1 Slovak Terminological Activities – Present and Future For more

Slovak Terminological Activities – Present and Future
For more than 17 years Slovak language has seen spontaneous and uncontrolled accumulation of
terms referring to new concepts due to the sweeping political and economic changes, not to mention the
arrival of information technologies, which resulted in coinage of excessive and often unnecessary
terminological variants of both domestic and foreign provenience.
In spite of a rich history of terminological activities, Slovak society has been facing a double vacuum
in its post-war history - on one hand in terms of analysis and development of foreign and domestic
terminological theories, technologies and methodologies and on the other studies comparing foreign and
Slovak terminological systems. Moreover, the new political and economic situation has caused a massive
braindrain in the academic and scientific sphere, thus Slovakia lacks available full-time and skilled
At the same time, there has been an external demand for consistent and unified Slovak terminologies
for the purpose of drafting and translating European legislation into Slovak as they proved to be
unsatisfactory because of the increase of polysemes, synonyms, and variants.
Although terminological activity in Slovakia has suffered the greatest fallout in the last 50 years, it
did not die out. Small-scale quality terminology work has been carried out by teams and individuals and has
been appearing in form of thesis, glossaries and specialised dictionaries, which have, however, seen only
modest feedback.
Some institutions, aware of the urgent need, started with scarce but key terminological activities, i.e.
setting up of terminology databases – e.g. the National Bank of Slovakia and the Slovak Institute of
Technical Normalisation. But those are only domain limited databases with specific, very narrowly defined
aims – the former is an in-house tool for employees of the bank while the latter is used by the creators and
translators of technical norms. As a mater of fact, these banks do not provide any access for lay public.
Contemporary Slovak state of affairs does not contribute to coherent and intelligible science neither
for specialists, producers and lawmakers nor for teachers, translators and interpreters. It is therefore more
than obvious that challenges Slovakia is facing in terminology work are following: centralisation,
coordination, communication, and consensus.
Importance of a Corpus in the Context of Terminological Activities
Terminology monitoring, coordination, analysis of the special vocabularies and unification of
pertinent results in the form of glossaries, dictionaries, terminological standards or terminology databases is
considered by the Ľudovít Štúr Institute of Linguistics, Slovak Academy of Sciences, to be a priority.
Centralisation of various terminologies under one administration, continuous modification and
Mgr. Jana Levická, PhD
updating of term records and narrow collaboration of terminological boards, translators and specialists is
nowadays regarded to be the only way of terminological harmonisation, and consequently standardisation.
Contemporary terminological tendencies stress the model of the text and corpus approach as a sine qua non
prerequisite of every terminological project. The process of systematic gathering of terms is based
exclusively on representative corpora, supervised and validated by specialists and terminologists. As Sager
(1990:131) puts it, information extracted from a text represents a reliable indicator of changes and ensures
the only plausible data for building and revising terminological records.
Thus, it was a logical decision that a terminology database project is to be started by the Corpus
Department of the Institute for it has had all the resources and tools at its disposal – textual base of the
Slovak National Corpus (SNC) itself, software for automatic annotation of Slovak texts and know-how for
developing new ones, essential for automatic terminology data extraction.
Project of the Slovak National Terminology Database
The SNC project of the term bank aims to set up a monolingual database provided with both
conceptual and linguistic information, inspired by foreign examples, mostly Canadian ones. The team
expects to cooperate and exchange the data with leading European database IATE which is why the
EUROVOC 4.2 Thesaurus was chosen as the classification system.
The starting point of the Slovak Terminology Database Project dates back to the autumn of 2005
when the SNC team launched the analysis of existing terminology banks, subsequently proceeding to the
design of the term record layout based partly on translators' needs survey. The team chose and adapted the
WikiWikiWeb editing system for the purpose of the database along the way. The SNC policy of text
acquisition also had to be modified and the focus was shifted towards economic and legal texts for the
purpose of creating specialised subcorpora and further automatic extraction of terms as well as other
terminological data from specialised corpora.
Project methodology, as it was already mentioned, has adopted textual approach to the terminology
extraction of lexical units – potential terminological units from running specialised texts and identification of
the concept they refer to.
As far as the term record design is concerned, the team drew inspiration especially from the ISO
10241:1992 International terminology standards -- Preparation and layout. Resulting term record comprises
11 data categories, 7 out of which are obligatory. In order to satisfy the needs of professionals, lay public
and last but not least the translation and interpreting public, obligatory categories include definition, domain,
context, related terms and sources of both definition and context. Remaining 4 optional fields of the term
record feature synonym, foreign language equivalent, comment and links to relatively reliable web pages.
