Christian Galinski (Wien)
There seems to exist a vexing relationship between the possibility to use ones mother-tongue and the positive economic development of the respective language community. People whose mother-tongue is not (or not sufficiently) developed from the point of view of specialized language or who are denied to use their mother-tongue in education and training, for accessing information or in their daily work situation tend to be/feel disadvantaged. In most cases the limitation of the use of a language to areas such as culture and folklore results in the - almost irreversible - loss of its applicability in specialized communication. On the one hand, the linguistic map of Europe reveals the richness of the European cultural heritage, but should not, on the other hand, be a source for complacency, if we consider the potential for conflict. It definitely needs a framework of measures at European, national and language community level in order to prevent the smaller language communities from dropping into a really disadvantaged situation.
The terminology infrastructure(s) as well as the terminology market(s) are still characterized by the co-existence of many loosely interconnected elements. Of course there are very different language situations within the various language communities with respect to the evolution of terminology infrastructures and the terminology market. Nevertheless a certain pattern seems to evolve. First of all a distinction has to be made between the horizontal and vertical infrastructures. In the area of the horizontal infrastructures five main structural elements seem to crystallize out of the dawn: terminology (planning) policy, terminology creation centres, terminology information and documentation centres, terminology associations and corporate cooperation groups led by the private sector. Definitely the development of the terminology market and the development of a terminology infrastructure mutually support each other. Obviously the development of both is speeding up recently, but there is still a long way to go.
The planned European Network of Terminology Documentation Centres (TDCnet) will be a cornerstone of the future terminology infrastructures in Europe. It will also support the further development of the terminology market by providing information on existing terminology resources, activities, experiences, services etc. and on the conditions of their availability.
Where and whenever specialized information and specialized knowledge are being prepared, represented, processed, transformed and transferred, terminology is accorded a crucial role. There is, therefore, hardly any area in an enterprise or other specialized organization, where terminology is not used.
On the one hand terminology is of fundamental importance as it represents specialized knowledge at the level of concepts (which are the basic units of subject-field related thinking/cognition, knowledge and communication), so that terminological data are the main contents carriers to record, order, store, manage, represent, retrieve, disseminate, communicate or transfer specialized information and knowledge. On the other hand there is comparatively little awareness for this importance even in the quarters of the specialists being the primary creators and users of the terminology of their respective subject-fields.
This is partly due to the fact that terminologies are created as a rule by domain experts of various levels in a multitude of subject-fields in an evolutionary rather than coordinated way. This results in a highly fragmented and sectorized situation with respect to most terminological activities and applications. The emergence of a terminology market for terminological products and services will certainly improve this situation, but it also needs terminology infrastructures to support the creation and distribution, re-use and use of terminologies - especially in multilingual and multicultural Europe.
There seems to exist a vexing relationship between the possibility to use ones mother-tongue and the well-being of the respective language community. People whose mother-tongue is not (or not sufficiently) developed from the point of view of specialized language or who are denied to use their mother-tongue in education and training, for accessing information or in their daily work place tend to be/feel disadvantaged. Especially smaller language communities (incl. linguistic minorities of all sorts) have to balance many linguistic disadvantages by making more efforts than the surrounding larger language communities in order to prevent marginalization with respect to scientific-technical and economic-industrial development - which ultimately may lead to socio-economic decline. In most cases the limitation of the use of a language to areas such as culture and folklore results in the - almost irreversible - loss of its applicability in specialized communication. This calls for a distinct conciousness for the need of terminology planning in many/all language communities and concrete legal and administrative action to support it.
