Summaries 2/2008

Challenges of terminology projects

Effective implementation of terminology projects usually call for cooperation with terminology experts. If a project is not coordinated properly, costs and the need for resources will easily increase. The carrying out of a project requires project management skills and approved terminological methods.

It is wise to organize terminology projects so that a work group of terminologists and special field experts is formed. The experts are responsible for the correctness of the content and the terminologists for the proper use of terminological principles.

A terminology project can mean many things: from minor checking of material to the coordination of the whole project from term inventory to publication. The aim of a terminology project may also be the development of a terminology process so that terminology work would continue after the project and the created terminology would be updated.

When starting terminology work it is advisable to contact terminology experts because they have specialized in managing just this kind of projects.

Sinikka Hieta-Wilkman – spokeswoman for terminology work in electrical and electronics field

Sinikka Hieta-Wilkman is the director of SESKO Electrotechnical Standardization in Finland. Already in school, she liked mathematics and physics, and knew that she wanted to work in the technical field. She studied electrical engineering, and was the only girl in her class. In the 70s a woman working in this field was a rarity.

In the end of 90s she started to study media communication in the University of Helsinki and graduated as a Master of Social Sciences. In 2004 she was chosen first as the vice director and then the director of SESKO.

According to Hieta-Wilkman the tasks of SESKO are divided into two parts: SESKO participates in the international (IEC) and European (CENELEC) cooperation in the electrotechnical standardization as Finland's representative and produces the results of this cooperation as national SFS standards.

SESKO is a member and standard-writing body of the Finnish Standards Association SFS. SFS publishes and sells the Finnish standards. Last year almost half of SESKO's financing consisted of the compilation fees paid by SFS for selling the standards made by SESKO.

At the moment topical issues in standardization are those connected with the environment and energy efficiency. Hieta-Wilkman reminds that standards are present in everything in everyday life, from the safety of food to the care labels of clothes.

As the director of SESKO the tasks of Hieta-Wilkman include e.g. the management of the organization, and acting as the secretary for the Finnish National Committee of IEC and CENELEC. Much of the work is international. She thinks that independence and versatility are the best parts of her work. She also enjoys the fact that she is able to follow the development of the society and electrical field and global standardization from a box seat. She also values the committed workers of SESKO and experts participating in standardization.

Hieta-Wilkman sees that the status of Finnish is central in standardization work. Especially important is the coherent use of terms, so that different terms are not used for the same thing. About one tenth of the published standards are translated into Finnish. It is important that the standards on electrical safety are available in Finland's official languages. However, the importance of English has increased, and often facts are checked from the original English standard even if a Finnish standard was available.

Hieta-Wilkman thinks that the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK is very important for the Finnish society. Above all, the TSK is necessary as a supporter of the dialogue between consumers and experts, but also of the communication between experts. The TSK has a central role in creating, harmonizing and developing special languages.

Vocabulary for food business

The Vocabulary of Registers Stipulated in the Food Act – Objects of Control compiled by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira and the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK was published in the beginning of 2008. The terminology project was started in 2007 in connection with the development project for data collection in municipal food control.

The purpose of the terminology project was to support the specification of the food control information system and registers. The vocabulary contains 68 concepts which were defined and given Finnish term recommendations and Swedish and English equivalents.

The special characteristic of the terminology project was that it was made for a certain information system. The objects of control in the new food control information system were defined. The objects of control are the food business activity (e.g. slaughtering and grain mill activity), food business operator (first destination operator, small slaughterhouse), place of activity (approved food premises), foodstuffs and their classifications.

All the concepts used in the information system could not be defined, so such concepts that may cause misunderstandings were chosen. These concepts do not always form very coherent concepts systems. Therefore the concept diagrams contain many supplementary terms, i.e. terms which are not defined but which help to understand the concept systems.

The work group discussed a lot how the definitions given in legislation should be taken into account in the terminology work. It was noticed that the definitions of statutes can seldom be used as such in a terminological vocabulary. They often mention things that are not considered essential characteristics in definitions on the basis of a terminological concept analysis. The definitions used in statutes do not usually take into account the relations between concepts whereas in terminology work they are of utmost importance. The form of definitions in the vocabulary may differ from the ones used in food legislation, but their content is not in contradiction with the definitions of statutes.

