Summaries 3/2009

Terminology work for many needs

The Finnish Terminology Centre TSK will celebrate its 35th birthday with a seminar on the 29th October. In 35 years the TSK has published 39 vocabularies on various subjects in the TSK vocabulary series and many other publications, too. This proves how important terminology work is. Terminology work and the need for it have also been taken into account in the plan of action for the language policy in Finland published in May. The plan recommends that an explicit framework for terminology work should be created and that the financing should be provided for to guarantee the continuity of the work.

Riitta Luhtala — multi-skilled woman in electronic communication

Riitta Luhtala has studied English and Swedish, and graduated as a qualified translator in 1981. After that she has sometimes worked as a freelance translator in her free time but her actual career has been in communication. She took the examination of an information officer in the Institute of Marketing in 1983, and she has studied web communication in the University of Helsinki.

Now Luhtala works as the information manager of Welho cable TV operator which is part of Sanoma Entertainment, the electronic media division of the Sanoma Group. Welho provides TV and broadband services in the Helsinki metropolitan area for its cable households. Luhtala's work is versatile. She takes care of Welho's media contacts and internal communication, gathers and provides information, and participates in various projects.

In her work Luhtala likes best the nice work community and Welho's well-made products and services. Her language studies have not been in vain either since it would be very difficult to do the work without language skills. However, she would like to strengthen her understanding of technology, because technology makes Welho's services possible.

In electronic communication new terms are created always when new products or services enter the market. Luhtala tells that Welho tries to use Finnish terms as often as possible, but abbreviations cannot be forgotten either. “Early adapters of new technologies use often English terms and prefer technical language. But the larger the masses are, the clearer the language must be” Luhtala says. Welho explains abbreviations to consumers e.g. by using small glossaries when presenting products and services. The Sanoma Group has its own guidelines for the use of terms and an internal term bank.

Luhtala has participated in several terminology projects: Cable and Satellite TV Vocabulary (1993), Digital TV Vocabulary (2006), Internet Telephony Vocabulary (2007) and now Web 2.0 terminology project. She has only positive experiences with terminology work. “When there are several experts of the same field and all of them have different knowledge, they can make a lot together.” Luhtala describes the ongoing Web 2.0 project as extensive and challenging. “The challenge is that when we think about concepts in some meeting room, the world of social media is developing all the time outside. We must take care that we find the essential things for the vocabulary although the target evolves all the time.”

Luhtala speaks well of the cooperation with the TSK. She says that the guidance the TSK gives is based on negotiation. The TSK negotiates with the Finnish society and takes into account how the language is used and how it evolves. She suggests that there could be a forum on the TSK's web site where language users could discuss vocabularies or terms or comment vocabularies that are being compiled.

Nordterm 2009

This year the Nordterm Assembly was organized in Copenhagen in June. There were about hundred participants mainly from the Nordic countries.

This year's theme was ontologies and taxonomies, and the course was also related to the theme. David Markwell from the Clinical Information Consultancy Ltd presented the SNOMED Clinical Terms database which contains health care terms. Birthe Toft from the University of Southern Denmark told how the SNOMED terms have been translated into Danish.

There were many interesting presentations in the Nordterm conference. Henrik Nilsson from the Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC and Niina Nissilä from the University of Vaasa told about the Nordic TERMDIST project the aim of which is to create a net-based Master's degree programme for terminology. Katri Seppälä from the TSK presented the Finnish ONKI ontology library, and how it can be used to facilitate the use and maintenance of ontologies. The TNC had many presentations on the Swedish national term bank, Rikstermbanken, published in March, e.g. what it contains and how it was developed.

There were quite a few presentations on the development of information systems and how concept analysis should be a part of the work. Especially in Denmark many authorities have been developing their IT systems and using concept analysis and concept modelling to avoid problems and misunderstandings when drafting data models.

There was also a workshop on Nordic language technology terms where the standardization of these terms was discussed. The Nordterm Steering Committee and Working Groups met to recap the past events and to plan future activities. There are three active WG's in Nordterm: Terminology research and training, Terminology management tools and Nordterm's Internet information. Each participating Nordterm country told what had happened in the last few years in the field of terminology. The next Nordterm Assembly will be organized in Finland by the TSK.

