Summaries 4/2007

Winds of change

The Finnish Terminology Centre TSK's renewed TEPA term bank was published in September. Both the content and technology of TEPA have been updated. The most important renewals are the multilingual user interface, links between term records, and concept diagrams. The corrected content and new material have also improved the usability and quality of the term bank.

This autumn we have had preparatory discussions with the Terminfo's publisher about a web publication. The web publication would supplement the printed newsletter and facilitate more frequent updates and interactivity with readers.

The TSK's director and hence the editor-in-chief of Terminfo is also changing. Lena Jolkkonen is changing jobs, and wishes to thank all Terminfo readers for the past years.

Ari Páll Kristinsson – terminology expert from Iceland

Ari Páll Kristinsson works in the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies as a research docent and the director of the language planning department. He is also writing a thesis on the Icelandic language used in radio.

Ari Páll studied Icelandic and linguistics in the University of Iceland. He has always been interested in languages and language use. In addition to Icelandic and English, he can speak three Nordic languages and German. He has also studied a little Finnish.

Since 1990 Ari Páll has worked in the Icelandic Language Institute except for 1993–96 when he worked as a language consultant in the Radio Iceland. In 1996 he became the director of the Language Institute.

In September last year the Icelandic Language Institute and four other language organizations were merged into one bigger unit, the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies. In a way, the Language Institute still continues to exist as the language planning department of the Árni Magnússon Institute. There are also departments for lexicography, place name studies, ethnography, study of Old Icelandic texts and literature, and common Icelandic culture.

The task of the language planning department is to give instructions on language use to the public. The department publishes books on the Icelandic language and language use both on the Internet and in paper format. The tasks also include terminology work, i.e. the department helps to compile glossaries for various special fields. Terminology work was already one of the tasks of the Icelandic Language Institute. Ari Páll says that he has been dealing with terminology work for almost 18 years.

Icelandic is one of the Nordic languages and the official language of Iceland spoken by about 300 000 people. The amount of loan words in Icelandic is smaller than in other Nordic languages. The reasons for this are the long tradition of native language word formation since the 12th century language and a consciously puristic language policy since the 17th century. Ari Páll says that the basic vocabulary of Icelandic has remained almost the same for thousand years. Therefore it is often easier to create native language words than to adapt loan words into the Icelandic language system. Ari Páll sees the future of Icelandic bright and does not think that it is threatened in any way. For example, young Icelandic writers, researchers and film producers want to use Icelandic.

The language planning department aims to facilitate terminology work by gathering information on terminology work done in different places, by disseminating it and by publishing literature on the subject. Especially important is the Icelandic Word Bank on the Internet. Experts of different subject fields can publish their terminologies there, and everyone can search terms in different languages and their definitions. The Word Bank contains about 50 terminologies including altogether about 170 000 terms.

LOCUS – logistics and customs terms

LOCUS – Online Glossary of Logistics and Customs Terms – is a public and free-of-charge term database. It was published on the Internet ( in September. The purpose is to help those who work in the logistics, customs and border between Finland and Russia. The database is aimed primarily for translators working in these fields, but it is a valuable tool for the workers, clients, forwarders and information officers of the Customs and logistics firms, too.

The database is both descriptive and informative. Its aim is to help communication, but also to transmit information on logistics and customs. The database contains terms in Finnish, Russian and English. The target language is Finnish. Term records contain concept diagrams, pictures and additional information that help to understand the concepts.

There was cooperation in three levels in the LOCUS project. The first level was the cooperation between terminologists and between terminologists and the database developer. The terminologists did the preliminary work, i.e. gathering, categorization and delimiting of terms and preparatory concept analysis. The terminologists told the database developer what is necessary in terminology work, and the IT experts told what was possible to do with the available resources. Often it was also thought what is essential for the user.