In todays European Union (EU) there are only a few language communities whose mother-tongue is discriminated or even suppressed, but many whose language situation can be called disadvantaged for various reasons. An unorthodox analysis of the linguistic map of Europe shows that from the point of view of language variety Western Europe must be considered rather poor compared to other continents. Nevertheless the language distribution is far from being simple and without problems. According to recent figures about 55-60 languages are used as mother-tongue by language communities of more than 50,000 speakers (including non-European languages of foreign workers or refugees, while not taking into account the Caucasus region, which is a linguistic cosmos of its own). If only languages of more than 500,000 mother-tongue speakers are considered, the figure drops to about 45 languages. Some of these language communities do not much care about specialized languages, matched by a few language communities of sometimes less than 500,000 speakers undertaking serious efforts to develop their language as a tool of modern communication.
In the EU more than 260m citizens use one of the major four languages of more than 50m mother-tongue speakers each: German [90m], English [61m], French [58m] or Italian [55m]. Some 80m people use one of the other 7 official working languages of the EU institutions as mother-tongue: Spanish [25m - if deducting Basque, Catalan and Galician speakers], Dutch [21m], Portuguese [10m], Greek [10m], Swedish [9m], Danish [4m] or Finnish [4m]. Additional 20m EU citizens use one of more than 10 languages with more than 50,000 speakers. Together there are more than 30 officially recognized language communities in the EU, further 10 are seeking official recognition, not to mention all sorts of minority languages. The ratio of small languages to large language communities, therefore, is about 35% (if Spanish and Portuguese in this context are included in the small languages which can of course be argued). In this connection it is also difficult to evaluate the situation of people speaking a minority language somewhere, which is a large language elsewhere in Europe or in the world. Every further extension of the EU will push the above-mentioned ratio towards less than 35%, which would mean that more than two third of the future EU population will belong to a potentially disadvantaged language community.
Various references consulted with regard to language statistics are by no means consistent. Therefore, individual figures may be questioned, which, however, has no substantial effect on the overall picture presented here. The figures, on the one hand, represent the richness of the European cultural heritage, but should not, on the other hand, be a source for complacency, if we consider the potential for conflict. It definitely needs a framework of measures at European, national and language community level in order to prevent the smaller language communities from dropping into a really disadvantaged situation.
Not the least due to the European Commissions emphasis on multilingual aspects in all Community R&D Programmes a terminology market - deserving to be called so - is gradually emerging.
Terminologies emerge among others
- in science and technology in the course of scientific and technical development,
- in crafts and arts in the course of new techniques and skills,
- in public administration and in society in general in conjunction with new conceptions and approaches.
They are created primarily by domain experts of various levels in a multitude of subject-fields in an evolutionary rather than coordinated way. The expert communities, comprising the primary creators and users of their domain specific terminologies, thus also cause the well-known communication problems, such as homonymy and synonymy, which some of them try to figure out by means of descriptive or prescriptive terminology work. Terminology work, therefore, is carried out in a large number of subject fields usually by groups of experts. In addition, it should be remembered that it is a time-honoured scientific tradition to define what one is talking about in scientific and technical texts (a general rule for instance in standardization) a good tradition often neglected today in scientific discourse.
Since science and technology increasingly influence more and more all walks of life and society, deficient terminologies are not only causing communication difficulties in the respective peer groups, but also have negative repercussions on many people who have to use specialized terminology
- at their work places,
- as consumers,
- as citizens, and
more and more even in intra-family communication. Potentially and increasingly everybody is or could become a more or less frequent user of some or any specialized terminology regularly or occasionally in his/her life.
The gradually emerging terminology market will offer terminological products and services - which in fact are a particular family of information products and services - to a variety of consumers and clients, such as
- terminology creators (e.g. researchers, technicians, administrators, etc.),
- terminology data producers (e.g. terminology database creators, specialized lexicographers, etc.),
- terminology data distributors (e.g. dictionary publishers, online information services, etc.) and
- terminology users in general.
Terminology creators, data producers and data distributors in most or many cases are also or can become re-users of existing terminological data.
Terminology products mainly comprise
- different kinds of terminological information in different forms for different
purposes and different user groups,
- terminological tools for various purposes.