Interesting links:

From concept models to conceptual data models

In order to develop a harmonised and efficient IT system, it is important to be familiar with the underlying concept model (concept systems) for the domain which the IT system is designed to accommodate, as this forms the necessary foundation for designing the conceptual data model. Although there is no one-to-one correlation between concept and characteristic features in the concept model and classes and attributes in the conceptual data model, there are many similarities between concept modelling and conceptual data modelling. By closely examining the relationship between the two models, Bodil Nistrup Madsen and Anna Odgaard have strived to construct an algorithm for creating conceptual data models in Unified Modelling Language (UML) on the basis of concept models that adhere to the traditional principles and methods of terminology work.

Ideally, the modelling procedure for developing an IT system that comprises a database should consist of four phases: concept modelling, conceptual data modelling, logical data modelling and physical data modelling. Unfortunately, the concept modelling phase is often omitted and IT developers set out to design the conceptual data model first. This causes problems as a conceptual data model contains no information about meaning, rather, what kind of information should be recorded in the database. If concepts are not clarified and consensus regarding the content of concepts and usage of terms has not been reached, problems and misunderstandings could arise in connection with the data models.

In the first phase, the domain experts identify the concepts and terms which are relevant for the proposed IT system. Assisted by terminologists or having the necessary terminological prerequisites, the domain experts then proceed to organise concepts visually in a concept model where the mutual semantic relations between the concepts are recognized and defined.

In the second phase, a conceptual data model in UML can be created on the basis of the conceptual information contained in the concept model in the form of characteristic features and concept relations.

In the third phase, the conceptual data model is converted into a logical data model.

Implementing a physical data model in the last phase calls for considerations regarding the facilities and constraints of a given schema and query language, such as SQL or XML, including technical specifications, such as data types or the sequence order of elements. Once this has been established, the database can be implemented.

By providing guidelines for converting a concept model to a data model, Nistrup Madsen and Odgaard hope to pave the way for consistently anchoring data models in concept models, implementing a mediating framework for a dialogue between domain experts, terminologists and IT developers, and reducing resource costs by avoiding errors, ambiguity and vagueness during IT system development.

Term bank — cost or benefit?

The purchase of a term bank is a big investment, and it must be properly justified why it is needed. Since there are many free-of-charge dictionaries and term bases on the Internet, the need for an own term bank is not always understood in companies. It is essential to emphasize that the company's own terms cannot be found on the Net, and even though the terms in one's own special field were found, each user must always check their correctness, and this takes time and resources.

In order to convince the decision-makers, cost-benefit models are being developed to calculate a price for terminology work. In these cases, the quality is often emphasized, not the quantity. It is not reasonable to gather quickly terms if there is no time to check their correctness. Calculations show that it is dozens of times more expensive to correct a wrong term than what it costs to enter it in a term bank.

The Bank of Finland also made a cost-benefit analysis before purchasing a term bank The profitability was estimated both with qualitative and quantitative criteria. The biggest quantitative benefit would be the working hours saved by the experts and translators when the right terms can be found in one place and less time is spent for looking for them. Qualitative benefits would be the up-to-date, correct and coherent use of terms which would improve internal and external communication and further a positive corporate image. A common term tool would facilitate a dialogue between experts and translators. A term bank would be a valuable tool for training the new employees and for saving the implicit information of old workers before it disappears when they retire.

The cost-benefit analysis was done in the Bank of Finland by using three different methods. All of them showed that the term bank investment would be profitable even if only the saved working hours were taken into account. The qualitative benefits would further increase the profitability. All in all, the term bank will boost translation and language consultancy, especially since it can be used with a translation memory already in use.

In the Bank of Finland the implementation of the term bank is at least a two-phased process. In the first phase, the term gathering phase, the term bank will be used only by the translators. When there are enough terms, the second phase will begin, and the terminology will be opened to all those who work in the Bank. In future, the term bank could perhaps even be published on the Internet.

Do enumerations count?

Henrik Nilsson, terminologist at the Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC, looks closer at enumerations in and as definitions. His work with selecting definitions for the Swedish national term bank, Rikstermbanken, has shown that definitions containing enumerations are fairly common despite the fact that they have not been much considered in theory. Although enumerations can be found in intensional definitions (both as the superordinate concept and as examples given in the definition), the main focus here is on extensional definitions.

Depending on what is being enumerated (subordinate concepts, objects, partitive concepts and others) in extensional definitions, and why, one could perhaps expand the current typology with some new types of definitions: “referential definitions”, “headline definitions” and “comprehensive definitions” with Nilsson’s suggested denominations. Referential definitions are “extensional definitions in disguise”, i.e. combinations of an often quite general superordinate concept with a reference to a list (annex etc.) where the actual enumeration takes place. The headline definitions seem to exist because the term for the concept in question neatly covers all of the enumerated elements (which cannot always be pinned down to subordinate concepts, objects or partitive concepts) and consequently need not be repeated in a text, and Nilsson looks closer at the connection between classification and this type of definition. Comprehensive definitions resemble intensional definitions in that they start with what could be seen as a very general superordinate concept, but which is rather a piece of metainformation such as “comprehensive term for…” or “the concept comprises…”.

