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Multilingual Demographic Dictionary, second unified edition, English volume

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Multilingual Demographic Dictionary, second unified edition, English vol.
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(Preface of the unified second edition: Thanking Stan and other contributors.)
(Preface of the unified second edition: October 2018)
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Finally, I would like to thank the French National Committee that I had the honor to preside until January 2012 and all members of the three successive bureaus for their help in starting and conducting the Demopædia project since 2005. Websites demand light but continuous support, in our case provided by INED which hosts the server. In 20012, IUSSP created an interest grouping so that the Demopædia project could take an international dimension.
Finally, I would like to thank the French National Committee that I had the honor to preside until January 2012 and all members of the three successive bureaus for their help in starting and conducting the Demopædia project since 2005. Websites demand light but continuous support, in our case provided by INED which hosts the server. In 20012, IUSSP created an interest grouping so that the Demopædia project could take an international dimension.
Nicolas Brouard<br />Director of research at INED<br />Coordinator of the IUSSP Demopædia project<br />July 2013
Nicolas Brouard<br />Director of research at INED<br />Coordinator of the IUSSP Demopædia project<br />October 2018

Revision as of 08:50, 3 June 2019

Preface of the first edition (1958)

At its fourth session the Population Commission of the United Nations requested the Secretary-General to include the preparation of a multilingual demographic dictionary in the Secretariat's work programme. Several months later the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, at its General Assembly in Geneva, offered to collaborate with the United Nations in this project and set up a sub-committee to prepare a plan of work. At the fifth session of the Population Commission the Secretary-General was asked to accept the Union's offer, and the Dictionary Committee was given the task of drafting versions of the dictionary in English, French and Spanish.

The primary purpose of the dictionary is to serve as a useful tool for technical translation. It consists of separate sections, each of which presents in one language the technical terms used in demography; the text is followed by an alphabetical index of terms. The texts in, the various languages correspond to one another, and equivalent terms in different languages have the same reference number so that it is possible to identify them in the different volumes. The Committee entrusted with the task of preparing the three initial volumes consisted of:

  • Paul E. Vincent (France) (Chairman and Rapporteur);
  • Carlos E. Dieulefait (Argentina);
  • Harold F. Dorn (U.S.A.);
  • Eugene Grebenik (United Kingdom);
  • Pierpaolo Luzzatto-Fegiz (Italy);
  • Marcelino Pascua (Switzerland);
  • Jose Ros Jimeno (Spain).

The first draft consisted of a basic French text which was prepared in the Institut national d'études demographiques in France under the general supervision of M. Vincent. This text was translated into English and Spanish by Messrs. Grebenik and Ros Jimeno respectively. The draft bad to be completed somewhat hurriedly in view of the approach of the World Population Conference, at which participants received a provisional edition, dated June 1954, published by the United Nations. The dissemination of this provisional edition made it possible for a number of experts to comment critically on the draft and gave the Committee an opportunity to take account of the comments received. Some of the imperfections of the first draft were due to the fact that the basic text had been prepared in a single language only—French. It was clear that considerable differences existed between the terminologies in English and in the Romance languages, and that a compromise between different conceptions was essential. It was further realized that a mere list of equivalences was not sufficient but that definitions of terms would have to be included in the text, so that translators might have the opportunity of noting differences in usage between different languages. The Committee recommended accordingly and, the recommendation having been approved by the Union, Mr. Grebenik was requested to prepare a new text in English, making use of the basic French text. Mr. Grebenik's new text was then revised in collaboration with M. Vincent, and a second draft produced in English and French, which was used by Sr. Ros Jimeno in preparing the Spanish version. The three drafts wrere then submitted for approval to the Dictionary Committee, the Council of the Union and a number of experts, with a view to producing a final edition.

In publishing the English, French and Spanish sections of the Multilingual Demographic Dictionary it is necessary to emphasize certain points. Firstly, the dictionary is the result of collaboration, not only between the three principal editors, but also on the part of all members of the Committee. The final version owes much to the recommendations made by a number of demographers who read various versions of the draft and commented on them, frequently in great detail. Most of their comments were accepted either in whole or in part. Some other comments the editors—perhaps mistakenly—felt unable to accept.

