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What is a Terminologist?


Terminology arises from the need to name objects and actions associated with the various facets of human activity. In Canada, the existence of two official languages combined with the imperatives dictated by political, commercial and cultural exchanges with countries using a diversity of languages, has led many organizations and businesses to use the services of terminologists to standardize the terminology used in their operations and to support the daily work of translators, interpreters and writers.

A terminologist is a specialist in terminological research, which includes gathering, analyzing and recording information on one or more concepts. As part of ad hoc or thematic research, the terminologist identifies the term designating a concept specific to a field of use or establishes the definition to be associated with a term found in context. This term- concept approach is the model used, sometimes in a single language, but usually in two or more languages based on the terminologist's needs and qualifications.

In every field of use in which terminologists are well versed, they must establish the relevant vocabulary; provide the equivalents of terms or lists of terms; develop terminological files (case studies); screen recent works to extract established terms as well as newly created terms; draft terminological file entries and contribute to the establishment, enrichment and purging of a terminology bank or file; write articles related to research; participate in the work of linguistic, terminology, neology or standardization committees and prepare unilingual, bilingual or multilingual vocabularies or glossaries, as required.

The terminological approach always results in a statement of position: in fact, it is the decision made following analysis that distinguishes a terminologist from a researcher, documentalist and even a lexicographer, who query terminology banks, note occurences of terms in context, gather documentation, enquire about names in use or assemble observations on usage by region, without making a judgment as to their relevance. Recommendations on terms to be used in a given context remain the domain of the terminologist.

At present, almost all terminologists are employees of government or private companies. While this status prevents them from accepting freelance work, they can sign agreements with their employers to prepare a publication or provide a specific service, take training courses which they provide on subjects related to their duties, purchase publications (vocabularies, glossaries, lists of terms accompanying terminological articles, magazines covering terminology or neology) which they prepare, or subscribe to the terminology banks they set up and update regularly. Terminologists who are members of ATIO can inform you of the services provided by their respective companies or organizations.

For more information, contact the ATIO Secretariat.