Terminological information (if terminology documentation is included) comprise three distinct fundamental types of data, viz.:
- terminological data proper (i.e. information on domain-specific concepts and their
representation by linguistic and non-linguistic symbols supplemented by a variety of
- bibliographic data on a variety of different kinds of publications in the field of terminology,
- factual data on institutions, experts, programmes, events and other activities in the field of terminology.
Each of them requires a different type of database system (comprising a set of distinct databases each for different data models). A comprehensive terminology information and documentation centre like Infoterm has to deal with all three types of database systems modelled on the basis of well-defined data categories (according to the objects) for different purposes. The data as well as the respective software can be used as products and as a basis for a variety of services.
The volume of the above-mentioned types and categories of data may be estimated as follows:
- terminological data proper - about 50m records accross all subject-fields
(potentially in some 200 languages which are of relevance or potential relevance in
terminology) the increase is more or less parallel to the increase of specialized
- bibliographic data - about a quarter million records (of which an estimated 200.000 are about technical dictionaries and lexicons) - the annual increase can be estimated about 10%,
- factual data - about 50.000 records (80% of which concern terminology committees, commissions and working groups as well as terminological institutions at international, regional and national levels) the increase is difficult to estimate, but the biggest problem here is the high degree of fluctuation!
Terminological data proper
Terminological data can be offered
- in conventionally published form,
- as an electronic publication (only data as such in a given format or in combination with a software or hardware, such as in an electronic dictionary)
- through online information services.
In palm-top computers or smaller pocket-size dictionaries the terminological data may be implemented in inseparable combination/integration with the respective software or even hardware.
Terminological data can be acquired by customers on the terminology market for internal use only or for re-use, in the course of terminology data interchange, etc. on a variety of different data carriers (diskette, CD-ROM, etc.). However, different user groups need terminological data of different degrees of complexity and granularity for different purposes.
It is, therefore, highly economical to prepare multi-purpose terminological data for different purposes and users, whose needs are taken care of by appropriately tailored customer-specific user-interfaces. Terminological data can also be used very efficiently as the intellectual skeleton (or infrastructure) around which the contents of domain-specific encyclopedia can be organized.
Terminology application software provides the most common tools for the handling of terminological data in some way or other. Terminology management systems (TMS) are designed as dedicated tools to record, store, process and output terminological data in a professional manner. There are different kinds of TMS for different purposes. Terminology databases consist of terminological data and a TMS to handle these data. Terminology data banks (TDB) are more or less sophisticated organizational/institutional structures established for the handling and maintenance of terminological data with the help of a TMS. TDBs can comprise several or many terminology databases.
TDBs are supported by a TMS often running on a mainframe, mini-computer or work-station, whereas most of the PC-based TMS today are applied by individual users, small co-operatives (integrated or not by an appropriate LAN), or larger departments (where the individual work-places are usually linked by a more or less sophisticated LAN).
On the one hand TMSs are increasingly further developed into tools for various applications, such as
- computer-assisted translation,
- scientific and technical authoring (incl. technical documentation),
- spare-part adminstration,
- electronic commerce, etc.
On the other hand TMS moduls of varying degree of sophistication are implemented into all kinds of application software. They are thus increasingly applied in a variety of information and communication workflows.
In the future appropriately designed TMS or TMS modules will find new markets particularly in applications, such as
- co-operative writing (today a high percentage of the citizenship of developed
countries works more or less intensively in some form or other as technical
- documentation (in the meaning of information & documentation as well as of archiving and filing), and
- co-operative terminology work.
If appropriate tools were available for computer-assisted terminology work, the preparation, processing and maintenance of terminological data could be carried out faster, more efficiently and in line with modern quality management approaches. Needless to say that this would considerably help the terminology market to develop.
At present the following terminology services already exist or are foreseeable in the future:
- terminology consultancy and training services,
- outsourcing of terminological tasks,
- information services.
