Summaries 2/2005

  • Tarvitaanko sanastoja? / Lena Jolkkonen

  • Tuomo Ilomäki on kielistä innostunut insinööri / Petra Heinola

  • Kasviopin termityötä 1850-luvun Suomessa / Kaarina Pitkänen

  • Terminologiarbetet inom Landstingens biobanksprojekt / Helena Palm

  • Amatöörit asialla? / Olli Nykänen

  • Kääntäjä oikeusjärjestysten ristipaineessa / Tuija Kinnunen

  • Teletermit tutuiksi — Viestintäviraston terminologiaryhmän toiminnasta / Satu Närvä

  • Kirjallisuutta

    Are terminologies needed?

    It is essential to define the basic concepts in every special field. Fluent and functional professional communication is not self-evident even inside the same field and same language, let alone when communication crosses occupational and language barriers.

    The compilers of terminologies must also define their concepts. In 1986 the TSK published the Vocabulary of Terminology and around that time the international standard ISO 1087 Terminology work – Vocabulary and Nordic Terminologins terminologi were compiled. Since then terminological methods have developed a lot, and in the end of the 1990s a new version of the Vocabulary of Terminology was published. ISO 1087 has been updated in 2000. This year the Nordic glossary will be updated. The Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC coordinates the project.

    Tuomo Ilomäki — engineer interested in languages

    Tuomo Ilomäki, the director of the SESKO Standardization in Finland, retired in December 2004. Standardization and terminology work still interest this active man.

    Ilomäki has been fascinated by technology since he was in school, but he is also interested in languages. He studied in the Helsinki University of Technology, and graduated as electrical engineer. In 1965 he applied for a job in standardization in the Inspection Centre for Electrical Installation. In the same autumn he participated in the founding of the Finnish Electrotechnical Standards Association (nowadays SESKO), and later became its director.

    SESKO is a national standardization organization in the field of electricity and electronics in Finland. It cooperates closely with the international standardization organizations IEC and CENELEC. SESKO is also responsible for creating Finnish electrotechnical SFS standards.

    According to Ilomäki the work done in SESKO has not significantly changed, but the subjects are different. In the 1960s SESKO worked mainly with electrical installation and graphical symbols standards and vocabularies. Now various safety standards keep SESKO's personnel busy. Ilomäki estimates that terminology work has decreased since there already are terminology standards.

    However, he emphasizes that the standardization work in a new field always starts with terminology work. In the beginning of the 1900s it was noticed that the unsystematic use of terms and units of measurement caused problems. In order to solve the problem, the International Electrotechnical Commission, IEC, was founded in 1906, and its first committee was the Technical Committee No. 1: Terminology. So, terminology work in standardization has been essential since the beginning.

    Ilomäki assures that the most important standards are always translated into Finnish. The language must be exact and terms unambiguous and correct. "If there is ambiguity, the dispute may end up in court" Ilomäki points out.

    In Ilomäki's opinion Finnish terms are actively developed. The necessity of Finnish depends on the target group. If engineers who understand English are the main user of a standard, translation is not needed. But electrical installation standards meant for electricians must of course be translated since it cannot be expected that the target group is able to understand standards in English. He considers that standards related to occupational safety should be translated and mentions that their target group is often bigger than the one of other standards. Ilomäki emphasizes that term recommendations belong to the written language. Spoken jargon may teem with unofficial terms.

    Ilomäki has participated closely in the TSK's activities since its foundation, e.g. in the election committee thinking whom to take in the board of directors. SESKO and the TSK have also cooperated closely: SESKO is the TSK's member and the TSK has its representative in SESKO's terminology committee.

    Ilomäki thinks that the TSK's social role is important. The TSK is able to manage terminology projects skilfully in any special field since the terminological methods remain the same. As the TSK's most important tasks he considers the development of terminological working methods and teaching them to the compilers of glossaries. Also the actual compilation of glossaries on fields not covered by other organizations is an important task for the TSK.

    Terminology work in botany in Finland in 1850s

    Elias Lönnrot's Flora Fennica (Finnish flora, 1860) is the first herbal written in Finnish. It is also considered the first work in natural sciences written in Finnish. Before that Swedish or Latin were used when writing about natural sciences in Finland.