The editors were frequently faced with difficult problems of choice between a number of possible formulations. The nature of the dictionary, however, makes it impossible to give a detailed justification for using one version, rather than another. Final responsibility for choice rests on each of the principal editors, in this English section, Mr. Eugene Grebenik. At the same time the editors were not free to prepare a text entirely according to their own wishes. The necessity to produce parallel texts in different languages and the desire to take into consideration the comments that were made, have frequently led them to include certain expressions or definitions which they would have preferred to formulate differently had they been entirely free agents. Nevertheless, they agreed to accept responsibility for the text as it stands.

It must also be stressed that this dictionary does not pretend to be a treatise on demography. In preparing the text the fundamental aim has always been that it should serve as an aid to technical translation, and it was therefore necessary to consider the terminology of various languages in order to make the dictionary truly multilingual. Languages differ in their structure, and demographic terminology depends, moreover, not only on the language but on the development of demographic research in various countries, so that it is sometimes illogical and at variance with the requirements of science. Occasionally, terms in different languages are not wholly equivalent. In one language there may exist a profusion of terms referring to a particular subject which in another is practically neglected. In the text, notes to the different paragraphs have been used in an attempt to reduce as far as possible the inconveniences arising from these difficulties. Had the aim been to produce a set of definitions in one language, without taking account of the others, the result would have been very different. This preoccupation also accounts for a certain imbalance in the contents. It has seemed useful in certain cases to include in the dictionary terms which are not properly demographic but are frequently encountered in demographic literature and do not always appear in general dictionaries, thus causing difficulties to translators who are not expert in the subject. In considering the needs of translators the Committee has been led to adopt the principle that no opinions should be expressed on particular usages, and no recommendations made unless there was a general consensus of opinion that a particular nomenclature was undesirable. The dictionary is therefore not normative. It does not lay down new definitions. Where definitions are included, their main purpose is to establish terminological equivalences and to make them more accurate. The necessity for extreme conciseness in these definitions has occasionally led to a certain lack of precision. Standardization of definitions requires studies of a different kind. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, a list of recent documents published by various international organizations concerned with the definition of various demographic concepts is given at the end of the alphabetical index. The reader will have to consult these studies when he has to solve a problem connected with definition rather than translation.

The purpose of the dictionary will be better served if it is extended to other languages. Some sections in other languages have already been planned, or are in draft. Moreover, the Population Commission at its ninth session requested the Secretariat to study the possibility of preparing a Russian section of the dictionary. Experience will show whether the compromise that has been reached between the English and Romance languages can be extended to other Germanic and Slavonic languages as well as to those outside the Indo-European group.

Preface of the second edition (1982)

The Population Commission of the United Nations in its fourth session requested the UN Secretariat to include the preparation of a multilingual demographic dictionary in its work programme. The Union offered to collaborate in this project, and at the end of the fifth session of the Population Commission an ad hoc Committee* was given the task of drafting a multilingual demographic dictionary in English, French and Spanish.

Notwithstanding its great complexity, this work was successfully completed and the French and English volumes were published in 1958. Other versions appeared later: Spanish (1959), Italian (1959), German (1960), Finnish (1964), Russian (1964), Czech (1965), Polish (1966), Swedish (1969), Portuguese (1969), Arabic (1970) and Serbo-Croatian (1971).

At its fifteenth session, held in Geneva in November 1969, the Population Commission of the United Nations adopted a recommendation suggesting that the U.N. Secretary-General should collaborate closely with the Union in carrying out projects of mutual interest, such as the preparation of a multilingual dictionary of demographic terms.

At a previous meeting in Liege in April 1969, the Council of the Union noted with great satisfaction that the dictionary had, in every respect, come up to the expectations of demographers all over the world; the Council felt, however, that the time had come to bring the dictionary up to date, in view of the profound changes which had affected the science of demography during the decade following its publication.

