Rea Nuutinen

30-year-old Terminfo becomes electronic

30 years of Terminfo is a respectable achievement, since Terminfo is a journal covering a small special field and there are not many similar journals in the world. The circulation of Terminfo has stayed quite the same, and there is interest in the journal also in other Nordic Countries and in Central Europe.

Since this issue, Terminfo comes out also as an electronic journal. In addition, older issues from 2010 will be published on line. Anyone can read the headings of each issue, and the subscribers of Terminfo and the members of the Finnish Terminology Centre can read the full journal on line. Electronic format brings along new co-operation possibilities e.g. between Terminfo and Kielikello, the journal of the Finnish Language Office of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland.

A printed journal is easy to read almost anywhere and we want to maintain this possibility. Readers do not have to worry about environmental aspects, because Terminfo’s printing house Hämeen Kirjapaino Oy has earned the Nordic ecolabel Swan for using environmental friendly materials and methods. The electronic journal, however, makes it easier to search information from the old issues of Terminfo as the electronic archive grows.

Eija Puttonen – translator interested in terminology

Eija Puttonen has worked as a translator in the Bank of Finland for eleven years. She comes from Fiskars in the south-west of Finland and learned both Finnish and Swedish as a child, for her mother was Swedish-speaking and father Finnish-speaking. Thus, Puttonen became interested in languages.

Puttonen graduated from the Language Institute of Turku as a qualified translator in English. In addition, she studied German translation and interpretation. After graduation, Puttonen moved to Helsinki and worked, for instance, as a correspondent and translated texts in the field of business, technology and sports.

Before working in the Bank of Finland, she worked in the Finnish Centre for Pensions for twelve years. Her job included, besides translation, planning terminology seminars for the experts of employment pension scheme. The purpose of the seminars was to make this special field language more clear and coherent. From the seminars, Puttonen got an idea for her master’s thesis which she wrote in the University of Helsinki. In her thesis, she compared the British and the Finnish pension schemes and concepts in order to find out if the English terms can be used as equivalents for the Finnish terms despite the differences between the two schemes. Her major in Helsinki was translation and interpretation of English and she graduated as Master of Arts in spring 2000. She studied the theory of terminology in 1998 in the Terminology Summer School held in Vienna.

Translation services in the Bank of Finland belong to the Language and Publication Services. Main languages are Finnish, Swedish and English. The translation of other languages and many Swedish texts is outsourced. Translations are made also for the Financial Supervisory Authority and the European Central Bank. Texts cover monetary policy and financial market, and sources include, for example, Eurlex and Finlex, term banks TEPA and Valter and websites of other national central banks. According to Puttonen, the technical aids are excellent.

Puttonen’s main task in the bank is translating Finnish texts into Swedish and English. In addition, she is responsible for translation tools and is a language consultant in Swedish. Puttonen also substitutes her superior and continues to develop the term bank. Puttonen thinks that the best parts of her job are versatility and independency. She also likes her work community and co-operation with the clients. Since deadlines are tight, Puttonen sees maintaining quality as the biggest challenge of the job.

According to Puttonen, terminology work can be seen as the core of translation work. The right terms bring credibility to the translation. She is interested especially in cultural-bound terms and equivalence. Puttonen got to know the Terminology Centre by accident. In 1990’s, she was travelling to a translation seminar, and in the airplane she sat next to Lena Jolkkonen, a terminologist in the Terminology Centre at the time, and they got to know each other. Since then, Puttonen has taken part in Nordterm Assemblies, and in the Assembly of 2001, she gave a presentation of her thesis by the request of Jolkkonen. Puttonen appreciates the education and guidance given by the Terminology Centre, and especially the traditional terminology work and published vocabularies. She hopes for more co-operation in the whole field of translation.

Translating Snomed CT

Snomed CT (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine – Clinical Terms) was created by the College of American Pathologists in the 1960’s. Nowadays it consists of about 315.000 terms and expressions managed and developed by the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation.

Translating 315.000 terms into Swedish in about three years has been a massive project. To guarantee the quality of translations, experts of different special fields took part in the job: translators, nurses, doctors and terminologists. In addition, there were two documents as common guidelines for the language and terminology: Snomedspråket, that contains linguistic guidelines and principles for the translation, and Principbeslut, that consists of recommendations for translation problems.

Linguistic and terminological problems were solved with concept oriented approach that helps in distinguishing concepts from terms. Thus, translators studied the concepts behind the English terms in order to find the equivalent Swedish terms and expressions.

