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

[Abstract:] Ndinga-Koumba-Binza, H.S.: Compilation of an English-French Dictionary of Phonetic Sciences: An Ongoing Project

This paper gives an account of a research project which is concerned with the compilation of a bilingual English-French dictionary of phonetic sciences. The paper aims to gather inputs from experts of different fields that could be drawn in. The research proposal is drawn from various discussions and the experience the author has had at the Centre for Lexicography (CentLex) at the Aarhus School of Business in Aarhus, Denmark.

Bilingual or multilingual specialized lexicography has often been neglected. However, it is acknowledged that CentLex has significantly contributed with cutting-edge specialized lexicography research and the production of specific-domain dictionaries (cf. Bergenholtz & Tarp, 1995; Bergenholtz, Nielsen & Tarp, 2009; Fuertes-Olivera, 2010).

In the African context, also very few experiences of specialized lexicography exist. One may quote Carstens (1997) about the planning of a multilingual explanatory dictionary of chemistry for South African students, Carstens (1998) on the science terminologisation in Sepedi, and the compilation of the Shona-English biomedical dictionary (Mpofu & Mangoya, 2005). These three projects have the following chararcteristics in common: they are concerned with natural science and they involve African languages of the Bantu phylum.

In addition, it can be noticed that language sciences (or phonetics in this case) are barely the topic of specialized lexicography research projects. Nevertheless, the development of new technologies has had an important impact on language sound studies. Phonetic sciences have, in fact, experienced a fast-growing expansion within an interconnection with other research disciplines and technologies. The outcome of this development within the discipline itself has been not only the creation of many sub-disciplines, but mainly the creation of various new terminologies, lexicons and jargons.

It is also a fact that this development is mainly experienced in the English language. It is indeed often acknowledged that countries of other languages, especially, French-speaking African countries, are most of the time outdated as far as technologies are concerned. This is particularly the case in the field of phonetics.

As a trained phonetician and a French mother-tongue speaker with research experience in both French-speaking and English-speaking countries, the author has been aware of the serious lack of relevant and/or exact terminologies in the French language as far as new phonetic advances are concerned. Experience also shows an variety of French terms of the same meaning when individual attempts are made to translate the new English terms of phonetics. Thus, a standard translation dictionary is needed in the field of phonetic sciences as far as the direction English-French is concerned.

Furthermore, while many dictionaries and encyclopedias of phonetics (or containing large articles on any phonetic science) exist in English (e.g. Crystal, 2003; Brown, 2006; Smelser & Baltes, 2001), these are hard to be found in French. The existing dictionaries in French are most often very general and articles on phonetic sciences are among the less developed (e.g. Dubois, 1994; Ducrot & Schaeffer, 1995). Eventually, an English-French dictionary of phonetic sciences is likely to be the first of its kind in the field study of language sounds.

It should also be noted that the concept of “phonetic sciences” is herein understood as it is conveyed within the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, i.e. a broad meaning that includes not only the various sub-fields of phonetics but also related disciplines such as phonology, audiology, sound acquisition, speech synthesis and speech recognition.

The main aim of the project is to provide standard translation dictionary of phonetic sciences. The planned dictionary should serve as a tool that would help in developing phonetics and enhancing language technologies in various French-speaking countries. The purpose of the planned dictionary is to address two types of differences in terminology, i.e. the differences between English and French in phonetic sciences, and the differences within the French language where the planned dictionary will also serve as a tool for the standardization of sound studies terms.

This paper comes within the conceptualization plan for the intended dictionary compilation. The discussion will broadly cover the salient aspects of the planned dictionary, including:

(i) the theoretical and methodological approach used in the research project,

(ii) the data collection and the lemma selection

(iii) the functions and the structures of the planned dictionary,

The paper concludes on the importance of translation specialised dictionary for knowledge dissemination in various languages and cultures.


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