Obituary: In memory of Heidi Suonuuti

Heidi SuonuutiMSc (Technology) Heidi Suonuuti (née Karlsson) passed away on the 13th August 2023 after a long-term illness. She was born in Turku on the 4th April 1932, and was 91 years old at the time of her death.

Suonuuti graduated as a Master of Science in Technology from the Helsinki University of Technology in 1958. After completing her studies she worked as a research assistant at the University from 1958 to 1962. When Suonuuti moved to work at the KCL (Oy Keskuslaboratorio ‒ Centrallaboratorium Ab), her duties as a research assistant were replaced by those of a full-time secretary of the so called paper committee of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

In the 1970s, Suonuuti was appointed to a working group tasked with compiling a glossary for the paper industry. While searching for an appropriate methodology for this task, she discovered the texts of Eugen Wüster, who had developed the theory of terminology, and became familiar with the activities of the Tekniska Nomenclaturcentralen (TNC), the Swedish centre for technical terminology. Consequently, it was natural for Suonuuti to participate in the constitutive meeting of Tekniikan sanastokeskus (the Finnish Centre for Technical Terminology) in 1974, and in 1978 she was invited to become the director of the association. She continued in the role of director until retiring in 1993.

During her tenure as director of the Terminology Centre, Suonuuti developed both methods for terminology work and practical terminology work. Suonuuti created a tetrahedron model based on the Ogden and Richards triangle (semantic triangle), which represents not only the concept, object, and term forming the basis of terminology work, but also the definition or description of the concept. The tetrahedron model was tested in terminology courses, and became part of the Sanastotyön käsikirja (handbook of terminology) (SFS handbook 50), published in 1989. Over time, the model became widely adopted. After retiring, Suonuuti wrote a concise practical guide to terminology work (Guide to Terminology), which was completed in 1997. The Guide was, and still is, in demand, and has been translated into Finnish and six other languages over the years.

In addition to Finnish terminology work, Suonuuti actively contributed to the development of cooperation in Nordic terminology work and international standardisation. The establishment of Nordic connections began already in 1978 when the Nordic terminology cooperation network Nordterm organised its first course with the theme “Fackspråk och terminologi” (language for special purposes and terminology). Besides Nordic cooperation Suonuuti participated in international standardisation efforts within the field of terminology for an extended period, provided training to other terminology experts on standardisation tasks, and served as the chair of the ISO/TC 37 Terminology (principles and co-ordination) technical committee (currently known as Language and terminology) from 1991 to 1997.

Suonuuti was a pioneer in developing terminology work and the activities of the Finnish Terminology Centre, and the results of her work continue to be utilised in the operations of the Terminology Centre and other terminology-related organisations. Colleagues remember Suonuuti for her extensive expertise and unwavering dedication as a developer and advocate of the terminology field who was always ready to encourage others.

Text: Seija Suonuuti, daughter and terminologist, and Katri Seppälä, Director of the Finnish Terminology Centre