BIK Terminology—

Solving the terminology puzzle, one posting at a time

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    Barbara Inge Karsch - Terminology Consulting and Training

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Archive for the ‘Maintaining a database’ Category

Dear readers!

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on September 28, 2012

Thank you very much for your positive feedback while I was busy with things like Windows 8 terminology, teaching at NYU, attending TKE and the ISO meetings in Madrid, and doing webinars. During one of the webinars, we didn’t get around to all questions. I will be addressing some of these here now.Photo by Ute Karsch

Photo by Ute KarschQuestion: As you add terminology into your database, you might not remember that you have already entered some word that is a synonym. So, might you not end up with a different ID for 2 synonyms?

Answer: Yes, that is a scenario that is very common and that everyone setting up terminology entries is facing: We do our best to enter terms and names in canonical form in order to find them again and to avoid creating duplicates. So, we document, say, operating system and not Operating Systems, or we enter purge, and not to purge or purged in the database. Even though we were good about the form of our terms, we might not remember the meaning of all entries created and thus willy-nilly create doublettes in our database. Often times, we create them because we are not aware that one entry is a view onto a concept from one angle and a second entry might present the same concept from another angle, similar to these two pictures of the some flower.

Here are a few thoughts on what might help you avoid duplicate entries:

  • Start out by specifying the subject field in your database. It will help you narrow down the concept for which you are about to create an entry. You might do a search on the subject field and see what concepts you defined at an earlier time. Sometimes that helps trigger your memory.
  • As you are narrowing down the subject field and take a quick glance through some of the existing definitions, you might identify and recognize an existing concept as the one you are about to work on.

If you set up a doublette anyway—and it is bound to happen—you might find it later in one of the following ways and eradicate it:

  • Export your database into a spreadsheet program and do a quick QA on your entries. In a spreadsheet, such as Excel, you can sort each column. If there are true doublettes, you might have started the definition with the same superordinate, which, if you sort the entries, get lined up next to each other.
  • Maybe you don’t have time for QA, then I would simply wait until you notice while you are using your database and take care of it then. The damage in databases with lots of languages attached to a source language entry is bigger, but there are usually also more people working in the system, so errors are identified quickly. For the freelance translator, a doublette here and there is not as costly and it is also eliminated quickly once identified.

Developers of terminology management systems might eventually get to a point where maintenance functionality becomes part of the out-of-the-box program. At Microsoft, a colleague worked on an algorithm that helped us identify duplicates. The project was not completed when I left the corporate world, but a first test showed that the noise the program identified was not overwhelming. So, there is hope that with increasing demand for clean terminological and conceptual data such functionality becomes standard in off-the-shelf TMSs. In the meantime, stick with best practices when documenting your terms and names and use the database.


Posted in Maintaining a database, Setting up entries, Terminology 101 | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Why doublettes are bad

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on June 15, 2011

One of the main reasons of having a concept-oriented terminology database is that we can set up one definition to represent the concept and can then attach all its designations, including all equivalents in the target language. It helps save cost, drive standardization and increase usability. Doublettes offset these benefits.

The below diagrams are simplifications, of course, but they explain visually why concept orientation is necessary when you are dealing with more than one language in a database. To explain it briefly: once the concept is established through a definition and other concept-related metadata, source and target designators can be researched and documented. Sometimes this research will result in multiple target equivalents when there was only one source designator; sometimes it is just the opposite, where, say, the source languages uses a long and a short form, but the target language only has a long form.


If you had doublettes in your database it not only means that the concept research happened twice and, to a certain level, unsuccessfully. But it also means that designators have to be researched twice and their respective metadata has to be documented twice. The more languages there are, the more expensive that becomes. Rather than having, say, a German terminologist research the concept denoted by automated teller machine, ATM and electronic cash machine, cash machine, etc. two or more times, research takes place once and the German equivalent Bankautomat is attached as equivalent potentially as equivalent for all English synonyms.

Doublettes also make it more difficult to work towards standardized terminology. When you set up a terminological entry including the metadata to guide the consumer of the terminological data in usage, standardization happens even if there are multiple synonyms. Because they are all in one record, the user has, e.g. usage, product, or version information to choose the applicable term for their context. But it is also harder to use, because the reader has to compare two entries to find the guidance.

And lastly, if that information is in two records, it might be harder to discover. Depending on the search functionality, the designator and the language of the designator, the doublettes might display in one search. But chances are that only one is found and taken for the only record on the concept. With increasing data volumes more doublettes will happen, but retrievability is a critical part of usability. And without usability, standardization is even less likely and even more money was wasted.

Posted in Maintaining a database, Return on investment, Standardizing entries | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Doublettes—such a pretty term, yet such a bad concept

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on June 10, 2011

Sooner rather than later terminologists need to think about database maintenance. Initially, with few entries in the database, data integrity is easy to warrant: In fact, the terminologist might remember about any entry they ever compiled; my Italian colleague, Licia, remembered just about any entry she ever opened in the database. But even the best human brains will eventually ‘run out of memory’ and blunders will happen. One of these blunders are so called doublettes.

According to ISO TR 26162, a doublette is a “terminological entry that describes the same concept as another entry.” Sometimes these entries are also referred to as duplicates or duplicate entries, but the technical term in standards is doublette. It is important to note that homonyms do not equal doublettes. In other words, two terms that are spelt the same way and that are in two separate entries may refer to the same concept and may therefore be doublettes. But they may also justifiably be listed in separate entries, because they denote slightly or completely different concepts.

As an example, I deliberately set up doublettes in i-Term, a terminology management system developed by DANTERM: The terms automated teller machine and electronic cash machine can be considered synonyms and should be listed in one terminological entry. Below you can see that automated teller machine and its abbreviated form ATM have one definition and definition source, while electronic cash machine and its abbreviated form, cash machine, are listed in a separate entry with another, yet similar definition and its definition source. During database maintenance, these entries should be consolidated into one terminological entry with all its synonyms.


It is much easier to detect homographs that turn out to be doublettes. Rather, it should be easier to avoid them in the first place: after all, every new entry in a database starts with a search of the term denoting the concept; if it already exists with the same spelling, it would be a hit). Here are ‘homograph doublettes’ from the Microsoft Language Portal. While we can’t see the ID, the definition shows pretty clearly that the two entries are describing the same concept.


Doublettes happen, particularly in settings where more than one terminologist adds and approves entries in a database. But even if one terminologist approves all new concepts, s/he cannot guarantee that a database remains free of doublettes. The right combination of skills, processes and tool support can help limit the number, though.

Posted in iTerm, Maintaining a database, Microsoft Language Portal, Process, Setting up entries | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

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