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Sociolinguistic Issues in Standardizing Linguistic Terminology

Author(s): Ranko Bugarski


Source: Language in Society, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Mar., 1983), pp. 65-70
Published by: Cambridge University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4167354
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Lang. Soc.

12,

65-70.

Printed in the United States of America

Sociolinguisticissues in standardizinglinguisticterminology
RANKO BUGARSKI
University of Belgrade

ABSTRACT

Standardizationof terminology is a process calling for a thoughtfulcombination of adherence to linguistic principles and awareness of the sociocultural issues involved. The case of Serbo-Croatian linguistic
terminology currentlyused in Yugoslavia may serve as an example of the
different dimensions of sociolinguistic variationin this area. Especially in
culturally heterogeneous societies, the distinction between standardization
and unificationmust be observed. (Terminology, language standardization,
sociology of language, applied linguistics; Serbo-Croatian.)
Standardizationof terminology is an inherentlycomplex activity, especially in
culturallyheterogeneoussocieties. ' Yugoslavia is a case in point, as a federation
displaying considerable national, ethnic, linguistic and socioculturaldiversity.
There have been some projects in the past aimed at standardizingthe terminologies of certain technical fields; however, coordinatedwork along modem
lines is only starting.In linguistics, the frequentlyunsystematicand occasionally
quite haphazarduse of terms has caused much dissatisfaction. The linguists
themselves are likely to find this state of affairs irritatingrather than really
confusing, but communicationwith specialists in other disciplines and with the
general public can be seriously impairedas a result.
This paper focuses on usage within Serbo-Croatian.It should be borne in
mind, however, that similar - and in some cases perhapseven greater- problems exist in the establishmentand use of linguisticterminologyin Slovenian and
Macedonianalso, as well as in Hungarianand Albanian (as languages enjoying
full official status in the partsof Yugoslavia where they are spoken). The purpose
of the paperis to identify and briefly discuss the main dimensionsof terminological variation of a broadly sociolinguistic nature, with selected examples from
traditionaldescriptive grammarand modern theoreticallinguistics.
I. One importantdimension of variation is the sociocultural traditionof a
specific region, including historically derived attitudesin mattersof usage. The
most far-reachingsingle issue here is that of purismvs. internationalism.Due to
differences in historical and cultural development, a given region may on the
whole display markedpurist tendencies, while anothermay be less resistantto
the internationalizationof terminology - though other factors, some of which
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RANKO

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will be noted later, are at play too. Generally speaking, a preferencefor native
terminology is somewhat more pronouncedin the western than in the eastern
region of Serbo-Croatian,although native and borrowedforms often coexist in
both areas - sometimes in interestingways. Thus a computertends to be called
kompjutorin the west but kompjuterin the east, showing different culturally
induced derivationalpreferencesas between a Latin and an English model. But
there are also two native calques, rac'unaloand rac'unarrespectively, this time
reflecting such preferences within Serbo-Croatianitself. This yields a total of
four forms in currentuse.
In this connection an importantgeneral limitation should be noted. While
more or less acceptablenative alternativescan often be found for an international
term in its base form, it is frequentlydifficult or impossibleto deriveotherforms
from it, as the stem turnsout to be practicallynonproductive.For example, the
termpreoblika may in itself be acceptedas a calque for 'transformation',at least
by those who do not believe in the internationalizationof terminology;but this
base will simply not yield derivations corresponding to 'transformational',
'transformationalist',etc., which the adaptedinternationalform transformacija
will of course do quite easily. The same is true with respect to sklop as against
struktura'structure',to okruz'enjeas against kontekst'context', and so on. This
purely linguistic fact, so obviously damaging to the purist cause, has gone
largely unnoticedby those "guardiansof the language", both in the west and in
the east, who refuse to appreciate the notion that while inwardly integrative
trends may be justified on the general level of the national language, scientific
terminology is something different, which in order to be truly workablefor all
purposes must tend to integrate outwardly, in other words, to be largely
international.
2. Another major dimension of variation, closely related to the precedingin
the sense of being a partiallinguistic crystalizationof it, has to do with variants
of the standardlanguage. In standardor literary Serbo-Croatianthere are now
two establishedvariants;the Eastern(mainly Serbian,with Belgradeas its principal centre), and the Western (predominantlyCroatian,centred aroundZagreb).
A third major focus has emerged in the central and nationally mixed area of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, its culturalcentre being Sarajevo, but this constitutesnot
so much a distinct third variantas an idiom habituallyneutralizingthe distinctions elsewhere polarized as Eastern vs. Western. The details of this complex
situation, which would in any case scarcely affect the presentgeneraldiscussion,
cannot be covered here.2
What is to the point in this context, however, is thatlexical and morphological
polarization within the general language may cause certain sets of linguistic
terms, among others, to fall into different derivationalpatternsin the Western
and Eastern variants. Thus the masculine set fonem, morfem, leksem, semem
(phoneme, morpheme, lexeme, sememe) represents typically western forms,
contrastingwith the feminine set fonema, morfema, leksema, semema, which is
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STANDARDIZING

