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  • Word Formation and Transparency in Medical English ed. by Pius ten Hacken and Renáta Panacová
  • R. W. McConchie (bio)
Word Formation and Transparency in Medical English, edited by Pius ten Hacken and Renáta Panacová. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2015. Pp. x + 209. £47.99. ISBN 978-1-4438-8002-2

This welcome volume is divided into two broad sections, the first dealing with the linguistic notion of transparency and the second with translation into Spanish, Slovak, Turkish, and Polish. This reviewer was struck by the relatively few books and articles listed in the bibliographies that dealt specifically with medical language as language, although there are plenty on morphology more generally, suggesting an under-researched area as Rachel Bryan points out in the expository introduction to her chapter in this volume (13).

The problems posed for translation are a crucial element of this book, although the title does not acknowledge this; a pity, since translation is either mentioned or implied quite often in the first section, as well as being the explicit subject of the second. It would be unfortunate if readers concerned with translation theory and practice overlooked this volume.

Having begun with a discussion of word formation in general, the Introduction outlines the linguistic concepts involved, distinguishing transparency from the related notions of iconicity and motivation. Transparency is central to this volume as it is concerned with reception as hearing and reading rather than with production/utterance or with concepts in isolation.

The first chapter, by Rachel Bryan, deals with the relation between taxonomy and naming, and the demand for comprehensibility, readability and pronounceability which the international medical profession requires. The introduction to this chapter also provides a helpful background to the medical implication of the international naming systems in use, and thus to the rest of the book. There is a clear explanation of the nature and function of INNS, International Non-proprietary Names, and of the peculiarities of this system. There are significant differences between what the medical profession requires and what conventional linguists would suggest or supply. The summary takes a look at these problems, which include a residual terminological ambiguity.

Chapter Two considers variability in psychiatric terminology and its implications for cognition and communication. The author, Pilar [End Page 201] León-Araúz, surveys the complexities of this difficult area, employing the resources of a ten-million-word corpus. Text-type, register, dialect, style and function may all have a relevant influence on potential variants. She finds that the conceptual bases of terminology do not always accord with the requirements imposed by users, both within and between languages. Translators would benefit from more research and increased background knowledge.

The naming devices in the highly specialised area of middle-ear surgery are the subject of Chapter Three, by Pius ten Hacken. The basis of this study is a handbook of middle-ear surgery published in 2011, which is described at length in the opening pages. Ten Hacken discusses the kinds of stem involved in these terms at length; they are largely compounds, the neoclassical kind consisting mainly of the N + N form. Some terms remain opaque, especially those based on proper names, and the roles of both domain knowledge and context may be considerable. Although domain knowledge assists specialist readers, the other group most likely to use such a text, translators, are likely to encounter difficulties.

Chapter Four, by Renáta Panocová, deals with transparency and neoclassical word formation in comparison to other forms of medical neologism, including neologisms in English, abbreviations, eponyms and descriptive phrases, concluding that neoclassical forms tend to be more transparent than English words as a result of the long-established familiarity of such forms and their relative lack of ambiguity.

The second section of the book opens with Chapter Five on transparency in compounds in medical English and the problems this creates for translation into Spanish and Slovak, by Nina Patton, María Fernández Parra and Rocío Pérez Tattam. The basic difficulty is that the freedom with which English forms compounds is not matched by Spanish or Slovak, in which the translator will need to know the most appropriate equivalent structure. The...


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