Summaries 2/2002

  • Kielipolitiikkaa Ruotsissa / Lena Jolkkonen

  • Heidi Suonuuti – uranuurtaja sanastotyön alalla / Johanna Suomalainen

  • Vastineongelmia erikoisalan kaksikielisessä sanastotyössä / Inkeri Vehmas-Lehto

  • Grønlandsk og Oqaasileriffik / Grønlands sprogsekretariat / Per Langgård

  • Projektiuutisia

  • Monimuotoinen polysemia hyödyllinen kielessä – miten esittää se sanastossa? / Riina Kosunen

  • Tietämisen portailla / Anu Ylisalmi

  • Kirjallisuutta

    Language policy in Sweden

    A parliamentary committee has completed a report on the state and status of Swedish in Sweden. The report is called "Speech – Draft action programme for the Swedish language". It is suggested in the report that a language act shall be introduced that establishes the status of Swedish as Sweden's principal language. Surprisingly enough there has not been such legislation in Sweden, but evidently Swedish and its status has been taken for granted until now. In addition to this act, a new government agency, called the Language Council of Sweden, would be formed. It would be responsible for language planning both for Swedish and minority languages, e.g. Finnish spoken in Sweden. Terminology would also be included in the Council's activities.

    The importance of special languages and terms is made clear in the report. Terms must exist in the mother tongue in order to use the language in all situations, in work and science, too. The frequent use of English in Sweden has created a situation where Swedish terms are not born without special effort. For more information see the report on the web address

    Heidi Suonuuti – pioneer in terminology work

    TSK's long-time director, Ms.S. (Tech.) Heidi Suonuuti follows actively events related to terminology and TSK even though she is retired. Suonuuti's interest in terminology and practical terminology work left a mark both in TSK's activities and in the development of terminology work in Finland.

    Before TSK Suonuuti worked in Keskuslaboratorio (KLC) where she composed international standards and participated in ISO's secretariat work. Suonuuti came into contact with terminology work when she was nominated as the secretary for a committee which set out to compile a paper vocabulary. It took a couple of years to make the vocabulary and during this time Suonuuti became convinced that terminology work, without proper terminological methods, was utter chaos.

    As an experienced standardizer she first tried to seek clarification by reading international standards on terminology but the only help she received from them was the name of Eugen Wüster. She looked for more information on Wüster and found his theory of terminology. It appealed to her since it answered many of her questions.

    There was a need to develop Finnish in technical fields long before TSK was founded. The need arose in the end of the 19th century when Finnish was started to be used in technical education. In the middle of the 20th century a terminology centre had been founded both in Sweden and Norway, and according to Suonuuti, they proved that Finland also needed a similar organization.

    A commission was founded to investigate the matter in 1967 and it gave a report in 1971, but only in 1973 the director of Finnish Standards Association SFS took an initiative to found a terminology association. SFS founded a work group that had representatives from the predecessor of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland, Ministry of Education, Finnish Technical Association STS and Central Chamber of Commerce. The work group drafted rules and in 17.9.1974 Finland had its own terminology centre: the Finnish Centre for Technical Terminology, TSK.

    During the first few years the activities of TSK were quite modest. One of the most important factors in starting TSK's work was an agreement with the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland on the basis of which the Institute hired the first employee for TSK and gave TSK premises in connection with the Institute. In 1978 TSK got a second employee when Suonuuti was nominated as its director.

    When Suonuuti became TSK's director she studied the theory of terminology more deeply and participated in a terminology course organized by Nordterm, a Nordic terminology forum. According to Suonuuti, this course was essential to TSK's development and it also connected TSK to the Nordic cooperation in the field of terminology. This cooperation still continues.

    TSK's board of directors had decided that the employees of TSK do not participate in terminology projects, their task was to instruct when necessary. According to Suonuuti, terminology projects centred on experts until the end of 1980s. However, it was noticed that the vocabularies compiled this way did not meet the requirements regarding time or costs, because the projects progressed slowly and the results good have been better. Gradually terminologists who were familiar with terminological methods got a bigger role in terminology projects – from term inventory to the finishing of a vocabulary. As a consequence the time spent on the projects decreased to half and costs were reduced considerably.

