Sirpa Suhonen

Influencing opportunities and responsibility

The Finnish Terminology Centre TSK has nearly completed the Web 2.0 terminology project. In this project we tried for the first time to collect feedback via a wiki. This year we will also study how wikis, blogs and perhaps some other new tools can be used in terminology work coordinated by a terminologist. These tools could perhaps be used when terminologies, ontologies or word lists are compiled and maintained. Maybe this could give an opportunity for such persons or organizations to participate in terminology work that nowadays cannot even if they'd like to.

But does it help that opportunities are offered if the central actors do not think that they are responsible for the concepts in their field? Although the Terminology Centre has had many projects related to public administration and the Terminology Service of the Prime Minister’s Office does terminology work for the needs of public administration, terminology work is not yet done in all places.

Nina Martola – expert in lexicography and syntax

Nina Martola is the director of the Swedish Language Office in the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland. She started to study German in Åbo Akademi University, but changed into Swedish. She qualified as a Doctor of Philosophy in 2007 in the University of Helsinki. In her doctoral dissertation she studied valency, i.e. how a word occurs with certain kinds of supplementary words.

The Swedish Language Office has two main tasks: language planning (including name planning) and the Dictionary of Swedish Dialects in Finland. The Office cooperates closely with the Swedish Language Council in Sweden. The main principle in Finland Swedish language planning is to see to that the official Finland Swedish does not differ very much from the Swedish of Sweden.

Martola has worked in the Swedish Language Office since 1988. She started her work in a project that described Finland Swedish names. She also participated in the project compiling the Finnish-Swedish General Dictionary. Martola says that dictionary work is interesting, funny and challenging, and above all, team work. Since 2008 she has been the director of the Office. She says that she has succeeded well in combining the jobs of a director and a researcher. She spends about half of her work time in administrative duties and the other half she can use for research and writing.

Martola is worried about the diminishing resources for the Office. “There is a tendency to assign the Office new tasks all the time, but the number of personnel has decreased. We have been compelled to prioritize tasks and it feels very frustrating when important tasks are left undone” Martola regrets.

According to Martola the status of Swedish in Finland is good in many ways. The Swedish-speaking Finns have education in all levels in Swedish, they have their own diocese, newspapers, two radio channels and TV channel. In principle they should get service in Swedish from authorities and public institutions, but in practice it varies depending on the locality.

The goal of Finland Swedish language planning is that the same Swedish term would be used to refer to the same concept both in Finland and Sweden. “It is important that e.g. pupils in Finland and Sweden would learn the same terms in physics, biology, mathematics etc. On the other hand, we have to create our own terms in such fields that are peculiar to Finland” Martola says. She continues that language planners can only give recommendations because the language does not always develop to such a direction that the language planning would hope.

Martola became familiar with the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK in 1990 when she started to work with the Finnish-Swedish General Dictionary. In that time the Terminology Centre was situated in the same building with the Research Institute, so cooperation was very easy. The Terminology Centre with its publications is necessary help in dictionary work. Martola thinks that the task of the Centre is to offer accurate and well-thought terminology for special fields and to market itself so that experts would really use the recommended terms. If there are no Finnish equivalents for concepts, Finnish looses its domain and status as a common language for Finns.

Terminological themes – often new or borrowed, sometimes old and even blue

The development of the theory of terminology began in the 1930's when Eugen Wüster, an Austrian engineer, created the foundation for the theory of describing and harmonizing the concepts and expressions in special fields. Since the beginning, the theory of terminology has had a strong connection with practical work when the principles, guidelines and rules have been adjusted to the needs of terminology work. Terminological study clarifies the characteristics of special field concepts, terms and terminologies and how terms and other elements representing the concept are used in LSP communication.

Since the aim of terminological study is to describe communication and most often to clarify it, the study mainly concentrates on describing the current state of some field and its LSP communication. Since today's reality is tomorrow's history, the question is rather about a situation-specific description and documentation of one moment in time.

