Summaries 1/2008

  • Pääkirjoitus: Sanastotyön kohderyhmät / Thomas Baltscheffsky

  • Outi Meriläinen – urana asiasanastotyö / Susanna Äijälä

  • EU:n ja Venäjän hankeyhteistyön sanasto on valmistunut / Igor Kudashev & Irina Kudasheva

  • Lyhenteiden selityksistä tietotekniikan sanakirjaksi / Hannu Jaakohuhta

  • Kelan päätökset tekijän ja lukijan näkökulmasta / Kaino Laaksonen

  • Kirjallisuutta

    Target groups for terminology work

    Traditionally terminologies have been compiled for the needs of subject field experts but also service providers, consumers, administrators and information system developers need terminological expertise and the results for terminology work. Experts need exact terms when they present their expertise. Inventions, methods and services are described and offered to users.

    In our current information society we are more and more dependent on expert services. However, the consumers' level of knowledge is not always sufficient to understand the vocabulary used in these services. Is an information gap emerging between consumers and service providers? Consumer protection and consumers' awareness on their needs depend on whether consumers understand the terms of the field in question. From the viewpoint of quality awareness it is important that consumers can evaluate services and their quality. Terminologies help to support the communication between experts and consumers and consumers' independent information retrieval.

    Accurate language and right terms are also needed when writing statutes, regulations, recommendations or guidelines in general. It would be important that a terminologist participated in the preparation phase of these kinds of texts to ensure that terms are logical and their use coherent.

    When organizations merge with each other, their information systems must be aligned, and this cannot be done if the users do not clearly recognise what data is input and handled and how it should be interpreted. Terminology work can define concept structures so that everyone understands the content of data fields and classification of data. Terminology work forms an important preliminary phase in the development of information systems.

    Thomas Baltscheffsky has worked as the director of the Finnish Terminology Centre and the editor-in-chief of Terminfo since the beginning of this year. Previously he has worked in industry and IT business.

    Outi Meriläinen – thesaurus work as career

    Outi Meriläinen tells that she has always been interested in language. She started to study Finnish in the university, but changed to library and information science. She has also studied applied linguistics.

    Meriläinen worked about ten years in LIKES, the Research Centre for Sport and Health Sciences. There she compiled e.g. a thesaurus on physical exercise and sport containing 2096 words. She has also compared Finnish and English sports thesauri, and produced a Finnish-English list of sport scientific descriptors containing over 1300 Finnish sport terms and their English equivalents. Since 1996 she has worked as an information specialist in STAKES, the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health.

    STAKES is an expert agency under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Its task is to produce information and expertise for policy makers and other stakeholders in the field of social welfare and health care. STAKES is one producer of Finland's official statistics. In addition to the ministry, STAKES works in close cooperation with other agencies in the field, e.g. the National Public Health Institute, and it has been suggested that these two organizations should be merged.

    STAKES Information Services acquires and maintains the information resources that the researchers and other personnel of STAKES need. It runs a library and gives training in the use of information resources. The library is public, and in addition to the staff it is used e.g. by students.

    Scientific libraries are the most important partners of the Information Services. It also cooperates with other libraries, information services and organizations in the field of social welfare and health. In terminology work STAKES has cooperated with the Finnish Terminology Centre. Meriläinen sees that the Centre serves particularly as a producer and distributor of information and by carrying out terminology projects the results of which are available to everyone.

    The languages of the Information Services are Finnish and Swedish, the official languages of Finland, but English is used a lot, too. The status of English as the universal language of science is very strong. For example, the use of German publications has decreased remarkably, Meriläinen says.

    The work days of an information specialist are diverse, because the work is very customer-oriented. It contains information retrieval ordered by clients and guidance for the clients. The Information Services organizes training on information retrieval, but case-specific guidance is needed daily. In STAKES information specialists also provide information on new information sources to the researchers.

    In the Information Services each information specialists has his or her own client group. Meriläinen's client subjects are e.g. alcohol and drug research, welfare studies, reproduction statistics and the communication of STAKES. In addition to daily duties, information specialists must develop services and follow both national and international events in the field.

    Meriläinen describes the attitude demanded from an information specialist with the sentence "I don't know, but I'll find out". The knowledge of many subject fields is required in the Information Services. It is also important to understand research work and scientific language. An information specialist must also be fast, the essential sources must be found rather quickly. Good communication skills are also required.

