How are concepts used

HOW are key concepts commonly and divergently used by humanitarian practitioners?

This question will be answered for each selected concept through

  • The analysis of terminological/ linguistic data on concept uses by multidisciplinary teams of experts
  • An analysis of reference sources on each concept by authors

Our objective is not to provide a single definition of a concept, but to examine which dimensions of a concept’s definition are consensual and which are contested, leading to the co-existence of varying definitions and uses of a specific concept.

Linguists and multidisciplinary team of scholarly experts will work together to analyse how concepts are defined and used across organizations and disciplines.

The method used by linguists associated with the project is called Corpus linguistic. The main objects under study are texts, through which terms may be examined in their real use. The main reasons for this approach are: limitations of a prescriptive view, gathering evidence from a large set of documents (several 1000s), possibility to study semantic issues such as variations and shifts in meanings. The development of new computerized tools for analysing texts, has greatly enhanced Corpus linguistic methods in recent years.

A corpus was specifically constituted for the Humanitarian Encyclopedia project. It includes more than 5000 sector-specific documents, such as 4’300 activity reports, 540 strategy documents and 313 general documents. It counts about 75 million occurrences. All documents included in the corpus have been categorised by type and subtype of organisation, date of publication, and region.

An innovative terminological method, based on machine learning, then allows the treatment of this large amount of data. Interdisciplinary teams of experts will interpret the result of the linguistic analysis and write the entries.   Humanitarian practitioners will then be able to comment on, and add to, the results.