Summaries 3/2006

Harvest of terminology work

After hard work there is reason to enjoy the results of one's work. Two new vocabularies have recently been completed in the TSK: the Vocabulary of Safety and Health at Work and the Digital TV Vocabulary. Both have been compiled in close cooperation with special field experts and translators.

Both new vocabularies will be published in the TSK's TEPA term bank. We are currently developing our term bank, both its content and technology. We welcome any comments so that we can develop the term bank to serve better our clients in the future.

Rune Skogberg respects his mother-tongue

Rune Skogberg works as a translator in TeliaSonera Finland and has been a member of the TSK's board of directors since the beginning of 2006. He has already worked with the TSK before, as a member of the workgroup for the Vocabulary of Mobile Communication in 1999-2001 and the Swedish language consultant for the Compact Vocabulary of Information Security in 2004.

Skogberg studied the Nordic languages and cultures in the University of Helsinki. Before he started his work in Sonera in 1997, he worked e.g. as a Swedish teacher and language assistant.

There are eight translators and a translation coordinator working in Sonera. The translator team consists of translators of Swedish, English, German and French, and they work for all Sonera personnel in Finland. The tasks of the Sonera language service also include terminology work and maintaining Sonera's internal term bank in addition to translation. About a thousand new terms are added into the term bank per year. "The terminology is developed all the time, and this is an integral part of the translators' work," says Skogberg.

Terminology work is usually done in projects, and in the beginning of a project all translators usually participate in the work. Sonera's internal terminology is in electronic form and used on the MOT dictionary program.

Sonera has undergone many changes during the last decade. The postal and telecommunication operation of the Finnish state was corporatized in 1994, and divided into two companies, Posti and Tele, in 1998. Tele changed its name to Sonera, and in 2002 it was merged with the Swedish Telia. The new company was named TeliaSonera, and it has more than 28.000 employees in Finland and abroad. Sonera is a part of the TeliaSonera Corporation which operates in the Nordic and Baltic countries, Eurasia, Turkey and Russia.

The corporate changes in Sonera have also affected its language service. The official language of the corporation is nowadays English, and its information network operates in three languages, Finnish, Swedish and English. When the borders between countries are crossed, more systematic terminology work is needed. "The need for term work exploded at the end of the '90s when Sonera started to grow internationally", tells Skogberg. The merger increased radically the amount of text translated from Swedish into Finnish.

In addition to being a translator, Skogberg is a member of Sonera's Telesven expert group that promotes the status of the Swedish language. Also as a member of the TSK's board of directors, he emphasizes the importance of Swedish. He thinks that his position as the Swedish language representative is a matter of honour. It should be possible to respect both multilingualism and each individual language at the same time. "We live in an international world where special languages are used a lot. It is important that Finland's official languages, Finnish and Swedish, not be forgotten but function as well as English, for example. Special languages must exist in all languages", Skogberg stresses.

Skogberg lists the requirements for a translator: good language and cooperation skills, flexibility and a right kind of attitude. The translator's work also requires some kind of critical eye. Skogberg says that translation is a process where the translator rethinks the text.

Safety and health at work

The Vocabulary of Safety and Health at Work (TSK 35) contains 465 concepts with Finnish term recommendations, definitions and notes. The equivalents are given in Swedish, English, German and French. The definitions and notes have been translated into Swedish. The target group for the vocabulary are primarily the experts of safety and health at work.

Safety and health at work is a versatile special field which is connected with many other special fields from medicine to mechanical engineering. The chapters of the vocabulary include occupational health, safety at work, work environment, risk management, administration of working life and organizing of safety and health at work as well as important registers, methods and cooperation organizations.

The new Vocabulary of Safety and Health at Work is based on an old vocabulary published in 1985. The development of the field in two decades is reflected on the content of the vocabulary. Many new concepts have been added, e.g. nowadays the psychosocial work environment gets much attention.

The Finnish conditions and legislature form the basis for the vocabulary. Therefore the aim has been to choose the equivalents in other languages so that they correspond to the Finnish definition as well as possible. For example, limit values and occupational diseases may be defined differently in other countries.

Such Swedish terms were mainly chosen that are established both in Finland and in Sweden. In some cases it was necessary to include geographical variants since the Finnish and Swedish social systems are different, and this has caused variation in terms. It was difficult to find equivalents especially in the field of organizing of safety and health at work since the systems differ so much in various countries.