LINGUISTIC

TERMINOLOGY

the more common in the east. (Note, incidentally, that alofon (allophone) and
alomorf (allomorph) have no corresponding feminine forms ending in -a.)
Roughly the same distribution is characteristicof terms like lingvist/lingvista
(linguist), strukturalist/strukturalista(structuralist),etc. Adjectival derivations
like transformacijskiltransformacioni
(transformational)are similarly polarized,
the former alternativebeing again typically western and the latter eastern. An
interesting case is that of jezieni/jezieki (lingual), complicated beyond simple
variant distributionin furtherderivations like dvojeziuni/dvojezikki(bilingual),
where the choice may ratherdepend on the head noun: in the Easternvariant,
normallyusing -ki forms, dvojezixnigovornik(bilingualspeaker)is found beside
dvojezixkirexnik(bilingual dictionary). 'Bilingualism', however, is always dvojezicxnost- that is, unless bilingvizam is used. In the central region around
Sarajevo, doublets elsewhere more or less polarizedoften exist side by side, and
preference for one alternative over the other may there signal the user's
nationality.
3. The extent of variations also correlates significantly with the degree of
establishmentof the field. Not surprisingly,traditionaldescriptivelinguisticsand
normative grammar are on the whole more standardizedthan contemporary
linguistic theory. The terminology of transformational-generative
grammar,for
example, is still in the making, and there are numerousparallelforms which are
sometimes variantly polarized but often display a contrast of loan vs. native.
Hence, kompetencijabeside sposobnost (competence), performansabeside delatnost (performance);'speech act' may be eithergovorni akt or govorni cin. The
forms expressing the meaning 'communicative', on the other hand, retain the
internationalbase but show different suffixes: komunikativnilkomunikacijski/
komunikacioni- with a distributionabout as consistent as that of the English
forms communicative, communication (adj.), communicational. The verb for
'generate' falls into a grammaticalclass allowing two alternatives:generiratil
generisati; similarly, 'case grammar'may be eitherpaddeznaor padeska gramatika, with variationin the derived adjective. 'Native speaker'may appear,fairly
indiscriminately,as izvorni govornik or govorni predstavnik(the lattermeaning
literally 'speech representative').
Under the impact of the more modern approaches,certain traditionalnotions
are being reconsidered, sometimes with notable terminological consequences.
Thus in traditionalSerbo-Croatiangrammar'clause' was not distinguishedterminologically from 'sentence' (rec'enica),so that a complex sentence was said to
consist of, for example, a main and a subordinatesentence. Whenthe termklauza
was introduced,based on the English form clause, the alternativeklauzulawas
immediatelyoffered on the argumentthat Latin-basedloans should be takenover
in their Latinateratherthan their anglicized versions (cf. the case of kompjutorl
kompjuternoted above). But perhapsthe most strikingresultof this revitalization
of existing concepts is to be found in the terms meaning 'noun phrase'. Here
there are three different adjectives that may be attachedto three differentnouns,
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yielding a set of nine composite terms (imenskalimenicka/nominalna