Boundaries between different disciplines, fields of research and research orientations can be clarified with terminological concept analysis. Since special fields borrow concepts and expressions from each other, closely related fields should define their concepts so that possible conceptual differences and similarities are clear. Terms also migrate constantly between the standard language and special languages.

In a certain way, the development of a special field is always present in terminological studies. However, diachronic studies in terminology are relatively rare. When some special field has direct connections with people's lives, new designations for concepts and change of old designations usually create a more extensive discussion. One of these discussions concerns the Finnish names of the mammals of the world. The mammal nomenclature committee published its suggestion in the autumn 2008. Both the Finnish Language Board and extensive public discussion have paid attention to the linguistic form of the suggested terms, and to the effect that the changing of established names has on the Finnish speakers' view of the world and the society.

When analysing the boundary between a name and a term, the researchers may e.g. find out that the Danish Viking king Harald Blåtand Gormson is in the background of wireless Bluetooth technology. He lived in the 10th century and is supposed to have been famous for his communication skills.

Analysing and modelling are essential both for the researchers of terminology and those doing practical terminology work. Certain theoretical principles act as guidelines in this work. It is common for all terminological analysis to recognize and acknowledge the fact that analysis and modelling are not the same as the reality but descriptions of reality from a consciously chosen perspective.

Nina Pilke, the writer of the article, is a professor of Swedish in the Department of Scandinavian Languages at the University of Vaasa. It is the only Nordic university where it is possible to study terminology as a major subject. Terminology studies and education were started there in the 1970's, and since the beginning, the research has been internationally oriented. The future challenge is to develop terminological methods so that they can be applied even more widely, and to market them to the society.

Museum textile terms in ontology for the Semantic Web

In 2002 the Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT started a joint research project called MuseumFinland where they wanted to develop and test semantic web technologies. The goal was to make the collections of several museums public on one portal and to open them to semantic search. When the project started, there was no ontology of concepts suitable for the needs of the Semantic Web in Finland. So it had to be created. MASA, a thesaurus for museum cataloguing work, was taken as the basis for the ontology of concepts.

Suvi Kettula's doctoral dissertation describes the editing of MASA's textile, garment and material terms from a thesaurus to an ontology of concepts. The first part of the dissertation answers the question how this can be done. The research method was terminological concept analysis complemented by an ontological view of the Semantic Web.

The ontology of concepts that was created contains almost thousand concept classes of which about half describes garments and accessories, about 300 textile concepts like home textiles, and about 100 textile materials and fibres.

In order to search information with ontologies, the data must first be integrated, i.e. annotated, into the ontology of concepts. An automatic annotation was run on the museum textile and garment terms in order to integrate them with the corresponding concept class in the ontology. However, this annotation did not succeed in all cases, and the data in question had to be annotated manually. Since automatic annotation would be fast and cost-effective, Kettula analysed why some of the catalogued terms did not match with the developed textile ontology. The most common explanation was that the catalogued field was filled with a long sentence comprised of many terms, when in many cases the basic form of a term describing the textile would have been enough. Sometimes in the compound term, the object name and material, or the name and the way of usage, were combined. Numeric values in the cataloguing field also prevented annotation. There were also cases which showed that new concept classes should be added into the ontology.

MuseumFinland uses the ontology of concepts developed in Kettula's dissertation. In addition to the traditional word search, there is also a so called concept search in which the engine can analyse the meanings of concepts. When the ontological hierarchy is visible in the user interface, the user can search for information on the hierarchy level he or she wants. The search result takes automatically into account all such concepts and information related to them that belong to the subclasses of the concept class in question. So it is possible with one search e.g. to find all the different types of overcoats.

Since searches on the ontology of concepts are language-independent, it is possible to make a query e.g. in English and get as a result items catalogued in Finnish. The information is searched for and matched with the help of ontological concept classes. Since the relations in the ontology of concepts are based on the meaning, it is possible to recommend the user other similar textiles, or garments made in the same period. With recommender rules based on associative interconnections between different concept classes it is possible to link automatically e.g. certain objects and events, or objects and tools.