The Vocabulary of Safety and Health at Work was published by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in the autumn 2006, and it will also be published in the TEPA term bank (

Eugen Wüster Special Prize to Heidi Suonuuti

The Eugen Wüster Special Prize was awarded to Heidi Suonuuti, who worked as the TSK's director in 1978-1993 and as the chair person of ISO Terminology Committee in 1991-1997. She can be considered the most important developer of terminology work in Finland in her time. The certificate of honour and medal were awarded to Suonuuti for her long-term efforts to advance and promote the discipline of terminology.

The highly-esteemed Eugen Wüster Prize is granted to an expert of terminology who has made outstanding contributions to the research, education, development of methods or improvement of international cooperation in the field of terminology. Besides terminology, the prize may be granted for documentation, applied linguistics or language planning.

Eugen Wüster is considered the founding father of scientific research in terminology. The theory he developed in the 1930s is known today as the traditional theory of terminology. Suonuuti got to know Wüster's theory in the 1970s, and found plenty of answers to the questions encountered in practical terminology work.

Expert in terminology project

Kerttuli Harjanne from the Centre for Occupational Safety was a member of the workgroup of the Vocabulary of Safety and Health at Work.

The meaning of words and their interpretation have always been present in my career in safety and health at work. Communication channels have become more versatile and faster. The terms have changed with the development of the field. However, the basic question remains the same: how can I convey my message, what words should I use, so that the receiver understands my message?

When I was asked to participate in the terminology work, the idea became concrete to me in a memory of a dark blue, old paperback vocabulary of safety and health at work which I found in the very beginning of my working life. At that time I didn't know the field at all, and the vocabulary offered me an excellent introduction to the field.

We started the terminology work by going through the terms of the old vocabulary. It was interesting to read the vocabulary and sneer at the outdated, funny sounding words, coldly leave out terms that are meaningless today, and ponder upon terms whose meaning has changed completely over the years.

In seminars and meetings I was alert for new terms that should be included in the vocabulary. It was also challenging to consider which terms used today would still be in use after many years or if they would be just buzzwords of the moment.

The examination of terms of the same field from the viewpoints of research, authorities' work and everyday life created interesting discussions and sometimes small disputes. Experts outside the workgroup were also consulted. The terminology work got a lot of positive feedback. Through chaos we reached order, and completed the new Vocabulary of Safety and Health at Work on schedule, guided by competent terminology work experts.

Is terminology work necessary in the time of the Internet? The amount of information in the Net increases all the time. The searchability, reliability and usability of information requires structuring and classification. To facilitate this, ontologies, terminologies that computers can understand, are being compiled. The building of ontologies is based on up-to-date terminologies on different fields and on integrating them. Terminology work is very much this day and especially tomorrow!

Digital TV Vocabulary

About a year before Finland will go over to digital television, the TSK published the Digital TV Vocabulary. The terminology workgroup of the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority made an initiative to start a digital TV project in autumn 2003. Two years later the project was at last started. After ten months of work the vocabulary was ready. It contains 97 concepts, with terms and all texts in Finnish, Swedish and English.

The workgroup's aim was to include the key concepts used in the media, directed to the general public and manuals for digital devices. The vocabulary deals with digital television networks, means of distribution, services, TV cards, encryption and digital receivers, functions and interfaces.

The most challenging task in the project was the writing of definitions. The target group, the ordinary users of digital television, journalists and translators, had to be kept in mind, and it had to be thought how to express complex technical things plainly and unambiguously without "unnecessary" technical details.

It was also challenging to decide on the preferred terms. The world of digital TV swarms with abbreviations. The consumers hoped that abbreviations would not be used since they are difficult to use and understand. Although the aim is to recommend native-language and transparent terms, such abbreviations that already are established in a language cannot be changed or ignored. Therefore compromises had to be made.

The Digital TV Vocabulary is available at

Development of special languages in Finnish sign language

In Finland there are about 15.000 persons whose first or home language is the Finnish sign language. The total amount of signers can only be estimated since it has not been customary to enter sign language as the mother-tongue in the population register. The reason for this is that it has been possible to enter only one mother-tongue although the person in question would think that he or she is bi- or multilingual. Another reason is that sign language and deaf people have formerly been strongly discriminated.