A new Committee** was therefore set up, and thanks to the generous financial aid granted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, work on the project was started in 1972 and completed in 1974.

The Committee's field of action was not limited to its members, since a hundred or so demographic centres responded to its appeal by giving their comments on the drafts submitted to them, In this way, an immense documentation was collected which dealt not only with the definitions of demographic terms and concepts, but also with the arrangement of the book. All this was placed at the disposal of Professor Louis Henry, to whom in 1976 the Union entrusted the task of editing the final version of the second French edition of the demographic multilingual dictionary. Thus the new text prepared by Louis Henry is a synthesis of the one edited by the late regretted Paul Vincent for the first edition of the French version, and the texts prepared by the Committee on International Demographic Terminology.

The Union subsequently requested Professor Etienne van de Walle to adapt and translate the French version of the dictionary into English. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking him warmly for having successfully carried out such a very exacting task.

I also wish to expess my deep gratitude to my predecessor, Professor Massimo Livi Bacci who, during his mandate, was one of the principal promoters of this new series of dictionaries.

This English edition, following on the French one, is thus the second in a collection which will continue to increase as time goes on and provide support to the international community of demographers.

Georges Tapinos Secretary-General

* Multilingual Demographic Dictionary Committee : Chairman : P. Vincent (France), Members: C.E. Dieulefait (Argentina), H.F. Dorn (U.S.A.), E.Grebenik (Great Britain), P. Luzzato-Fegiz (Italy), M. Pascua (Switzerland), J. Ros Jimeno(Spain).

** Committee on International Demographic Terminology: Chairman: P. Paillat (France); Members: A. Boyarski (U.S,S.R.), E. Grebenik (Great Britain), K. Mayer (Switzerland), J. Nadal (Spain), S. Kono (United Nations-Japan); Observers: S. Baum and J. Siegel (U.S. Bureau of the Census — U.S.A.); Research Assistants: A. Hill (Great Britain), A. Lifshitz (France) and A. Saez (Spain).


Although many persons have contributed to various stages of the preparation of this dictionary, Etienne van de Walle would like to acknowledge the assistance of Alex Mogielnicki in translating the French version, and the advice of his colleagues, Ann R.Miller, Samuel H. Preston, Norman Ryder and Christopher Tietze who were kind enough to comment on initial versions of the English text. It owes of course a great deal to the First Edition, and to the preliminary texts prepared by the committee of the Union.

Preface of the unified second edition

The unification of the second edition of the dictionary became necessary when all scanned paper volumes had been computerized. The Demopædia databases showed significant omissions from each of the major releases published during the 1980s (French 1981, English 1982, Spanish in 1985 and German in 1987). In 1988, the Arabic edition and the tri-lingual English-French-Arabic edition, had already partially filled the gaps by comparing the French and English translations, but had failed to translate 92 new concepts introduced into the German edition. The Chinese (1994), Japanese (1994) and Czech (2005) editions are derived from the English version only, as are the Web-only editions in Russian (2008), Portuguese (2008) and Polish (2010). On the other hand, the Italian edition, published on the Web in 2010, is based mainly on the French edition. The following example illustrates the consequences of untranslated terms and the importance of a unified edition: the French term "nourrisson" which was selected for inclusion by the Commission of United Nations terminology in the 1950s, and which appeared in all the first editions of the multilingual dictionary, disappeared in the second English edition. The forthcoming unified dictionary will include the term nourrisson in French, lactante in Spanish, Brustkind in German, kojenec in Czech, lattante in Italian etc. and in English, which has no equivalent common noun, the expression child at the breast, which was used in the first English edition of 1958 and has been reintroduced in the unified English edition, giving rise to new modules derived from English only, to keep this lovely word, even if babies were not so highly cherished before the demographic transition!

This harmonization of the English edition is due to several demographers, Anglophones and Francophones for the most part, like Patrick Heuveline (University of California, Los Angeles), Michel Guillot (University of Pennsylvania and INED), but the final responsibility goes to Stan Becker (University of Johns Hopkins), who made the final decisions. Although this harmonization did not pose any difficulty for the new words introduced by the German edition, it also concerned delicate points whose translation into English and their use in the English demographic literature was not straightforward. We invite readers to watch the discussion pages for each section on the web version of these dictionaries.

