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Le Statut linguistique du sigle. Étude du sigle dans les textes législatifs communautaires
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of French, Italian and Classical Languages.
1998 (French)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study examines the use of initialisms ("sigles") in a European Community law corpus consisting of the Maastricht Treaty and thirty-eight issues of the Official Journal (300,000 running words). A total of 156 initialisms with over 2,800 occurrences have been excerpted and recorded in a database. The general aim of the study is to investigate the linguistic status of the initialism, which is a sign with a double nature -an abbreviation of a word group and at the same time a lexical unit in itself.

Initialisms form a heterogeneous group. They are either common or proper nouns referring to nine different semantic categories altogether (organizations dominate, with 58 %), and two fifths are loans, i.e. of foreign origin. The large proportion of hapax legomena (42 %) shows that initialisms are lexical units rather than abbreviations of a frequent word group.

For one and the same meaning, there are two forms - the initialism and its source. A comparison of the importance of source length versus source frequency shows that source length is a more determining factor in the abbreviating process. This is also confirmed by the considerable number of hapax legomena.

An initialism has a semantic binding to its source, but it becomes a completely independent unit when the underlying source is unknown (laser, radar, Fiat, etc.). This dependency is investigated in a context study of how the two forms interact. Typically, the initialism is first deciphered via its source, then used by itself. An interesting finding is the group where the initialism and its source alternate. In such instances, they both are frequent, and the usage of the initialism emphasizes its abbreviating function.

Initialisms are used like any other noun in a given context. In addition, the initialism is a particularly manageable unit: for example, it can easily be attached to a noun (cf. société CE and société communautaire). A study of initialisms in the nominal group [Noun + Initialism] shows that they have three functions: to identify (la banque de données TED), to classify (un client OEM) and to complement (les communications COREU) the noun.

The context studies reveal that the initialism acts like an independent lexical unit in context even when it has a strong semantic binding to its source. This could help explain the instances where the initialism has an uncertain linguistic status, appearing more like a temporary abbreviation of a word group than as an established lexical unit.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska , 1998. , 172 p.
Forskningsrapporter / Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska: cahiers de la recherche, ISSN 1654-1294 ; 7
Keyword [en]
acronym, corpus linguistics, EEC, epithet, European Community law, initialism, lexicology, morphology, quantitative linguistics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-9255OAI: diva2:175774
Public defence
1998-12-18, Hörsal 7, hus D, Södra huset, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2009-02-27 Created: 2007-11-21 Last updated: 2009-12-16Bibliographically approved

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