1. Strategies of Developing Environmental Terminologies in WWW

  1. User Profiles
  2. General Framework

On the strategic level it is important to identify the users (institutions, experts) with different expectations, aims, needs and requirements, and the general framework (networks of cooperation, bi- and multilateral agreements and contracts, etc.).

As mentioned in the overview, the population of such a database available in WWW needs both the integration of existing databases or (relevant) parts thereof, the creation of new information by active members in the network and by creating links to existing relevant databases also available in the WWW. This heterogeneous cluster of available information and the creation of new information need a careful implementation strategy tailored to the different cases distinguished here.

  1. User Profiles
  2. The whole strategy is user-oriented, which means that particular needs and requirements identifed for each user group should be adequately covered. In fact the whole methodology developed only makes sense when implemented in a cooperation network in a decentralized way.

    User groups may be distinguished according to many different criteria. One is the subject field (domain) they are working in. This criterion immediately implies the problem of classification of these subject areas. It is of limited use, since an important percentage of terminology is not limited to one specific subject field, but used in several ones (but not always in the same way).

    In addition, environment is a multi- and cross-disciplinary area par excellence: an expert in environmental law or a politician responsible for environmental policy in a certain country or province may need specific information from biochemistry, biology, forestry, etc., and thus a specific knowledge of the relevant terminologies involved. This aspect of multi- and crossdisciplinarity is even more valid when it comes to a problem-oriented definition of tasks, including the institutionalization of such tasks, e.g. in the form of European Topic Centres (ETCs). This is in fact another criterion for distinguishing user groups: each institution with its staff and its specific duties and activities is a user group of its own. This is, by the way, the main reason why so many companies and institutions (in administration, research, etc.) operate their own terminology databases, because even if comparable databases exist, they are of limited (or of no) use to them, for many reasons, e.g. the languages covered in other databases are not (or only partially relevant); the level of detail of the coverage of specific subject fields is not or only partially relevant. Sometimes there are legal or financial barriers: relevant databases might be restricted to internal use, or external use would imply prohibitive costs (licence fees, costs for search operations). Another criterion is the function of an institution or person concerned, e.g. policy maker, scientist, administrator, etc. But there we face the same problem as with the criterion of institutionalization.

    Although we might be able to identify user groups according to such criteria, there will always be an area of ad-hoc needs or rapid changes in previously identified requirements of individual institutions and experts, so that the system design will still require an inherent flexibility in adapting to personal user profiles, a feature that even commercially available terminology management systems include. One example for this is the cooperation with the working group on CB5, the multilingual thesaurus. Their terminological needs, properly stated and described, will have to be addressed as far as possible in this terminology work being done in the CB4 group.

    In addition to this multidimensional set of criteria for distinguishing user groups of experts, we are increasingly confronted with users that are not subject field experts, in this case environment. Leaving aside cross-disciplinary discourse among experts of different subject fields (as treated above), there are traditional user groups of terminology databases such as translators, technical writers, journalists, and other communication experts, and indexers, librarians, information brokers and other information specialists. A recent case study for such user groups and their needs concerning environmental terminology has been carried out in the context of a European Language Engineering Project, called POINTER (Proposals for an Operational Infrafstructure for Terminology in Europe) (POINTER 1996). One of the conclusions of this case study was to propose networking procedures in the area of managing environmental terminologies so that different user groups may benefit from each other's work more than in the past. In order to create synergy effects between the two major user groups, environmental experts and environmental non-experts but experts in translation and documentation, and in order to save costs and avoid duplication of efforts, it is proposed that this cooperation is also organized by the responsible project partner within the ETC/CDS (i.e. ISEP) on behalf of the EEA and the ETC.

  3. General Framework
  4. In this chapter we focus on the organizational context that governs the strategies and methodologies of developing and managing environmental terminologies.

    Figure 1 illustrates the complex interactions of various aspects: The EEA framework includes EIONET members on the level of European and national institutions, such as ETCs, National Focal Points (NFPs). The task of developing terminology strategies is defined by a work package, CB 4, that is part of the contract between the new European Topic Centre for Catalogue of Data Sources (ETC/CDS) and the EEA. This contract aims at implementing those paragraphs of the Multiannual Work Programme 1994-1998 of the EEA that explicitly deal with consistency of terminology and coding, with a European Environmental Thesaurus (covered by CB5) and with a European catalogue of data sources (CB6 to 9 of the contract).

    The relationship between CB4 (consistency of terminology and coding) and CB5 (European Environmental Thesaurus) needs special attention at this point and it is included in figure 1. There is world-wide consensus in information science and terminology science (Soergel 1968; Aitchison/Gilchrist 1972; Wersig 1971, 1984; Laisiepen/Lutterbeck/Meyer-Uhlenried 1980; Buder/Rehfeld/Seeger 1991; Arntz/ Picht 1989, Felber 1984, Felber/Budin 1989; Hohnhold 1990; Sager 1990, Rondeau 1981; Rey 1995; Gouadec 1990; Cabré 1994; Wüster 1971, 1979; COTSOWES 1990; Wright/Budin 1996; reflected in ISO standards ISO 2788, 5964, 704, 1087, and their national equivalents; etc.) that the concepts of 'thesaurus' and 'terminology' are separate from each other, but that there is a bidirectional relationship between them: while 'terminology' can be defined (in simplified form but in line with the literature mentioned above) as 'a structured set of concepts and their representations in a particular subject field', a 'thesaurus' is a documentation language that is used for indexing and retrieving information from databases or catalogues.

    In order to establish a thesaurus, a specific terminology must be used and transformed into the usual (and in fact quite uniform and world-wide standardized) structure of a thesaurus. Traditionally a thesaurus is used by indexers and those who search for information. A terminology, on the other hand, is analyzed by terminologists, documented and presented in the form of dictionaries and/or terminology databases by terminographers and lexicographers, with a totally different structure and presentation form, and with different purposes and applications, such as translation, technical writing, but also subject-oriented analysis and description of scientific problems, etc..

    The bidirectional relationship is as follows: while terminology is needed to populate a thesaurus, a thesaurus may be used to index and retrieve entries in a terminology database. On the organizational level this means: while CB4 is by definition the design and implementation of a terminological assistance and management strategy in all discourse that happens in the EEA/EIONET framework, CB5 contains the specific task of creating a joint indexing and searching tool that is to be used together with the Catalogue of Data Sources. While a thesaurus is by definition created for and used together with a certain information system, a terminology collection (dictionary, database) is by definition an open and neutral repository of conceptual and linguistic information with no special application in mind (and is thus multifunctional on the pragmatic level). Quantitative proportions also illustrate this relationship: for all subject fields the number of thesauri can be estimated at about 2000, and for the environment at about 100, the number of dictionaries and terminology databases can be estimated at about 200 000 for all subject fields and at about 10 000 for the field of environment (with the caveat of the problem of delimiting the field of environment towards closely related fields). This it is absolutely indispensible and necessary to dedicate as much recources as possible to CB4, not only to address pressing needs that arise in current work, but also to invest into the future of EIONET by creating a discourse and information infrastructure now that will save many extra costs later when it will be too late to start any sensible coordination on the terminological level.

    Figure 1 also includes the relationship to existing resources and the methods for creating new resources (e.g. corpus analysis and term extraction). Figure 1 does not include any specific tools or databases, only the major tasks and functions between them and institutions concerned.

Click here for Figure 1 - The General Framework


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