The second level of cooperation was between the terminologists and Finnish logistics professionals who were needed to clarify the concepts behind the terms. The third level was the cooperation with the English and Russian language experts. The terminologists had found equivalents for many Finnish terms but native speakers checked each term and equivalent.

The fourth and one of the most important levels will be the users giving feedback on the database.

An open source application is used in the database. The database can be used and updated easily from a web interface. Terms and glossaries can be easily grouped and exported and imported in an XML format. The database has an internal feedback system which makes it possible to suggest new terms and to report on the content or functioning of the system.

LOCUS can also be used for teaching. Concept diagrams help translators or students to understand better logistics or foreign trade. The glossary gets added value through a text index which is a collection of Finnish statutes and documents on logistics and customs.

Speech-friendly terms

If all the glossary compilers thought for whom and for what purpose they are making their glossaries, the use of them would perhaps also be easier. Glossaries will always be used to check the grammar. A glossary should not be published if the language in it has not been checked.

How the quality of glossaries could be improved? One idea is that all those who suggest new terms should be made to form a sensible and readable sentence where their term is used. This requirement alone would probably eliminate the oddest terms.

If the glossary makers cannot use the terms they recommend in their own definitions, they should look at their recommendations again. Especially attempts to create funny abbreviations end up in term recommendations that no-one understands. Users need understandable and easy-to-use terms – not more and more new abbreviations.

The terminology guides list criteria for a good term. A new requirement, that a term is understandable to the consumer, should be added to the criteria. Here the consumer refers to the fact that much too often we form a term and recommend it from the viewpoint of subject field experts or those who write about the subject. So, we make the use of terms easier to those who already know them – not to those who should learn and understand the terms.

In glossaries terms should absolutely be written in that form in which they normally appear in a text. For the layout of a glossary it could seem natural to treat terms like headings and start them with capital letters. However, this does not tell the user how the term is really written and in the worst case the user thinks that capitals are compulsory.

Designing LSP dictionaries for translators

LSP dictionaries for translators and their design process have been the subject of Igor Kudashev's doctoral dissertation. The design of dictionaries is important for several reasons. Firstly, each dictionary and dictionary project is unique. Designing aims to meet the needs of the target group of a dictionary and to describe the lexical material in the best possible way. Secondly, a dictionary is usually quite complex. It contains a lot of information in an exact order. A systematic and accurate approach is therefore vital when compiling dictionaries, especially if several persons participate in a dictionary project. Thirdly, detailed design is an important way to keep down the timetable and budget.

The dissertation has three main goals. The first is to revise and enrich the stock of concepts and terms required in the process of designing an LSP dictionary for translators. The second is to detect and classify the factors which affect the characteristics of this kind of a dictionary and the process of its compilation. The third goal is to provide recommendations on dictionary design.

The study is based on an analysis of LSP dictionaries, dictionary reviews, material from several dictionary projects, and questionnaires for translators.

The factors affecting a dictionary have been divided into actual lexicographic factors based on the needs of the users and those reflecting the restrictions of the real world (e.g. restrictions of the data carrier, demands of the financier and publisher, and scientific traditions). A dictionary will meet the users' needs best if the design starts from the lexicographic factors, but in reality, the external factors also affect the dictionary very much. The compilation of a dictionary is finding compromises between the conflicting factors.

When designing an LSP dictionary, much depends on the level of knowledge of the users about the domain in question as well as their general linguistic competence, LSP competence, and lexicographic competence (how well the users know dictionaries and other reference material and can use them). The biggest target group of an LSP dictionary is formed by such translators who have quite good standard language competence in the source and target languages but weakish knowledge of the special field and competence of the LSP.

An LSP dictionary for translators cannot contain all information on some special field. In bilingual and multilingual dictionaries the most important pieces of information are translation equivalents and such information that helps the translator to choose the equivalent or create it, and to produce text in the target language.

