Usually two extremes emerge when it comes to the laymen's opinions on language. Although the majority would regard language neutrally, those who want rigorous guidance or regulation state their opinions, and so do those who think that the undertakings to guide language development or use are waste of resources. However, the language professionals are aware of and accept the different linguistic needs of different users and contexts. The goal is a parallel use of languages and styles: a proper language and style for each occasion.
At least language guidance is needed when important information cannot be transferred or misunderstandings occur if there are no accepted rules. Without skills and rules it is not possible to produce good texts, e.g. clear manuals or administrative texts.
Kati Lakner works as a sign language interpreter in Via Sign Language Sector Cooperative. She studied sign language at college-level and qualified in 1993. Later when sign language teaching was passed to institutions of higher education, Lakner had retraining and upgrading of qualifications. Now she is studying in the European Master’s degree programme in Sign Language Interpreting.
Via Sign Language Sector Cooperative is a national cooperative founded by sign language interpreters in 1999. It offers e.g. community and educational interpreting, teaching of Finnish sign language and signs and booking services for interpreting. Lakner is one of the founder members of Via. Via is the first and biggest enterprise in the sign language sector in Finland. Almost 90 persons work there at the moment, and most of them are interpreters.
Lakner's work day contains community and educational interpreting. Tasks, work places and situations can vary fast, from an anatomy lesson in nurse training to buying a used outboard engine. Lakner thinks that the biggest challenge in her work is that the interpreter must find out very quickly what is going on in an interpreting situation.
Lakner maintains Via's term bank which is mainly used by Via's employees, but also by Via's partners, clients and interpreter students. It contains almost 3000 term records. Via decided to build a term bank so that it would be easier to disseminate tacit information and prepare for assignments, and to facilitate collective learning. Lakner has studied terminology work by attending a terminology course organized by the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK and by consulting the TSK when Via's term bank was founded.
Finnish sign language as a mother-tongue is used by about 5000 deaf people. In addition, about 9000 hearing people use it as a mother-tongue, second language or foreign language. By law, the use of sign language interpreting services is a subjective right for those who need it so that they would have equal linguistic rights with other citizens. In addition to the deaf, sign language is used by those who are hard-of-hearing, deafblind or have speech impediments.
According to Lakner, international communication is surprisingly smooth with sign language, because the grammar and symbols of different sign languages are very similar. Finnish sign language has developed on the basis of Swedish sign language, so Finns can understand it more easily than e.g. American sign language.
The Finnish Terminology Centre TSK celebrated its 35th anniversary with a seminar on 29th October. More than 70 friends and partners of the TSK participated in the seminar “Towards the terminology work of the future”. The vice chair of TSK's board of directors and a former employee Seija Suonuuti, manager at Nokia Corporation, looked back at the first publication of the TSK series and the most important tools used in its compilation: typewriter, scissors and tape. From those days the technology used in terminology and other work has changed drastically, and various information systems are used both as tools in terminology work and as the subjects of it.
Bodil Nistrup Madsen, professor in the Copenhagen Business School and research director at the DANTERMcentret, told about Danish ontology work. In Denmark ontologies are done by authorities, e.g. in the fields of health care, telecommunication and social welfare. The use of logical terms is essential in information systems, since well-chosen terms help the user to understand the functions described by the terms and in this way support the usability of the systems.
Non-profit general ontology work has been done in Finland since 2003 in the FinnONTO research project lead by professor Eero Hyvönen. The aim of FinnONTO is to create a model with which it is possible to make data semantically interoperable and facilitate intelligent web services. The semantic approach in FinnONTO is based on ontologies. Since Finnish concepts are national property, the aim of the FinnONTO project is to create a Finnish collaborative holistic ontology, called KOKO. At the moment, KOKO contains the General Finnish Ontology YSO and domain specific ontologies on cultural heritage, agriforestry, applied arts and photography. The Finnish Ontology Library Service ONKI has been developed for the use and distribution of KOKO, other ontologies, thesauri and classifications. ONKI can be used by ontology developers and publishers, and those who search, apply or describe information. For more information, see www.seco.tkk.fi.
