Summaries 1/2007

Terminology work in Baltic countries

In the Baltic countries terminology work in the national languages is still young; the work did not actually start until the countries got their independence. Perhaps for this reason there can be seen freshness and enthusiasm in the terminology work done in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Last year terminology conferences were organized in Estonia and Lithuania, and the Baltic countries were represented also in the EAFT’s Terminology Summit.

EuroTermBank is a term bank project coordinated by a Latvian language technology company and part of the EU eContent Programme. The goal of the project is to gather and publish terminology material of new EU member states. In addition to the Baltic countries Hungary and Poland participate in the project, and in order to benefit from already existing networks Denmark and Germany also have representatives in the project (see

Bodil Nistrup Madsen — versatile terminology expert

Bodil Nistrup Madsen has been a professor of computational linguistics in the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) since 2000, and the research director of the Danish Centre for Terminology, DANTERMcentret, since 1998.

Nistrup Madsen studied French and German in the CBS. Her teacher Gert Engel offered her a job in the DANTERM project the aim of which was to build a Danish term bank.

Teaching is one of the most important tasks of Nistrup Madsen. She teaches database theory, development of terminology management systems and lexical databases, but hopes that she could dedicate more time to research. Her main research fields are terminology, ontologies, taxonomies, thesauri, subject classification and information search.

DANTERMcentret, founded in 1998, is the unofficial national terminology centre of Denmark. It works with universities, authorities and companies. It does consultancy work in terminology, develops and markets its terminology management system i-Term and concept modeling module i-Model, develops other web-based applications, organizes courses and participates in national and Nordic terminology work and European and international terminology standardization.

Currently the personnel of the Centre consists of a head, a manager, a system developer and three consultants. It is integrated into the CBS as an independent unit the financing of which comes mainly from outside.

In addition to DANTERMcentret, terminology work is also done in other universities, language centres and companies in Denmark. Many authorities have also started to do terminology work.

Nistrup Madsen has participated in Nordterm’s work for long and since 2002 she has been the representative of Denmark in the steering committee. She also participates actively in the work of the ISO terminology committee TC 37. She thinks that terminology will play an increasingly important role in all areas of the society, whereas earlier it was seen just as a prerequisite for translation. Today concept analysis, clarification and systematization are important e.g. for the automatic handling of large quantities of information and building data models or ontologies.

IATE term base

Multilingualism is the central operating principle of the European Union. The Council Regulation No 1/1958 determining the languages to be used lists the official and working languages and stipulates that the regulations and other documents of general application shall be drafted in all official languages.

From the beginning of this year the EU has 27 member states and 23 official languages. Multilingualism establishes the framework for the terminology work done in the EU institutions. Above all the work serves the needs of the EU translators, interpreters and writers. Terminology work is an essential part of translation work, and its aim is to ensure the quality of translations and the coherence of terminology and to speed up the whole translation process.

The terminology work done in the Council of the European Union is managed, coordinated and monitored by the multilingual Terminology & Documentation team. There are 22 language units responsible for the translation of documents, and each unit has its own terminology team. The tasks of terminologists vary from updating single term records to projects on certain subject fields. The objective of the projects is to consolidate the database: one term record for one concept including as many languages as possible. A terminology team may be organized to do proactive terminology work when terminologically problematic acts or agreements are expected for translation.

Since August 2004 the results of terminology work have been entered in the Interactive Terminology for Europe, IATE, database. IATE was born when the databases e.g. of the Council, Commission, Parliament and Translation Centre were combined. In the end of 2006 IATE contained 1.6 million records and more than 8 million terms. More than half of the records contained only three languages or less.

IATE term base should be consolidated, double entries and records containing more than one concept should be deleted and old terms should be checked and updated. There is also the discrepancy between the old and new languages. For example, there are more than 300 000 Finnish terms in IATE, but twice as many terms e.g. in Greek and Portuguese. Terms in the languages of those countries that joined the EU after 2004 amount to only a few tens of thousands.

