III. Translation vs. Equivalency Work

ISO 5964 recognizes three approaches to the construction of multilingualthesauri:
  1. ab initio construction, i. e. , the establishment of a new multilingualvocabulary without direct reference to the terms or structure of an existingthesaurus;
  2. translation of an existing monolingual thesaurus;
  3. reconciliation and merging of existing thesauri in two or more workinglanguages.

These approaches express decreasing levels of complexity and expense ofdevelopment costs. The equivalency work described in the present document mostclosely matches the third method named above. Translation of an existingvocabulary into a desired language is a very different process. In all threemethods, the languages of the resulting multilingual vocabulary must have equalstatus to the source language or languages.

The Canadian Centre for Architecture first examined translation of an existingvocabulary list in the 1980s as a feasibility study for multilingual thesaurusconstruction, using terms taken from the Glossarium Artis[6]. Thestudy team, which included a linguistics expert as well as subject experts, usedAAT term sheets to construct parallel term sheets in French. The process wasfound to successfully overcome conceptual differences between the languages, butit was recommended that the established French terms undergo furtherart-historical and linguistic analysis before being accepted as true equivalents. This experiment highlighted the difficulties of translation, pointing to thefact that significant research time to establish the French terms was necessary,making the process lengthy and expensive.

By the early 1990s the AAT staff working on the project developed a system ofcomparing two equivalent vocabulary lists with the Inventaire général staff whowished to provide English terms for the French terms in their architecturethesaurus. This system, which is the focus of the guidelines in this document,has been further elaborated in work with other languages and has proved to bemore feasible than straight translation.

At the time the present compendium of practice was being prepared, a project totranslate the AAT into Dutch was being carried out by a Dutch team from theRijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD) and the Rijksdienst voor deMonumentenzorg. This project envisions an initial translation of the entireAAT, followed by reviews of the translated terms by teams of subject experts. The choice of this method may be due to the lack of an existing vocabulary in thetarget language to serve as the basis for comparison and equivalency work.

6. Huber, Rudolf and Renate Rieth, eds. Glossarium Artis: Wörterbuch zurKunst. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1977-1988.