As new translations into several Asian languages are now being considered in order to reflect the demographic importance of this continent, it was essential to achieve this unification before going ahead with these new translations. This is still an ongoing process, concerning all previously published languages; the first unified French language edition was published at the 46th Annual Conference of the Italian Statistical Society in June 2012 in Rome. The French edition fills a gap because the last copies of the second edition of 1981 were distributed at the symbolic price of € 1 at the IUSSP conference in Tours (2005). An Italian edition was also very necessary because the first edition was published in 1959 and had never been updated.

Harmonized editions should be available in the twelve languages already published in paper volumes and online in their original edition, as well as in four to six new Asian languages.

It is regrettable that this harmonized edition is not a new edition, which could be expanded with new concepts of contemporary demography, such as reproductive health, disability and dependency, international migration, demographic windows, population decline, retirement etc. But comparison of the first two editions showed clearly that the first edition covers most of the important concepts in the population sciences: the terms it contains were selected carefully by the United Nations Commission on Terminology during the 1950s in order to define our discipline, and are most of them are still valid.

We may also regret that certain obsolete or even inappropriate words have not been removed. Etienne van de Walle, lead author of the second English edition of 1982, told me at the Conference in Tours in 2005, shortly before his premature death, his desire to participate in the new edition, and especially to remove terms on eugenics, a term or theory which already in 1981 had only an historical interest. Thus, we made drastic cuts in sections that concerned eugenics. And eugenics has gone from the status of "discipline" to that of "theory".

Elsewhere, only minimal changes have been made to the original editions, preserving the original spirit of the 1980s.

These changes justify the paper publication of this unified edition. New volume will also be available on paper once unification in the specific language is complete. This unification is a mandatory prerequisite for a third edition.

Digital publishing provides a means to publish paper versions at low cost, even if on demand. Thanks to the work of Joseph Larmarange, a demographer at the French “Institute of Research for Development” (IRD) working at the joint research unit CEPED, it is possible to download from the multilingual demographic dictionary website ( any unified edition in various electronic formats (HTML, PDF or EPUB). It is also possible to order a hard copy from a publishing company on demand. The web site is also a place for generating a “current” version of the dictionary or even multilingual indexes.

While a publication with broad distribution does not seem justified for languages that have already been published in the past, print on demand seems to meet certain needs, especially when available in several languages in the same format. In addition, print on demand includes corrections of the inevitable errors and typographic mistakes.

The multilingual dictionary was born out of work of the Population Commission of the United Nations chaired by Paul Vincent. He himself was partly inspired by the revolutionary indexing system of numbered paragraphs which appeared in the work of John Edwin Holmstrom. He proved in his "Report on Interlingual Scientific and Technical Dictionaries" written in 1949 that unique entries in a dictionary were inadequate when the dictionary included more than two or three languages.

Therefore, authorships are multiple and multilingual too; the full list of names is given in each preface of the two editions which we reproduced before this current generic preface of all unified versions. Authors we must thank include Paul Vincent for the first French edition of 1958, Eugene Grebenik for the first English edition of 1958, Louis Henry for the second French edition of 1981, Etienne van de Walle for the second English edition of 1982 and Guillermo A. Macció for the second Spanish edition. The second German edition was coordinated by Charlotte Höhn in 1987.

This multiple paternity has led us to change the status of the different editions of the multilingual demographic Dictionary under the Creative Commons Share Alike license (CCSA). Since the computerization of the old paper editions, any additions to the dictionary published online require the acceptance of this license. This makes it possible to consider the exact contribution of each author involved. Note also that the MediaWiki software which is used by Demopaedia for both browsing the dictionary and editing, is also under the same open-source license.

