Sign models in terminology: tendencies and functions.

  • Johan Myking University of Bergen


The aim and scope of this paper is to assess some aspects of Wüster's work on signs and the influence of his works on terminological semiotics. The discussion deals with two aspects: • The sign typologies (classifications) of terminology, and • The conception of the linguistic sign within terminology I wish to outline some developments and the state-of-the-art in the way signs are conceived within terminology, as well as some answers to the fundamental question of what there is to gain from sign models. The sign typologies proposed by Wüster, Schröder, Budin and Järvi are reviewed. The sign models used by terminologists are then discussed according to the number of important parameters represented in the models, whether binary (Saussure), triadic (Ogden/Richards) or four-field (Wüster). Further developments of Wüster’s model are then assessed, the models proposed by Weissenhofer, Gerzymisch- Arbogast and Oeser. Several shortcomings and criticism are reviewed and discussed, with reference to the philosophical, semiotic and linguistic levels. Implications for practical work are outlined, and a progression from behaviorism towards constructivism, contextual aspects and dynamism is identified. It is suggested that all models be assessed according to their usefulness and fruitfulness for applied purposes. Finally, I suggest that Wüster's sign may fruitfully contribute to providing a theory of representations. The Post-Wüster sign models illustrate a current tendency of "re-thinking" and re-establishing terminology as a linguistic discipline.