    In 1980s TSK started to offer many kinds of terminological services. The phone-in term service became more active and in 1987 the TEPA termbank was opened to the public. TSK also organized terminology courses. In the 1990s the developments in IT facilitated new forms of terminology work. Suonuuti retired in 1993 after having created the basic lines for TSK's activities.

    "The importance of terminology work is above all clear communication" says Suonuuti. As a standardizer she knew the difficulties that inconsistent use of terms causes in communication between experts: if the experts don't speak the same language, it is difficult to find consensus or to inform about facts without the danger of misunderstandings.

    Suonuuti thinks that the most challenging and interesting task was to make concept analyses. Concept diagrams describing relations between concepts were an important tool for Suonuuti from the very beginning. At first they were only used as tools that were not meant to be presented in the final work. "When the Energy Vocabulary was compiled in the end of 1980s the work group wanted the diagrams to be included in the vocabulary" says Suonuuti. Since then concept diagrams have been included and they are now one of the main features of TSK's vocabularies.

    When TSK was founded, one central task was to write Finnish guidelines for terminology work. This task was given to Suonuuti. "I think that it was most important to participate in terminology projects first and to study the field, and only after that to compile instructions" says Suonuuti. The Handbook of terminology. Principles and methods of applied terminology science (in Finnish) was published in 1989 after years of writing and the final version is mainly Suonuuti's handiwork. Another work written by Suonuuti is Guide to Terminology published in 1997 (second edition in 2001).

    Suonuuti's terminological know-how was also appreciated outside Finland. She participated actively in international cooperation and acted as the chairperson of ISO's terminology committee TC 37 in 1994–1997.

    Beyond dispute Suonuuti was a pioneer in terminology work. We dare to claim like Olli Nykänen, TSK's director in 1994–1999, that Suonuuti managed to establish and train a new profession in Finland – the profession of terminologists.

    Equivalent problems in bilingual terminology work

    In translation and terminology work the same problem is often encountered: the semantic fields of equivalents of different languages do not cover each other. In translation partial equivalence does not necessarily cause great harm, because context will help the reader to understand what it is all about. In terminology work, however, partial equivalence is a great problem. Unless the user of a vocabulary is told in which way and in which context the given equivalent is valid, the value of the vocabulary is questionable.

    Another great problem in terminology work is that many source language (SL) words and expressions do not have equivalents in the target language (TL).

    Bilingual dictionaries have certain weaknesses. It is often difficult to conclude which part of the meaning of the SL word the TL word covers and in which context it is used. Often bilingual dictionaries, also special field ones, give only a bunch of equivalents in another language. Additional information is seldom given.

    Dictionaries may have actual errors, but explicit errors are rare, whereas inaccuracy is common. Often it seems that as many words and expressions as possible are gathered into dictionaries, if they in some cases can be used as equivalents for a certain term. The first requirement for a special language dictionary is accuracy: if there is an exact equivalent, it is offered, and only if such an equivalent is not found, next best solutions are proposed.

    If equivalence is partial, the user of a dictionary will benefit greatly if the record contains also other information than just the proposed equivalent, e.g. definitions, explanations, collocations, examples or comments on the degree and quality of equivalence.

    One deficiency in dictionaries is that they sometimes contain such words and expressions as equivalents for Finnish terms that have been directly translated from Finnish and that are not used in the TL. Sometimes there is no TL equivalent for a SL concept. Then the equivalent has to be created. But unnecessary direct translations of SL terms, pseudo-equivalents, should be avoided because from dictionaries they end up in translations and other texts and make them odd and difficult to understand.

    Sometimes non-experts, even publishers, assume that words are translated when dictionaries are compiled. It is not translation of words, but looking for such equivalents that are really used in another language. Profound knowledge of the special field in question is required in order to make a good dictionary or vocabulary. In an ideal case besides the compiler of a dictionary also special field experts from both countries participate in the work. If this is not possible, the compiler must gather information on the field in both languages, but experts are also needed for support.