Ulla Poutiainen-Lindfors, Head of Control Management Unit at Evira, the Finnish Food Safety Authority, told about her observations on the use of terms by food authorities and terminology work as a factor that makes information system work and cooperation between authorities easier. The need to understand is emphasized especially when organizations are merged and operations are developed. The difficulty of understanding became prominent in Evira when it was founded by merging several organizations. The new organization had to make a national control plan, and it was found out that the different organizations had very different ideas on concepts and terms. Concept analysis is also needed when information is gathered on the control carried out in municipalities. To do this, information systems are being developed for the various sectors of environmental health care, and these systems should be interoperable.
Kaisa Kuhmonen, Head Terminologist at the Government Terminology Service, told about the scenarios of terminology work in the state administration. One of the future focuses of the Service will be terminology work in connection with legislative work. Terminology work is needed in many phases of legislative work: when the Finnish statute is drafted, when the government proposal is translated into Swedish, and when the statute is translated into English or other languages. Another focus will be in term bank work. For example, the Terminology Service has started a project to build a term bank for statute translations.
Nina Pilke, professor of Nordic languages in the University of Vaasa, gave a presentation on Nordic web-based studies for terminology developed by the Termdist network. The network has participants from all Nordic countries. It has planned a Master's degree program which consists of modules dealing with the work of terminologists and different application areas of terminology. A pilot course started in autumn 2009. Teaching is done via the course web site, students receive the material from the site, they can discuss there, ask questions and do exercises. Pilke told that there have been many difficulties in this Nordic education, e.g. the studies are subject to charge in some countries and free in some others. On the other hand, the possibilities offered by the web education have also become clear: there is a need and interest for this kind of education, and the cooperation has worked well.
Pirkko Nuolijärvi, Director of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland, said the opening words in the seminar celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK.
Terminology work requires expertise, understanding of a language, cooperation skills and ability to develop methods. It is general and special work which affects both expert communities and all language users.
For 35 years the TSK has offered and still offers information and expert services related to terminology work and usage of special language terms. Its task is to offer terminological services to all citizens and company- and subject-specific terminology projects. Most of its funding comes from membership fees and contract work; the state subsidy is rather small.
The TSK has compiled e.g. the Digital TV Vocabulary and the Internet Telephony Vocabulary. Both of these vocabularies are intended for ordinary consumers and also for translators and journalists. The Joint Group on IT terminology produces Finnish term recommendations for IT terms. The TEPA term bank, which contains special field terms and definitions in Finnish and other languages, can be used on the TSK's web site. So, the TSK works for us all even though it serves especially Finnish business life and public administration.
Finnish and Swedish have lost domain for the English language in recent years. The TSK does a lot to promote parallel languages in the Finnish society. Therefore the state should also take better care of the TSK's resources. The buzz word in state administration and science communities is infrastructure, and infrastructures are not created without proper concept analysis. The TSK participates actively in this work.
The TSK has seen many kinds of mornings. Its path has not been straight nor light. It has kept its head above water during many booms and recessions, it has tolerated uncertainty, it has rejoiced at successes. Best of luck the employees, supporters and friends of the TSK!
Information management has become an essential issue in the everyday activities of both organizations and individuals. The amount of information increases very fast especially in special fields where manual information management has become overwhelming. The aim of Päivi Pasanen's doctoral thesis Knowledge probes for maritime safety was to produce information for developing such tools that can semi-automatically extract terms and other concept information from genuine special field texts. The texts handled maritime safety in Finnish and in Russian.
The aim of Pasanen's term extraction test was to find out how terms can be extracted, how useful semi-automatic term extraction programs are and how the programs should be developed.
