The 16th Annual International AFRILEX Conference
UNAM, Windhoek, Namibia, 5-7 July 2011

[Abstract:] Fuertes-Olivera, Pedro A.: Equivalent Selection in LSP e-Lexicography: A Case Study with Spanish Accounting Terms

Interest for specialized lexicography has been propelled by the development of LSP communication in academic circles, as well as by the consolidation of function-based approaches to lexicography that have identified the existence of several user types, e.g. experts, semi-experts and interested laypersons, and use situations, typically cognitive-oriented and communicative-oriented use situations (Bergenholtz & Tarp, 2003, 2004). This paper follows suit and elaborates on the selection of Spanish equivalents in a particular dictionary project. It addresses the issue as a lexicographical problem that can be solved by resting on lexicographical principles that take into consideration the nature of lexicography, the technical options the Internet offers, and the defining characteristics of specialized discourse.

The analysis is presented as a case study regarding the selection of Spanish equivalents in the Diccionario Inglés-Español de Contabilidad (Nielsen et al., 2009), one of the accounting dictionaries, which are extracted from the same ‘accounting database (Nielsen et al., 2010). The accounting dictionaries are a set of two monolingual and three bilingual online dictionaries with the languages Danish, English, and Spanish (a Spanish dictionary and a Spanish-English dictionary are in the pipeline). The theoretical foundation underlying the project gives priority to lexicographical functions, i.e. the help these dictionaries can give to users in specific types of situation where users require knowledge to resolve issues relating to accounting.

The Diccionario Inglés-Español de Contabilidad aims to satisfy the needs of translators (primary user group), accountants and financial experts (secondary user group), and students of accountancy, students of translation, journalism and interested laypersons (tertiary user group). It is a polifunctional dictionary that differs from the English and Danish accounting dictionaries in not having incorporated yet functionalities for retrieving dynamic articles with which users can solve their needs in specific use situations (for example, ‘help to understand an accounting term’). These search options, which are already operative in the English and Danish accounting dictionaries, signal the way ahead for e-lexicography, which is mostly concerned with differentiating between an information database and an information tool, upgrading the access process used, and exploring the introduction of Boolean searches, and maximising and minimising searches, to name just a few of the lexicographic characteristics that are being dealt with in state-of-the-art e-lexicography (Fuertes-Olivera & Bergenholtz, 2011).

The Diccionario Inglés-Español de Contabilidad also offers innovative lexicographical solutions in issues such as the selection of equivalents. The decisions taken do not follow the theoretical recommendations and practical applications discussed in an abstract way, usually in connection with explaining the concept of equivalence as linguists and translators do (Adamska-Salaciak, 2010). Instead, the discussion adopts a lexicographical approach that focuses on three principles that should permeate the planning and construction of specialized dictionaries: relevance; proscription; and recreation.

The principle of relevance refers to the quality of being directly connected with the subject field in question, the function(s) of the dictionary, and the user situation in which the dictionary is intended to be used (Fuertes-Olivera & Nielsen, 2011). For example, if the dictionary aims primarily at meeting the needs a user has when translating a text, it is vey important to include a translational equivalent instead of, say, an explanatory equivalent. In this dictionary, users always have one and only one insertable Spanish equivalent, as well as an English definition and synonyms (sometimes) per English lemma. This is a lexicographical solution with which translators are relieved from the suffocation effect they suffer when dictionaries offer several options and paraphrases instead of insertable equivalents.

Proscription refers to the recommendation lexicographers do as a result of their analysis of the several possible options available (Bergenholtz & Gouws, 2010). The proscriptive approach in specialized lexicography is analyzed in connection with the nature of specialized communication, and its interest for having a one-to-one correspondence between a concept and its linguistic representation. In the Diccionario Inglés-Español de Contabilidad this principle informs the selection of terms such as the so-called IAS/IFRS, which are exemplars of equal terms.

Recreation comprises the process of creating a Spanish equivalent whenever we judged necessary, either because there are variations (fluctuation) between competing terms, or because the Spanish existing term(s) were not always insertable as shown in the internal and external subject classification made by the joint efforts of specialists in (Spanish) accounting and lexicographers. This process translated into using English terms as Spanish equivalents (e.g. rating), and resorting to Spanish literal translations, especially of multi-word terms such as business combination involving entities or businesses under common control, whose Spanish equivalent is the Spanish literal translation combinación de negocios entre entidades o negocios bajo control común.


A. Dictionaries

Accounting Dictionaries 2010 = Nielsen, S., L. Mourier and H. Bergenholtz. (2010). Danish Accounting Dictionary; Danish-English Accounting Dictionary; English Accounting Dictionary; English-Danish Accounting Dictionary URL: (Last accessed 20 January 2011)

Diccionario Inglés-Español de Contabilidad 2009 = Nielsen, S., L. Mourier, H. Bergenholtz, P. Fuertes-Olivera, P. Gordo Gómez, M. Niño Amo, Á. de los Ríos Rodicio, A. Sastre Ruano, S. Tarp, M. Velasco Sacristán. 2009. El Diccionario Inglés-Español de Contabilidad In: (Last accessed 20 January 2011).

B. Other Literature

Adamska-Salaciak, A. (2010). “Examining Equivalence”. International Journal of Lexicography 23(4): 387-409.

Bergenholtz, H. & Gouws Rufus H. (2010). “A Functional Approach to the Choice between Descriptive, Prescriptive and Proscriotive Lexicography”. Lexikos 20: 26-51.

Bergenholtz, H. and S. Tarp. 2003. “Two Opposing Theories: On H.E. Wiegand’s Recent Discovery of lexicographic Functions”. Hermes. Journal of Linguistics 31, 171-196.

Bergenholtz, H. and S. Tarp. 2004. “The Concept of Dictionary Usage”. Nordic Journal of English Studies 3, 23-36.

Fuertes-Olivera, Pedro A. & H. Bergenholtz (eds.) (2011). e-Lexicography: The Internet, Digital Initiatives and Lexicography. London & New York: Continuum.

Fuertes-Olivera, Pedro A. & S. Nielsen (2011): “The dynamics of terms in accounting: what the construction of the accounting dictionaries reveals about metaphorical terms in culture-bound subject fields”. In. Rita Temmerman & M. Van Campenhoudt (eds.), The Dynamics of Terms in Specialized Communication. An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Special Issue of Terminology. International Journal of Applied Issues in Specialized Communication 17(1).