Finally, the order of the elements being enumerated and its effect, if any, on the concept being defined by enumeration is analysed e.g. through the example of planet. For most people it does not seem right if the planets are given in alphabetical order, but their distance from the Sun is felt to be a better order.

The future of Finnish

The future of the Finnish language, a plan of action for the language policy in Finland, was published in May. Although Finnish is well and alive in general, its domain has diminished, especially in natural sciences, technology and international connections. The aim of the plan is to strengthen the use of Finnish so that Finnish can continue to live side by side with other languages.

The plan deals with e.g. the use of Finnish and other languages in school, higher education, science, business and media, the legislation concerning Finnish, and the use of Finnish in the national administration and in the EU.

The main recommendation of the plan is that the Finnish government should set up a work group to draft a language policy programme. The programme should take into account all the languages used in Finland and the need of languages to be studied, and it should include a plan of action for the Finnish language.

The plan of action discusses terminology work, too. It recommends that a systematic mapping of terminology work done by various bodies (the TSK, scientific societies, universities, research institutions) will be started. According to the plan the aim is to create an explicit framework for terminology work and to solve the state's role in the financing of the work so that the TSK will be granted a permanent state subsidy. This has been the TSK's aim for a long time, so we hope that this recommendation will be advanced when the plan of action is carried out.

The plan of action is made by the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland and the University of Helsinki. It can be found in the address (only in Finnish).

English as part of our language landscape

A generation that has really many very competent English speakers has grown in Finland in the last couple of decades. A multilingual environment seems natural and familiar to this generation. English is not just a school subject for the young but a fairly essential part of the Finnish everyday life. The presence of English passes however rather unnoticed, it is merged into Finnish texts. Texts containing only English are rare e.g. in advertising or in news, but English expressions are used to complement the otherwise Finnish texts.

The wide presence of English in Finland is shown in an enquiry made in a Finnish Internet community. Only 25% of the young users said that they learned English best in school, whereas about 31% said they learned it best from the television. English is spoken so much that a certain level of competence is taken for granted. Therefore English expressions can be used e.g. in advertising and communication without translations.

English is used especially in the free time hobbies that young Finns have. Nowadays, hobbies are more and more products targeted to consumers, not spontaneous ways of passing one's free time. To distinguish from its predecessors and competitors a product must seem to be somehow different. To convince the consumers, established Finnish terms are deliberately avoided in marketing. Terms are used to package the product, to create an image of something new and fresh. This poses a challenge to the development of Finnish terminology since commercialized hobbies may stay so short time on the market that there is no time to create Finnish terms, let alone establish them.


Preparedness and Civil Defence Vocabulary

In July a new updated edition of the Preparedness and Civil Defence Vocabulary (2007) was published. In the new edition the definitions, notes, other texts and concept diagrams have been translated into Swedish. The vocabulary contains about 240 concepts, and equivalents in Swedish, English and German. The vocabulary can be ordered from the Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK,

Assessment and benchmarking of terminological resources
The International Organization for Standardization ISO has published a standard ISO 23185 Assessment and benchmarking of terminological resources. General concepts, principles and requirements. The standard describes fundamental concepts related to the effective use of terminological information, and provides a model that can be applied to a variety of terminological resources. It clarifies the usability attributes of terminological information and informs how they can be assessed.

Metaphors and phrases
Kielikuvia ja fraaseja kuudella kielellä (metaphors and phrases in six languages) by Päivi Pouttu-Delière contains more than 300 Finnish metaphors or phrases and their equivalents in English, Swedish, German, French and Spanish. Each foreign-language phrase is also given a word-for-word translation. When a Finn is in a stock (in a mess), a Swede sits with his beard in a letterbox (sitta med skägget i brevlådan). When a Finn has his tongue in the middle of his mouth, an Englishman minds his P's and Q's.

Media glossary
Mediasanasto by Heikki Kuutti has now been published on the Internet ( Terms beginning with the same alphabet are published as separate PDF files. The subjects covered include e.g. mass media, journalism, press, radio, TV, films, web communication and media marketing. The glossary contains Finnish and English terms and Finnish explanations.