SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1995

The Semantic Valence of Terms: A Systematic Treatment of Multi-Meaning Terms


The ubiquity of multi-meaning terms presents a great challenge for terminologists and for communicators in general. To manage and reduce this semantic multiplicity, we need a set of concepts and terms useful in describing its various states. Toward this end, a uniform term series is proposed. It is based on the Latin root vale (value, worth). In this series, vale denotes meaning, sense, or semantic value, as does equivalence. Other notable terms in the series are univalence, bivalence, trivalence, and nonvalence. The underlying concept system is a taxonomy of states called valence patterns. These are differentiated mainly by their valence number, which is a term's number of meanings in a given absolute or relative context. Over 50 terms are formally defined, and concepts such as polysemy, homonymy, and equivocalness are construed in valence terms. Although the focus is mainly on the valence of terms, the series is shown to be applicable also to abbreviations, ordinals, and symbols.

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Gilreath, CT
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Developed by Committee: E02
Pages: 9–24
DOI: 10.1520/STP13743S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5295-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1984-0