There were three steps in translating. First, the translator had to identify the term and its special field. Secondly, the translator needed to get a clear understanding about the concept behind the English term or expression. Thirdly, the translator needed to find the established Swedish term for the concept.

Snomed CT is a complex system with interlinked terms and expressions. Often many Swedish equivalents for the English concept were found. It was important to choose the right term and not to use general language or jargon. In addition, Swedish terms were favoured before English or Latin terms whenever it was possible.

Usability factors for a subject field vocabulary

Siiri Susitaival studies in her master’s thesis Usability factors for a subject field vocabulary (University of Tampere, September 2010) which usability factors influence the usability of a special field vocabulary, and how these factors could be developed. The research subject was the Vocabulary of Registers Stipulated in the Food Act – Objects of Control by the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK and the Finnish Food Safety Authority. Susitaival interviewed vocabulary’s primary users (health officers and software designers) and terminologists and experts who took part in the making of the vocabulary.

Improving usability of a vocabulary helps the users to better understand and to utilize the vocabulary. Usability means the development of a product or a user interface so that it becomes more user friendly. Good usability helps the user to utilize the product more quickly, more efficiently and without errors. The developer, on the other hand, can minimize the costs and increase the sale of the product. When the different usability factors, for example memorability, efficiency of use and functionality are improved, the learning time of the vocabulary decreases and the user can quickly retrieve data from the vocabulary.

Usability has been studied very little, especially the usability of traditional, printed vocabularies. Vocabularies are more often published in an electronic format, usually as PDF-documents, which have a simpler user interface than printed vocabularies. For instance, searching a term is easier and faster. The user interface of a vocabulary, however, is not the only factor affecting its usability. The content of the vocabulary and the user’s experience of its usefulness are also important. Perhaps the most important usability factor to the user is whether she/he finds the term she/he is looking for or not.

The object of the interviews was to find out which usability factors had been taken into account in the making of the vocabulary and which sections are the easiest or the most difficult to use and how this affects the vocabulary’s overall usability. Interestingly, almost every user mentioned a different usability factor to be the most important one.

One important factor in improving the usability is the instructions given at the beginning of a vocabulary. Instructions should be clear and unambiguous, but also brief. Secondly, keeping vocabulary’s terms and definitions up to date makes the vocabulary more reliable. The third factor improving a vocabulary’s usability is the development of the indexes. The interviews showed that almost none of the users used the index of the research material. Even though indexes are traditionally in the end, it is not the best solution regarding the usability. Maybe the index in the same language as the definitions could be moved to the beginning of the vocabulary.

Ontology of nonsense

The language of administration is always topical. We, administrative officials, are blamed for creating bureaucratic nonsense language that citizens do not understand. In fact, it is not uncommon that an official does not understand another official without an extensive background memo.

If ontology is a way of describing something to a machine, a picture is a way of describing something to people. A decade ago, I drew a picture for educational purposes to help the understanding of a very abstract and complex thing. I drew nine green squares in a line and coloured a small corner of each square red. With the help of this picture, I explained to the listeners, unfamiliar with the subject, what certain difficult concepts mean and how they are connected to each other and to the executory task of the listeners. During the next ten years, hundreds of temporary officials, who were not very familiar with the government’s financial administration, understood in depth how this thing guides their daily work as “red corners”. Government’s economical and surveillance bodies may freely blame the “inexplicable slang” the administration is using, but the job got done perfectly.

The newest term in fashion seems to be platform that comes from IT language. I hear daily how “services are priced on a platform”, “customers are directed to the platform” or “platform standardizes the processes”. What is this almighty platform?

Whatever terms, expressions or techniques we use, it is important to keep in mind that the content must be easy to understand. As the standard language, also the language of the administration changes and evolves. However, if the administration itself modifies the language it uses, the meaning should not become unclear.

From copied booklet to electronic journal – 30 years of Terminfo

The first issue of Terminfo, which at the time was called TSK tiedottaa (TSK informs), came out in spring 1980. It was given to the members of the Finnish Terminology Centre as a free sample. The current name was given by Ulla Laurén, the wife of Professor Christer Laurén in 1981. Since 1981, the journal has come out four times a year and anyone has been able to subscribe to it.

The content of Terminfo has always been topical. In 1980, questions regarding terms of the Soviet Union’s industry and foreign trade were discussed. At the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, terms of nuclear power plants were dealt with. At the beginning of 1990’s, terms related to the European Community were current, and since 1990, terms related to information technology have been discussed regularly. In 1980’s and 90’s, answers to term questions were sometimes asked from the readers.

