Summaries 2/2006

Terminology on offer

The objectives of terminology work may be very diverse in different organizations: for some the main objective is to harmonize terms for information systems, for some the concrete objective is to make translation or technical documentation more effective, to create native language terms or to build a term bank.

For all who are interested in terminology and international cooperation there will be the Terminology Week 2006 on the 13.-19. November. The week will begin with the Terminology Summit III by the European Association for Terminology (EAFT), after that TermNet will arrange a one-day seminar, and in the end there will be the congress "Terminology and Society: The impact of terminology on everyday life" organized by NL-TERM.

Arvi Tavast: for quality, against commercialism

Arvi Tavast teaches terminology and translation in the universities of Tallinn and Tartu, is the chairman of the board of the Estonian Terminology Society (Eter), member of the EAFT board and terminologist for Estonian for Microsoft.

Tavast graduated as IT engineer in 1993, but he has never worked in this field. As a student he started to translate, and since he and the clients were happy, he continued the work and got additional related tasks, like compilation of dictionaries and terminology standards.

Tavast decided to study the theoretical side of his work in university and completed his master's degree in the Estonian language in 2002. As a part of his degree he studied the quality of special language glossaries and translations and translator training. Now he is working on his doctoral thesis on the same subject.

Each year 40-50 glossaries are published in Estonia, some of them are very small, some are published only on the Net. One glossary project is the EuroTermBank project, the aim of which is to collect many electronic glossaries in one portal and to offer terminological resources to users in new EU member countries. Tavast supports efficient dissemination of information, and all the glossaries he has compiled are on the Net for free. Tavast thinks that especially for small languages the free availability of glossaries is important, more important than business profit.

In addition to commercial publishers, glossaries are made by universities, special field associations and private persons in Estonia. The Estonian Legal Language Centre, closed down in last November, was the biggest organization employing and training terminologists. A new terminology centre is being built on the basis of the Language Centre. The new centre will e.g. maintain the Language Centre's term bank that contains 60.000 term records.

Eter has at the moment one part-time employee, a 5-member board that meets a few times a year and a couple of project workers. In terminology projects cooperation with special field experts is done. Eter has also organized several terminology and translation courses.

Tavast has been a member of the EAFT's board since 2002. The EAFT organizes one large event almost every year, e.g. Terminology Summits 2002 and 2004.

There is no actual training for terminologists in Estonia. A three-study-point terminology course is organized in the universities of Tallinn and Tartu. In addition to this and short courses by Eter, terminologists have been trained only by those organizations which need them.

During the last decades the hot issue in terminology has been the balance between quality and economic interests. Except for the plans of the new terminology centre, systematic terminology work is totally unknown in Estonia, and most people who compile glossaries do not even know what a concept is. A lot of so called translation glossaries are published in Estonia. They contain only the terms of two or more languages with no idea of the concepts behind the terms, and this does not of course improve the quality of glossaries.

In order to function as sovereign languages in all fields small languages, like Estonian, need native language terms. In addition to this, information on terms, in practice glossaries, are needed. Tavast thinks that the quality of glossaries and translations is more important than their existence. According to him a bad glossary or translation weakens the status of a language. They may lead to the conclusion that the Estonian language is somehow deficient and cannot express anything properly.

Terminology project on preparedness and civil defence

The purpose of the project is to compile a terminology on emergency preparedness and civil defence which clarifies concepts and gives recommendations on Finnish terms. The vocabulary will contain 200-250 concepts. Definitions will be in Finnish and equivalents will be given in Swedish, English and German.

The project started in November 2005, and it should be ready in summer 2007. So far material and term candidates have been gathered, terms have been chosen for the vocabulary and the definition phase has started. The project is coordinated by the Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK, and the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK does the terminological work. Many other central organizations in this field also participate in the work.

Emergency preparedness affects all sectors of a society. In Finland the Department for Rescue Services of the Ministry of the Interior supervises preparedness, but every administrative sector is responsible for continuing its own operation in disturbances and emergency conditions. Private organizations and persons also have to prepare for emergency, not just authorities.

The themes to be included are threats, risk management, powers, civil defence, emergency shelters, evacuation, radiation and defence. Since the vocabulary is not very large, only the essential concepts related to preparedness can be included.

Terminology work for economics?

The economic reality of a company is built via double-entry bookkeeping. Double-entry bookkeeping is one of the oldest and most important methods of economic reporting, and it is used all over the world. In double-entry bookkeeping the sum of every transaction is entered into two different accounts, a debit and a credit, so that the total sums remain equal. Business economics professionals have very accurate practical and theoretical rules how double-entry bookkeeping must be done. Accounting professionals are very strict that the principles are clear and that they are followed.

Double-entry bookkeeping can be seen as one of the most influential factors in spreading capitalism and profit-seeking and result-emphasizing thinking. Double-entry bookkeeping has strong theoretical, professional and legal support behind it, since most of the current law texts implicitly assume that double-entry bookkeeping is implemented in economic units.

Double-entry bookkeeping measures everything in money, because of which critics question its ability to take into account the human side of organizations. In business economics controlled by double-entry bookkeeping the human phenomena are also given monetary values in companies' economic reports.

The monetary value of a company's assets and liabilities is gathered in a balance sheet in a specified order. The balance sheet is a part of a company's economic reporting, and its content and indirectly the use of terms, too, are controlled e.g. in Finland and Sweden in detail by many parties, like legislation, stock exchange rules and the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS). Because the rules and recommendations are very practical and detailed, it could be thought that those parts with only a few words, like profit and loss account and balance sheet, would contain very similar terms in different companies. But Niina Nissilä's study shows that this is not the case.

