Eveliina Räty

Terminology work is team work

Can the importance of team work ever be overemphasized? In all the articles of this newsletter the importance of team work is present in one way or another. Sometimes terminology work can be lonely, but team work with experts is always an important part of it.

Nordterm Assembly gave a glimpse of Nordic team work in terminology. Team work between the Finnish Terminology Centre and the University of Vaasa was essential for the Assembly to be successful. The broad and versatile work that has been done to maintain Sámi languages is a good example of team work across country borders. One form of team work is standardizing. Due to lack of funding the standardization work on terminology field is scarce, but standards should be checked occasionally to find new and different approaches, even if the result was keeping the practices of the old standard unchanged. In other fields, standards are also elaborated and common practices created. To do this, legislation is not enough, but clear concept definitions are called for.

Laila Palojärvi works to improve the status of Sámi language

Laila Palojärvi works as an administrative director in the secretariat of the Sámi Language Committee in Kautokeino. Palojärvi also represents the Sámi people in the Nordterm Steering Committee.

Palojärvi is originally from Enontekiö. Norwegian she acquired after school e.g. by attending private classes. After moving to Norway, Palojärvi began work at the Nordic Sámi Institute. The institute was an education and research facility that fostered and developed the Sámi language, culture and social life. In 2001 Palojärvi was asked to join the Sámi Language Committee as the acting administrative director and got office in 2003. The committee operates under the Sámi Parliamentary Council and it is the cooperational body in matters concerning Sámi language. Funding for the committee comes from the Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish Sámi Parliaments.

The committee consists of twelve members representing the Sámi language groups in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. The committee has separate language divisions for all six standardized Sámi languages. The divisions decide on all matters relating to their language, though the decisions must then be approved in the plenum or working committee. In addition to the divisions, all Sámi languages that have speakers in different countries have a term group. The term groups focus on keeping each Sámi language, despite state borders, coherent in regards to terms, norms and vocabulary.

By the recommendation of the Sámi Parliamentary Council the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Sámi Parliaments started an Interreg-funded SáFá-preliminary assessment project in 2011 to form a Nordic Sámi language research and resource centre. All tasks the Sámi Language Committee was previously in charge of will be transferred to the new resource centre on its completion.

The Sámi languages are indigenous in Europe. According to the most common view, there are ten Sámi languages spoken in four countries. In Finland there are 6 000 – 7 000 Sámi people who speak three Sámi languages. North Sámi, the largest in Nordic countries, Inari Sámi, only spoken in Finland, and Skolt Sámi, spoken also in Russia.

Palojärvi thinks that the status of Sámi language has improved since laws on language have been implemented. Nowadays you can ask for service in a Sámi language in government and municipal offices in the Sámi regions. Norway is ahead of other countries in offering information and services in Sámi language. Even though the Sámi languages are listed endangered by UNESCO Palojärvi remains optimistic of their survival but says that it will take a lot of work from the speakers of small Sámi languages.

In 2007 the Norwegian term groups (the only country that had them) were ended and replaced by Nordic term groups set up by the Sámi Language Committee. The Nordic term groups have the task of ”accepting” new terms. Meaning that they suggest the terms be used in all the countries where the Sámi language in question is spoken.

Nordterm 2011 – Cooperation leads to results: From concept chaos to term recommendations

In early June Nordtem Assembly took over the sunny and warm Vaasa.

Prior to the seminar a basic course and a workshop for terminologists on terminology work were held. The course covered the basics of terminology work and was lead by Åsa Holmér from The Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC.

In the workshop, lead by Katja Hallberg from TNC, terminologists held introductions on various topics related to terminologist’s work and based on them the participants had small group discussions. Some of the topics included were: standardizing health terminology, cooperation between terminologists and experts in data modelling and system designing in code systems development project, and learning more about data processing systems as they are in the centre of more and more projects.

The seminar was opened by professor Anita Nuopponen from the University of Vaasa and the director of the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK Katri Seppälä.

The keynote speaker of the first day was professor Rute Costa from the New University of Lisbon. Costa leads a research group on lexicology, lexicography and terminology in the university’s linguistics research centre. The research centre has a joint project with the Portuguese government to create a term and text database to support translation work in the Parliament. With experts from many fields, the project includes organizing parliamentary texts, validating terms, elaborating concept systems and validating definitions. Once experts have approved the found terms they will be added to a term database. A text database will give more information on the proper contexts of terms and thus deepen the understanding of the concept.

Annika Asp from TNC explained in her presentation how terminology work can help to create better data structures. Asp is involved in a project that develops the social and health care code systems.

Antero Lehmuskoski from Itä-Suomen sosiaalialan kehittämiskeskus (Eastern-Finland social services development centre) and Maarit Laaksonen from National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) explained how classification and terminology work have been united in the Tikesos -project. Lehmuskoski and Laaksonen noted that classification and terminology work complement each other as data description methods.

