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les langues de la médecine: collection of essays on the state of the world’s most widely spoken languages of medicine

les langues de la médecine: collection of essays on the state of the world’s most widely spoken languages of medicine

Les langues de la médecine. Analyse comparative interlingue

Edited by PASCALINE FAURE, Sorbonne University

2021, Peter Lang, Éditions scientifiques internationales


This compilation of essays takes a fresh look at the state of the world’s most widely spoken languages of medicine.
Personally, I was honored to contribute the chapter on medical German, the table of contents of which is shown below.

In the article, I try to trace the history of the language of medicine in German from the days when it barely existed to the present—when it is in danger of being replaced by a language that only few Europeans speak eloquently enough to compete with those who call it their native tongue, i.e., English.

In the middles ages, a German language of medicine did not yet exist. On the verge of the Renaissance, scientists started to go to great lengths to develop German for medical uses. While all Western languages of medicine harbor a common, historically grown Greco-Latin core, they have also developed in culturally idiosyncratic ways. This article summarizes some of these idiosyncrasies of German for medical purposes at the word, phrase, and text levels and highlights the role native languages play in the process of knowledge formation.


Medical German
1 PRELUDE: Language and culture

1.1 Ancient Greece—separation of medicine from the supernatural
1.2 Loss and recovery of Greek medicine in the West
1.3 Renaissance and the nationalization of the language of science
1.4 Towards German as a language of science—a long and windy road
1.5 Classical age of German philosophy
1.6 German, the language of the enemy

2. INTERLUDE: German for medical purposes

2.1 Nomenclatures—bringing order to complexity
2.2 Clinical terminology—and its disregard of rules
2.2.1 The same—yet different
2.2.2 Greco-Latin versus vernacular terms—which to use when?
2.2.3 Terms from common speech
2.2.4 Traces of Arabic, Hebrew, and French in medical German …
2.2.5 … and footprints of German in medical English
2.2.6 Eponyms: Vivid reminders of the good—and the ugly
2.2.7 Medical abbreviations
2.3 Beyond terminologies
2.3.1 Adjectival phraseologisms
2.3.2 Few verbs—lots of nouns

3 FINALE: Language and culture

3.1 Anglicisms in German
3.2 Increase in English-language publications
3.3 Native language—a prerequisite for creative thinking?
3.4 Use of English in exclusively German-speaking environments

4 Concluding remarks

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