Corpus planning measures: Terminology planning

Terminology planning on a broader scale began after the Second World War. In 1952, first initiatives were taken by the Academy of Sciences, and in 1954 a Committee for French technical terms was founded with government support (Humbley 1997: 263). The Haut Comite pour la defense et I’expansion de la langue frangaise, reporting directly to the Prime Minister, was founded in 1966 (Depecker 2001: 21), and four years later the then Prime Minister set up a system of terminology committees in different branches of the administration (the so-called commissions ministerielles de terminologie). A decree of 1972 instructed them to publish their decisions in official form (arretes terminologiques; Depecker 2001: 26-27). The Loi Bas-Lauriol of 1975 had relatively little effect in this area for the reasons outlined above, and because the majority of prosecutions under it were concerned with language status questions (e.g., whole texts written in English) rather than with specific terms (Humbley 1997: 264).

Subsequently, the Constitutional Council’s weakening of the Loi Toubon resulted in a partial reversal of the previous policy on loanwords, in that it made officially approved terms obligatory only for public organizations. Elsewhere, the state could resort only to persuasive measures and to setting examples. It is, however, not the case that the obligation to use French was overturned; the problem now is to determine whether or not an expression is to be deemed “French”. This question has to be settled by the courts on a case-by-case basis, so that there is now a degree of legal uncertainty (Gaudin 2003: 190-193, 195). Terminology development and publication continues in specialized state committees, although it is now organized slightly differently. A general committee (Commission generale de terminologie et de neologie) coordinates the planning activities of specialized committees within the different ministries, as well as discussing their proposals with the Academie frangaise and the responsible minister. Finally, approved terms and neologisms are published in both the Journal officiel and the general committee’s yearly reports (Humbley 1997: 265; Delegation generale a la langue frangaise et aux langues de France 2013: VIII).

The terminological committees’ working practices under the provisions of the Loi Bas-Lauriol (before 1994) are described in Humbley (1997) and more extensively in Depecker (2001), which includes comprehensive information on the committees, their fields of activity, the term lists produced and the terms themselves. Their approach can be characterized as terminologie ponctuelle, or ad hoc terminology work, like that done in Quebec (cf. Section 3.2.2, also Humbley 1997: 265). The present committees’ practices are also described in the general committee’s reports (Delegation generale a la langue frangaise et aux langues de France 2013).

Like many other fields of activity, economics and business has its own terminology committee (Depecker 2001:112-146; Delegation generate a la langue frangaise et aux langues de France 2013: V). A fairly recent list of officially approved neologisms in this domain was published by the Commission generale de terminologie et de neologie (2012). Under the auspices of the Delegation generale, an association known as Actions pour promouvoir le frangais des affaires promotes French terminology, awards prizes (such as the Mot d’Or) to neologisms it considers particularly well- chosen and so on.

Some neologisms have been successful (see, e.g., the list in Depecker 2001: 493494), while others have not. Mercatique (marketing), although officially recommended since 1987, has been much disputed and does not appear to have caught on (Depecker 2001:135, 472, 494; cf. also Rochard 2004:188-189; see also Section 4); for example, it is almost absent from a corpus of the journal Revue Frangaise du Marketing covering the years 1960-2009 (Goke 2009:159). Yet mercatique still serves as the basis of new proposals such as the officially recommended neologism neuromercatique for neuromarketing (Delegation generale a la langue frangaise et aux langues de France 2013: XXXI-XXXII: cf. also recommended collocations with mercatique [Commission generale de terminologie et de neologie 2012: 161-168]). Among all those fields for which officially recommended neologisms exist, most authors single out information processing as one where puristic neologizing has been particularly successful (Depecker 2001: 541; Humbley 1997: 90-92). According to Humbley this is due, inter alia, to major manufacturing companies’ becoming actively involved in the process.

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