Language planning for Sweden-Finnish

In Sweden language planning has been transferred to a new official language planning organization called the Language Council of Sweden. It consists of the former language councils of Swedish and Sweden-Finnish and the language planning of official administrative language. The Council's mission is to cultivate Swedish and the minority languages of Sweden and also to monitor the development of all other languages spoken in Sweden. This renewal is very important for the status of the Finnish language. The language planning of Sweden-Finnish is now an activity of the Swedish state, and this strengthens the status of Finnish.

The language planning of Sweden-Finnish continues as before: language and term questions will be answered, Swedish–Finnish word lists compiled and language planning conferences organized.

When the Language Council of Sweden-Finnish was founded in 1975, almost all its activities were focused on developing the vocabulary. School, labour market and social insurance were the three main fields of the society for which own Finnish words were needed since a lot of material on the Swedish society was translated into Finnish and all phenomena did not have designations in Finland.

From the beginning the principle of the Language Council of Sweden-Finnish has been that it does not develop a separate Finnish language in Sweden but tries to act so that the Finnish used in Sweden is the same Finnish as used in Finland. This means that the standard language words are common and the same Finnish words are used if the concepts correspond to each other. Own Sweden-Finnish vocabulary is needed for some concepts related to the society.

About ten years ago the Sweden Finns started to pay more attention to the sentence structure, style etc. in their language usage. Although the share of the vocabulary questions is still almost four fifths, the development shows that the language awareness of Sweden Finns has increased.

Language policy, the strengthening of the status of the language, became under discussion about six years ago when Sweden recognized Finnish as one of Sweden’s minority languages. Today language policy is an essential part of the activities of the Council of Sweden-Finnish. At the moment a plan of action on maintaining and developing Finnish in Sweden is being drafted.

Finnish-Russian forestry dictionary

A new Finnish-Russian forestry dictionary containing almost 5000 term records will be published in the spring 2007. The emphasis is on forest economy and ecology. The dictionary project has been financed by the EU Interreg programme.

Terminologist Irina Kudasheva has been responsible for most of the subject fields and Igor Kudashev has made e.g. the terminology management tool MyTerMS for the project. The dictionary has two editors: professor Aleksandr Gerd, the Saint Petersburg State University, and professor Inkeri Vehmas-Lehto, the University of Helsinki. Gerd has edited the Russian part of the dictionary, and Vehmas-Lehto the Finnish part, especially definitions.

The dictionary is meant mainly for translators and interpreters, but also for forestry experts, students and others in need of forestry terms. The needs of translators, above all, and their assumed level of knowledge have been taken into account. Since translators also need other information than just foreign equivalents, the Finnish concepts have been defined. The dictionary also contains information on the degree of equivalent correspondence and differences between the Finnish and Russian concepts.

Translators’ needs have also been taken into account when selecting search words. The selection has been made on the basis of which terms are actually used in texts, not which terms should be used. The aim has been to find such natural equivalents that are used in Russian texts and by Russian experts. But since the translator cannot leave an empty space in a text if there is no equivalent, also “artificial” equivalents have been included. These equivalents have been created together by Russian subject field experts and terminologists.

The dictionary is arranged alphabetically according to Finnish terms. It also contains a Russian-Finnish index and about 700 concept diagrams. The diagrams help to get a general view of a subject e.g. when preparing for interpretation, and perhaps they can also be used in teaching. The diagrams have been drawn separately for the Finnish and Russian concept systems.

One feature in the dictionary is meant for the forestry and environment experts: the book has references for definitions, notes, Finnish terms and Russian equivalents. The references also show whether the text is a direct quotation or edited. So the readers will be able to evaluate the reliability of the information and to search for more information.

The forestry dictionary is based on concept analysis. Terminologists have first gathered Finnish terms, definitions and other information from texts and drawn preliminary concept diagrams. Then the analysis has continued in email discussions between the editor and the expert of the subject field in question. The Russian concepts have also been analysed. The results of the analysis are shown in the concept diagrams, selection of equivalents, and correspondence symbols and notes concerning the conceptual differences.

