I need help with translating a biological term from French to English
May 14, 2010 5:04 AM   Subscribe

My colleagues are working in animal science and are often using the term "loi de réponse de l'animal" to describe how biological parameters (e.g. milk production in dairy cows) change in response to a stimulus (e.g. modifying the diet). Potential English translations such as "animal response law(s)" do not seem correct. The concept seems pretty simple, so is there an obvious English translation that would cover this?
posted by elgilito to Science & Nature (13 answers total)
Not my area of expertise and I don't have time to delve (I'm a FR>EN translator but don't work on animal science texts). Generally your best bet is to look at the relevant literature - find a paper in FR about this concept, then check the references, some of which will most likely be in English. You'll most likely come across something written originally in English which will show you the term that's usually used to refer to this concept. As you correctly assume, it's not about translating the words.

At first glance this doesn't seem to be a common FR phrase (this question is the only Google hit) so you might need to ask your colleagues for a further explanation of what they mean.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:27 AM on May 14, 2010

"Animal response laws" is correct if you're using it in the same way as concepts such as "laws of nature" or "laws of motion" are used. You could always rearrange it as "laws of animal response," which would be a more literal translation.
posted by amyms at 5:28 AM on May 14, 2010

In this case I would not attempt an overly literal translation of loi as law. You are using the term to describe a pattern of animal response. You can therefore translate it that way. Animal response pattern.
posted by grizzled at 5:47 AM on May 14, 2010

amyms and grizzled have a good point - I was taking the question at face value and assuming that the FR phrase is a recognised term. It doesn't appear to be a term in the usual sense of the word.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:51 AM on May 14, 2010

The phrase loi de réponse is common enough in French, mostly in statistics and engineering, as is loi de réponse de, "the response law of/for [something]." It means a mathematical function that describes the relation between the independent variables and the dependent variable (response). It may be linear, non-linear, exponential, etc.

The phrase "response law" is sometimes used for this in English. (So, "the response law for the animal") But I think another phrasing is more common. I'm hoping that somebody who knows the right kind of statistics can recognize this from the description.
posted by nangar at 6:22 AM on May 14, 2010

I like grizzled's suggestion of "pattern" if the OP is stumbling over using the word "law," but I still think the literal translation of "animal response laws" and/or "laws of animal response" is perfectly acceptable for what the OP is trying to convey.
posted by amyms at 6:23 AM on May 14, 2010

"Response curve" or "dose-response curve" are options.
posted by TedW at 6:25 AM on May 14, 2010

Indeed, it looks that "curve" is better than "law" as I get positive matches when googling "response curve" with typical animal science terms. I'll find a find a way to add "animal" somewhere. Thanks all, that was fast!
posted by elgilito at 6:45 AM on May 14, 2010

"Animal dose-response" is what you want, I think. It's commonly used in toxicology literature.
posted by bonehead at 7:46 AM on May 14, 2010

posted by allelopath at 8:05 AM on May 14, 2010

No, dose-response is too specific. The input variable can be the number of days at pasture or the drying temperature of a forage, so in this particular research context it's usually not a "dose".
posted by elgilito at 8:33 AM on May 14, 2010

La loi de réponse de l'animal makes sense if its clear from context what variables you're talking about and you're comparing breeds or species of animals - some breeds of cows are better milk producers than others or have different responses to nutritional supplements. And French has a tendency to use generic terms when we would say a "kind of" or "type of" - or, in this case, probably "breed of" - something.

Translations like "the animal's response curve," "the response curve for this breed" or something like "... the effectiveness of (say) increasing nutritional supplement Y beyond point X is dependent on the response curve of the breed in question" could make sense depending on context.

"Animal response curve" would be taken as a response curve applying to all animals - which wouldn't make sense - and "the animal's response curve" or "the response curve of the animal" would be taken (in English) as referring to a specific animal - which probably wouldn't make sense.

(I have inadequate training in statistics and studied the wrong kind of stats - social psych, not bio. or animal science - and my French is rusty. So take that for what it's worth.)
posted by nangar at 10:48 AM on May 14, 2010

In this case, I'd imagine that 'law' is used to mean distribution, in the statistical sense. Interestingly enough, 'law' has been used to mean distribution in English, though at this point, it's largely an archaic use (for an example, notice is 'law,' for example in this article ). So, 'response distribution' or 'response curve' is a reasonable translation.
posted by bsdfish at 10:26 AM on May 15, 2010

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