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Terminology projects

The Finnish Terminology Centre TSK's participation in different types of terminology projects varies from giving advice or comments to being totally responsible for the management of large vocabulary projects. The trend has been towards more and more terminologist-centered working methods, which usually gives the Terminology Centre a very active role in the projects. This is actually no wonder, since according to studies the most effective terminology projects are those with a professional terminologist doing 70—80% of the total work. The financial effects of this are in fact remarkable: the total costs of a terminology project can be cut down by some 50% simply by optimizing the work flow.

A terminology project begins normally with a careful analysis of needs, specification of goals and acquisition of necessary resources. A project group is then formed from a group of subject field specialists and a professional terminologist. The main task of the specialists is to ensure that the contents of the vocabulary fully reflect the concepts that exist and are used in the subject field. The terminologist is responsible for preparing and analyzing the terminological material and for making proposals of concept systems and definitions for the specialists, as well as processing the actual data.

The first work phase is a term inventory, the purpose of which is to produce a compilation of preliminary terms. The term inventory is usually based on written documents in the subject field or other relevant sources. In addition to the preliminary terms, some textual support is often registered in the inventory, such as explanations, contexts and drafts for definitions.

After the term inventory, a careful terminological analysis of the selected concepts and concept systems is made, usually by the terminologist. The systems of concepts are drawn as graphical diagrams and presented to the project group for comments and corrections. The conceptual analysis is immediately followed by writing definitions for the concepts. The definitions are written in conformity with the concept systems, which makes it hard — and in fact unnecessary — to separate the definition phase from the concept analysis.

After the definitions have been written and the term equivalents in target languages have been found, the vocabulary is ready for a comments round. The draft vocabulary is usually circulated in several organizations representing the subject field, in order to ensure the highest possible degree of acceptance after the work is published. And, of course, to reveal any mistakes the project group may have made. After the comments round and a final revision made by the terminologist or the project group the vocabulary is ready for publication.

For examples of major terminology projects, which have been carried out by the Terminology Centre and which have resulted in a published vocabulary, please see the list of publications.