frazal
grupalsintagma), most of which are in fact currentin the literature!The 'verb
phrase' set has six members, two adjectivalforms (glagoiska/verbalna)combining with the three nominal ones. Not everyone appearsto like all the possible
combinationsequally well, and in this sense it may be said that these phrasesdo
not necessarilysmell as sweet by any of their many names;but howeverthatmay
be, this is indeed much of a muchness!
4. The next parameterto be pointed out as relevant to this discussion is the
target audience, since a choice from among the existing terminologicalalternatives should arguablybe permitteddepending on whether a piece of writing is
preparedfor publicationin a specialistjournal, a literarymagazine, or the popular press; textbooks on different levels also present a case for consideration.A
typical question in this category is whether it is legitimate to translateinternational symbols such as S, NP, VP, etc. Some apparentlyhold the view thatthis is
not permissible regardlessof the designated readership,whereasothers feel that
popular presentationsof ideas from new fields like generative grammar,often
forbiddingenough in a technicalsense, may be made easier by introducingnative
symbols, perhaps along with more familiar terminology where this exists.
5. The linguist's professional backgroundand generationaland personalpreferences also play a role. For example, the usual term for 'system' is sistem
(alongside which sustav is also used in the Westernvariant).The feminine form
sistema, though derivationallyunexceptionable(cf. the similar examples given
under [2] above), is a clear russianism now apparentlyrestrictedto a narrow
circle of Serbo-Croatianistsreared under AleksandarBelic, a leading linguist
who used it consistently, and has thus become somethingof a shibboleth.Variation in some other long-established terms, such as subjekat, objekat beside
subjekt, objekt (subject, object) is differently motivated but probablyalso fits
into the presentcategory. Moreover,specialists in, for example, English,German
and Russian tend to have partiallydifferent terminologicalhabits, setting them
off both from each other and from the Serbo-Croatianists.Such variationis here
more subtle and often no doubt only statisticalin value, but reasonablyclear-cut
instances can occasionally be found. For example, althougheverybodyelse uses
the term kontrastivnagramatika(contrastivegrammar),many Russianistsinsist
on talking about konfrontativnagramatika (confrontativegrammar),following
an apparently dubious terminological distinction current among Slavicists
elsewhere.
6. Finally, there is - as is to be expected - the by no means negligible role
played by currentfashion. Sometimes certainterms, or even whole terminological systems, are employed not because they are in any way superiorto othersbut
simply because their use may make the user appear to be more "with it".
Generally speaking, the spreadof fashionablejargon is particularlyapt to annoy
both linguists of differentpersuasionsand nonlinguists. Examplesof suchjargon
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in itself would not be useful here. However, a word of cautionseems appropriate


when the habit of using widespreadinternationalterms in the same way they are
used in, say, English or Frenchtends to blur a majorsemanticdistinctionwhich
often has to be inferred in these languages but which Serbo-Croatianeasily
makes formallyexplicit if only one cares to observe the possibility. For example,
it is both simple and convenient to distinguish systematicallybetween the adjectival forms strukturna(pertainingto structure),as in strukturnapromena (structural change), and strukturalna(pertainingto structuralism),as in strukturalna
lingvistika(structurallinguistics). Yet the latterform is often unthinkinglygeneralized to cover both meanings, just because this is normallythe case in English
(as shown by the glosses). Similarly, the distinctionbetweenjezickiljezic'ni(pertaining to language) and lingvistiLxki
(pertainingto linguistics) is by no means
regularlyobserved, the latterform tending to be generalized - again apparently
following the usual practice of languages like English and French.3 A parallel
case is that of the forms stilski (pertainingto style) and stilistieki (pertainingto
stylistics), where the latter is once again used to mean both, just as the English
adjective stylistic.
The foregoing list of dimensions of variation is, of course, not exhaustive.
Furthermore,there is much overlap both among the different sociolinguistic
factors themselves and between such factors, taken as a whole, and the purely
linguistic alternativesprovided by the system of the language; all this is illustratedin the examples given here. However, the main point is that the lines of
variationwhich have been broadlytermed "sociolinguistic" must be taken into
account in any attemptat creating and promotinga theoreticallyideal terminology on strictly linguistic principles. This is a strong methodologicalrequirement
of a quite general nature, as linguistic practice in any country is likely to show
some variationreflecting an interplay- or indeed a conflict - between cultural
and linguistic considerations.This may give rise to a distinctionbetween standardization and unification, allowing for the coexistence of two or more internally
unified and partly overlapping standards.In Yugoslavia, for example, it is evident that terminology cannot (and should not) be forcibly unified across the
differing sociocultural traditions or the standard-languagevariant boundaries.
But if such long-established patterneddifferences must be recognized on the
level of the language as a whole, there is no particularjustificationfor numerous
inconsistencies unmarkedfor any brandof respectableregional norm or custom
(recall, for example, the many names thatnounand verbphraseshave even within
each single variant).Thus, there is much room for unificationon the more finely
grained sociolectal and idiolectal levels within each of the partially divergent
standards.The next step could be to bring the standardsthemselves closer together by seeking to eliminate any unnecessary (in other words, linguistically
and/or culturally unmotivated) differences still existing. Such a programme
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would seem to strikea reasonablebalancebetweendifferentiationand integration


