Jan 18, 2012

A NIFTY method for legal terminology

Practical corpus linguistics has been a personal interest of mine for a long time, as it constitutes one of the best methods for developing specific domain terminologies in an efficient manner. Since I first laid hands on "Working with Specialized Language: A practical guide to using corpora" by Lynne Bowker and Jennifer Pearson (ISBN 0-415-23699-1) I have enjoyed great benefits from this approach. So when a discussion thread on a private translators' site mentioned a follow-up to a talk last autumn on legal corpus utilization for terminology research, my attention was drawn to it immediately. The information is reproduced here in slightly modified form with the permission of the person in charge of the project. The blog mentioned in the text is worth a look as well.
Dear fellow translator,

At the Lisbon Tradulinguas conference in October, I ran a workshop on terminology, presenting a methodology that I am testing - called NIFTY - which applies to all language pairs. This message is addressed to people who attended the workshop, those who tried out the method using the conference CD, or  anyone who would like to try it out now.

I would really appreciate any feedback that you can give me - it's really important for my project to have input from professional legal translators - this is NOT an ivory tower experiment! Of course no names will be cited in any reports of the results - participants will remain anonymous.

If you could spare a few minutes, there are two alternatives:

1) I have set up simple online forms that are really fast to complete.

First you just complete some basic questions about your profile (it can be anonymous - just use a false name if you prefer) - this helps me to understand what sort of translators find the process useful or not.

Then I will send you by return a participant code, which will give you access to these two short forms:

About compiling the NIFTY corpus:
About using the NIFTY corpus:
2) You can give me your feedback by email in extended text form.

Of course I am here to help if you need any assistance or advice on using the NIFTY tools.

Lastly, if you are interested, I have launched a blog since the conference, where I post tools, resources and news that might be of interest to legal translators: http://wordstodeeds.com

Thank you for taking the time to read this message.

Kind regards
Juliette Scott

N.B. The survey platform is fully compliant with the US-EU Safe Harbor Framework as set forth by the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the collection, use, and retention of personal information from European Union member countries.

The PhD project itself has been reviewed by the University of Portsmouth Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee.
Filling out the initial form indicating interest is a relatively painless process; it took about 5 or 10 minutes of my time. I am curious to see how her methods differ from my current practice and what I can learn here.


  1. Thanks for the tip on 'Working with Specialized Language: A practical guide to using corpora.' I just ordered it from Amazon.


  2. You'll like the book, Michael. Very down-to-earth and accessible to mere mortals. I like it far more than the more "sophisticated" academic texts on my shelf.

    I've started working through Juliette's material. The introduction video she did is a beautifully simple, clear explanation of basic principles and terms, and after watching it a few things that I thought I knew were understood much better. It also dawned on me after a bit that, while her approach is similar in many ways to what I have done for some time in source language research, she focuses on the target language. This has pretty powerful implications for someone working to master a new specialty. I had never really thought about this much before, because I mostly translate in domains I know very well because I have worked in them at some point as a researcher, etc. and I'm not much bothered about searching for collocations and the like.

    Her research project involves legal translators. But her methodology applies very well to any specialist domain. And I do see value in it for my usual specialties (including two legal areas), because it is a more efficient way of performing certain kinds of language checks. I've just been so focused on source language that this took a while to sink in.

    She does make one statement which isn't quite accurate, however. She comments that all tools currently available for corpus research work only with ordinary text files. The LiveDocs module of memoQ is an exception to this, but then it currently does not offer all the possibilities she demonstrates with the free tool AntConc. (It does other things, however.)

  3. I just got my download link for the NIFTY material. I'm curious!

    Incidentally, tlCorpus (http://tshwanedje.com/corpus/) is another corpus tool that can handle other formats: namely .doc, .docx and .html. No .pdf yet though! I only have the demo so far, but it seems that it also integrates well with tlTerm, which is my current main terminology tool. I have (temporarily?) given up on memoQ's built-in term base editor. My memoQ term bases became such a mess at some point that I decided to start all over again using tlTerm.

    Thanks for reminding me about LiveDocs, I had somehow completely forgotten about it!

  4. Hi Kevin,

    Just thought I should mention that after I emailed the developer of tlCorpus about its inability to import PDFs, he actually added it. So tlCorpus (Windows only at the moment) now handles PDFS!


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