The textile ontology developed in Kettula's dissertation is the first in the textile field in Finland. Besides MuseumFinland (, it is used in Finnish Museums Online (, Culturesampo ( and FinnONTO ontology infrastructure ( Kettula's dissertation Developing a Textile Ontology for the Semantic Web and Connecting It to Museum Cataloging Data can be found on

Rebellion for Finnish

Hanna Gorschelnik, Executive Manager of Professional Translators' Trade Union (?), took a basic course in marketing last autumn. The subject was interesting and useful in work, but it was painful to listen to the lectures. The two young researchers knew the subject well, but not the Finnish terms: the speakers did not utter a single sentence without an English term.

Gorschelnik has thought that it is the unwritten duty of a specialist, especially a researcher, to make the newest research results and terms known in Finnish, and not just enrich science in English. Perhaps that is only a thought embedded in her own field, translation studies. Why else does a researcher after researcher abandon his or her own language and write his or her study in deficient English although it has been stated many times that only the mother tongue is sufficient for rich expression?

One measure for calculating the importance of universities is that their studies are referred to in international studies. It is therefore understandable that in the pressure of time and money a researcher puts everything in his or her foreign-language papers. But it is also incomprehensible that in its competition for money and reputation a university, or other backbones of the society, erodes the status and quality of the Finnish language.

It seems that only those whose profession is language or languages are interested in the development of Finnish terminology, when it should be the concern for all. The attitude of the general public is also confusing: the mother tongue is not considered as an especially valuable asset and the development of language is not seen as everybody's task. It cannot be that only a small part of language speakers thinks about the development of their language. The status of Finnish should be stronger in all education. As work requires business thinking from humanities professionals, a proper understanding of Finnish must also be demanded from economists and engineers.

Vocabulary of Service Business – support for establishing new concepts

Serve - Pioneers of Service Business, a programme of Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation), and the Terminology Centre started a project to define the most central concepts of service business in spring 2009. The Vocabulary of Service Business is published on and it will be entered in the TEPA term bank ( It contains 11 concepts with definitions. Terms are given in Finnish and English, and definitions and notes have been translated into English.

It had been noticed in the Serve programme that the use of terms and the definitions of concepts were unestablished in the field of service business in the Finnish industry. The aim of the vocabulary is to create a basis for developing coherent terminology. The primary target was to gather opinions on how the service business of industry could be defined in a coherent way.

The work group consisted of experts from organizations participating in the Serve programme and a terminologist. The importance of the group was emphasized in the terminology work process since there was not much written material on the subject. Therefore it was very important that information was transferred from the experts to the terminologist. Team work also made it possible that different views could be reconciled already in that phase.

When the Vocabulary of Service Business was compiled, the aim was not to carve in stone only one truth what service business in industry is, but the vocabulary is meant as a starting point for discussion. The aim is to use the results in the Serve programme so that a coherent way of defining services and service business in industry would develop gradually.


Terminology work – Principles and methods
ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, has published a new edition of the ISO 704 Terminology work – Principles and methods standard, which is one of the most essential standards in the field of terminology work. The standard gives information on the most important concepts of terminology work, like terms, concepts, definitions, characteristics, concept relations and systems. It also contains a lot of illustrative examples.

Gastronomic glossary
Gastronominen sanasto by Rea Tuominen is a Finnish-English-Finnish glossary on the English food and drink terminology. The glossary has been organized in themes, e.g. cooking terms, mushrooms, and baking and grains. The glossary contains Finnish and English indexes.

Electric cables
The Finnish Standards Association SFS has published a Finnish version of the International electrotechnical vocabulary. Part 461: Electric cables. The standard contains 210 concepts on energy cables, terms in Finnish, Swedish, English, German and French, and definitions in Finnish and English.

Now it is possible to get to know misheard English phrases, songs and poems in J. A. Wines' book Mondegreens. A book of mishearings. Mondegreens are mishearings that occur when some linguistic expression gets an optional meaning in our minds, e.g. You ate nothing but a hot dog (You ain't nothin' but a hound dog, Elvis Presley).

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