To celebrate its 25th anniversary TSK organized a symposium called Special Language Communication in the Information Society on the 29th October. The first speaker Olli-Pekka Heinonen, Minister of Transport and Communications, said that terms are also used when people want to wield power over others. This is especially true in the fields of information technology and EU slang: the users of these terms consider themselves as experts and the others are left outside. IT terms pose a challenge to linguistic democracy. When the use of IT increases, technical terms become a part of the general language. Heinonen said that the new media, like e-mail, also shape the means of expression. As an example he mentioned that the letters he receives are much more formal than e-mail messages.
Arja Suominen, Vice President (Communications) at Nokia Networks, talked about the importance of good technical language in Nokia's communication. According to her good language is like good shoes, it does not chafe. The first criteria is that there is something to say. Secondly, the target group must be taken into account. Because Nokia is an international company, it has many challenges in its communication. Nokia's internal language is English, but their home country is Finland, so they need to communicate in Finnish, too. The other big challenge to Nokia is that the field of telecommunications develops very fast and new terms and abbreviations are being created continuously.
Hubert Paesmans, Head of Unit of the Terminology and Language Support Services of the European Commission told about the challenges of multilingualism to terminology work in the EC. Because all the official EU languages are equal, translation is an essential part of the EU's decision-making process. Therefore the terminology work done in the EU is often referred to as translation oriented terminology: its purpose is to help translation. The first terminology department of the EU was founded almost 35 years ago, and the results of terminological work were collected in hand-written card files. Nowadays, terms are saved in Eurodicautom term bank, which contains currently more than 1.25 million term records in eleven EU languages and which can be used by EC translators, other EU officials and language professional throughout the world.
The language of international companies was the subject of Kaija Pöysti who works as a Business Unit Manager at Lernout & Hauspie, an international speech and language technologies group. In a globalizing world many companies receive their turnover from abroad where the languages and cultures are different than in their home country. Clients want to buy in their own language, and local languages are important when companies are fighting for market shares. Translation increases costs, but on the other hand it also increases sales. International companies also have foreign employees. One language must be chosen as the internal language of a company — usually it is English. But it must be remembered that this language is perhaps not used at all levels of the company, for example, component assemblers do not necessarily speak English.
Olli Nykänen, Director of TSK, told about the activities of TSK in the last 25 years. The memorandum of the association was signed in 1974, and the task was to compile terminologies in Finnish and Swedish. In 1978 Heidi Suonuuti was nominated as the director, and the results of her terminological expertise can still be seen in TSK's work. TSK's current services include term service, a reference library of special language vocabularies, terminology projects, courses in terminology work and a term bank. In the 1990's Finland's membership in the EU has greatly influenced TSK's activities. The need for Finnish terms became evident, and together with special field experts TSK has gathered almost 150 000 Finnish terms for Eurodicautom term bank.
The relationship between terms and thinking was addressed by Fred Karlsson, Professor of General Linguistics in the University of Helsinki. He talked about what makes the word and its meaning in the mind of a human being. Family resemblance, prototypical words, semantic relationships, collocations and semantic fields are all important organizing principles of the semantic memory. Karlsson also told about a terminological experiment he had done. He had compared a Finnish and an English text dealing with the information society and studied how to find terms and recognize words that are typical for the text in question.
Chris Cox, who is involved with British and international standardization, talked about standardization and terminology as harmonizing forces. With the help of global quality management and terminology standards the risk of misunderstanding can be reduced. ISO 9000 quality standards form the basis which helps to ensure the quality of processes, systems and products. The terminology committee TC 37 of the ISO compiles standards on terminology work, and the purpose of these standards is to disseminate information on the methods and tools of effective terminology work.
Pirkko Nuolijärvi, Director of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland, talked about the difference between the general language and special languages at TSK's symposium. Besides written language she also examined spoken language, since the different forms of written and spoken languages intertwine in many ways.
Language types are partly overlapping. This is simply the nature of language. Therefore it can be difficult to draw the line between a special language and the general language even for one word. This overlapping character may also be seen in the fact that both language varieties give each other material: special language terms become general language words and vice versa.
One special field includes both written and spoken languages. For example, the language of economy and the slang of stockbrokers and dealers represent the same subject field. Despite of this they may differ from each other considerably and have different terms for the same concept.
Krista Varantola, a member of TSK's Board of Directors and Professor of Translation Studies in the University of Tampere, ended TSK's symposium with a peek into the future. Varantola concentrated on the first decade of the 2000th century, and assumed that in the future human speech will be used in special language communication, too.
The greatest change in special language communication in the 90s is the mass of electronic information that reaches the user of information. There is too much electronic information available, and the avalanche of information buries that piece of information the user needs. It is difficult to find suitable search keys and to navigate in the information jungle. In the time of electronic databases and texts terms are also needed for something else than understanding and producing texts; they have become an important interface to databases.
We need and use terms all the time — sometimes as experts in our own field, sometimes as lay persons e.g. when learning to use a mobile phone. However, we often get into trouble with the manual or online help. The language of the person who wrote the instructions differs totally from the language of the user. The crucial question for the new decade is what should be done to transform data and information into knowledge that a human being could use in decision making.
In the near future terminology work could be more interactive and try to find out the information seeker's need. It could offer alternative answers and ask the user for what the information is used. It could also tell how a term is used in different contexts and what terms are generally in use.
Global networks and the development of knowledge engineering change the work of terminologists, too. This subject was handled in the 5th Terminology and Knowledge Engineering Congress organized in Innsbruck in 23—27 August.
The keynote addresses were held by professor Kim Veltman from the Maastricht McLuhan Institute and professor Sue Ellen Wright from the Kent State University. Veltman talked about Conceptual Navigation in Multimedia Knowledge Spaces dealing with art and culture and the historical dimensions of knowledge. Language Technology and Language Engineering: Emerging Trends was the title of Wright's lecture. She mentioned three important trends: movement towards real-world solutions in language technology, ontologies used in information management and retrieval, and integrated systems e.g. between different applications.
Automatic term extraction was handled in many presentations. One example was presented by Ingrid Meyer from the University of Ottawa. She introduced a program called DocKMan, which tries to find meaningful contexts for a term from a corpus. This will help terminologists by speeding up their work because they need to look only those contexts that help in defining the term.
The Ministry of Finance and the Government Terminology Service have published an EMU glossary in order to bring uniformity and clarity to current EMU terminology in Finnish and Swedish. The glossary also has definitions in English, German and French.
Optical spectroscopy glossary
The Association of Finnish Chemical Societies has published an optical spectroscopy glossary. The main objective of the glossary is to give Finnish equivalents for the English subject field terms, but it also contains equivalents in Swedish, German and Russian.