Carita Bjon from Kela presented a joint project with TSK. The project’s aim is to publish a vocabulary on Kela’s terminology and plan its upkeep. The first part of the vocabulary was released last year and an updated version with Swedish definitions and notes is scheduled for this year.

The keynote speaker for the second day was Mikael af Hällström from the Finnish Tax Administration. Hällström explained how common metadata architecture is the corner stone for compatibility in data systems and thus elementary for a genuinely serving administration. The new law on data administration provides that public administration must use a coherent overall architecture. For data architecture one of the most central development targets is creating a common metadata architecture for the entire public sector.

Jan Hoel from The Language Council of Norway told about a research the Council made on how well laymen understand special field terms. Two studies were made: one on medical terms through phone and the other online on climate change. Younger people and women were more familiar with medical terms than older people and men. With climate change terms age wasn’t relevant but men knew them better than women.

In their presentation Niina Nissilä and Anita Nuopponen covered synonymy from different angles. They noted that synonymy for terminologists is mainly perfect synonymy whereas in semantics levels of synonymy are differentiated.

Another presentation on synonymy was given by Eija Puttonen from the Bank of Finland. Finnish legislation is more and more based on EU provisions which means that Finnish laws are based on translations. Translating from many languages affects the number of synonyms created while translating. Puttonen highlighted the need to harmonize Swedish terms as there are clear differences between the terms in Finnish and Swedish laws and EU directives.

The Nordterm plenum on Friday started with Anita Nuopponen telling of Nordterm’s 30 year history. After a country by country summary on last year it was time to pass the Chair of Nordterm from the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK to the Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC.

ISO standards on terminology’s terminology

ISO 704 – Terminology work – Principles and methods and ISO 1087 – Terminology work – Vocabulary are central in terminology’ terminology. For the past years Hanne Erdman Thomsen has been the chairperson of the working group ISO/TC37/SC1/WG3, in June 2011 the chair was passed to Fidelma Ní Ghallchobhair from Ireland.

The latest version of 704 is from 2009. As the work on updating ISO 704 gained interest from other technical committees, especially from JTC 1, there were many communication problems because terminologists and IT experts use the same terms for different concepts. There are two things particularly that create misunderstanding. The first is terminology’s distinction between properties and characteristics which JTC 1 has great difficulty understanding and accepting. The other is that in IT they have instances in the models which correspond with terminology’s objects, but which many think correspond to individual concepts.

Despite great efforts, not all discrepancies were cleared. Meanwhile other user groups of ISO 704 found other parts of the standard inappropriate or incomplete. In 2009 it was thus decided to start working on a revision but without an official schedule to avoid tight deadlines.

ISO 1087 used to be in two parts: Part 1: Theory and application and Part 2: Computer applications. In 2009 it was decided to unite the two parts as one document. The revision work on 1087 is based on systematic terminology work. Because the central database could not be used the working group has used TC 37’s term base. Unfortunately, it came later obvious that it will not be possible to use ISO’s central database in the future either. Therefore the standard ISO 1087 will be published in PDF format like before. Prior to this year’s meeting the idea was to send three concept systems as DIS for voting, but the voting was delayed to wait for the rest of the material to pass the initial stages so that it will once more be a complete document.

As mentioned the work with 1087 continues with a systematic approach where the concepts’ differing aspects and criteria of subdivision dictate the concept systems.

ISO 704 and ISO 1087 cover all the basics of terminology and their revision raises many central discussions and requires compromises. Many compromises make it difficult to stay organized which often leads to inconsistencies. To be able to use the term base on 1087 revision will help to stay organized and consistent.


ESKO to rescue on EU laws

The Finnish translators in EU bodies have often faced the problem of how to find the right expert to help with terms. To solve this problem ESKO network was formed to act as a link between language and substance experts.

ESKO is a cooperation and feedback network formed in 2009 for Finnish translators, interpreters, civil servants and experts working in the EU bodies to increase and ease the cooperation in term and language matters especially during the preparation and translation phases of EU legislation.

Persistent background work was needed to create ESKO. However, when the Prime Minister’s Office’s translation and terminology services were willing to take on a new task, a home base was found. With no extra resources available it took some thinking how to create a light yet functioning system. A key aspect for it to work was to get ministries committed. The PM’s Office then sent out an official request to all ministries to name two contact persons for the network.

The network aims to use the limited resources more effectively. ESKO eases the work of Finnish translators and acts as a channel for feedback from Finland so it can be used to improve the quality of translations.

From the beginning ESKO’s method was designed to be simple. All EU bodies send their questions by e-mail to the Government Terminology Service, where they send it to the right ministry. The answer is routed back the same way to the original sender. Translators and interpreters are still free to use personal contacts, the network helps finding an expert when one is hard to find.

All questions coming through ESKO are compiled to statistics in the Terminology Service. In 2010 the financial unease was well presented, following were much regulated social and health care and environmental matters. The searched terms and expressions are very specific and a translator has already worked on it. Sometimes even the experts don’t know the answers, however, most questions get an answer and in time.

