Alessandra VICENTINI, Kim GREGO
University of Insubria -
University of Milan
Toward A Dictionary of Bioethics Terms
The project "Ethical, ideological and emotional aspects of
English medical discourse", started in November 2006 by a joint research group
involving the Universities of Milan and Insubria (Varese), will come to an end
in October 2010. As both a result and a development of this four-year
investigation, a new, long-term research project is under way, aimed at
eventually producing a Dictionary of Bioethics Terms.
The above is in light of the recent extensive research
conducted on medical-scientific communication and medical English both as a
research field and as a linguistic tool. An area of investigation not only
proving to be valuable from the viewpoint of academic study, but also from an
applicative stance in those professional and institutional settings where the
doctor-patient relationship is at issue.
In one such context, ethics – intended as that discipline
both providing guidelines for practical behaviour in debated and controversial
issues and allowing users/patients to access basic information about the subject
they wish to learn about in a plain and simple format – plays a pivotal role,
being interwoven as it is with communication, language and linguistic concerns.
In the wake of the latest developments imposed by the
affirmation of the Internet as a reliable source even in the field of scientific
terminology (Medline Plus, NHS A-Z), with a view to dissemination
not only at non-expert level, but also at professional level, this paper intends
to present the background of the research and the plan of the work, laying out
the methodological framework, the corpus and the target user groups.
In particular, the wordlists of already existing dictionaries
on ethics, bioethics and medical ethics will be firstly compared; secondly,
general criteria of selection of potential headwords will be considered, paying
attention to the prospective users and uses of a dictionary of this kind.
In order to establish the degree of acceptance and
representativeness of the lexemes taken into account, the occurrence of some
sample items in a corpus of written English will then be presented and
discussed. Such a corpus is made up of the following digitalised texts:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Code of Medical Ethics,
Declaration of Geneva and Helsinki Declaration – the four pillars of
contemporary (medical) ethics.
It is finally suggested that corpora and IT tools should be
exploited to develop statistically reliable criteria of inclusion or exclusion
for possible ethical terms and to decide on their eligibility for a
Dictionary of Bioethics Terms, in English, addressed to an audience of
potential users from settings varying along both the horizontal
(domain-specific) and the vertical (specialized to non-specialized) axes.
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