Dictionary of Earth Sciences/Dictionnaire des Sciences de la Terre - English-French and French-English. 346 pages, John WiIey & Sons/Masson, 1997, 3rd Edition. ISBN 0471-96603-7
by David Fry
This, the third edition of a dictionary originally compiled by Jean-Pierre
Michel of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI), with Rhodes
W. Fairbridge of Columbia University, New York as associate editor, is an
update of the second edition, considerably supplemented by J.-P. Michel,
"especially in the environmental sciences (protection, pollution, storage
of wastes), meteorology and petrology". The Preface states that the entries
have been completely revised and validated by Dr. M. S. N. Carpenter, "a
professional translator with a D. Phil. in Geology from Oxford University,
who is also a Language tutor for science students at Rennes I University,
France". The revision is said to have included the substitution "of preferred
usage or terminology in the place of entries originally proposed by Prof.
Fairbridge or J.-P. Michel" and the provision of additional "terminological
information, partly as a result of corrections to the English-French part".
The second edition, unfortunately not to hand for comparison, was stated in its preface (reproduced in the prefatory matter) to have quoted "the majority of the terms mentioned in the Dictionnaire de Géologie, by A. Foucault and J.-F. Raoult... apart from the names of certain paleontologîcal species and minor tectonic events. On the other hand, many not specîfically geological terms have been suppressed". It has to be assumed that this new edition incorporates the bulk of the second edition with additions (no reference is made to further deletions).
Somewhat surprisingly, the approximate number of terms is not stated, but it can be deduced from the prefaces to the first two editions that the English-French part contains in excess of 28,000 terms and the French-English part in excess of 18,000 (respectively 205 pp and 120 pp. An end note to the volume gives the useful information that "during the different phases of revision of this third edition, the terms were checked against records in a data-base (GEOBASE) developed by
Dr M. S. N. Carpenter that is available from the European Language Resources Association - Distribution Agency, 87, avenue d'Italie, 75013 Paris"
There is also acknowledgement of the use made of terminological publications of the CILF - issues of the Banques des Mots series covering landslides, seismology, erosion, transportation and sedimentation, polymetallic nodules, and tectonics, the vocabularies on hydrology and meteorology and on geomorphology and the Dictionnaire de l'Environnement.
The dictionary is claimed, with some justification, to be "...a language resource for authors and translators alike, also offering a reliable tool for communication at scientific meetings and congresses." The prefatory matter includes a short but useful section in English and French - Suggestions for Translators/Suggestions aux traducteurs, followed by a Dated Geological Time Scale - that of G.-S. and C. 0din. Also included as end notes is an alphabetical listing of Anglo-American scientific abbreviations, with their English expansions and a French translation or gloss, for -example CRM - chemical remanent magnetization - magnétisme chimique rémanent, RR - rerun - redescente d'un outil dans le puits, -and a short table of unit conversion.
The imbalance of size between the English-French and French-English parts does not necessarily mean that the dictionary is of less use -to the translator working into English, given that English has probably contributed more than any other language to the terminology of the Earth Sciences. What is a little disturbing is that synonyms or near matches do not always turn up when checked out in the other language. For example, slime and slimy in the English-French are given as limon-limoneux, vase-vaseux and boue-boueux, but limon-limoneux in reverse gives loam-loamy, silt-silty, vase- gives mud, ooze, slime, vaseux gives muddy, silty.
The Earth Sciences are, of course, a large area for a smallish dictionary but a good balance would seem to have been maintained between the academic and the applied aspects, and between geology, geochemistry, geophysics, glaciology, mineralogy, oceanography, palaeontology, pedology, seismology, tectonics and volcanology. This simple listing of subject matter suffices to indicate that much has inevitably had to be left out. Suffice it to recall that the Encyclopedia of Earth Science, of which Professor Fairbridge was the general editor, is in 16 volumes. Sampling of the content suggests that the coverage of meteorology is more skimpy than might be desired and that the environmentalist would do well also to invest in monolingual environmental dictionaries in English and French. In general, however, the terminology given is excellent and - misprints are happily rare (standart was spotted twice for standard and strenght for strength).
In the English-French part the actual arrangement of the terms is somewhat puzzling in places. As an example, the term "drift", which has different meanings in mining, in glacial transport, in coastal development and so on, has 23 entries keyed under drift considered both as an adjective and a noun, but others appear or are duplicated elsewhere and keyed on a preceding adjective - "dumb drift", "shore drift", "longshore drift". Care therefore has to be taken to cross check in order to make best use of the dictionary. Also, some terms could undoubtedly profit from extra detail. In the French-English part, for example, the term "naledj" has the entry naledi (Yukon, Sibérie) n.m. icing and it is only in the English-French part that we find «formation de lentilles de glace superficielle dans les plaines alluviales inondées (Alaska)", which is accurate, but only a part of the story. The term is Russian (naled, pl.. naledi) and "naledi" and "aufeis", both of which have been used as neologisms by geologists writing in English, could usefully have been added after "icing".
Despite the above, fairly minor criticisms, this is a work that inspires confidence. In those fields in which I have worked as a translator over the last 35 years, which have included coal mining, metallogeny, coastal development, palaeontology, seismology and volcanology, I find it admirable and confidently expect to use it as a dictionary of first resort.
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