Nissilä is working on her doctoral thesis on terms and concepts in Swedish balance sheets. Her material consists of ten balance sheets from three years, 1997, 1999 and 2004. Some of the balance sheets are from the annual reports of Finnish companies, some from Swedish. The objective of her study is to describe and analyse accounting terms and concepts in Swedish spoken in Finland and in Sweden, two variants of the same language.

Nissilä has studied whether or not the terms and concepts have changed and how by comparing the reports from 1997, 1999 and 2004. For the purposes of her study she decided that the name of a balance sheet item on each line of a balance sheet is a term, since each item is a entity calculated by certain rules, so broadly interpreted there is always a concept behind an item.

Finland's Accounting Law and Ordinance changed between 1997 and 1999, therefore the terms and concepts differ from each other quite a lot, since companies have often chosen those terms for their reports that are used in the law. The Swedish balance sheets made in 1997 and 1999 were compiled by using the same laws, therefore the use of terms is more unified.

The Finnish and Swedish balance sheets from 2004 were all made according to the IFRS. It is interesting that the terminologies of the balance sheets were not unified despite of a common standard. Nissilä suspects the reason for this to be that the IFRS, unlike national accounting statutes, does not give a formula for a balance sheet, but presents a short list of those items that the calculation must contain. In other words, if there is a need to harmonize terminologies of economic reports, much energy should be directed to the linguistic form and use of terms of the standard concerning reporting and to getting those organizations that are responsible for the interpretation of the standards to take interest in terminology work.

Importance of terminology work in social sector

The field of social welfare is fragmented and difficult to master conceptually. It covers very different forms of activities, like day care and care for the alcohol and drug abusers. Information needed in the field is produced by those who use and organize services, but also by administrators and legislators.

IT work for a development project in the Finnish social sector began in autumn 2005. The aim is to improve the IT and information management know-how and tools, both for social workers and clients. The project will not produce software but will define requirements for the information it should contain. Definitions for concepts are needed since social legislation gives only hints for the terminological defining of social services. However, consistently defined concepts are a prerequisite for the functioning of data systems.

Terms in social welfare glossaries, classifications and statistics were collected in a report. The report studied how the terms in use relate to the legislation on social welfare and how the terms are defined. The relationship between terms and terminologies was also studied. It was found out that terms used in statistics and classifications were not necessarily defined coherently, and that their meanings varied in different contexts.

The report stated that on a general level the basic social welfare concepts were defined adequately, but if data system planning and development of statistics, classifications and standardization should proceed, terminology work must be continued in different forms of social welfare activities.

Euro terminology

In terminological studies the linguistic aspect of terms, designations, has often been neglected. Various requirements are given for ideal designations, but often it is also stated that very seldom all requirements are met. However, there are no extensive studies to verify this statement.

Marjut Alho has studied the terminology related to the euro in Finnish and German. She analysed the occurrences of 168 designations in Finnish and 131 in German. The designations represent 66 concepts in Finnish and 48 in German. She described each designation on the basis of 9 characteristics which are often stated as the requirements for designations.

Length of designation: Shortness is one of the most often stated requirements for a designation, but studies have shown that designations in languages for special purposes (LSP) are usually longer than standard language words.

Monosemy: In addition to shortness, monosemy is the most often stated requirement for LSP designations. Polysemous designations hinder LSP communication, but they have similar functions in LSPs as in the standard language, i.e. style and viewpoint.

Part of speech: It is often stated that LSP designations are nouns, but adjectives and verbs can also describe a certain concept.

Form: A designation can be a single word, compound, word combination or an abbreviation. When considering the requirement for shortness, it could be assumed that most of the designations were single words, but the form is very language-dependant phenomenon. E.g. it is easy to form different compounds in Finnish whereas it is more common to form word combinations in English.

Formation method: Standard language words can be terminologized, and compounds are made. Loans and abbreviations are used.

Source language: The source language can be the standard language, some other LSP or formation of new terms. Many LSP designations have been borrowed from the standard language or other LSPs and given new meanings. New designations would be ideal, since they do not have other meanings, but they are not common in the euro terminology.

Consistency: Designations should reflect the place of a concept in a concept system, but in practice this kind of logical formation of designations is rare.

Degree of LSP: Designations can be found in the standard language, in several LSPs or only in a certain LSP. Designations that belong purely to one LSP would be ideal, since they are monosemous.

Degree of establishing: Only one designation is in use of all those designations that describe a concept. Synonyms have disappeared or gained new meanings. This would be ideal in LSPs but since many LSPs are constantly developing, the use of only one designation is rare.

The characteristics of designations seem to influence in which text types designations are used. Some characteristics also boost the appearance of designations in texts. However, the generalization of Alho's study results would require larger contrastive studies in other LSPs.


Business and IT glossary
Bisnes- ja it-sanasto (business and IT glossary) gathered by Jyrki Talvitie contains 20.000 entry words in Finnish and 23.000 in English. It contains the most essential terms e.g. of management, accounting, marketing, transport, communication and information security, and also abbreviations and jargon.

Electric power glossary
Elektroenergeetikasõnastik is a large electric power glossary which covers terms related e.g. to power systems, networks and electromagnetism. It contains also terms of related fields, like automation, IT, physics and chemistry. The glossary contains 7000 alphabetically arranged Estonian terms with definitions, and equivalents in English, Finnish, German and Russian. In the end there are alphabetical term pair lists from these languages into Estonian.

English and Finnish idioms
It's not my heiniä by Eeva-Liisa Pitkänen and Paul Westlake presents 50 corresponding idioms in English and Finnish. On the left-hand page there is the English idiom and its literal Finnish translation, and on the right-hand page is the corresponding Finnish idiom and its literal English translation. Each page contains an illustration related to the idiom.