Consultancy services and training
Consultancy services and training are most often needed in conjunction with application aspects, such as
- application of terminological principles and methods (including especially the
appropriate application of existing standards),
- selection and application of tools,
- terminology project management etc.
As a rule todays experts have not studied the basic theory of logic and epistemology underlying the science of sciences (or science theory also comprising the basic theory of terminology). They, therefore, often need training in the theoretical and methodological basics of terminology science and terminography. Large organizations/institutions often need to include terminological methods and tools into their information management or quality management schemes. Government agencies and other public authorities in many countries want to implement knowledge transfer policies, which would largely benefit from the appropriate terminology planning methods. Institutions and organizations frequently also need advice with respect to legal problems (especially related to intellectual property rights) concerning the application of terminologcal data and tools.
It has to be mentioned, however, that with a few exceptions (e.g. China, Greece, etc.) these needs are still latent, decision makers not being aware of the usefulness and effectiveness of such services. Therefore, it is still a dormant market for lack of interest and investment.
Increasingly institutions and organisations of all sorts consider outsourcing a suitable method to cope with identified limited terminological needs. Outsourcing may refer for instance to
- research and development on demand concerning new tools or applications, adaptation of existing tools etc., such as
- TMS or even TDB design and implementation,
- meta-browsers for information networks, etc.
- terminology work on demand with respect to
- terminology preparation,
- terminology maintenance (including among others revision and updating),
- conversion or merging of terminological data,
- evaluation and validation of terminological data, etc.
- maintenance and aftercare services with regard to
- TMS software maintenance and upgrading,
- comprehensive data holdings maintenance, etc.
Increasingly terminological products and services will - similar to the general situation in the field of information and communication technology (ICT) - be available as one or attached to one of many kinds of information services available on the market. They will also increasingly be integrated into other ICT applications.
For the distribution of terminological data to different user groups with various user needs efforts should be made to establish market-oriented and fee-based information networks for providing
- terminological data proper as well as
- value-added terminological products and services
on a commercial basis. The clients thus will have to pay for terminological products and services. The more clients can chose among an ever increasing variety of terminological products and services the more affordable they will become.
Given the amount of terminological entries accross science and technology and other subject-fields to be prepared in a multitude of languages this monumental task cannot be performed without the help of millions of experts who need to do this anyhow, if they want to work and communicate efficiently. In most cases today such terminology work is carried out in the form of thousands of small co-operative efforts scattered all accross the globe and in many subject-fields with little inter-connection. It is performed as a rule in a non-commercial (let alone non-profit) framework.
In some cases terminological activities are carried out horizontally, i.e. across many or all subject-fields at the language level. In many or most cases, however, they are carried out vertically, i.e. within a given subject-(sub)field. In smaller language communities (or even larger language communities, which feel threatened for some reason or other) the share of horizontal terminological activities/efforts will probably be bigger than in larger language communities with many developed specialized languages. It every language community it requires a public or semi-public or at least partly public infrastructure
- to promote, organize and co-ordinate terminological activities by domain experts
taking into account multiple user needs,
- to provide the information on terminological activities, institutions, publications and services available,
- to promote co-operation and co-ordinate activities in order to find solutions to common problems.
The future horizontal terminology infrastructure is composed of five main structural elements or aspects:
- terminology (planning) policy,
- (systematic) terminology creation,
- information and documentation in the field of terminology,
- terminology associations (primarily for individuals),
- purpose-oriented co-operation groupings in private industry or between private industry and public institutions (for the sake of creating and/or sharing terminological data).
Often two or more of these elements/aspects can or will be combined, in many cases they are or should be institutionalized in order to be effective.