Once you know of the functioning of Demopaedia, which is identical to Wikipedia, you can easily compare the text of the first edition with that of the unified edition. The digitized text uses the same paragraph numbering (350, 351, 352 etc ...), each grouped on the same page (eg page 35 http://fr-ii.wikipedia/wiki/35). If the reader wants to know the reasons that led a writer to adopt a particular reformulation, the discussion page lists the problems that have arisen and the decisions that have been taken (eg http://fr-ii.wikipedia/wiki/Talk:35). All members of professional associations of population studies in partnership with the Demopædia project are allowed and encouraged to contribute to the discussion pages. This is already the case for members of the IUSSP and soon for members of the Population Association of America and others. Rights to edit the dictionary itself, i.e., not only the related discussion page, are given to a limited number of authors.

It is also the goal of the project Demopædia to invite professional demographers to update the multilingual demographic Dictionary by providing this wiki platform. But as the first step is to create new pages and even new chapters such as "reproductive health" already mentioned, we believe that it is easier to adopt a more open structure similar to that of Wikipedia, where consistency between languages is not essential. The site of this free encyclopedia is the URL for French and for the English version as well as for Italian and for Thai etc.

The new pages progressively created should allow us to better measure both the extent of our discipline and its new terminology. A third edition of the multilingual dictionary could come someday.

The goal of science is to share results with colleagues around the world but also to fellow countrymen. It is therefore important for the scientific vocabulary to be well translated and understood so that the media as well as students can use it correctly. We also note that in some countries such as Sweden, there is no second edition of the dictionary, giving the impression that the scientific vocabulary doesn’t need to be renewed in Swedish, but in English only. By contrast, a clear need was expressed at the IUSSP Conference in Marrakesh by Asian academics who, under pressure from many local students who do practice English, are struggling with rough translation of English demographic terms (even old terms) to be adopted by the entire community. Today, in India, there are several languages spoken by more than 70 million users, equivalent to the total number of humans whose mother tongue is French. Malayalam is spoken, in Kerala at least, by as many speakers as Thai-speaking Thais. Hopefully this wiki platform is a multilingual opportunity to discuss the understanding of new concepts conveyed in the English scientific journals but also in international conferences still conducted in French or Spanish, and in national conferences in many different languages.

This project could not have been completed without the ongoing support of the Population Division of the United Nations in the person of Hania Zlotnik who was its director from 2005 to 2012. This support took the form of the organization of Demopædia workshops, including Paris (2007) and Marrakesh (2009). Special thanks to Sergey Ivanov (UNPD), co-organizer of two workshops and author of the first draft of the Russian edition. Giudici Cristina and Elena Ambrosetti, authors of the Italian translation which has been published concurrently, have established a partnership between the University La Sapienza and the French Committee of the IUSSP, to organize a workshop on Wiki technology in Rome in 2011. Some material taken from a tutorial by Laurent Toulemon at INED in Paris has been reused, and we are extremely happy with the Franco-Italian collaboration which is driving the development of the Demopædia project, particularly in Chiang Mai at the end of August 2012. The last Chiang Mai workshop, funded by INED, co-organized by Géraldine Duthé (INED) and locally organized by Sophie Le Coeur (IRD/INED), Joseph Larmarange and Elena Ambrosetti provided an opportunity to train 13 senior demographers in the Demopaedia/Wiki technology in order to produce a unified edition in six new Asian languages ​​(Korean, Indonesian, Malaysian, Nepalese, Thai and Vietnamese).

Thanks also to Christine Gandrille, secretary of the French National Committee of the IUSSP, who scanned and corrected many of the issues thanks to her exceptional knowledge of several languages, Françoise Gubry and Martine Deville, librarians at CEPED and INED, respectively, for their perseverance in finding the old dictionaries such as the Arabic or Estonian editions. Their advice on thesaurus and index technology were also very helpful.

Finally, I would like to thank the French National Committee that I had the honor to preside until January 2012 and all members of the three successive bureaus for their help in starting and conducting the Demopædia project since 2005. Websites demand light but continuous support, in our case provided by INED which hosts the server. In 20012, IUSSP created an interest grouping so that the Demopædia project could take an international dimension.

Nicolas Brouard
Director of research at INED
Coordinator of the IUSSP Demopædia project
October 2018