Summaries 3/2008

Developing terminology work

The increased use of special languages puts pressure on terminology work. New information is created all the time. Terminological vocabularies are important tools for disseminating information to a larger audience. People need exact language in order to be able to act in the society. This means that terminologists must develop and adopt their activities to meet new needs. One challenge is to improve the usability of terminologies.

One object is to optimize the necessary work phases of terminology work with the help of IT solutions. Traditionally the result of terminology work has been a glossary. Currently, terminology work aims not only to compile an individual glossary but also to create a proper setting for using and updating the terminology. Electronic publishing becomes more common, and there will be new ways of presenting terminologies.

Johan Myking – terminologically multi-skilled man

Johan Myking was born and grew up in the Radøy Island 50 km north from Bergen. He studied Nordic languages and literature, French and social sciences in the University of Bergen. After he graduated, he stayed in the university to work there. The oil company Statoil had decided to take Norwegian as its work language, and the University of Bergen was given a large terminology project. The project was a very important part of the terminology work done in Norway for many years.

After the project Myking has worked as a lecturer in the university, and participated in other terminological activities. He was the representative of Nynorsk in the old Norwegian Language Council for many years, and in the recent years he has been responsible for terminological issues in the new Language Council. The Council is an administrative body for the Norwegian language policy, and receives its financing from the state budget.

In August Myking defended his doctoral thesis in the University of Vaasa. He analyses in his thesis the concept of motivation as the principle for term formation using Norwegian oil vocabulary as his source material. Motivation refers to the formation of terms so that the meaning of terms becomes transparent. Myking has also written many other books and articles on terminology.

Myking works as a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Bergen. His work includes research, teaching, guidance and some administrative tasks. He thinks that the most important and rewarding part of the work is to discuss about language with young students.

The main responsibility terminology work done in Norway lies with the Norwegian Language Council, but terminology work is also done in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Standards Norway and in the field of medicine. Terminology and terminology work is taught in some universities and institutions of higher education.

There is not a common standard language in Norway, but the official languages are Bokmål and Nynorsk. Nynorsk has a purer vocabulary than Bokmål: Danish and German influence is avoided. There are also some
differences in the grammar and phonemes in these two languages, but according to Myking the understanding of the other language form does not cause any problems.

The diminishing use of the Norwegian mothertongue is a problem in Norway. Many big companies have started to use English as their corporate language. Paradoxically, this concerns above all the oil industry which invested in developing Norwegian terms in the 1980s. In the field of scientific research there is also high pressure to publish in English.

Myking participates in Nordterm cooperation and considers it a vital part of the Nordic linguistic and cultural cooperation. It gives strength and support for individual Nordic countries. This is important because terminological views are not always heard or appreciated among general language activities.

Myking sees that terminology and terminology work are very important both as cultural values and as factors influencing economic assets. And at least, the importance of terminology work will not decrease in the globalized economy.

Attention to translation,language and culture

Languages and their use are brought forward in many contexts this year. Since 1992 the International Translation Day has been celebrated in Finland and in many other countries. The initiator of the Day, the International Federation of Translators (FIT), chooses a theme for the day. This year it is "Terminology: Words Matter". With this theme FIT wants to pay tribute to terminologists, whose work (glossaries, dictionaries and term banks) is an integral part of the work environment of translators, interpreters and localizers. FIT emphasizes that clear and effective communication calls for words that have been agreed on and that describe concepts identified in a given field of expertise, environment or community.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2008 to be the International Year of Languages. UNESCO is in charge of this event, and it emphasizes the importance of languages for the identity of people, communication, education and development. When a language dies, a part of the world's cultural diversity with its memories and unique ways of thinking and expression also disappears. According to UNESCO, more than half of the 7000 languages spoken in the world may disappear within the space of a few generations.

In Europe 2008 has been proclaimed the Year of Intercultural Dialogue. The EU has committed to promote cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue in the EU and in the world with various financing programs. In addition, 26 September is the European Day of Languages. The aim is to increase the general understanding of the importance of language learning, to promote multilingualism and intercultural understanding, rise the general esteem of languages and to encourage lifelong language learning.

Active star?

What is an active star in Swedish? It has nothing to do with astronomy nor film stars, but refers to the Ethernet topology where one fibre transfers several messages. This question is a typical example of those problems that translators encounter in their work. A seemingly simple expression can not necessarily be translated directly. Communication in the field of information and communication technology (ICT) happens mainly in English. Therefore even in Finnish-Swedish translations terms have to be searched via English. The importance of experts is remarkable. They are in the core of their field where new techniques and concepts are created. The experts understand the content of the concepts, and when the content is clarified, a term can be formed and equivalents looked for. The help of experts is important in this phase, too.