While terminology planning in large language communities would concentrate on the unification and harmonization of terminology usage, it would primarily focus on the conscious and purposive development of specialized languages in the smaller language communities. Of course differences in the level of development of specialized languages in different subject-fields have to be taken into account. The experiences with and results of existing terminology unification and harmonization efforts (not only at international level, but also in small language communities, such as Iceland) as well as the efforts of the International Information Centre for Terminology (Infoterm), the International Network for Terminology (TermNet), the Association for Terminology and Knowledge Transfer (GTW) and the International Institute for Terminology Research (IITF), and - last but not least - the results of the work of the Technical Committee ISO/TC 37 "Terminology (principles and co-ordination)" of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) not to mention other terminology institutions and organizations which exist since many years are of particularly value for the development of specialized languages and terminologies in smaller language communities whether in Europe or world-wide.
In some countries or language communities it may necessitate the establishment of a political or administrative institution or a consultative council for designing and implementing a terminology policy. Given the linguistic situation in Europe there should be a terminology policy in any case in every language community that wants to develop its language according to the needs of professional communication. Therefore, the author would like to call for a declared European terminology policy on behalf of the European Union with complementary policies at national or language community level in order to take the specific linguistic situation of every language community into account. These policies must, however, be supported by efforts from within the language communities, if they shall meet with the desired success. Given the shear volume and complexity of the terminology problem, co-operation among the language communities with respect to the design and implementation of such terminology policies and strategies should be promoted and actively encouraged as much as possible.
A systematic aproach to organize the creation of terminologies should be taken especially by the smaller language communities, which would otherwise inevitably be swamped by foreign loan terms. Clear-cut objectives for this endeavour and the support by a declared terminology policy will definitely help. Co-operation within the same language family (e.g. the Romance or Nordic languages) secures a certain parallelism in terminology development and helps to maintain a high degree of terminological homogeneity across languages, which facilitates specialized communication within the respective language family. Depending on the individual language situation co-operation between subject-field experts and terminologists (or LSP experts or applied linguists trained as terminologists) may prove useful or even indispensable.
In fact terminology creation centres exist in Europe in language communities such as of the Catalan, Basque, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish languages. Similar terminology creation institutions definitely are needed in some other language communities.
Beside Infoterm, which performs distinct functions as a clearing house and referral centre for information in the field of terminology at international, European and national Austrian level (and which is the oldest TDC), there are several TDCs in operation in France, Spain or in the above-mentioned language communities, where the role of a TDC is combined with that of a terminology creation centre. In several other language communities a TDC is in the process of being established, further ones without would greatly benefit from the existence of a TDC.
In smaller language communities a TDC will more possibly than not be a central institution covering the whole area of the language community. In larger language communities the respective TDC will probably be the focal point of a network of smaller TDCs with similar or different foci.
The planned project for the establishment of the "European Network of Terminology Documentation Centres" (TDCnet) aims at linking up the existing and emerging TDCs in a physical network (in the form of an extranet within the Internet) in order
- to increase the efficiency of operation of the individual TDCs via networking,
- to improve access to existing information and holdings,
- to assist the establishment of further TDCs, where they are needed.
Terminology associations have been established at national or international level in order to meet immediate needs especially those of individual users. At international level the Association for Terminology and Knowledge Transfer (GTW) was established in 1986 in order to organize co-operation among those interested in improved terminology software. Its first main task was to organize the first International Congress on "Terminology and Knowledge Engineering" (TKE87) in 1987, which marked the beginning of a series of successful TKE Congresses. Between the Congresses the activities focus on pre-normative research and development in working groups. The International Institute for Terminology Research (IITF) was founded in 1989 in order to provide a forum for the exchange of experience of teachers and researchers in the field of terminology. A number of training courses were organized in countries having a particular need for terminology training, and for the training of terminology teachers and trainers not to mention the annual International Terminology Summer School. Nordterm in the Nordic countries also provides a similar framework for the exchange of experience and organization of teaching and training opportunities in terminology science.
At regional level the Reseau international de terminologie et de néologie (Rint), the Red Iberoamericano de Terminología (RITerm) and the recently (1996) founded European Association for Terminology (EAFT) are organizing co-operation in the field of terminology for various purposes among related language communities. As a rule they comprise among others also national or language community specific associations in their ranks.
