relation to rhetorical figures (ellipsis, metonymy, meronymy, synecdoche). For example “wheel” is a structural plesionym of “turbine” since <wheel> is a part of <turbine>.

The article will lay stress on the distinction between the linguistic and the conceptual dimensions of terminology (a term is not a lexicalized concept and a designation is a not a denomination). The paradigm of ontoterm (association of a concept and a term) will be introduced. The importance of formal ontology and the role of the conceptual relationships is-a, part-of and function for plesionymy will be detailed."