The design of a dictionary should be started by deciding which data categories are included and then by planning how to present them. At the same time, it is important to design the precision of categories (e.g. should obsolete terms be divided further into archaisms and historic terms) and depth of information (e.g. just immediate etymology or the whole chain of etymology). This depends on the needs of the users. It is almost as harmful for the user if a dictionary has too much information than if some necessary information is missing.

It is customary to present information concisely in a dictionary. When used correctly, the condensing of information reduces the burden on the user's concentration, saves space, fastens search and lowers the price of a dictionary.

The most important lexicographic document of a dictionary project is the compilation plan that handles in detail the dictionary parameters. In large projects, guidelines for the compilers should be written and the compilation plan should be explained with concrete examples.

How to translate special languages?

The National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden does terminology work the purpose of which is a common special language in the field. A common special language is important e.g. for patient safety and comparable statistics.

In 2006 the National Board published a guide how to work on concepts and terms. The guide describes the authorities' internal terminology work, but its aim is also to influence those interested in national terminology work in health and welfare to use common methods. It was decided to translate the guide into English so that the terminology work of the National Board could be described in international connections, too. However, some problems occurred with the translation, which is possible if the translator is not familiar with the field in question.

The translations of special field terms in the guide were problematic both in the special fields of terminology as well as health and welfare. The translator's suggestions were fully understandable, but not the terms that are used in the English professional literature, e.g. words like "material characteristic" were used instead of "essential characteristic", or "electronic case record" instead of "electronic health record".

The translator chose to translate some instructions precisely like they were in Swedish, which also caused problems. For example, in a section describing what kind of forms terms can have, there were examples of oneword terms. In Swedish one example was "ambulanssjukvård" which was translated into "ambulance care" which is not a one-word term any more.

It became clear in the translation of the National Board's guide that it is important to inform the translator about the purpose of a translation; in this case to describe the Board's terminology work, not the Swedish health and welfare system. One way to help the translator is to enclose a list of special field terms and their equivalents. And it is also important to keep in contact with the translator during the work.

Eugen Wüster Prizes

This year the Eugen Wüster Prizes were given to María Teresa Cabré and Alan K. Melby. The prizes are granted every third year to experts of terminology who have made outstanding contributions to the research, education, development of methods or improvement of international cooperation in the field of terminology. Besides terminology, the prize may be granted for documentation, applied linguistics or language planning.

Cabré works as a professor at the Institute for Applied Linguistics at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. Her research interests include general and Catalan lexicology, lexicography, and theoretical and applied terminology. She has also worked in many other tasks related to Catalan. She has been e.g. the director of the Catalan Center for Terminology, TERMCAT, and coordinated the revision project of a Catalan language dictionary. She has published several books e.g. on terminology.

Melby works as a professor at the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Brigham Young University in Utah. His aim has been to facilitate domain communication across social and cultural boundaries. He has also been active in the ISO terminology committee.


Technical Dictionary for Automotive Engineering
Autotekniikan ammattisanasto includes terms in four languages: Finnish, English, German and French. It contains more than 7000 entry words in the field of automotive engineering.

Medical terms
The 5th edition of Duodecim's Lääketieteen termit has been published. Entry words are mainly Finnish words or foreign expressions adapted into Finnish. Short definitions or explanations are given to the words. Equivalents in Latin, English and Swedish are also given. Indexes are given from all these three languages into Finnish.

Finnish-Swedish-Finnish law dictionary
Suuri lakikielen sanakirja by Ambrosius Wollstén aims to describe widely the terms and concepts of Finland's legislation. It also includes terms of Sweden's legislation in such cases where the term differs from the one used in Finland, but which has a correspondence in the Finnish legal system.

Foreign names of organizations
The 7th edition of Utrikes namnbok has been published by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It contains the names of Swedish authorities and organizations, EU bodies and countries in Swedish, English, German, French, Spanish, Finnish and Russian. In addition, it contains governmental official titles and EU titles. It is available on the Internet (