Łucja Biel

Łucja Biel is an Associate Professor of Linguistics and Translation Studies and Head of EUMultiLingua research group in the Institute of Applied Linguistics, University of Warsaw, Poland.

She is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Specialised Translation and secretary of Council of Editors of Translation and Interpreting Studies for Open Science.

She has published extensively on legal translation and terminology, translator training and corpus linguistics. For more details see

She is also a sworn translator with over 25 years of professional experience.

Rethinking Terminology: What can EU legal terms tell us about terms?

Terms are crucial components of special languages (ISO 2019) — they are units of language, knowledge and communication (Cabré Castellví 1999). As a frequent source of difficulty in translation and post-editing, they are naturally of interest to translation scholars. Recent years have shown increased interest in terminology fuelled by major theoretical and methodological developments in the field of terminology itself. On the theoretical side, terminology has diversified considerably, embracing cognitive, communicative and social aspects of the use of terms (Faber and Homme 2022). On the methodological side, the advent of corpus linguistics and other tools has facilitated term extraction and analysis with an unprecedented scale as well as has led to questioning how we research terms and what we regard as terms. 

The talk will explore the second aspect — that is various perspectives on terms and their ‘termness’. I will present how the existing research enhances our understanding of terminological units (Biel and Kockaert 2023). It will be supplemented with the findings of my project Termness of terms: Anatomy of legal terms, based on extensive empirical material of EU and legal terminology (defined terms extracted from EU, UK and Irish legal acts and IATE datasets). The project focuses on functional aspects of linguistic form by analysing the complexity of terms through the prism of non-specialist users’ communicative experience in monolingual and multilingual contexts. The analysis covers the complexity of terms in respect of length and constituents, their categorization into parts of speech and patterns, thematic categorization, frequency and repetition of constituents, a local grammar of terms and other features which affect the communicative potential of terms and their perceived difficulty. The empirical data on EU/legal terminology illuminate the very essence of ‘termness’, shedding light on the complexity of terms and its impact on effective communication among experts and between experts and lay persons.


  • Biel, Łucja, and Hendrik J. Kockaert, eds. 2023. The Handbook of Legal Terminology. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Cabré Castellví, M. Teresa. 1999. Terminology: Theory, methods and applications. Edited by Juan C. Sager. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Faber, Pamela, and Marie-Claude Homme, eds. 2022. Theoretical Perspectives on Terminology: Explaining terms, concepts and specialized knowledge. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • ISO. 2019. ISO 1087:2019 Terminology work and terminology science - Vocabulary. Geneva: International Standardization Organization.