    In order to write Flora Fennica many new words to describe plants had to be created. Lönnrot was an eager botanist and interested in plants since he was a doctor. Before the actual herbal, Lönnrot published a word list called Kasvikon oppisanoja (botanical terms, 1858) where he defines about 1300 botanical terms. Latin and Swedish equivalents are also given. The species definitions of the herbal were translated with the help of this word list from C. Hartman's Swedish herbal Handbok i Skandinaviens Flora (handbook on Scandinavian flora).

    Kaarina Pitkänen, the writer of the article, studies Lönnrot's methods for creating neologisms in botany in her doctoral thesis. Her thesis handles the development of the Finnish language into a scientific language from the viewpoint of one special field. Lately there have been worried statements on keeping Finnish as a scientific language. In many Finnish universities Finnish course books are not offered since there are no Finnish basic text books. If foreign-language books are used when studying, students will not learn even the basic terminology in their mother tongue. Soon the situation will be such that there is no Finnish basic terminology in all disciplines.

    In the Finnish of the 1800s there were, of course, the most usual words for the morphology of plants, such as root, leave, flower and stem, but the more specific terms had to be created. Lönnrot formed new words either by making terms of the vernacular language words or by making up neologisms. Often he used Latin and Swedish terms as models. The neologisms created in Finland in the 19th century were usually strongly of Finnish origin: phonological borrowing was avoided and terms motivated by one's own language were considered better than translation loans.

    The exactness of adjectives is characteristic for botanical language. When the differences between plants are described with words, there should be no faltering in the interpretations of meaning. This is an exceptional usage of adjectives; in the standard language such texts that contain many adjectives have often weak information content.

    The terminology Lönnrot created has mostly survived, and in fact this is no wonder. The botanical terms of Kasvikon oppisanat are clearly defined, and in Flora Fennica the neologisms were taken into use. Lönnrot's terms were established later in other herbals. No actual glossary on botany has been made in Finnish since Lönnrot, although herbals usually contain a part where terms are explained.

    Flora Fennica's species definitions contain more words than current herbals. This is partly due to the fact that the same concept was named in many ways just in case so that the new idea would become familiar. On the other hand, it was typical for the herbals of that time to contain a rich vocabulary. Today the tendency seems to be that only the necessary information to identify plants is told in the species definitions and scrupulous details have been left out.

    Finnish botanical terms have certainly been developed since Lönnrot's time. However, when comparing Flora Fennica with current herbals it is clear that the tradition created by the founder of the Finnish botanical terminology has been continued. Dialect words no longer present in the current standard language still live in botanical language and new terms are created with methods inherited from Lönnrot.

    Terminology work for Swedish biobanks

    The biobank project started on the initiative of the Federation of Swedish County Councils when an act regulating the handling of biobanks in health care was passed in Sweden in 2003. The biobank act states that each individual, whose sample will be saved in a biobank, must be asked for consent before the sample may be saved. The act also states how samples may be taken and by whom.

    The Federation wanted to ensure that the act would be applied in the same way nationally and that routines would be coordinated. IT support to handle the information on biobanks and samples was also needed, and in this connection terminology was taken up. The Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC started to work in the project in the beginning of 2004. The original idea was that the TNC together with doctors and IT developers would compile a small glossary explaining the difficult words used in connection with the saving of samples in biobanks.

    At first some project participants were rather sceptical about terminology work. It seemed to take a lot of time and be so thorough. They reasoned that hierarchical codes should be created for all information that is saved in biobanks. Then existing code systems, like MeSH (Medical Subject Headings), could be used and own codes could be created for things that are missing. A small work group created such a hierarchical system, but the system did not work very well. Categories were overlapping or were insufficiently described and some important areas were missing.

    Then the participants realized where terminology work could be used. A glossary was made, and terminological viewpoints were also used for an information model and mapping of processes and description of the IT architecture of the system. Terminology work was done in all parts of this subproject, and in this way the TNC could look after that the terminology was coherent in all documents and models. And project participants noticed how much easier it was to communicate if there was an agreement on which terms to use and what they mean.

    The definition for the concept biobank engaged the glossary compilers especially. It became evident that the definition in the biobank act did not correspond with reality nor even with how the word was used in the act itself. The definition is so narrow that it excludes many biobanks that the act covers, e.g. veterinary and seed biobanks. This is rather typical for legal definitions but should not be done in terminological definitions. And the legal definition also has a wrong superordinate concept. It is not easy to suggest deviations from central legal definitions. A lot of time was devoted for explaining project's lawyers why legal definitions are not satisfactory and why they should be changed.