During the first three years, Terminfo came out as a copied booklet. In 1984, the journal came out in print. Since 1999, Stellatum has published Terminfo, and in the year 2000, the journal got its current layout designed by Michael Diedrichs.

In the 21st century Terminfo has presented ongoing terminological projects, researches and theses. Small vocabularies have also been part of the journal. During the years, some columns have established their place in the journal, such as current term issues and literature. New columns in Terminfo are articles by visiting writers and interviews.

From the beginning, Terminfo has also taken foreign readers into account. At first, summaries were written in Swedish and from 1991 on, in English. Once in a while, articles in Swedish or English are published.

Now, the 30-year-old Terminfo becomes also an electronic journal. However, it is not possible to subscribe to the electronic version only. Parts of Terminfo have been published in the Terminology Centre’s website already from 1996. You can read every issue’s index, summaries and some articles on the website

The oldest Graeco-Latin loan words in Finnish

Mikael Agricola (1510-1557) is said to be the father of Finnish literature. In his texts we can find, besides Finnish words, Graeco-Latin loan words that have been adapted to Finnish. These words are, however, relatively young compared to the material of the very first sources.

The oldest Greek culture-related words that we have documented knowledge of are found in the so called Linear B –texts containing Ancient Greek. These texts are carved into clay tablets and were found in Greece and the island of Crete. They date back to 1450-1200 BC. These texts contain, for example, the word teodora, meaning God’s gift, which can still be seen in the Finnish first name Teuvo. So this, over 3,000 years old name based on Ancient Greek, represents the oldest cultural tradition in Europe for us.

Western literature’s first known writer Homer wrote the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey in the 8th century BC.  Many Finnish words originate from these poems. The best known of these may be akilleenkantapää (Achilles heel). The word automaattinen (automatic) also comes from Iliad: the son of Zeus installed automatic doors, automatai -- pylai, to the gods’ apartment. Words beginning with tele are common in Finnish in the field of telecommunications. Tele, meaning far/afar, comes from Odyssey: as Odyssey arrived to the island of Phaiakians he was called teledapos, arrived from afar.

Words originated from Latin are much younger than those originating from Greek. The oldest text in Latin dates back to the 6th century BC. The black marble shrine Lapis Niger was found under Roman Forum, the centre of Ancient Rome, and words such as sakros (sacred or cursed, in Finnish sakraali) can be found there. Another early Latin source is the Law of the Twelve Tables that was set up at the Roman Forum in 450 BC. The law contained words such as status, plus and super, that are now used in Finnish.

Terms in order – a new book about the basics of terminology

Professors Anita Nuopponen and Nina Pilke from the University of Vaasa have written a book about the theory and practice of terminology research. Ordning och reda: terminologilära i teori och praktik was published in summer 2010. The book introduces the demands that special field communication sets to the language.

The basics of terminology are presented in depth and in a comprehensible manner with many examples. There are also informative boxes containing questions often made by students, and stereotypical impressions about terminology. Concept systems are described with a satellite model instead of the standardized methods of terminology.

The book also contains articles by various writers, for example Riina Kosunen, Igor Kudashev and Inkeri Vehmas-Lehto. Articles give examples of terminological research, teaching and terminology work in practise. At the end of the book there is an extensive list of terminological literature and term banks and a list of different ontological concept relations.

The book has a wide-ranging target audience since it is directed to students, researchers and to those doing terminology work, to help to clarify concepts and terms. The book points out the extensive field of application of terminological methods. They can be put to use in academic research as well.


Asylum and Migration Glossary: A Tool for Better Comparability
The European Migration Network EMN has published a glossary of asylum and migration terms in order to standardize the definitions and use of terms so that the European Union’s member states could better compare their national circumstances and experiences.

The glossary contains about 300 terms at the moment and the definitions are in English. In the future, the glossary is updated with more terms and more equivalents of other EU languages. It is meant for EMN National Contact Points and for those working with the subject.

The glossary is available at

Terminology policies – Development and implementation
The International Organization for Standardization has published a standard ISO 29383 about terminology policies. It defines the central concepts and describes situations where different terminology policies are needed. In addition, it describes the features of a good terminology policy and categorises different policies. The development and realisation of a terminology policy is dealt step by step.

Non-destructive testing. Terminology. Part 9: Terms used in acoustic emission testing
The Finnish Standards Association has published a second edition of the standard Non-destructive testing Terminology. Part 9: Terms used in acoustic emission testing. It consists of 57 terms and definitions in English, German and French. In addition, terms have equivalents in Finnish.