The Internet and its search facilities, translation memories, multilingual web pages and documents of the EU and other expert organizations are valuable tools for translators. However, it is obvious that the ICT field needs systematic and professional terminology work to clarify concept systems and relations. A consistent vocabulary facilitates translators' work and also communication in general. It also saves time, effort and money. Since ICT concerns almost every citizen, it is considered more and more important that consumers' viewpoint is taken into account in terminology projects. In a well-organized terminology project the experts of content, language and terminology work together.

VoIP, VOIP, Voip, voip or V.O.I.P – correct way of spelling abbreviations

Soile Järvi has studied abbreviations in her master's thesis. First, she thought she would concentrate on the instructions how to spell abbreviations, but she soon noticed that style guides and even grammars seem to be wary of giving exact instructions. Therefore, the focus shifted on studying authentic spellings.

Järvi chose three terms from the Internet Telephony Vocabulary compiled by the TSK: VoIP (voice over internet protocol), WiMAX (worldwide interoperability for microwave access) and FLASH-OFDM (fast low-latency access with seamless handoff, orthogonal frequency divisional multiplexing). She studied the spellings of both the short and full forms of the terms. She classified the abbreviations to acronyms (pronounced as single words) and alphabetisms (pronounced letter by letter).

Abbreviations have been used long but they started to become more common in the 20th century. They are rather common in the names of organizations, and special fields have their own abbreviations which outsiders find difficult to understand. On the other hand, abbreviations are used a lot in everyday language, e.g. in text messages and emails.

Järvi studied the spelling of the chosen abbreviations in special field magazines, newspaper databases, dictionaries and glossaries either printed or published on the Internet. Järvi noticed that there was some variation according to time, e.g. that some early spellings were not used any more. But the text genre influenced more than time, and different text types favour partly different spellings.

The variety of the spellings of English abbreviations poses challenges to terminology work. It may be difficult to choose the recommended spelling. Because there are no exact rules, the usage or the conventions of a certain organization will decide which spellings are chosen e.g. in dictionaries. Widely used spellings are perhaps safe choices for glossaries, but sometimes it is difficult to define how wide the use is. The situation may become more difficult if the abbreviation is a trademark: should the spelling used by the owner of the trademark be respected even if there was a different spelling which is more common?

The thesis is in English, and it can be found in

Terminological methods as tools for teachers and students

Terminology research and work show that terminological methods can be used in special language planning, analysing of information and languages for special purposes (LSP). For example, organizations can use these methods in developing and harmonizing their concepts and terms. Concrete results of this work are e.g. special field glossaries and term databases.

The need for efficient communication increases in the society all the time, so it can be assumed that the analysing of information will be more and more important in the future. When terminological methods are used, there is always a thorough concept analysis at the background. This will guarantee that concepts and terms are accurate enough for communication needs.

Terminology science as a minor subject has been available in the Faculty of Humanities in the University of Vaasa for twenty odd years. Nina Pilke, the writer of the article, has also used terminological methods in such teaching groups where the students didn't know anything or knew very little about terminology. Her aim is to show the students that the terminological way of analysing the world is a functional tool for the experts of different fields.

In her teaching Pilke has used so called activating teaching and an explorative learning model where the individual guides his or her own learning by building own ideas about things and by looking for new supplementary information.

The use of terminological methods was tried e.g. in a teaching group where the teaching of substance and language was combined in a novel way. The skills of future Masters of Science in economics and business administration were developed so that they can communicate on current themes in auditing in Swedish. The students wrote final reports where they gathered the concepts and their contents on the themes handled during the course. The central concepts were described and Swedish terms with their Finnish equivalents were listed.

The terminological exercise has provided a good ground for considering concepts and terms on a general level in a group and practised students' skills to present special field information shortly and neatly. The way students perceive the theme and their choice of central concepts and their relations show the teachers what things the students understand and what needs to be supplemented and clarified.

Special features of the language of ecology and environmental protection

Annikki Liimatainen's doctoral thesis is the first extensive study on the language of ecology and environmental protection. She has studied Finnish and German texts, e.g. dictionaries, text books, standards, statutes and electronic corpora. The thesis aims to clarify which linguistic and non-linguistic factors have influenced and are influencing the language of ecology and environmental protection, and how the Finnish and German vocabulary have developed and changed during time.

Ecology and environmental protection are closely linked not only to each other but also to many other scientific fields. Consequently, the language of the environmental field has acquired an abundance of influences and vocabulary from the language of the special fields close to it as well as from that of politics and various social fields. The thesis demonstrates how the semantic meaning of some terms is distorted when they are used in popularized texts and in standard language dictionaries.

The dictionaries on ecology and environmental protection have been the primary target of examination. One focus of the work has been to find out and collect all the dictionaries in the field that have been compiled until the end of 2004 and that contain German or Finnish. The oldest dictionary containing German is from 1949 whereas Finnish was used as an equivalent language only in 1968 and as an entry language in 1976.