    From May 2004 terminology work functioned as a thread running through the requirement specification project, and in the end of the project the consistency of all documentation was checked from a terminological perspective.

    The management group of the whole biobank project has been very positive towards the terminology work. A clear sign of this is that the TNC's involvement in the project increased tenfold in 2004 – from planned 50 hours to 500 hours. In 2005 the processing of all project material has started, and terminological viewpoints are also taken into account.

    Amateurs at work?

    Many companies pay much for advertising agencies for making advertisements for them. It is believed that sales will not succeed without advertising professionals, and they cannot necessarily be on the companies' own payroll.

    Terminology work requires expertise as any other work, e.g. advertising. For some reason many experts in various special fields think that they are able to compile the special terminologies they need just by themselves. The same people, who could not imagine of doing the advertising for their company by themselves, do not necessarily even bother to find out how glossaries should be done or presented.

    Special terminologies have a clear task and value. They help to use and develop the tool, special terms, that the experts use daily. It is at least as rational to promote sales by advertising as to notice that the mastery of special terms is connected to the productivity of work. If you do not understand the concepts in your own field, you cannot adopt and apply the information that is hidden in them. If you do not know the terms, you waste your time in trying to find out if what you hear is what you believe. If you use terms carelessly, you irritate also others – your workmates, partners and clients. In the worst case, bad communication and obscure contracts may cause big economic losses.

    It is sad to see time after time special terminologies that are clearly compiled by amateurs. Typical symptoms are unclear and illogical presentation, contradictions and spelling mistakes. One reason for the abundance of amateur-terminologies is perhaps the fact that terminology experts are not even now known widely enough. This is perhaps understandable among the general public, but in the field of administration and business it would be desirable that this shortcoming would be fixed. It would be in their own interest as well!

    Translator pressed between legal orders

    The differences between legal orders emerge in the work of a statute text translator. The translator has to consider the problems of communication and expressing of meanings, since the concept systems behind legal orders are often very different.

    It is necessary to translate statutes when a Finnish court has to decide on a case on the basis of the law of a foreign state. These kinds of judicial proceedings may be connected to family law on decisions concerning divorce and maintenance issues when other than Finnish citizens are also involved.

    The concepts of different legal orders differ from each other because their meaning is built on provisions and interpretations based on them, and they usually cannot be exactly the same in two different states. The intensions of concepts are specific to a certain legal order despite of the fact that part of the meaning of concepts have a common origin, e.g. in those European states whose legal order is based on continental legal thinking (compared to common law orders). The Finnish legal thinking was greatly influenced by German and Roman law, and later it diverged to the Nordic direction, in addition of which the EU legislation has a continuous influence on it.

    In translation the targeting of a text must be rethought. It must be considered how foreign concepts can be expressed to the reader and what possible interpretation problems will arise if concepts having different meanings are expressed by using phrases and terms of another legal order. The understanding and interpretation of a text will become difficult if the concepts of another legal order are thought of only from one's own viewpoint without knowing the other system.

    A profound knowledge on legal orders is essential for the translator of statutes. Information on the subject area of a text is gathered by comparing phenomena in the subject area with each other. The comparison of concepts reveals differences in their characteristics. Comparative law and comparative terminology work have much in common, since both require the delimitation of a certain sub area, studying the structure of the area both from linguistic and legal viewpoints and finally comparing the observed structures.

    When considering legal concepts, the translator studies the differences between the concept systems of the readers of the source and target texts, how these concept systems are expressed linguistically and how foreseeable problems in understanding can be smoothed out in the translation. When analysing legal concepts, it must be considered which factors belong to the semantic content – what belongs to the core and what to the fringes or entirely outside. Concepts do not have exact limits. They do not have a defined correct semantic content and their meanings cannot be considered permanent. The decisive norm in the interpretation of the law is produced in the decision process with the help of a text.

    When considering the meaning of a legal concept, the immediate context must be firstly taken into account, and the concept must be interpreted as a part of a subsection, section, part of a statute and the whole statute. Secondly, the branch of law must be taken into account, since in another branch the concept may have a different meaning. Thirdly, the whole legal order must be taken into account. Finally, the meaning of a concept as a part of the whole legal system must be considered, and then the meaning will be affected by social values and goals.

    The interpretation of legal concepts is linked to the social information given by the society and the subjective, cognitive information. Concepts are semantic units, and the way each reader interprets a text and its concepts, depends on the reader's own information and ideas on and experiences in the subject. Concepts can be observed as social entities since the way they are interpreted depends on how the society usually interprets or has agreed to interpret them.