The work group found out that sometimes the established term was not unambiguous or exact. For example, a layperson cannot necessarily connect the term first destination operations to the trade of food of animal origin inside the European Union. In most cases, however, the terms were considered so established that new term recommendations were not given. Although the terms used e.g. in legislation are not always sufficiently clear and unambiguous, the suggestion of new terms could cause confusion. It should be possible to influence the terms used in legislation when the statutes are enacted and renewed.

The vocabulary is meant above all to the municipal control authorities and others working in food control. The vocabulary helps to ensure that all who enter and use the information of the new system will mean the same concept with the same term. In addition, the vocabulary will ease the work of those who need food control terms, like translators and editors. The information will also disseminate from control to the consumers, when in all the phases of communication the same terms are used for the same things. Clear definitions will also help the consumers to understand the food control and its results.

Nation's memory needs terms in form of ontologies

Memory organizations (museums, libraries) store the collective memory of the nation with the help of artefacts, recordings, books and samples. These documents of the memory are studied and the information extracted from them is listed. The memory organizations use various information retrieval systems to digitize and search information on objects. Listed cultural heritage has been transferred into common portals when anyone can search for different targets and related information independent on time and place. In portals the information is usually reached by selecting the right entry word.
Expressly the right one.

For the information related to the object to be found, the saver and retriever of information should have a common language. Sometimes the mere choice of the name of an object can be full of alternatives (hat, cap, headgear). When the term choice has been made in the museum and the information transferred into a common portal, it is the retriever's turn to wonder which term to enter in the search field.

However, a remedy to "recall the memory" or to boost search functions has been developed. It is the semantic web. The aim of the semantic web is the dissemination and versatile usability of information based on the meaning of concepts. This is achieved by using ontologies. An ontology can be described as an information structure which contains a collection of certain and representative concepts of the field in question. Each concept has its own place in a concept hierarchy based on its meaning. Together the concepts form a web of meanings. The concepts can be seen in the user interface so that the end user can easily choose the most interesting target for a search from a group of concepts. "No hits" will not occur any more and the search engine can offer interesting new targets based on concept relations.

From word lists to web collaboration

The Internet has become the most popular source of information among translators and others looking for terminological information, and the number of term sources published in it has increased. About ten years ago Anita Nuopponen looked for web sources for terminological information, classified them and studied how multimedia had been used in them. Now she went through more than 200 different freely available web glossaries and 15 open terminological databases. The idea was to find out whether the situation had changed,
and who published, for whom and in which context.

The publicly available term banks belong to terminology centres, government institutions, organizations and universities. The majority of available resources are glossaries and word lists compiled by experts or enthusiasts of various fields – often without any knowledge of terminological or lexicographical methods. It was not always clear who or which organization maintains the glossary or even the site.

The target groups of the web glossaries were mainly experts, enthusiasts, students, pupils and their parents, teachers, clients, service users and the general public. Term banks were targeted at translators and terminologists.

In printed glossaries and dictionaries pictures and graphics have been used for long. The space is not a similar problem in the Web, but it was still difficult to find examples of web glossaries containing illustrations or sound. Sign language glossaries are exceptions and use the possibilities given by web multimedia.

The extremes are formed by one page word lists coded with basic HTML and term banks based on database systems and offering multiple search functions. The simplest word lists do not even have links, but terms, equivalents, definitions and other information are just listed on the same page.

The search function in the inspected term banks is most often limited to entry search where one has to know the whole term or a part of it. The search may also include the definition fields. Some glossaries have a thematic search possibility. Concept diagrams will help in information retrieval, when the concept is more or less known but the term is not. Thesauri are traditionally built on concept relations.

The Internet makes interaction possible – either between the user and the service or between those who are doing the terminology work and those interested in it. Cooperation is an essential feature of terminology work. In the Web, however, there are only the results of terminology projects as PDF files, web glossaries or term records in term banks. The communication is directed from the compiler to the user, and interaction is information retrieval between the user and the system. Sometimes the user can give feedback.

These features are not yet active web collaboration. Many organizations and terminology projects may use different web collaboration tools. As an example of open terminology development are the web communities for various hobbies using e.g. wiki tools.