as two majorand complementaryaspects of the life of languagein generaland of
the development of terminology in particular.
Needless to say, all this is only partof the difficult work towardbuildingup a
terminology that would be at once linguistically sound, sociolinguisticallyacceptable, and adequate for both national and internationalpurposes. In this
instance the linguists' responsibility is doubled, since they find themselves occupying both of the key roles normallyassociated with terminologicalstandardization - those of linguistic advisers and subject-matterspecialists. Moreover,
their work in this field tends to have strong pedagogical and general social
implications.Following the example of many othercountries, Yugoslav linguists
are beginning to set up special commissions on terminology, at the time largely
restrictedto linguistic terms but possibly in the futuredeveloping more general
terminologicalinterests. As with many comparableventures, the beginningsare
modest, but the prospectsloom large. And, on the way out to these new vistas, a
sociolinguistic perspective is partof the basic equipment:if linguistics needs the
sociologist, we would claim that terminology needs the sociolinguist.4
NOTES
This paper was read at the Sixth InternationalCongress of Applied Linguistics, held at the
Universityof Lund(August 9-15, 1981). An abstracthas been publishedin a volume of abstractsof
section papers and workshop summariesentitled AILA8i, Proceedings 1: Sections and Workshops
(ed. by Bengt Sigurd and Jan Svartvik), Lund Ig81, pp. 333-34.
2.
The papers by D. Kalogjera, T. F. Magner, K. E. Naylor and J. Toporigic(along with the
referencescited there and the printeddiscussion of these papers)in Schmalstiegand Magner(1978)
can now be conveniently consulted for an English-languageintroductionto some of the basic facts of
the Yugoslav sociolinguistic scene. See also Birnbaum(1980), with many references.
To point out that, for example, English can say lingual as against linguistic is not very helpful
3.
here, since hardlyanybody does use the formertermconsistently in this sense. There is a discussion
of this and other problems of English linguistic terminology in Pap (1976).
The allusion in this last sentence is to the title of Hymes (1977). For a recentgeneral plea for
4.
cooperation between terminologists and sociolinguists, which also makes reference to the institutional channels available for this kind of work, see Riggs (1980). General informationon current
work in terTninology,includingthatcarriedon underthe auspices of the Association internationalede
linguistiqueappliquee(AILA), can be found, among other sources, in Sager and Johnson( 978) and
in Rondeau (0979).
x.

REFERENCES
Birnbaum,H. (1980). Language, ethnicityand nationalism:On the linguisticfoundationsof a unified
Yugoslavia. In D. Djordjevid(ed.), The Creation of Yugoslavia 1914-1918. Santa Barbaraand
Oxford: Clio Books. 157-82.
Hymes, D. (I977). Why linguistics needs the sociologist. Ch. 3 in Foundationsin sociolinguistics.
London:Tavistock.
Pap, L. (1976). Linguistic terminology as a source of verbal fictions. Language Sciences 39: 1-5.
Riggs, F. W. (1980). Special languages and terminology. SociolinguisticsNewsletterXI(2): 18-22.
Rondeau, G. (979). Une nouvelle branche de la linguistique appliquee: la terminologie. AILA
Bulletin 26: 1-15.
Sager, J. C., & Johnson, R. L. (I978). Terminology:The state of the art. AILABulletin 22: i- 1 i.
Schmalstieg, W. R., & Magner, T. F. (eds.) (1978). Sociolinguistic problems in Czechoslovakia,
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