International standardization presupposes translatability, with respect to both the standards themselves and to the process of standards development. However, the extreme form of the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis claims that accurate translation is in principle impossible. This paper addresses the issue of linguistic relativity using the case of standards development by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). IEC’s multilingualism requires that the languages involved in its activities have common units and values, and that the languages can be compared. Therefore, IEC has to develop its own specialized terminology, specialized graphical symbols and specialized fundamental concepts. That way translatability can be achieved. Participation of the IEC member bodies in these “semantic” activities as well as close coordination with other international organizations are essential.

corporate intelligence, standardisation
Wissenschafts Verlag Mainz, Aachen
ERIM (Electronic) Books and Chapters
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Teichmann, H, & de Vries, H.J. (2009). Translatability in IEC Work. In ERIM (Electronic) Books and Chapters. Wissenschafts Verlag Mainz, Aachen. Retrieved from