    It cannot be assumed that it is possible to communicate the meaning of a text completely in a translation since the reader is responsible for a lot of the interpretation. A text cannot carry those meanings that the writer thinks he or she has included in it. It is difficult for a translator to create a watertight opinion about the intention of a statute and legislator when it comes to the meaning of a certain concept since this task is often difficult for an experienced lawyer, too.

    Another problem in communication is that the translator has to make compromises between various target language expressions although the concepts of the source culture were not defined similarly. The translator weighs the equivalence of concepts and tries to find expressions that would not do wrong to the source text concepts and at the same time would suffice as windows to a unfamiliar source language reality for the target language reader.

    Terminology work group at FICORA

    The objective of the terminology work group at the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, FICORA, is to harmonize telecommunication terms and to coordinate and guide terminology work in the field. It does not do actual terminology work, but listens to the needs in the field and takes initiatives to compile terminologies.

    In order to start a terminology project, there must be a clear need for a glossary. Compilers and sufficient funding must also be found. If it is decided that the work will be started, a working group will be named which includes a terminologist from the TSK and some experts from the field.

    In the 1980s telecommunications developed rapidly. Networks were digitalized and common European requirements were planned. New services and methods were invented, and the need for common terminology was enormous. The Vocabulary of Telecommunications published in 1991 covered on a general level almost the whole telecommunications field of the time.

    The development of telecommunications did not stop. Mobile stations started to take over and along with the new technology the amount of terms used in the field increased. The first version of the Vocabulary of Mobile Communications was published in 1993. With the further development of wireless communication it was considered necessary to renew this vocabulary and to take into account radio technology and information security. The renewed version was published in 2001.

    Services are an integral part of telecommunications. The Vocabulary of Telecommunication Services published in 1997 was made to complement the Vocabulary of Telecommunications. It contains basic concepts of the field and internationally standardized services.

    Today information security concerns all citizens. With the increasing use of information technology and the Internet everyone must be aware of information security risks and how to prevent them. In order to create unified information security concepts the Compact Vocabulary of Information Security was completed in 2004.

    To ensure the diversity, functionality and security of communication connections is the main duty of FICORA. The Authority supervises the whole field of electronic communications which covers telecommunication networks, markets and services, information security, radio communication, electric media, Internet domain names, postal operations and TV fees.

    Due to the variety of tasks, the texts written and translated in FICORA are versatile. They vary from letters and web pages to orders, decisions, reports and recommendations. The same text is often translated into Swedish and English. Technical and legal terms are often combined in texts. Terms used in the law are not always the same as the ones used in technical connections. The dominance of English in telecommunication makes finding terms and the translation into English easier. Technical English terms do not necessarily have Swedish equivalents, but since Finnish laws are translated into Swedish, many terms can be found in them.


    English–Finnish Dictionary
    Suuri englanti–suomi sanakirja, English–Finnish Dictionary, by Gummerus is a new kind of a practical dictionary for demanding users of English. The dictionary contains more than 70,000 lexical entries. In addition to wide general vocabulary, there are plenty of commonly used phrases. Special attention has been paid to idioms: they are accessible as sub-headwords in the entry for the main headword.

    The dictionary covers also topical special field terminology, nomenclature for botany and zoology and geographical names. The dictionary has more than 50,000 authentic examples based on English-language dictionaries and text corpora. The dictionary has been designed especially for students of English, translators and other language professionals and those Finns who use English much in their work or hobbies.

    Environmental Dictionary
    The EnDic2004 Environmental Dictionary is a revised and expanded version of the EnDic2000 published three years ago. The new version includes about 1,500 new terms and two new languages. The dictionary has now terms also in French and Lithuanian in addition to Finnish, Estonian, English, German, Swedish, Latvian and Russian. The dictionary contains now about 6000 term records of which about one third have definitions in English, Finnish and Estonian.

    Finnish government termbank Valter
    The Valter termbank, opened in March, is an Internet termbank containing glossaries compiled by the Government Terminology Service. It contains the Budget Glossary, EMU Glossary, Public Buildings in Finland, Vocabulaire de la politique agricole commune (agriculture glossary), Glossary of Court Terms and Taxation Glossary. The languages of these glossaries are usually Finnish, Swedish, English, German and French. The termbank is available in