In addition to deaf people, sign language affects twice as big a group since those who hear can also identify themselves as signers, e.g. because of deaf parents or siblings. On the other hand signers are always bi- or multilingual depending on what language has been used as the standard language at home or elsewhere.

In the 19th century there were deaf teachers who had deaf students, and in the 1910s the first sign language dictionaries were published in Finland and Sweden. However, at the turn of the century a pedagogical thinking called oralism spread in the Nordic countries. According to it all school teaching for the deaf had to be given by speaking or writing. The use of fingerspelling, gestures and signs was possible only for those who were "the most untalented" in their speaking skills. It was thought that sign language hindered the development of speech and thus thinking. Sign language remained an undesirable communication method in schools until the 1970s, but it also lost its status among the deaf. Only in the last decades of the 20th century sign language revived. The reasons for this were linguistic research, and the fact that the social attitudes towards sign language and the deaf started to change.

Despite obstacles and prohibitions sign language remained as the secret language of deaf pupils, and deaf adults used it when they were together although its use in public was avoided. The use of sign language narrowed to everyday life and get-togethers where only deaf people were present. The spoken language also became a part of sign language discourse. For example, when discussing new phenomena, people or places spoken loans based on Finnish or Swedish could be used in the middle of signs.

In the working life sign language had no room unless there happened to be other deaf persons in the same workplace. And even if one could talk about one's work in sign language, in a very few fields it was possible to pass one's professional knowledge to the next generation of signers.

Vocational schools were more permissive towards the use of sign language than the schools for the deaf. However, teachers who use sign language have only worked in vocational schools from the 1980s, so signs used outside the school or in previous professions have not passed into the language of deaf students via teaching. Many deaf people got jobs without any education or they managed to pass ordinary vocational training with hearing people, so there was no need for special terms in sign language.

General dictionaries of the Finnish sign language have been compiled already in the beginning of the 20th century. One of the newest collections, the Finnish general sign language dictionary published in 1998, contains 1219 sign entries but no special terms.

In addition to ordinary variation, sign languages have a tendency to produce almost an unlimited amount of non-permanent expressions besides established lexicon. These sign compositions take into account e.g. the spacial relationship between the subject and object, and the form of the object. Unfortunately it has not been possible to include these central phenomena of sign language in traditional dictionaries, where signs have been modelled with pictures or photos containing arrows describing movement. Nowadays, the polysynthesis of sign languages could be captured in net dictionaries. The polysynthetic expressions are common also in special languages.

It is very challenging to interpret fixed terms of various professions into their sign equivalents which do not perhaps ever exist as established units but just as combinations of parts of meanings. And the other way around: when the target language is Finnish, it is not always easy to give a linguistic form for all the meanings based on visual perception and used by e.g. a lathe operator.

Päivi Rainò, the writer of the article, has studied the signing conventions used in special fields by interviewing signers. All the special field experts emphasized that the signing conventions they use could be very different in other places or communities. With authentic language samples it has been possible to observe the differences in perception that visual and auditive language communicate. According to Rainò sign language is perceived as constantly changing lexical meaning potentials, a language composition, where signs change their form according to the shape of the tools that are grabbed, how they move when they work and how fast the functions related to them happen.


Real Finnish
Oikeeta suomee – suomen puhekielen sanakirja (real Finnish – dictionary of spoken Finnish) by Vesa Jarva and Timo Nurmi contains almost 7000 spoken Finnish words and phrases. The words have been explained and plenty of example sentences are given. For foreign users, the meaning of words has been described in English. The dictionary is meant for both those who study Finnish as a foreign language and those who speak it as their mother-tongue.

Ecclesiastical terminology
Kirkollista sanastoa neljällä kielellä (ecclesiastical terminology in four languages) has been published by the Finnish Church Council. The languages are Finnish, Swedish, English and German. The glossary contains two parts arranged alphabetically by Finnish and Swedish. It contains more than 500 terms related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

New standards
The Finnish Standards Association SFS has approved the standards SFS 4175 Typing of numbers, marks and signs, SFS-EN 1900 Materials and articles in contact with foodstuffs. Non-metallic tableware. Terminology, and SFS-IEC/TR 62154 Terminology in the area of information structures, documentation and graphical symbols as national standards. The SFS 4175 standard is only in Finnish. The other two standards contain English texts and their translations into Finnish.