Summaries 1/2004

  • Sanastotyötä kolmenkymmenen vuoden ajan / Lena Jolkkonen

  • Pirkko Nuolijärvi – laajakatseisesti kotimaisten kielten puolesta / Tiina Holm

  • Pankkitermejä termipankista / Anu Ylisalmi

  • Puolustautuminen, kehittäminen ja kaupallisuus – näkemys terminologiasta Virossa / Arvi Tavast

  • Tietoyhteiskuntaa tutkimassa – sähköisen kaupankäynnin termistöä / Jorma Tommola & Hilkka Yli-Jokipii

    Thirty years of terminology work

    The Finnish Centre for Technical Terminology TSK celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. These thirty years have included various phases and experiences to be taken advantage of in the future. It is important to keep evolving, and therefore finding a functional balance between traditions and innovations is a good goal also for us during this jubilee year. The celebrations will come to a head in the autumn, in the form of an afternoon seminar.

    The 24th VAKKI Symposium took place this year, between 7th and 8th of February in Vaasa. VAKKI is an annual symposium organized by the Research Group for LSP, Theory of Translation and Multilingualism of the University of Vaasa, and it introduces both theoretical and practical innovations in the language field in Finland.

    This year's theme was LSP & translation – a multilingual point of view. Over 40 presentations were heard in Finnish, Swedish, English and German. Throughout times, more than 500 presentations have been given in the symposiums, almost half of which have dealt with special field languages. Most of these presentations have been collected in proceedings which have become valuable material for researchers and other people interested in the topics.

    The bank and finance terminology project, coordinated by TSK, will expand and take a new form from the beginning of this year. Our cooperation partners include the most significant banks in Finland. The work will be done by two groups: the coordination group will meet a few times a year to consider recommendations to be given, and the reference group will comment on the material before it is released. For more information on the project, see

    The editor of Terminfo, Johanna Suomalainen, is about to go on maternity leave. Her position will be filled by Anu Ylisalmi, who has studied German Translation in the University of Tampere and currently studies language technology in the University of Helsinki. She is also a former trainee in TSK.

    Pirkko Nuolijärvi – Broadminded advocate for languages of Finland

    Pirkko Nuolijärvi, the Director for the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland, is certainly a language person in a right place. She became interested in the Finnish language very early on, and a genuine enthusiasm still shines through her uninhibited.

    Nuolijärvi studied Finnish and Baltic-Finnish languages, especially Estonian, literature and political history in the University of Helsinki. Before becoming the director for the Research Institute, she worked for the Academy of Finland, Uppsala University and Helsinki School of Economics.

    Nuolijärvi looks at her position as a director with a refreshingly realistic attitude, and points out that practically all the administrative decisions affect the content of work. The good and the bad sides of the job are often just two sides of the same coin: Nuolijärvi gets to participate in many things, but there sometimes seems to be too little time to concentrate on any single subject.

    Nuolijärvi still maintains the curiosity of a researcher, and tries to keep up her research projects also in her current position. During the years, she has studied, for example, variation in contemporary language, the relation between variation and change, and televised debates.

    Language policy and the status of languages are also included in Nuolijärvi's special interests. There has been a lot of public discussion on the domain loss of Finnish, but Nuolijärvi is quite optimistic: people still speak, hear and write Finnish. There is no need to fear other languages, but it is good to be conscious of why we choose to use a certain language in a certain situation. Nuolijärvi would not encourage fighting against any language, but rather fighting for the symbiosis of many languages.

    To Nuolijärvi, appreciation for one's national languages is not merely something to mention in festive speeches, but rather an everyday question having also to do with democracy. However, there are many ways to think of languages. One point of view is that language is just a tool, and the simplest thing would be if everyone used one and the same language. Another opinion is that language is a way of being and that all languages enrich our lives. We do have room for more than one language, Nuolijärvi points out.

    A new language law became effective in Finland at the beginning of this year. Its main purpose is to replace the previous, over 80-year-old language law, as well as to be clearer and more practical in form, and to raise language issues more to the public agenda. Pirkko Nuolijärvi was one of the committee members to prepare this new law which was passed by votes 179-3. In Nuolijärvi's opinion, these numbers show that supporting other languages besides Finnish does not raise as many conflicts in this country as is generally assumed.

    Nuolijärvi is content with the new law, but the future of different languages in Finland is also dependent on general attitudes. For example, the status of Swedish can be affected by the Swedish-speaking Finns, the Finnish-speaking Finns and families speaking both languages. However, also the external preconditions, e.g. teaching in Swedish, must be maintained on an adequate level. The position of a minority is never easy, but coexistence with the majority is possible if we make conscious decisions.