One special feature of the vocabulary of the environmental field is the wealth and large number of designation variants. In many cases, the reason for synonymy is that when a concept is designated, the different characteristics of a concept are emphasized, e.g. energy forest : short rotation forest. LSPs which are closely linked to the standard language, adopt easily standard language words, or terms drift from them into the standard language.

Most often synonymy is caused by the use of different term formation methods. Terminological doublets formed by words of foreign origin and their German or Finnish equivalents are quite typical of the field. A great deal of synonymy is caused by the shortening of word combinations to single words or abbreviations. Other reasons for synonyms are chemical symbols and formulas designating chemical elements and compounds, e.g. mercury : Hg.

Unambiguity, abstractedness and objectivity are considered as the characteristics of scientific texts, but in the environmental field the designations used are also a part of the standard language and many terms arouse affective comments from laypersons. Competing designation variants are used when speaking on sensitive environmental issues depending on in which interest group the person speaking belongs to.

Geographic information glossary in Finnish

In spring 2008 the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK elaborated a translation into Finnish of a geographic information glossary for the Land Survey of Finland. The original glossary is compiled by the Technical Committee 211 of the ISO. It contains about 500 terms chosen from the geographic information standards compiled by the TC 211, as well as definitions, notes and examples. The original language of the glossary is English, and it has been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, Japanese and Swedish.

The task of the TSK was to find Finnish equivalents to English terms, and translate definitions and other texts. The work was facilitated by the Vocabulary of Geoinformatics (TSK 32) published by the TSK in 2005. The translator was also given help by a group of specialists from the Land Survey, Helsinki University of Technology and Finnish Geodetic Institute.

The geographic information glossary contained dozens of concepts which had been given Finnish equivalents in the TSK 32. In addition, however, it contained concepts for which there are no (established) Finnish equivalents. In these cases, the specialist group proposed a preferred Finnish term.

During the translation process, differences were noticed in the ways in which a concept is understood in Finland and in the international standards. For example, two terms could be considered as synonyms in the TSK 32, but regarded as two separate concepts in the international standards. In such cases, new Finnish terms were coined on the basis of the English definitions.

As geographic information standards are international, translations of the related glossary have to follow the English original as closely as possible. Therefore, instead of adopting Finnish definitions from the TSK 32, for example, all definitions were translated from English.

The geographic information glossary with its Finnish translation can now be found at the Internet address It is the hope of the compilers of the Finnish version that glossary users familiarise themselves with the term recommendations and send any feedback to the Land Survey of Finland (


Norwegian guide to terminology
Guide to Terminology by Heidi Suonuuti has been translated into Norwegian. Termlosen guide contains the central principles of systematic terminology work and methods. The guide can be bought from the Norwegian Language Council.

Swedish–English Dictionary of Building and Civil Engineering
The Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC has compiled a bilingual dictionary on building and civil engineering which contains almost 20 000 entries. The dictionary contains no definitions, but refers to sources where definitions can be looked for. The terms are also classified, and a code based on the classification system for Swedish libraries has been added to each term. The dictionary is aimed for those who write building and civil engineering texts in English or those who translate such texts from Swedish to English.

Concepts and terms in the balance sheet
Niina Nissilä's doctoral thesis Begrepp och termer inom området balansräkning – teoretisk utveckling och empirisk förankring (the concepts and terms in the balance sheet – theoretical development and empirical anchorage) describes these terms and concepts from the viewpoints of accounting, terminology and language planning. The thesis studies what effects social, political or other factors have on the variation of accounting term choices and how the similarities or differences can be seen in the language of accounting.

Dictionary of information processing
The 14th revised edition of ATK-sanakirja, the Dictionary of Information Processing, has been published. The dictionary is divided into two separate parts. The first part covers about 4500 central IT terms in Finnish. It also contains definitions and equivalents in seven languages, i.e. English, Estonian, French, German, Russian, Spanish and Swedish, and some concept diagrams and other illustrations. The other part, the index, contains seven bilingual glossaries which give the Finnish translations for foreign terms. There are also two CD-ROMs which contain the content of the books in PDF format.

The Finnish Standards Association SFS has published the standard SFS-ISO 639-1 Codes for the representation of names of languages. Part 1: Alpha 2 code in Finnish. The standard contains the two-letter codes for 182 languages and the names of these languages in Finnish, English and in the language in question.

ISO has published the standard ISO 639-5 Codes for the representation of names of languages – Part 5: Alpha-3 code for language families and groups. It gives the three-letter codes for 114 language families and groups and their names in English and French. In addition, it gives information on the hierarchy of the language families and defines the basic concepts of this subject. ISO has also published the standard ISO 860 Terminology work – Harmonization of concepts and terms. It specifies a method for the harmonization of concepts, concept systems, definitions and terms.