    Often the most important source of information in equivalence work are parallel texts. They are authentic SL and TL text (not translations) that deal with the special field in question. They are used for collecting terms, definitions for concepts and examples of the usage of terms.

    Special field experts from both language communities are also needed. SL experts are needed to explain the concepts, and TL experts are needed to evaluate possible equivalents. TL experts are specially important when there are no equivalents and they have to be created.

    Terms that have no equivalents create problems for compilers of vocabularies. Such terms express typical source culture concepts. The reason for non-existing equivalents may be caused by differences in the special field in question in the source and target country, for example, the level of development may vary. Vocabularies that are meant for communicative needs should have some kind of TL expression for those SL words that do not have TL equivalents. However, the user should know when the equivalents are actual equivalents and when suggestions.

    So called functional analogies are often used as "equivalents" for terms having no equivalents. They are words or expressions that have a similar function as the SL term and that create a similar reaction in the TL reader as the SL term. The meaning of a functional analogy is near the meaning of a SL term, even though it is not exactly the same.

    Sometimes it is necessary to create equivalents. This can be done, for example, by direct translation, loan or explanation. Explanatory equivalents convey the message well. Often they tell even more than the SL term. The compiler of a vocabulary has to work in the pressure of conflicting requirements. For example, direct translations are usually short and economical, but the message is not necessarily conveyed. Explanatory equivalents on the other hand may be too long.

    Greenlandic and Oqaasileriffik

    Greenlandic belongs to the Inuit languages. It is perhaps the world's only minority language that expands. It is Greenlandic, not Danish, that is the principal language in Greenland although Greenland is a part of Denmark. About 70% of the population have Greenlandic as mother tongue, 15% is bilingual and the rest have Danish as mother tongue. In some fields, like foreign trade, economy, technology and research, Danish is used more due to historical reasons, because the Danes have introduces these fields of business in Greenland and have worked in these professions. However, the situation is gradually changing since the education level among Greenlandic-speaking population has risen quickly.

    To fasten and secure this development of gaining more ground for the Greenlandic language, the Greenland's Parliament took an initiative to found a professional secretariat for politically nominated councils, i.e. the language council, the council for place names and the council for personal names.

    This secretariat started its work in 2000 with two employees and a secretary. This new institution is called Oqaasileriffik (literally "language work place"). It has very ambitious goals: it acts as the secretariat for three councils, it has an obligation to inform the public and to establish a language database, it should represent Greenland in international language unions and to study Greenlandic both as a mother tongue and a foreign language. Quite a task for two persons!

    Europeans usually have two assumptions about Greenland: Greenland is bilingual and Greenlandic as a minority language is threatened by the majority languages – in this case Danish and English. Both these assumptions are totally mistaken. Greenlandic lives and flourishes. The reasons for this are that illiteracy was rooted out in the beginning of the 19th century, that Greenlandic has had a national standardized orthography since 1851, that there has existed a small but stable literary production in Greenland for more than 100 years, and that the whole education system has been Greenlandic-speaking from the basic up to the highest education.

    There is a reason why Greenland is thought of as a bilingual country. There has been a bilingual episode in Greenland's history between 1950 and 1990. Greenlanders of this generation are generally bilingual, some even read and write better in Danish than in Greenlandic. This generation is now 30–60 years old, they are known outside Greenland, they are the opinion makers and they occupy the top posts in the society. But children and the younger people speak mainly only Greenlandic.

    This young generation sets great requirements for language services. Many of them are well-educated and replace the Danish labour on the specialist level, too. Young Greenlandic specialists naturally use Greenlandic when talking about special field subjects. This means that they have a need for a mass of non-existing Greenlandic terminology. So new terms are created all the time and some of the new terms become included in the core vocabulary.

    Consequences for the tiny documentation and service institute Oqaasileriffik are self-evidently enormous. Masses of new terms have to be captured and communicated both to other specialists and the general public. And this has to be done without neglecting the services to the political councils, general public and international organizations.

    Even if a language, like Greenlandic, has only a few speakers, it is a whole language that has as many functions and domains as "a big language". The human and economic resources to support the language just are not so great in a small country like Greenland.