    The Research Institute employs approximately 90 regulars, in addition to which there is always a varying amount of temporary employees. Besides the services of its most well-known section, The Finnish Language Office, the institute compiles dictionaries, maintains nomenclature and various archives, offers library services and organises training. In addition to Finnish and Swedish, the institute studies and maintains Saami languages, Romani and the Finnish Sign Language. The services and customers' questions help the 28-year-old institute get up-to-date information on what is going on in our languages and what kind of issues currently preoccupy the language users.

    Nuolijärvi lists two things she considers as the main tasks of the institute: maintaining the language awareness of the people in Finland, and studying the development of our national languages. The position of the Research Institute should nonetheless never be taken for granted: things should not be done just because people are used to doing them - the existence and functions of the institute should constantly be called into question. Internationally taken, the Research Institute is a language study institute with an exceptionally strong status. The reasons for this are both historical and political.

    A recurrent theme in Nuolijärvi's statements is the emphasis on wide cooperation and analysing language as an inseparable part of society. The Research Institute has a lot of cooperation with the Nordic Countries and other European countries. Many projects are also carried out in cooperation with researchers, universities, libraries, archives, the mass media and foreign colleagues.

    Maybe the ultimate motivation behind Nuolijärvi's activeness is the endless curiosity that seems to drive her both in work and in life in general. She also confesses to be an eternal optimist, and considers it as a great privilege to have been able to work with things she is interested in. The interesting tasks at work, nice colleagues, and a loyal family with a sense of humour also help her get through those less delightful moments that everyone will come across every now and then.

    Bank terms from term bank

    At the end of last millenium, translators in the banking field noted that the trade needed terminology work. The banking business had gone through major reforms and mergers in Finland and in the Nordic Countries, and the inconsistency of terminology began to cause more and more trouble for the translators. A few translators and TSK decided to take upon the challenge of harmonizing and publishing terminology for public use, and the terminology project for the banking and financing industry was launched in 2001.

    The term bank has been available for a couple of years now, free of charge, at But what can one find in the term bank, what purposes does it serve, and why does the field need term recommendations and concept descriptions anyway? These questions, among others, were approached by Mari Suhonen, terminologist and coordinator of the terminology work group, and Nina Simosas, bank manager in the Aktia Savings Bank Hakaniemi office. Simosas has participated as an expert in the compilation of a glossary concerning payment transactions concepts, and she is also a member of the coordination group of the terminology work group.

    The project was originally planned to last for two years, but it was extended due to expressed need to supplement the glossary. The working method changed from a project to a terminology work group as of the beginning of 2004, and the work group is intended to function for as long as there is need and interest for this kind of work.

    At the beginning of this year, there were about 600 term records in the data base including terms in Finnish, Swedish and English. It also contains some definitions, other concept descriptions and additional information on, for example, the use of the terms. At the moment, most terms are given in Finnish and Swedish, because the main language of the project was originally Swedish. The future aim is to increase the number of definitions given in Finnish and terms given in English.

    The terms in the term bank can be searched either through a search engine or an index. The user can limit the search to terms only and also choose the language. The search result will consist of all the records where the word appears as such or as a part of a term. Free text search will also allow users to search for a word from all data fields. The indexes contain all the recommended terms included in the term data base, so far gathered from the Finnish and Swedish terms.

    In many municipalities, banks have both Finnish and Swedish-speaking customers, and this has to be acknowledged in customer service and communications. Therefore the glossary is also offered mostly in Finnish and Swedish. For example, Aktia Savings Bank is a bilingual bank, and the basic principle is that the customer will always be served in his or her mother tongue. This is very challenging for the employees, but also makes the work more interesting.

    Terminology is a central part of the everyday work in banks, both among the staff and in customer service. The information needs to be conveyed to the customers as clearly as possible, and it is imperative that the customers understand what their different options are and what effects they will have in the long run. Customers need to be able to trust what the clerk says - there is no room for misunderstandings when making important investment or financing decisions. The glossary will help to harmonize the terminology within and between banks, and some results can already be seen in the external communication of the banks.

    Single terms or equivalents are not the only useful outcome of terminology work. When considering various concepts, they will be defined on the basis of their relations to each other. This will enable comparison between concepts and seeing the big picture. In this way, the glossary is also a good tool in learning a new branch of business, and it can be used in the orientation of new employees.

    The terminology work group for the banking and financing industry is carried out in cooperation between subject-matter experts and terminologists. The coordination group consists of people working in the banking and financing field, language planners and terminologists. The group decides on the areas and concepts to be looked into, and it comments and works on the definitions and term recommendations first prepared by a terminologist. In addition to the coordination group, the material is commented by a reference group which represents the industry quite diversely.

    Participating in terminology work gives an opportunity to look behind words; what seems simple may not be that simple after all. A terminological glossary is often a valuable tool, and beats a dictionary by giving words a wider context, thus making them more easily understandable.

