Terminology Standards


What is a terminology standard?

A "terminology standard" is a document produced by an authoritative body that describes best practices for managing terminology. The act of managing terminology refers to a wide range of tasks focussed on terminology data, which includes terms and information about terms such as definitions, context sentences, and grammatical information. These tasks include collecting, developing, storing, reviewing, harmonizing, enhancing, and distributing terminology data. Today terminology is always managed by using computers.

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Terminology Management

Managing terminology most effectively requires adherence to a set of best practices and fundamental principles that have evolved through experience over a period of decades. Over 60 years ago, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) established ISO Technical Committee (TC) 37, "Terminology and other language and content resources" to oversee the development of such best practices and principles. The documents produced by TC37 are terminology standards, not to be confused with standardized terminology, which usually refers to a set of terms that have been evaluated and approved by an authoritative body. When an organization needs to communicate without any ambiguity, it examines its terminology and decides which terms to use and which terms to avoid. This decision-making process results in a prescribed set of terms with definitions to ensure that everyone using the terms knows exactly what they mean.

Terminology is most often managed to support multilingual communication needs in specialized fields, such as law, science, and medicine. Clarity and precision are paramount in these fields, and yet the terminology can be difficult for the translator to render in a target language, particularly if he or she is a non-specialist in the field. Taking measures to develop and manage terminology can greatly assist the translator.

Terminology is, however, increasingly also managed in monolingual settings, such as to provide sets of pre-approved terminology for writers to use when they  prepare documentation in a specialized field. Establishing and using consistent and appropriate terminology has become an important part of content management strategies because it helps increase the usability of products, improve retrievability, raise customer satisfaction, strengthen brand awareness, and lower translation costs.

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Leaders in Terminology

Due to the multlingual and multcultural fabric of Canadian society, various organizations in Canada have shown leadership in the field of terminology, including the following :

  • The Translation Bureau of the Government of Canada, responsible for Termium, one of the largest terminology databases in the world
  • The Office de la langue française du Québec, responsible for the Grand Dictionnaire Terminologique
  • The Ontario Ministry of Government Services, responsible for ONTERM
  • IBM Canada, which has developed an in-house terminology database and related technologies
  • MultiCorpora and Terminotix, two technology companies that develop software for managing terminology

This list is certainly incomplete. If you know of a Canadian organization that is active in the field of terminology, please let us know! Your contributions will help AILIA to build a community of stakeholders in the field of terminology.

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Current standards

ISO TC37 has published 32 standards and approximately 15 new ones are in progress. Canadian experts actively contribute to the development of these standards by attending TC37 meetings, joining the editorial project team, or providing comments. The following sections describe several of these standards.

ISO 704: Terminology work — Principles and methods

ISO 704 establishes the basic principles and methods for preparing and compiling terminologies, and describes the relationships between objects, concepts, and their terminological representations. It also establishes general principles governing the formation of designations and the formulation of definitions. The principles are applicable to terminology work in all fields of knowledge.

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ISO 860: Terminology work — Harmonization of concepts and terms

ISO 860 specifies a methodological approach for harmonizing concepts, concept systems, definitions and terms, in order to improve the efficiency in interlinguistic communication.  Concept harmonization refers to the reduction or elimination of minor differences between two or more closely related concepts. It involves the comparison and matching of concepts and concept systems in one or more languages or subject fields. Term harmonization refers to the designation of a single concept (in different languages) by terms that reflect similar characteristics or similar forms. Term harmonization is possible only when the concepts the terms represent are almost exactly the same.

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ISO 10241-1: Terminological entries in standards — Part 1: General requirements and examples of presentation

ISO 10241-1 specifies requirements and rules for the drafting and structuring of terminological entries in standards, such as those produced by ISO and IEC.  ISO has over 260 technical committees in all fields of human activity from engineering and manufacturing to quality and records management, who in total have produced 19,000 standards.  Each standard contains a section describing the terminology used in the document, to facilitate comprehension and implementation. ISO 10241-1 specifies how to produce this terminology section, and thereby, governs the standardization of terminology across all domains of knowledge.

A second part, addressing the adoption of standardized terminological entries in different linguistic and cultural environments, will soon be published.

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ISO 16642: Terminological Markup Framework (TMF)

ISO 16642 specifies a framework for representing data recorded in terminological data collections. This framework includes a meta-model and methods for describing specific terminological markup languages (TMLs) expressed in XML. It  also defines the mechanisms for implementing constraints in a TML, and the conditions that allow the data expressed in one TML to be mapped onto another TML. ISO 16642 is designed to support the development and use of computer applications for terminological data and the exchange of such data between different applications.

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ISO 30042: TermBase eXchange (TBX)

TBX is a framework for representing terminological data in a standard XML markup language. TBX is modelled on the principles defined in ISO 16642. It is designed to support various processes involving terminological data, including analysis, descriptive representation, dissemination, and interchange (exchange), in computer environments. The primary purpose of TBX is for interchange of terminological data. To maximize interoperability of the actual terminological data, TBX also provides a default set of data-categories that are commonly used in terminological databases.

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ISO 29383: Terminology Policies — Development and implementation

ISO 29383 provides policy makers in governments, administration, non-profit and commercial organizations with guidelines and a methodology for the development and implementation of a comprehensive policy concerning the planning and management of terminology. It defines key concepts and describes scenarios and environments which may require different kinds of terminology policies.

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ISO 22128: Terminology products and services — Overview and guidance

ISO 22128 identifies and describes a wide range of terminology products and services so that suppliers of these products and services and their clients can have a common understanding as well as shared expectations in their delivery. It outlines some of the generally-accepted terminology practices to be followed in the development and delivery of terminology products and services as well as some desired quality features that should characterize the products and services.

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ISO 12616: Translation-oriented terminography

ISO 12616 provides procedures to enable translators and translation support staff to record, maintain and retrieve terminological information quickly and easily in connection with their work.  It is designed to help translators organize terminological information in order to keep track of, and reuse, their expertise, and facilitate cooperation between individuals or teams of translators. Translators can benefit from reviewing their record-keeping activities against the standard's best practice.

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ISO TC37 Data Category Registry

The ISO TC37 Data Category Registry (DCR) (www.isocat.org) is a developing standard that is disseminated in the form of an online database, rather than a document. Given that it is available in database format, it is subject to regular updates and changes. The DCR provides information on hundreds of different data categories that are used in terminology databases as well as in other types of linguistic resources such as those used in the field of Natural Language Processing.  It is available free of charge to the public.

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Future standards development

Fifteen new standards are in progress and will soon be published, in the following areas :

  • Adoption of standardized terminologies in different environments
  • Guidance for translation projects
  • Requirements for translation services
  • Community interpreting
  • Ontology interoperability
  • Internationalizing classification systems
  • Terminology management systems
  • Morpho-syntax
  • Linguistic annotation
  • Multilingual information framework
  • Semantic annotations
  • Simplified natural language
  • Segmentation rules

For more information about ISO TC37 standards, refer to the official ISO Website.

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