    Meriläinen tells that she is always doing some thesaurus work. At the moment she works with the STAKES meta thesaurus called Stameta. It includes about 2000 descriptors of which an ontology will be produced. The ontology will be used at least in The Health Information Portal to facilitate information search. The portal should be available to the public in the beginning of 2009.

    STAKES and the social welfare and health sector have done several terminology projects in which the central concepts of the field have been defined. When comparing terminology work and thesaurus work Meriläinen states that both deal with concepts. The concept and concept relations are always the starting point. The difference is that in terminology work the concept relations can be seen in definitions and concept diagrams whereas in thesaurus work the relations are shown selectively. The aim also differs. A descriptor should act as an entry word producing certain documents from certain material. The boundaries of a descriptor are a bit fuzzy, but in terminology work the exact boundaries of a concept are looked for.

    Meriläinen thinks that the implementation of semantic web technologies is an important step in developing web services. For example, the web page search operation functions better if there is an ontology at the background, not just a thesaurus. Ontologies, for example, make synonym searches possible.

    As the future challenges for terminology work in the social welfare and health sector Meriläinen sees the implementation of electronic patient documents and the description of the information system content connected with them. She hopes that the status of immigrants' languages will also be taken into account in thesauri. For example, the amount of Russian clients in the social welfare and health sector is already notable.

    EU-Russia project cooperation terminology

    Russia is cooperating more and more with the EU, e.g. by participating in the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument – Cross-Border Cooperation (ENPI CBC) programmes. Therefore many official programme and work documents are translated into Russian. On the Internet there is also more and more information on the programmes and applying finance in Russian. The need for interpretation may also increase.

    However, translators and interpreters encounter great difficulties, because the terminology in project cooperation is incoherent and there are several Russian equivalents for English and Finnish terms. For this reason a terminology was compiled in the project Common Language: EU-Russia Project Terminology Unification and Development of Finnish-Russian Project Cooperation.

    Irina Kudasheva and Igor Kudashev were the terminologists and authors of the terminology project. Professor Aleksandr Gerd, the Saint Petersburg State University, acted as the scientific counsellor and editor of the Russian material, and professor Inkeri Vehmas-Lehto, the University of Helsinki as the editor of the Finnish material.

    The terminology is meant for Finnish and Russian translators and interpreters, organizations implementing and planning Finnish-Russian projects and authorities responsible for financing and controlling these projects. The terminology contains about 1300 term records about 500 of which are reference, i.e. synonym records. The source language is English and target languages are Finnish and Russian. It also contains a Finnish-English and a Russian-English index. A link to the terminology will be placed on the web pages of the ENPI CBC programme [].

    The entry items have been picked from limited text material, mainly from programme documents. The EU-Russia project cooperation covers many subject fields, so the terms are from different fields, e.g. environmental protection, project management and accounting. The meaning of many terms in programme documents is very restricted and depends on the situation. For example, the term applicant means an organization which submits an application, since private persons cannot act as applicants in these programmes. Project management is a relatively new area of operation both in Finland and Russia, and the Finnish and Russian terms related to it are not yet quite established.

    Because the source texts have an official status and the terminology compilers did not have the authority to give instructions on the use of terms, the terminology gives only suggestions. Such terms and equivalents that are used in the programme documents and their translations have been chosen into the terminology. Some normative principles, however, have been adhered to, e.g. the preferred term is placed first and deprecated terms are marked with tyytymättömät kasvot.

    The Finnish equivalents picked from documents are rather established, whereas the Russian equivalents are mostly artificial, since international project cooperation is rather new in Russia. All English entries have been given equivalents in both target languages in the terminology. If an equivalent has not been found in literature, an expert or a terminologist together with an expert has made it up.

    Since the terminology contains terms from many subject fields that do not form a common concept system, only those terms that have received a new meaning in the connection of the EU programmes or that may cause difficulties for the users are defined. Because the target group is formed mainly from Finnish and Russian users, the definitions and notes are given in Finnish and Russian, not in English.

    The EU programme applications, reports and other documents are written in English. To facilitate the work of the Finnish and Russian applicants and administrative personnel, typical examples on the usage of terms are added, and they are also translated into Finnish and Russian.

    From explanations of abbreviations to IT dictionary

    Hannu Jaakohuhta, the author of many Finnish information technology (IT) dictionaries, describes his terminology work in the IT field.