    Defence, development and commercialism – Terminological trends in Estonia

    Two and a half years ago, TSK got a sister organisation in Estonia, the Eesti Terminoloogia Ühing (Eter). Thus far it has organized terminology training, guidance and a terminology conference last autumn, and also participated in the work of the European Association for Terminology, EAFT. Although Eter is the only organization in Estonia that actually concentrates on terminology work, most of the practical terminology work is still done outside Eter. The main goal of Eter is to act as an intermediary.

    The Estonian newspapers and other media tell a nasty story: the Estonian language is going to ruin, its quality is getting worse, and the reason behind all this is the negative influence of foreign languages, especially English. People who show their concern for language degeneration often only see grammar rules being broken or the foreign influence on single words, not the big picture. The domain loss – manifest, for example, in university courses held in English and companies using English as their internal language – is often brushed aside.

    The tone in these discussions is often moralistic, and such strong expressions as 'defence' and 'false language use' are being used. Certain terms are condemned as unallowable, and maintaining the language in its current state (or in one of its former states) is seen as desirable. Since the 1960s, the mainstream language planners have chosen to follow a descriptive method and tried to explain to the language users that also spontaneous development and explicit developing prompted by new needs are just as important as maintaining existing language forms.

    At the end of 2003, a plan for the development of the Estonian language was completed. The main sectors in this plan are maintaining Estonian, pursuing domain gain, teaching Estonian, language planning, linguistics and developing language technology tools for Estonian. The goals are set to the year 2010, and the plan also defines the functions, the people responsible, the financial needs and the financiers for the strategy.

    The plan was prepared by studying the position of Estonian in various fields of society. In some of these fields, especially in science, a clear threat of domain loss was detected. In general, concerns are often expressed about single terms, but the aims of the plan are more wide-ranging and concerned with language policy. If successful, the plan will allow terminologists to do their work undisturbed.

    Lately, approximately 40 special field glossaries have been published in Estonia every year. Due to the financial objectives of publishers, most of the dictionaries have been compiled in a manner opposite to theoretical instructions. This naturally results in simple mistakes and striking unreliability, but the amount of words included is higher than could be achieved with proper methods.

    An alternative to the work of commercial publishing houses is offered by terminology work groups, using similar methods to those used in corresponding Finnish groups. With the help of the development plan, these work groups will hopefully gain in financing and esteem. Terminology work should be considered as an essential part of experts' work, not as trivial waste of time.

    Throughout times, there have been distinguished terminology researchers in Estonia, although they have seldom been famed elsewhere in the world. Research in Estonia is of high quality also today, and education in terminology theory is offered in two universities (in three, as of the forthcoming autumn) at MA and BA levels as parts of translation and technical communication programs. This training not only prepares those students who will work as terminologists, but also affects general attitudes and thus improves the quality of translations.

    There seems to be serious confusion amongst students as to what a concept is: a vast majority of the students on terminology courses, most of them well-educated in the language field, consider concepts as something to do with language – only 13 % of them realised that concepts actually have more to do with ideas. This shows that something has gone wrong in the education, and gives the false impression that language is all we need to know in terminology work. A course on terminology will help put concepts in their right place. Hopefully it is then easier to realise that the only way to get from one language to another is through concepts – not merely with the help of glossaries or linguistics studies.

    Exploring information society – Terminology of e-commerce

    Electronic commerce is a central concept in information society. However, the terminology related to it seems to be quite scattered and inconsistent. This has also been noted in the Department of English Translation Studies in the University of Turku, where the terminology issues of e-commerce have been dealt with ever since companies began taking advantage of the potentiality offered by the WWW and the Internet, in the later half of last decade.

    The constant development of e-commerce technology calls for up-to-date terminology work that will clarify the concepts. Last year, the University of Turku published a book Sähköisen kaupankäynnin termistöä suomeksi ja englanniksi which gathers some of the terminology of electronic commerce in Finnish and English.

    The need for a Finnish e-commerce glossary was first noted in 1997 by a student group translating documents concerning e-commerce. There was a clear demand for consistent terminology work, and this challenge was taken upon by two English translation students. First, Riitta Elsilä got some main paths of the project clarified, and Annaliisa Valtonen worked out more current details.

    The book, based on their study, was published at the end of last year. The publication contains 13 concept systems and 121 term records in Finnish and English. In addition to terms and their equivalents, the records include definitions and often also some descriptions and examples of usage. It also includes an index in Finnish and English. The book has been compiled from the point of view of e-commerce, but many topics are also closely bound to the functions and development of information society in general.

    The field of telecommunications and on-line shopping changes constantly. Therefore, new information was already found while this publication was being edited. This information was inevitably left uncovered. The contents of the publication are based on the writers' own research where sources have contained EU directives, Finnish decrees, general works on the topic and Internet material. Valuable help and comments have been got, among others, from TIEKE (Finnish Information Society Development Centre), TSK and the Government Terminology Service.