Sirpa Suhonen

How others see terminology work

It is often said that Finns wonder what other people think of us. But what do others think of the work terminologists do and its necessity? Only few know just from the title, what kind of work we do, although this probably applies to many other professions too. Other professionals who terminologists work with, usually see the skills as useful and often get excited about terminological work after seeing how it's done and what use it has. Unfortunately the knowledge of the capabilities of terminology and ontology work is scarce, which challenges the small number of professional terminologists.

In this newsletter the writers or interviewees of many articles are experts on some other field than terminology but have some connection to it through their work. A study on the usability of a sign language term bank had a survey in it and critic was given to the term bank, which is rather typical as it's much easier to criticize than to praise. It should be noted that founding a sign language term bank is in itself a praiseworthy act. Communication within a field, not to mention between fields, requires harmonized concept content and use of terms. Without harmonization information retrieval is difficult. The feedback terminologists receive from cooperation partners and customers, as well as the experience we get when working in different projects are important, as it is the kind of information we can use in trying to make terminology work more known.

Kerttuli Harjanne – exponent of terminology work in occupational safety sector

Kerttuli Harjanne works as an expert in the Centre for Occupational Safety (TTK) and has been a member in the Finnish Terminology Centre's terminology and ontology project work groups many times.

Harjanne studied chemistry at university but soon after graduation realised that career as a researcher wasn't for her. So she applied to Helsinki University of Technology's information service course to get qualification as an information specialist.

During the information service course Harjanne applied to TTK and got a job as an information specialist. At first her job was mainly finding information from outside the organization from various databases. Now her job includes developing and maintaining the contents of internet services and information systems. Harjanne thinks the best part of her work is the variety, and that having worked there for so long she's been able to influence in her job description. The downside to varied work is the incoherence. Harjanne would like to learn more about developing internet services and how information can be distributed to all work places and employees. She is also interested in ontologies and utilizing them in information retrieval and document description.

Even though Finnish is the main language used in occupational safety sector, foreign languages – mainly English – are used ever more in communication along with Finnish. At work Harjanne often discusses the use of terms and how things are expressed. Of her own term choices she thinks especially when adding material online: what terms should be used so a user can find the needed information. In occupational safety industry terminology and ontology work are essential: when different actors in the industry use the same terms, the information will be found.

Harjanne learnt about the Terminology Centre when she first started working at the TTK for she used the Vocabulary of Workers' Protection (TSK 7, 1985) in her work. According to Harjanne it was a good way, for someone who didn't know anything about the industry, to learn the basics. Harjanne became better acquainted with the Centre's work when she took part in the updating of the said vocabulary in 2004-2006. In addition to terminology work, Harjanne has also taken part in ontology work, as she is currently in the Finnish Work Environment Fund ontology group and the Quality of Working Life work group.

Taking part in terminology and ontology work has been a positive experience for Harjanne. In her opinion learning the methods of terminology work helps one to analyse one’s own thoughts. She would also like to see the Terminology Centre more visible in the society for she thinks terminology work could be beneficial for many companies.

Terminology work supporting data modelling

The National Project for IT in Social Services (Tikesos), begun in 2005, is coming to an end. One of the main goals for the project has been to strengthen the common basic information of social welfare, and to create such service methods and operation structures for the sector that utilize IT.

Based on a mapping done from 2006 to 2010 on client information needs in social welfare services, several accounts were made on service-specific client information. These accounts formed the base for the client document structures modelled in the project. However, early on in the modelling process it became clear that the service-specific client information called for systematic harmonization. Aggregate core components, semantic data entities describing the phenomena of the world, were decided to be the base for this. Their structure needs to be defined only once and then they can be utilized in many documents, some even in all social welfare's documents.

Aggregate core component modelling requires many skills. Technical know-how is needed in adapting the chosen data modelling principles, systematic terminology work for making the definitions and expertise in social welfare in checking the content. Aggregate core component modelling and terminology work have similarities: analysing concepts and their relations and defining the concepts so that their meanings stay distinct. Descriptions for aggregate core components should be accurate, unambiguous, short and descriptive sentences. Data modelling affects the terminology work. In data modelling the final semantic meaning of properties and aggregate core components is often known only when they are used in a document structure, or even only when the document is filled.

