English as a language of science and the consequences for Nordic terminology

Hultgren, Anna Kristina (2012). English as a language of science and the consequences for Nordic terminology. In: 11th Nordic Conference on Bilingualism, 14-16 Jun 2012, Danish School of Education, Copenhagen.

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Abstract

The emergence of English as an international language of science has raised concerns in the Nordic countries about the status of the national Nordic languages and about the consequences for teaching and learning. A key concern relates to the idea that the national languages will fail to develop adequate scientific terminology. Little systematic knowledge exists, however, about the extent to which the national languages in the Nordic countries (Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Finnish) actually lack equivalents of English scientific terms. The proposed paper contributes to filling this gap by reporting on a purpose-designed study which asks five researchers working within each of the three disciplines Chemistry, Physics and Computer Science in each of the five Nordic countries to state the local equivalents of 25 discipline-specific English terms. The English terms have been selected to reflect cutting-edge scientific developments, and have been extracted using a corpus analytic method from all abstracts published in the ten highest ranking journals within each discipline in the past two years. The overall objective is to examine whether Nordic terms exist and the degree to which they are established (operationalized as ‘intra-country agreement on local terms’). Theoretically, the study will discuss the need for - as well as the challenges involved in - devising language policies in higher education. Practically, it may provide empirical knowledge to inform the ongoing and impassionate debate about bilingual practices in higher education in the Nordic countries.

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