Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Parameters and Coefficients

I've discovered that there is one Chinese word which can mean in English - parameters and in other cases coefficients.

The Chinese word is 系数 (xi shu). It's extremely common in the kind of texts I work with. Particularly in physics or electronics and computing stuff.

You'll find a lot of websites with translations either way: - uses parameter系数
- uses coefficient

So that leaves the translator with the problem of figuring out which is which from the context.

My first impression is that the English words are basically the same, but a dictionary search reveals:

Parameter (according to Princeton Dictionary)
  • a constant in the equation of a curve that can be varied to yield a family of similar curves
  • any factor that defines a system and determines (or limits) its performance
  • argument: (computer science) a reference or value that is passed to a function, procedure, subroutine, command, or program
  • a quantity (such as the mean or variance) that characterizes a statistical population and that can be estimated by calculations from sample data
Coefficient (according to the same source)

a constant number that serves as a measure of some property or characteristic

So obviously in computing, it is going to be parameter.

But both definitions are possible in Physics or maths stuff.

Sometimes there seems no way to be 100% sure. It's just a matter of educated guesses, dertermining things from context, and so on.

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