    Greenlandic does not have those problems that small languages typically have. It does not have to fight for to simply exist and the linguistic rights of Greenlandic have been mainly respected. However, it has other problems. How can we make a complicated and globalized society with only 50 000 inhabitants to function properly with the help of a national language that is used only by 50 000 individuals?

    Project news

    TSK's newest Eurodicautom termbank project started in August 2001 and it should be ready in the end of August this year. TSK is adding Finnish terms into 3000 term records on textile terminology.

    The Finnish Group for IT Terminology started its work three years ago with the help of EU's financial support. The EU project lasted 18 months, but we have been able to continue the Group's work since there has been a need for this kind of project. The interest in the Group's mailing list shows that the number of people reading the recommendations increases all the time. There have also been enough active members in the work groups. We would like to thank the coordination group and all who have participated in the work!

    TSK is compiling a vocabulary of positioning with a group of experts. The vocabulary deals with positioning systems, methods and devices and services related to positioning. The vocabulary will contain more than 100 concepts. Terms and definitions are in Finnish, equivalents in Swedish and English. The vocabulary will be ready in June 2002.

    TSK and Stakes are working on a vocabulary of the basic concepts in social work. The vocabulary will define about 25 concepts and give Finnish term recommendations for them. The vocabulary will be ready this summer.

    The first terms in the bank and finance terminology project were published in April on the web address At the moment there are less than 100 term records but hundreds of term records are being handled and will be published when completed by a group of experts and terminologists. The goal of the project is to publish terms in Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, English and hopefully Icelandic.

    How to present polysemy in vocabularies?

    For all who have done practical terminology work it is familiar that in one special field some term is used to refer to several different concepts or different ways of understanding the same concept. Everyone has certainly had to think what to do in this kind of situation. In normative terminology work the problem is often solved by agreeing with the expert group which participates in the work what the concept is to which the term may and must refer.

    The way of treating polysemy in normative terminology work – trying to get rid off it by recommendations given by experts and hoping that the recommendations will be carried out – has not worked in many cases. Despite of the fact that users do not always adopt normative recommendations, terminology work must be done: for example translators need information on the real language usage in special fields. Therefore a descriptive viewpoint has been adopted in many terminology projects in recent years. However, it has been often difficult to present polysemy in descriptive vocabularies.

    Polysemy and synonymy have been studied little in languages for special purposes. The writer of the Finnish article, Riina Kosunen, studied these subjects with the help of a Spanish text corpus in her master's thesis on the variation of designations and concepts in the Spanish terminology of translations studies. As the theoretical background for her thesis she used the new theories of terminology, i.e. socioterminology, socio-cognitive and communicative theory of terminology.

    In her thesis Kosunen wanted to find out what causes polysemy and whether it serves a purpose or would it be useful to try to eliminate it from communication. According to her study and recent terminology theories, polysemy is caused by the following factors.

    1) Time. Concepts evolve during time and therefore the term translation studies, for example, was used to refer to a very different concept in the 1950s than today.

    2) Cognitive factors. In the socio-cognitive theory of terminology it is claimed that the human mind does not classify real world concepts into distinct categories but into so-called prototypical categories in which some members are explicit, prototypical members (e.g. a dog in the category of mammals), and some are more indistinct cases (e.g. a whale in the same category). According to socio-cognitivists, polysemy is caused the by fact that the human mind may add new members to prototypical categories if they have something in common with the prototypical members.

    3) Linguistic factors: nature of terms. In the traditional theory of terminology it has been explained that the meaning of the standard language words may expand whereas the meaning of terms must remain unchanged. In the communicative theory of terminology it is stated that terms are a part of a natural language and therefore their meaning inevitably changes, expands and diminishes.

    4) Interdisciplinary of fields of research. New fields of research attract scientists from adjacent fields, and all of them bring their own viewpoints to the field. For example, in translation studies the representatives of linguistics, psychology or sociology may all use the term translation studies but they understand it differently.