The results of term extraction were compared and the precision and recall of the methods were evaluated. Precision is the number of extracted terms divided by the number of extracted term candidates, and recall is the number of extracted terms divided by the number of all terms in the text. Recall in manual term extraction in all test groups was about 70%, but precision varied a lot between groups, 30-67%. Precision in the group of translation and language students was higher than in the group of maritime students. So it seems that knowledge on the theory of terminology is more useful than special field knowledge. At their best computer programs achieve as high recall as humans, but precision remains less than 20%.
Various methods have been developed to find concept information in texts. One of them is called knowledge probes which are linguistic expressions, means of printing technique or punctuation marks that express characteristics or relations between terms or concepts. Pasanen wanted to find out how knowledge probes fit for extracting concept relations from Finnish and Russian special texts. The usefulness of probes was measured by productiveness, i.e. the number of valid hits produced by the probes, and by precision, the number of valid hits divided by all hits. Pasanen's research shows that concept information can be found by using knowledge probes, since about half of the contexts of terms contains a probe. The most important benefit of probes is that their operating principle is language-independent. The problem is that in principle any word, word combination or punctuation mark can function as a probe.
Interpretation problems occur with terms used in work. When one has created a meaning for a term in one's mind, one does not necessarily even notice that a colleague or a client understands the term differently before the contradictory images collide in some phase of a project. In her work as a project manager of IT projects Tiina Vuolteenaho has noticed that unfortunately this usually means the phase when specifications have been made and the project is in an implementation or a testing phase.
Vuolteenaho has participated in two terminology projects where the client and the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK have defined terms found in information system specifications. The vocabularies compiled in the terminology projects have been used in the technical implementation project and for checking which term means what. One big advantage of terminology work has been that it has been possible to use the official terms, not working titles, in information system implementation. In addition, the vocabularies have been useful in PR and guidance during the projects. Instructions have become more consistent.
According to Vuolteenaho terminology work is an essential part of information system work. Each representative of a supplier knows that a common language, if anything, is important when working with clients. Not to mention the fact what a well-defined terminology means for the cooperation between other interest groups of the project. It's worth trying!
The Vocabulary of the Register of the Objects of Control of Environmental Health Care compiled by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira), the Consumer Agency and the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK will be published towards the end of 2009. The terminology project was started in 2008 and its purpose was to define concepts related to the objects of control of environmental health care and thus help in designing an information system for environmental health care control. The vocabulary contains 57 concepts, which have been defined and given term recommendations in Finnish. Term equivalents are given in Swedish and in English.
When the vocabulary was compiled, the points of view of different sectors of control (health protection, control of tobacco, control of chemicals and supervision of product safety) were compared and discussed. For example, it was found out that beaches are controlled from the point of view of both health protection and product safety. Health protection officials monitor e.g. the quality of water, whereas product safety officials' task is to ensure that beaches are provided with e.g. appropriate lifeguarding. This kind of information is something that information system specialists must take into account in order to design a system into which all the relevant data can be entered.
The Vocabulary of the Register of the Objects of Controlof Environmental Health Care is aimed to help e.g. central government officials when giving instructions to local government officials on how to carry out control work and how to use the information system.
Translators, as well, will benefit from the vocabulary. For example, one can find out why the term 'valmistus' (manufacturing) is used is certain contexts and the synonym 'tuottaminen' (production) in others and whether these terms can be translated into English by the same word.
In future terminology projects related to information system development, a closer cooperation between the terminologist and the subject field specialists, on one hand, and the information system specialists, on the other, would be useful.
The comments of the organizations and specialists consulted during terminology work showed that in addition to the concepts defined in the vocabulary, many more need clarification. It is therefore desirable that terminology work in environmental health care domain will continue, for example in the second phase of information system development in which control data will be defined.
The Research Institute for the Languages of Finland has published the Names of countries in seven languages on the Web. The web site presents the names of the independent states of the world and many non-independent regions. The names are given in Finnish, Swedish, North Saami, English, French, German and Russian. The material includes the official names of the countries as well as commonly used unofficial names. The web site is translated into all these languages. It can be used free-of-charge on the address http://kaino.kotus.fi/maidennimet.
Detailed publisher and order information can be found in the Finnish article.