Latin-based terms: True or false friends?

Karen Korning Zethsen
Århus School of Business, Denmark

The concept of complete equivalence is highly questionable, yet it is still relied on, for all practical purposes, in connection with the translation of Latin-based medical terms. This practice is potentially harmful, a case in point being the translation of medical texts for laymen from English into Danish. Contrary to Danish (and German and other Scandinavian languages), everyday English (and French) avails itself of numerous Latin-based medical terms, as no non-specialized alternative exists. When these terms are directly transferred under the assumption of complete equivalence, the level of formality is drastically raised. Increased awareness of the potential danger to communication posed by Latin-based terms in texts meant for lay audiences in Scandinavia and Germany is therefore desirable.

Table of contents

Of such deep learning little had he need, Ne yet of Latin, ne of Greek that breed Doubts ’mongst Divines, and difference of texts.

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