Mgr. Jana Levická, PhD
Table 1. Model term record (concrete)
Changes in the project strategy
Nevertheless, the project started for different reasons in a less ambitious form of terminological
work, i.e. instead of creating new records by filling in previously mentioned obligatory fields, the emphasis
was shifted towards reusing and adapting existing quality terminology resources published in Kultúra slova
revue in particular, as the team received a copyright license for their non-commercial use as well as some of
those that had been elaborated by our close collaborators.
For the time being, the database available online in its pilot version since May 2007 offers almost
3000 terminological records covered by more than 20 domains (e.g. Astronomy, Security and Law,
Migration Policy, Construction, Corpus Linguistics, Phraseology, Phonetics and Phonology, Bilingualism,
Civil Security, Historical Linguistics, Fire Protection, etc.) with partly completed terminology fields, i.e.
term and usually definition, source, less often synonym, sometimes related terms, and comment.
Reusing terminology collections designed and compiled for different aims and users brought about
different issues in terms of harmonisation of different editorial practices in order to meet one common form
of the term record.
Terminology collections that were entered into the term bank show differences/differ greatly and
have to be harmonised on two levels.
On the formal level, proofreading revealed that term records most frequently present four groups
Mgr. Jana Levická, PhD
flaws of incorrect Slovak such as substandard words, orthographical errors and syntax mistakes;
abbreviations accompanying head terms, excessive punctuation and using brackets within the definition (one
sentence and no capital letter and no full stop) and last but not least formal treatment of polysemous terms.
As far as the polysemous terms within the same domain are concerned, every concept they refer to, is to be
treated in a separate term record differing by the arabic numeral following the head term.
As for the content of the term record is concerned, the first step after the automatic incorporation of
terminological data into the term bank is to identify and classify these data especially in case of
encyclopaedically drafted term records splitting of original entries into definition, context and comment
fields. Further step/phase is the evaluation of data. DEletion/omitting If there happen to be records for nonterms these are deleted. evaluation of relevancy of terms belonging to the terminology of a specific author or
Editing activity concerns mostly/usually:
1. definition field
2. domain field
3. acceptability field
4. related terms field
In spite of all rules and efforts, definition-related discrepancies include incompleteness, inconsistency,
amateurishness and subjectivity. Varying definitional practices resulted in one case phrasing definitions and
in other descriptions, i.e. instead of creating a sentence which would enable to describe, circumscribe and
distinguish the concept these context only desribe it. institutions, treaties (other proper names) – planning to
create a set of descriptors/metalanguage to properly describe (description instead of a definition)treatment of
nomenclatures and accompanying data etc. Some of the so-called definitions are in fact definitional contexts1
but can be kept in this field. Many definitions comprise unknown, ambiguous or vague words/terms,
auxiliary verbs (for example byť, znamenať). Sometimes one can choose from two different definitions for
one term/concept
For the time being, With the increase of terms and domains in the term bank, there will be more and more
multiplication of term records for so-called border concepts, defined from different points of view and will
have to be harmonised or classified.
Communication with authors in order to achieve the rephrasing of definitions - problems
„defining context contains definitive information that may look very much like a definition,
but is incomplete or doesn't have the right form for a definition“
Mgr. Jana Levická, PhD
Using EUROVOC descriptors and non-descriptors for existing term records create problems when one seeks
for the equivalent among them for the classification of the original ones, which are usually fine-grained covers the fields in which the European Union is active. Therefore/accordingly, the team are considering the
possibility to use both classification system – original one and EUROVOC, e.g. the some of the records in
the terminology collection Security and Law are classified into the subdomain protection of buildings that
EUROVOC does not know and thus one has to use public safety which is a higher level of classification and
Ascribing the status of terms is exclusively the job of experts and expert domain commissions. If a
terminology collection was compiled by such a commission, its term records can receive the marker/qualifier
recommended or in contrast deprecated. Other qualifiers include legal, standardised, obsolete, proposed
terms or neologism which might be enriched in future by eurolegal.
Field for related terms is filled in from scratch/no original records included it. It can be done by lay people
but validated by experts afterwards. identification and distinction of different types of related terms; the
question is whether and how the term bank will reflect hierarchical and non-hierarchical conceptual relations
Future plans and Conclusion
Gather/obtain other collections of quality terminology sources - cooperation with authorities and university
research groups (library of the economic university)
Editing and Completion of incorporated term records
Creation of new ones - social protection, construction, history, information technologies
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