    In 1988 Jaakohuhta began to collect IT abbreviations systematically, first only for himself. At that time international, not to mention Finnish, literature on IT abbreviations was scarce. Later Jaakohuhta contacted publishers, and Suomen Atk-kustannus owned by the Finnish Information Processing Association became interested. In 1990 Tietotekniikan lyhennesanakirja (dictionary of IT abbreviations) was published, and a year later a renewed edition.

    On publisher's suggestion Jaakohuhta began to compile his first actual dictionary, and PC – Tietotekniikan käsitteet ja sanasto (IT concepts and glossary) was published in 1993. The basic idea of the book was to be a Finnish–English–Finnish dictionary in which each term had a short description how and in which connection it is used. In 1994 and 1995 PC-käyttäjän sanasto (PC user's glossary) containing only a limited basic terminology was published.

    Already in 1993 Jaakohuhta dreamt about a big comprehensive IT dictionary. The work seemed endless and more new terms were created than he could handle. It was often difficult to find information on the exact meaning of terms as the same term could be used in many different contexts. The finding of Finnish equivalents for English terms was a problem, because in many cases Finnish equivalents did not exist, and they had to be created. Jaakohuhta also classified all terms with subject field codes to help the user to find the field to which a term belongs.

    Abbreviations have remained in Jaakohuhta's dictionaries, and the number of them has increased all the time. One problem with IT abbreviations – and abbreviations in general – is that the same abbreviation can have several meanings.

    In 1994 Suuri tietotekniikan käsitteistö ja sanasto(big IT concept glossary) was published. And big it was – 1024 pages and almost 100 000 terms. Two revised editions were published later. There was also an electronic version, but its publishing was stopped because it was copied illegally. Later the name of the book was changed once more and it became Suuri tietotekniikan tietosanakirja (big IT encyclopedia).

    In the end of the 1990s the publisher changed and the book's name was changed to IT Ensyklopedia. At the same time first pictures were added and layout was compressed. The dictionary had also appendices chosen on the basis of user feedback.

    Throughout the history of the book the central aim has been to think about the end user in usage situations. Jaakohuhta thinks that each dictionary is a product of its time and never finished, and this opinion has only strengthened in this process. The changing of the meaning of terms and changes in the environment (names of organizations) and technology cause a continuous need to update a terminology. Old terms have to be included, too, because it may be difficult to understand old material if no meaning or background can be found for a term.

    Jaakohuhta's newest dictionary, Tietotekniikan sanakirja (IT dictionary), was published in 2007. Currently the book contains about 16 500 terms, and all of them have equivalents and explanations. The book covers widely the whole IT field.

    Kela's decisions on writer's and reader's viewpoints

    20% of the clients calling Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, ask clarification to the benefit decision or other letter they have received from Kela.

    In 2006 Kela sent about 15 million benefit decisions to its clients. It is important that the content of the decisions is right, both for Kela and the client. On the other hand, the decisions must be made in reasonable time. Just because of these requirements, the compilation of decision texts has been automated so that the benefit decision maker composes the text from readymade pieces of text (phrases), but it is not easy to make logical, coherent text from them.

    The client expects to see those individual pieces of information that he or she has written in the claim. Kela, on the other hand, must also present the common legal bases according to which the case has been decided. The inflexibility of the tools and constant haste have such an impact that clients' individual arguments and legal bases cannot always be presented in the most natural

    The phrases used in decisions are checked from the viewpoint of language planning to be as clear as possible and grammatically correct. Both the sentence structure and vocabulary should conform to the standard language. For reasons of exactness, some amount of special terminology must be accepted.

    The current project which creates a terminology on the social security managed by Kela will be of great help also when formulating the decision texts. The project is carried out in cooperation between Kela and the Finnish Terminology Centre.


    Glossary of linguistics
    Termlexikon i språkvetenskap – från A till Ö by Kenneth Åström contains about 1800 entries on various subfields of linguistics, e.g. phonetics, grammar and history of language. Most of the entries are Swedish, but there are also some expressions in other languages and important persons in linguistics. The entries have Swedish explanations but no equivalents in other languages.

    Romanian–Finnish–Romanian dictionary
    Romania–suomi–romania-sanakirja by Florin Dimulescu and Lea Luodes contains more than 25 000 entries. It is meant both for Finnish and Romanian speaking users. It can be found on the web page