The change of terminological web resources is above all quantitative. Very different parties are publishing web glossaries mainly for all who are interested. When it comes to multimedia, photos and graphs are used but sound and moving image seldom. Links are used for navigation, but thematic browsing is not yet used. Interesting consideration for developers of terminology work is offered by sites which have a possibility to enter own material on the site, to edit previous material, to discuss with others interested in the terminology of the same field and give and get feedback on forums, blogs or wiki applications.

Greetings from Estonia

A terminology seminar was organized by the doctoral school of linguistics and language technology of the University of Tartu in Estonia in the middle of April.

Heido Ots, publisher and translator, who has worked long with terminology told about the challenges of Estonian terminology management. Martin Luts discussed the role of ontologies in the semantic compatibility of information systems. The aim is to develop a common Estonian ontology which would enable the implementation of an Estonian semantic web. Airi Liimets, professor of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, told about the compilation of a glossary on culture and education. The aim of the glossary is to define the most important concepts of pedagogics.

The TSK's representatives were given Terminiõpetus, a textbook of terminology, by Tiiu Erelt. The book deals with terminology from many viewpoints, e.g. it studies Estonian glossaries and evaluates their quality.

In Estonia there are professional terminologists e.g. in the Estonian Terminology Centre at the Institute of the Estonian Language. Its five employees work in terminology projects, develop recording and publication system for terminological material and administrate ESTERM and MILITERM term banks on their web site.

Problems in Swedish employment administration terminology

Anna Skogster studied the problems of the Swedish terminology of the Finnish employment administration in her master's thesis. The inconsistency of the employment terminology is problematic because the terms are not needed just by the experts of the field but also ordinary job seekers. The terms are mainly based on the ones used in statutes on public employment services. The legal language is complicated, and in speech the long and difficult terms are shortened and changed which leads to variation and misunderstandings.

The texts of employment administration are mainly written in Finnish and then translated into Swedish. Systematic terminology work has not been done, but Swedish terms are discussed if they prove to be very difficult. The activity has not been coordinated, and nobody has been responsible for maintaining or harmonizing the terminology.

When Swedish equivalents are created for Finnish terms, long preposition structures are often used. It is difficult to use them unchanged in different contexts. Although many terms are inconsistent, the concept behind the term is often defined exactly. The reason for this is that the law defines the most important concepts very specifically. Sometimes it feels that the Swedish term is rather an explanation to the Finnish term than an independent term. The idea is that the content of the Finnish and Swedish terms should be congruent with each other, and for this reason the Finnish term is translated word-by-word into Swedish instead of thinking about a proper equivalent from the viewpoint of the Swedish language. A striking problem in the employment administration terminology is also that the terms are very similar.

The traditional theory of terminology may be insufficient for the analysis of social phenomena, because the concepts are abstract and interrelated. On the other hand, traditional concept analysis is a very good method to perceive any special field terminology.

The field of employment administration clearly has a need for normative terminology work. It could benefit from systematic terminology work because the work could better ensure the quality of Swedish translations and in this way also the functioning of the Swedish services.


Finnish-Russian forestry dictionary
Suomalais-venäläinen metsäsanakirja by Irina Kudasheva and Igor Kudashev and edited by Inkeri Vehmas-Lehto and Aleksandr Gerd contains about 5000 forestry terms. Special fields are especially forest economy and ecology, but there are altogether 30 subject fields from machines and equipment to environmental change. Finnish concepts have been defined, and information on grammar and style has been given. Russian term equivalents have explanations and remarks on conceptual differences. The special field is given in every term record. There are also concept diagrams. The dictionary is meant for Finnish and Russian translators, interpreters, forestry experts and others in need of forestry terms.

Arabic–Finnish dictionary
Arabia–suomi-sanakirja by Maria El Hilali contains the central vocabulary of modern Arabic, about 30 000 words and phrases. It also contains central terms on special fields, e.g. biology and mathematics. It has also verb tables, a small grammar and proverbs. It is meant mainly for Arabic-speaking students learning Finnish, but can also be used by Finnish-speaking students learning Arabic.

Finnish–Vietnamese dictionary
Suomi–vietnam-sanakirja by Laurent Tran-Nguyen is a renewed edition of a dictionary published ten years ago. It contains about 60 000 entries. There are also special field terms, phrases and colloquialisms. The selection of Finnish entry words is perhaps a little surprising because there are many archaic words. The dictionary is meant mainly for Vietnamese-speaking users, but it is also useful for Finnish-speakers who know Vietnamese well.