ESKO’s strength is in reaching many experts through one contact. The ministries and their contact persons are motivated and understand the importance of the network. Even though the network operates fine as it is, there are still some problems, short deadlines being one of them. Due to a tight schedule, ESKO rarely has time for a wider concept analysis, but sometimes difficult concept clusters and relations between concepts are untangled.

The commission estimates that 80–90 % of answers given through ESKO find their way to the finished translation, which shows that the translator gets the required help and national experts can have an effect on the terms and expressions used in EU legislation. The terms found through ESKO are distributed to all EU bodies and other parties, as EU’s terminologists and translators add their terms in the EU bodies’ common termbase IATE when they think the terms are used in a wider context than just theirs.

Speaking the same language – meaning the same?

When the EU adopts a new directive and any regulations related to it, new concepts are formed. In order to implement the directive, national statutes need to be elaborated. This means that civil servants need to learn, understand and take into use a great number of new concepts.

The aim is to write the EU legislation, as well as national acts, in plain language, and the readers often feel they understand statute texts. However, statutes contain many terms, such as view service, whose meaning cannot be deduced by intuition and that do not refer to the same concept in the statute in question as in standard language.

This means that there is a great need for terminology work. Terminology work takes time and requires expertise and cooperation. However, the work is necessary for society’s data infrastructure to be functional and information systems to be compatible.

After terminology work is finished, its outcome needs to be taken into use. Vocabularies need to be published, and people need to be informed of them. In addition, ontologies may be of help. Ontologies are systems in which relations between concepts are defined in a computer readable format. Thus, ontologies make it possible for computers to interpret (although not understand) terms.

Ontologies also make it easier for humans to search for information. For example, the user does not have to try to guess which search word has been used in each system or service: the ontology “knows” the synonyms for him/her.

Geographical information is information about objects and phenomena whose location is known, which means basically the whole universe. Therefore, creating a geospatial domain ontology is an enormous work. The geospatial domain ontology currently under construction will cover concepts related to data modelling and concepts related to the more than 30 topics or “categories of phenomena” mentioned in the INSPIRE Directive.
The amount of information grows day by day, with governments, companies and individuals gathering it. Terminology work is a way of making this information more understandable and easier to make use of.

Terminology summer school in Estonia

In August the Institute of the Estonian Language with the University of Tartu organized a two-day terminology summer school in Estonia.

The keynote speaker of the event was professor Rita Temmerman from the Erasmus University College Brussels. Her first presentation focused on variation and dynamics of understanding in terminological resources. The language of science also holds many metaphors, and researchers use evocative and provocative language, e.g. terms like ecological invasion. According to Temmerman, terms have connotations i.e. content complementing nuances, and these nuances can be different in different languages. Temmerman also pondered how the change of language and terms could be taken into consideration in special field dictionaries.

Temmerman’s second presentation focused on primary and secondary term formation in the European reality. Most of EU legislation is first made in English and then translated into other languages. Therefore EU related terms are first made in English and then equivalents are created. The EU has 23 official languages and in principle legal texts in all languages should have multiple authenticity. This lead Temmerman to reflect on whether it will be possible to keep all member states’ languages official as translating is expensive and time consuming.

Temmerman also approached the subject of Euro-English, Euro-Estonian, Euro-French, etc. By this she meant how the English used in the EU is not the same as the English used in the UK, but it has its own divergent features. When a language like this is translated, the result is e.g. Euro-Estonian, which has unfamiliar words to the language in question.

The other invited speaker of the event was terminologist Sirpa Suhonen from the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK. She spoke of using concept diagrams in practical terminology work. The diagrams are both a tool for terminology work and a way to present the results of concept analysis. Concept diagrams make it possible to see several concepts and their relations at once. The diagrams also enable checking that the definitions are correct.

Terminologist Merily Plado from the Institute of the Estonian Language showed examples from her terminology work on making an English-Estonian military glossary. Estonian equivalents for NATO terms have been collected into a term bank. Terms also reflect the different defence systems in different countries.

Arvi Tavast’s presentation was on the structure of term databases. Tavast made a wish-list for a perfect term database. Importing and exporting terms should be easy, searching and filtering should be diverse. One should be able to modify the view of the database, and also the order in which the terms are shown should be changeable. The term database should also have tools that secure consistency and it should e.g. prevent double records.


Ontologier og taksonomier
Bodil Nistrup Madsen and Hanne Erdman Thomsen have edited the Nordterm Assembly 2009 publication NORDTERM 16. Ontologier og taksonomier. Rapport fra NORDTERM 2009 which consists of a book and a CD. The book contains the abstracts for all the seminar presentations and the reports presented in the Nordterm assembly. The CD contains the abstracts in PDF format as well as articles based on the presentations and presentation slides. The same PDF files will also be published online during autumn at

Terminological entries in standards – Part 1: General requirements and examples of presentation
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published the standard ISO 10241-1. The standard describes the structure of a term record and the principles of making term records. Topics covered in the standard include the making and content of term records, term records’ and their fields’ order, and the term records and indexes of multilingual international standards.

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