Such language community specific associations exist for instance in Germany (German Terminology Association DTT), Italy (Associazione Italiana per la Terminologia ASSITERM), Greece (Hellenic Society for Terminology ELETO) or are in the process of being established in the Netherlands and other language communities.
Purpose- or project-oriented corporate cooperation groups in private industry or between private industry and public institutions exist in some countries, such as Switzerland, France, Denmark and Germany. Given the multitude of problems still requiring a solution in the field of terminology, such purpose-oriented co-operation groupings with their very pragmatic approach and flexible structure can be extremely effective and should further be encouraged whenever suitable.
By far most of terminology work is carried out as a collective work by subject-field specialists under the umbrella of a more or less authoritative organization or institution. Legal (or quasi-legal) terminologies are e.g. determined by legislation or jurisdiction at international, European or national levels. Sometimes the terminology contained in technical rules/regulations at national level is also considered as quasi-standardized terminology. Harmonized/standardized terminologies are issued by an official public or officially authorized harmonization/standardization body. Often the documents containing such terminologies are referred to in laws, so that the terminology becomes legalized. Quasi-standardized terminologies are prepared by a subject-field authorities recognized in the respective field (e.g. IUPAC) or by an institution/organization authorized for this purpose, but not belonging to the official standardization framework. Other kinds of authoritative terminologies are at least issued by or published under the patronage of a (formally or informally recognized) subject-field authority.
The authoritative nature of data (viz. the degree of authoritativeness) depends on the status of the data originator being
- a legal or quasi-legal (public or semi-public) authority
- a harmonizing/standardizing (or quasi-standardizing) body
- an informal authority in the respective subject-field
and on whether it is
- prepared within the framework of a working group or committee/commission established
for this purpose by the authority,
- prepared by one (or more) individual experts on behalf of the subject-field authority,
- adopted by the subject-field authority from external originators,
as well as on whether it
As a rule there is no absolute authority covering all applications, the authority in most cases is restricted to a (implicitly or explicitly) defined scope, but can often be extended towards similar/neighbouring applications.
Sometimes non-authoritative terminology being prepared by one (or more) individual experts on behalf of an issuing institution/organisation (e.g. publisher) may also acquire the reputation of being authoritative.
Terminology standardization covers two distinct aspects, which belong to two different infrastructures. The standardization of terminological principles and methods certainly belongs to the horizontal infrastructures, whereas the standardization of terminologies in the various technical committees definitely is an element of the vertical structures.
The terminology infrastructures as well as the terminology market(s) are still characterized by the co-existence of many loosely interconnected elements. But gradually the mosaic of these elements is becoming more complete, while at the same time turning into a dense networking of interacting structures and activities. Co-operation in terminology, which started at international level, by now has got organized already at transnational level within the framework of some language families in Europe. Within the various language communities, however, there are very different language situations with respect to the evolution of terminology infrastructures and the terminology market. Nevertheless a certain pattern seems to evolve as was described above.
The development of the terminology market and the development of an infrastructure mutually support each other. Some tasks/activities, such as the collecting and housekeeping of information, which are in the public interest, must continue to be funded by the community, whereas others increasingly are (and should be) financed by the users, especially those from the private sector.
Obviously the development is speeding up recently, but there is still a long way to go. Access to information in the field of terminology is still not as easy for the user as it would be desirable. Co-operation among the players in the field still needs promotion and support. Quality of information and services has to be enhanced with a view to user needs - which also requires a higher concern for multifunctional data. The teaching and training situation is still characterized by many missing links.
The planned European Network of Terminology Documentation Centres will be a cornerstone of the future terminology infrastructure in Europe. It will also support the further development of the terminology market by providing information on existing terminology resources, activities, experiences, services etc. and on the conditions of their availability.
© Christian Galinski (Wien)
Inhalt: Nr. 0
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