Terminology work on aggregate core components has features that challenge the terminology work process. The number of concepts should usually be clearly set, for working with too many concepts may be slow and lead to inconsistencies and deficiencies. The original goal of the project was to define all aggregate core components and their properties in the social welfare's client information model. This would have resulted in hundreds of definitions so it was decided to primarily define only the aggregate core components. Because the terminology work was time consuming, it had to be done simultaneously with the aggregate core component work. This meant that development of the data model could also bring changes to the terminology.

As there has been a rather large group of people involved in modelling the aggregate core components and making their pre-definitions, the terminology work evened the quality of the final definitions and helped to harmonize the language used with aggregate core components.

Three vocabularies for the social sector

The Finnish Terminology Centre has made three vocabularies on the National Project for IT in Social Services (Tikesos) together with the project experts.

The social services' classification is a cluster of classifications consisting of classifications of service commissions, social services, methods of implementation and service processes. The aim of the Vocabulary of social services classification is to clarify the terms used in social services classification through systematic terminology work. The vocabulary consists of c. 130 concepts. As the aim of the terminology work was to find each concept a distinct term, the work group tried to follow certain term formation practices. Names for social services and service commissions of social welfare were problematical as they were often the same which might cause confusion. In these cases the social service in question was renamed.

The classification of social services was done simultaneously with the Vocabulary of social services classification. Therefore there was no classification to pick up the terms from, or whose divisions would have been guidelines in making the definitions. Thus making the classification and terminology side by side caused alterations both ways. This way of working required intensive cooperation but concept analysis seemed beneficial for those creating the classification.

Terminologists have often wished that terminology work was started at the beginning of projects, when it would be possible to influence the terms and definitions. Making the social services' classification and terminology simultaneously provided this possibility.

The Vocabulary of social welfare client documents includes information of 25 social welfare's client document type classification related concepts in term records and concept diagrams.

The vocabulary includes the common document types of social welfare. The concepts are primarily defined from the viewpoint of social welfare instead of generally, for then the definitions would have been too vague.
Both the social services classification and the client document classification, are used in individualising social welfare client documents. These classifications describe the central concepts needed in handling social welfare's client information. In both vocabularies the concepts have been defined and given Finnish term recommendations. As the vocabularies have a similar subject and at least partly the same target group, they are published together as a single report of the National Institute for Health and Welfare.

The third vocabulary is on aggregate core components' modelling. The Terminology Centre was asked to join the data modelling process to create definitions for the object classes and properties of aggregate core components.

Social welfare's aggregate core components cover all aspects of life. Many of the aggregate core components are social welfare's phenomena, but surprisingly many depict concepts of general language or from other special fields. Because of the varied concept selection, the work group discussed on the principles of making definitions through the whole project. In order to better understand the meaning of aggregate core components, the group usually decided to take the genus from real world phenomena. However, the definitions couldn't completely loose the aggregate core component point of view, for the meaning of some aggregate core components was so radically different from that of the general language or special field's concepts, that a general definition didn't seem useful for the users of the aggregate core component library.

Giving recommendations for the names of aggregate core components wasn't originally part of the terminologists' task. However, as the definitions were being made the naming of aggregate core components’ properties and  object classes came up repeatedly. Naming of properties in different core components was incoherent, which caused misunderstandings and some terms didn't reflect the right image of the defined concept.

Out of the three terminology projects, the Vocabulary of social welfare aggregate core components  required the most applying of terminology work methods in comparison to the Terminology Centre's normal practices. The definitions were made to the aggregate core component library which includes very different special fields and where the aggregate core components are presented in an alphabetical order according to their object class name. The aggregate core components picked from the library at a time didn't necessarily form a coherent entity, thus the chosen concepts didn't form concept systems that'd support one another, and creating systematic and comparable definitions required more background work than a more coherent material would have.