Terminology project on Internet phone calls

More and more Finns use the Internet and different web services. Internet phone calls (IP calls), i.e. calls transferred over the Net instead of the telephone network, have also become more common. IP calls make up a new subject field and the terms are not established. Therefore the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK has started a terminology project which will produce a vocabulary covering the most essential concepts related to IP calls. The vocabulary will give recommendations on Finnish terms and clarify with the help of definitions and examples in which meaning the terms can be used. The vocabulary will contain 50–70 concepts. The equivalents will be given in Swedish and English.

The main target group of the vocabulary will be consumers. In addition to IP calls, the vocabulary will contain concepts related to information networks, broadband connections and devices for making IP calls. The aim is to cover those concepts that the consumer will encounter when using IP call services.

The IP call vocabulary will be published in the summer 2007 on the TSK’s web site and TEPA term bank.

Blessings of technology

When Marja Hamilo worked as a freelance translator 15 years ago, she had to count manually the source text words when the words were the basis of the fee. However, one of the biggest differences compared to the current work methods was that the Internet was not yet available. Hamilo had to phone many places to get equivalents for special terms, and it was troublesome and time-consuming. Nowadays the information can often be found in the Net, seldom in books.

Translators working at home find their work very lonely and many miss the work community. In this respect, too, the new technology has changed work methods, for example, translators have mailing lists. It is unbelievable that there are experts of so many special fields among the list participants.

There’s no doubt that many of us would have liked to smash our quirky computers sometimes, but not many would be ready to give up their modern work tools and methods. It seems that the development has been very fast. And it is not likely to stop here: new tools facilitated by collaborative work methods or semantic web will certainly come. Although machine translations may suit some text types or a human translator can use machines to help, Hamilo does not think that a machine can ever replace a human in translation. The most important tool, however, is found in the translator’s own head.

Conference on Language Planning and Terminology in Tallinn

Language planners and terminologists from Estonia, Finland, Lithuania and Sweden participated in the Conference on Language Planning and Terminology organized in Tallinn in November 2006.

Since a new comprehensive dictionary on the Estonian language had just been published, it was the subject of many presentations. For example, Tiiu Erelts, the editor-in-chief, talked about the rights and obligations of the editors of the dictionary, and Argo Mund told about Estonian neologisms.

Markus Kolga presented the Estonian military terminology project based on the AAP-6 NATO Glossary of terms and Definitions. The project group checks the Estonian terms and definitions translated earlier, and after corrections publishes them in the public MILITERM term bank (

Albina Auksoriūtė told about terminology work in Lithuania. The main three organizations working in the field of terminology are the Centre of Terminology at the Institute of Lithuanian Language, the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language and the Lithuanian Standards Board.

The effect of the EU on the Finnish language was discussed by Inkaliisa Vihonen. According to her more emphasis should be placed on the source texts, not just translations. When source texts are written, it should be considered how they can be translated into other languages.

EAFT conference

More than hundred terminologists and others interested in terminology gathered in the Terminology Summit organized by the EAFT (European Association for Terminology) in Brussels in November 2006. The summit had four themes: terminology policies and planning, major problems for minor languages, terminologist in profile and different collaborations for different needs.

The minority languages often stay in the shadow of the majority language since the communication in the central fields of the society and main media may occur only in the majority language. This causes a lack of minor language terms in one or more special fields.

Terminological work is very versatile. The job descriptions of terminologists vary from the collecting of terms for translators to the management of terminology projects. More terminological work is done than anyone knows – often they who do it cannot even themselves describe their work as terminological nor do their superiors recognize the character of the work.

During the summit it became obvious that the idea of what is the job description of a terminologist and what is a suitable one varies from one country to another. In the Nordic countries it is thought that experts from various fields can be terminologists, whereas in some Central European countries terminologists are considered as some kind of translators.

The EAFT also celebrated its 10th anniversary. During its existence the association has established its position. Today it has more than 50 organizations and 40 private persons as members, and people all over the world participate in its meetings.


Environmental Dictionary EnDic
The Environmental Dictionary EnDic covers a wide field of environmental protection and nature conservation terms in nine languages: Finnish, Estonian, English, French, German, Swedish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Russian. It contains about 6000 entries and about one third of them have definitions in English, Estonian and Finnish. It is available free-of-charge on the address