    According to Kosunen, there are four types of polysemy. In actual polysemy a term is used in one special field to refer to two or more concepts which clearly differ from each other. The internal variation of a concept is another type of polysemy: a term is used to refer to the same concept, but the intension of concept varies depending on a situation and a user.

    A third type of polysemy is variation in the relations between concepts. This is the case when different users understand the relations of two or more concepts differently from each other. In the fourth type of polysemy almost synonymical terms are used to emphasize different aspects of the same concept. There may be different ways of understanding the intension of concept, and by using different term variants the receiver of the message is told how the concept is understood.

    The categorization of these various types of polysemy could be useful when thinking about how to present polysemy in vocabularies. The first type could perhaps be best described by methods familiar in the traditional terminology by saving the information related to different concepts in their own term records and by numbering the polysemous terms.

    The other type of polysemy could perhaps be best described by making only one term record for the concept and by telling in a note in which various ways different experts in the special field may understand the same concept.

    In the third type it could be most practical to make different term records for the concepts having different relations and by giving information on how the relations between concepts are understood, for example by different researchers, in a note.

    It is most difficult to present the fourth polysemy type in a vocabulary. Almost synonymous terms that are used for different ways of understanding the same concept cannot be saved in their own term records since they do not refer to totally different concepts. On the other hand, in principle near synonyms cannot be saved in the same record because there is a little difference in their intensions. However, one or the other way must be chosen. It is important to tell the user of the vocabulary by references, additional information and notes that the term variants refer to a concept whose core is understood similarly but that the different terms emphasize different aspects of the concept.

    In reality the various polysemy cases cannot be always clearly classified into these four types. For example, sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether it is a case of actual polysemy or internal variation of a concept.

    Steps of knowledge

    In knowledge management there are five levels: data, information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Data means a regular presentation in a format that can be communicated or handled. Data is a bit string without interpretation, and all data cannot be necessarily interpreted.

    Information is such data that is related or can be related to a meaning or an interpretation. For example, the content of a book is information.

    According to Plato, true belief accompanied by a rational account is knowledge. This separates knowledge from beliefs, mistakes and guesses. Knowledge is interpreted by a human. The content of a book becomes knowledge only after someone has absorbed it.

    Understanding is the use of knowledge in human activities. The difference between knowledge and understanding is that knowledge that is understood may be applied in a new way.

    Wisdom is elevated from understanding with time. It contains a view how things are related to each other and what they mean, an idea how to gather knowledge, and a value system of the objectives of a good life that has been personally considered and bases on the experiences of the humankind.

    The use of these concepts is not so simple as it could be thought from these definitions. The concepts are often overlapping, specially the line between data and information and information and knowledge is often unstable.


    IT Job Titles
    The Federation of The Finnish Information Industries has collected the job titles of people working in the IT field and the know-how required in those jobs both in Finnish and English. The file can be found on the web address

    Dictionary of Musical Terminology
    The dictionary compiled by Kaija Ervola contains about 5000 musical terms. The focus is on classical music, but some jazz and pop music terms and theatre terms are also included. In the first part of the book, the entries are in English; in the second part in Finnish. The book contains also some Italian terms with English equivalents.

    Guide to Terminology
    A second edition of Heidi Suonuuti's Guide to Terminology (1997) was published in 2001. The Guide deals with the theory of terminology and practical terminology work with the help of examples. The Guide may be ordered from TSK at the price 12 e (+ handling fee).

    Ilkka Rekiaro's dictionary contains two parts: slang words in American English and Americanisms. The first part concentrates on modern slang words but some older ones still used can also be found. The second part presents American sayings and expressions many of which have become a part of our everyday language environment through the mass media.

    Finnish–Russian IT dictionary
    Jari Huovinen has published the first Finnish–Russian–Finnish IT dictionary. In contains two parts: Finnish–Russian and Russian–Finnish. Both of them have about 6000 entries.

    Translation-oriented terminography
    The International Organization for Standardization has published the standard ISO 12616 Translation-oriented terminography. The standard is meant to facilitate terminology work in connection with translation. It tells what to consider when collecting terminological material so that the collected material would support the coherent use of terms as effectively as possible.