Publication details [#11290]

Weitzenfeld, Julian, Tom Riedl, Charles Chubb and Tared Freeman. 1992. The use of cross-domain language by expert software developers. Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso 7 (3-4) : 185–195. 11 pp.
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Article in journal
Publication language


The language and thought of expert software developers is permeated by characteristic terminology that crosses domains of reference, but there are interesting questions about whether these usages are metaphoric. The observations we report here were made during a study of the expertise of software engineers, conducted as part of a project to develop training in how to debug large software systems (Riedl, Weitzenfeld, Freeman, Klein, and Musa, 1991; Weitzenfeld, Riedl, Freeman, Klein, and Musa, 1991). Certain seeming metaphors were so salient in our informants' speech that they featured prominently in the resulting course. We begin this article with some thoughts about what is properly included in the category of metaphor. Despite the colorful cross-domain use of language by our informants, we are not comfortable calling all of this usage "metaphoric." We set forth our reservations at the outset because they shed some light on the special character of cross-domain language in the information processing domain. Next we review the design of the debugging study, which provided most of our observations about cross-domain language used by expert software developers. After summarizing the dominant cross-domain terminology, we present a few more quotations and comment on them in depth. Our conclusion revisits the question of whether they are metaphors or something unique to the field of software development. (Julian Weitzenfeld, Tom Riedl, Charles Chubb, and Tared Freeman)