habilitation

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Sat Nov 27 06:44:15 UTC 2010


Though the OED does have an entry for "habilitation" and one of the
meanings of it is "qualification" (with a quotation from 1868), it's
surprising that there's no proper definition of the current and
important meaning of the post-doctoral academic qualification known in
many European countries, including Germany and Switzerland, as
"habilitation." For an excellent explanation of this by now _English_
word, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habilitation

The German word "Habilitation" is sometimes translated as "State
doctorate," sometimes as "postdoctoral lecture qualification," and
sometimes as "post-doctoral thesis." But all of these are inadequate
for various reasons. I frequently come across the word "habilitation"
in English publications about continental Europe and I'm surprised
that it's not in the OED.

Surprisingly, the much rarer word "privatdozent" does get an entry in
the OED and is defined thus: "In German-speaking countries: a teacher
or lecturer who has attained his or her Habilitation and thereby has
formal teaching status within a particular university faculty or
department, but is not on its salaried staff."

There's no good reason to have the word "privatdozent" in the OED,
because it's a very rare word in English. (Every other day or so, I
come across English words that are far less rare than "privatdozent"
which are not listed in the OED.) Habilitation, on the other hand, is
a word known to most people who have dealings with European academics.
Then again, the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal, a far bigger
dictionary than the OED, doesn't list the by-now Dutch word
"habilitatie."

Harrumph,

Paul

Paul Frank
Translator
Chinese, German, French, Italian > English
Espace de l'Europe 16
Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland
paulfrank at bfs.admin.ch
paulfrank at post.harvard.edu

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