Based on the experience in aggregate core component work, it seems that terminological methods can be applied to both defining and naming aggregate core components. It requires good cooperation between data modellers and terminologists to make the cooperation efficient and the final product useful.

In all three terminologies many same principles have been followed. Terms and concept descriptions are only given in Finnish. The main source material for the terminologies is legislation. The most significant detail in these terminologies was that they were made simultaneously with the material the terminology was meant to clarify. Also the target audience is quite the same for all, professionals in social welfare and other special fields who use the classifications of social services or client documents or document modelling or who work with social welfare information systems or architecture.

The importance of terminology work in library

In the modern day of electronic material, more people search information online instead of going to the library. However, it might be a surprise when the right sources don't come up with a few made up search words. Often the printed material is also forgotten, and that a trip to a library could help. And that a search made with a librarian could surpass all hopes the customer had.

Document description made in libraries is meant to support customers in information retrieval. Making of index term lists is impossible without terminologies, for the variety of terms would make information retrieval difficult. Close cooperation between substance experts and terminologists is essential in this, the first knowing what the list should contain and the latter knowing how to put it together in a coherent manner. For library users, thesauri are especially useful, for they contain information on term relations. Search results can be improved by looking for search terms from a thesaurus. If there're too many results, narrower terms can limit the result.

With the amount of electronic material increasing it is possible to find so much information, that it'll be impossible to go through. This is why planning of thesauri-based ontologies is important. For they make it possible to find relevant information even from large amounts of material. Making index term lists into ontologies is about adapting the concept and relation systems so precise that a computer can utilize them better. These thesauri are being used more and more by computer applications. Because a computer lacks a human's knowledge and capability of interpreting, the terms must be defined ever more precisely as ontologies.

Libraries don't make index term lists for themselves, but to ease their customers' information search. Even though computers can be utilized in many ways in the future, nothing will ever be able to replace terminology work done by experts, whether it is index term listing or systematic terminology work.

Interpreters at terminology work: views to professional development, language policy and language management

Kati Lakner's MA thesis was a part of the first European Master in Sign Language Interpreting training. The object of her study was an internet based sign language term bank.

Sign language interpreters have now more sign language vocabularies, dictionaries and other means than before to support their work. However, these tools can only provide a small part of the vocabulary needed in every day use, not to mention in special fields. Language also lives and develops faster than publications can keep up with as the users study and discover new fields – in Finnish Sign Language often through interpreting.

The term bank was founded to work as an interactive storage for signs, where terms could be recorded to and discussed on. In this way the expertise acquired by an interpreter could be distributed. On a survey for the interpreters using the term bank, most answered using the term bank only a few times a year, and only a third using it monthly. The low use and answering rate on the survey already gave the impression that the term bank is not seen as a very agile tool. Main problems were considered to be the lack of terms, slow tempo of adding new content and that the term bank itself was difficult to use. Developing the term bank and the interface gained good ideas, but the biggest change must be the attitude: even though filling and using the term bank has been the shared responsibility of all users, interpreters still expect ready-made, perfect tools.

Over two thirds of the respondents see the term bank also as a channel for cooperation with the sign language speaking community. The interpreters balance between the clientele, work life challenges and language policies when they do terminology work. Already the term bank is seen to support the existing sign language policy program and through open cooperation with the language community this will be the aim in the future as well.


IFRS and ISA terminology
KHT-yhdistys, an association of Finnish accountants, has published an updated and completed version of the IFRS and ISA terminology. The terminology contains circa 1 600 entries related to international financial statement standards and circa 700 entries related to international auditing standards. The IFRS and ISA terminologies make up the two parts of the terminology. Both have separate Finnish-English and English-Finnish sections. The terms are not defined.

Electrotechnical vocabulary
The Finnish Standards Association SFS has published a standard SFS-IEC 60050-581 Electrotechnical Vocabulary. Part 581: Electromechanical components for electronic equipment. The standard contains terms for 296 concepts that describe the electromechanical components in electronic equipment. The terms are given in Finnish, English, German and French, and definitions in English.

Detailed publisher and order information can be found in the Finnish article.