In scientific texts specialist words, or terms, express conceptual knowledge. We show that by looking at the use of a term and its family of derivatives over time we can have a tangible picture of how an underlying concept has evolved in scientific advances. This is because the structure of a word encases a core idea and how that idea has been extended in a particular direction. This paper is an outline of a research programme with some preliminary results from an analysis the term nucleus in a nine million word corpus of nuclear physics articles written over thirty-six years, from 1969 to the present day, representing a body of specialist knowledge of recognized growth over time.

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