Interview with Milica Mihaljević

November 13, 2017 4:44 pm

Interview with Croatian terminologist, Milica Mihaljević, for the 4th edition of Why is terminology your passion? e-book published by Terminology Coordination Unit

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To read this interview in Croatian, click here.



 Milica Mihaljević obtained her Master’s Degree in English at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb in 1984. In 1991, she received a PhD in linguistics from the same university. Her field of interests include terminology, standard language, language planning, lexicology and lexicography. She took part in the creation of STRUNA, a database of Croatian special field terminology, as well as in the creation of two international terminological databases, EMITEL and Multilingual Archival Terminology. She is the author of many works, including ”Croatian Terminology Manual” that she wrote in collaboration with Lana Hudeček. She is the winner of Ivan Filipović Prize for Croatian Orthographic Manual and Zagreb City Prize for ”Croatian School Dictionary”. Currently she is a senior researcher at the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics and the head of the Department of Croatian Standard Language.




  1. When and how did terminology become one of your fields of interest?

As with many things in life, this happened by chance. I got Masters degrees in English language and literature, general linguistics and phonetics. I really wanted to do scientific research related to linguistics, but my first jobs were far away from that. First I worked as a teacher of English in language courses and after that as a librarian at the Faculty of Science. Nevertheless, I continued with post-graduate studies in linguistics hoping that one day I would get the opportunity I longed for. Then I heard that professor Stjepan Babić was looking for an assistant to work on terminology at the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts (nowadays the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts). He already had another candidate for the job, but when the colleague suddenly left because she had been offered another job, I got my chance. I became assistant at Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts’ Linguistic Research Institute and Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts’ Terminology Committee secretary. Professor Babić also suggested a topic of my PhD: Croatian Computer Terminology. I had an advantage for this topic because I had a Masters degree in English and working experience at the Faculty of Science, so I knew a lot of experts in this field. I also completed a few university courses on databases and programming languages. Working at the Linguistic Research Institute and studying terminology, I met a colleague, Marko Lukenda, who worked on terminology at the Language Department of the Institute of Philology and Folklore (nowadays Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics). He convinced me to start working for the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics which is my current workplace.


  1. What conference on terminology that you attended is your favourite one and why?

It is hard to give a clear-cut answer to this question, especially because at the beginning of my terminology work I did not really attend specialised terminology conferences. I would definitely single out the AAASS (American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies) annual meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, in 1999. It was a conference that focused on all Slavic topics which were the result of the work of a series of panels (round-table discussions). I took part in a round-table discussion on computer terminology, organised by Mirjana Dedaić, a Croatian who worked in the USA. I particularly liked this conference as it made me discover a completely different world. Up until then, I had only taken part in national conferences that were not particularly focused on terminology issues. Having joined International Committee of Slavonic Scholars’ Terminology Commission in 2013, I regularly attend international terminology conferences, of which I particularly liked the first one, held in Kiev.


  1. You participated in the creation process of STRUNA, a database of Croatian special field terminology, and for the purposes of this project you published the book Croatian Terminology Manual in collaboration with Lana Hudeček. Could you tell us a little bit more about the project and its future evolution?

Croatian Special Field Terminology project – coordination project lasted from 15 January 2008 until 15 January 2009. I was the head of STRUNA at the time. The goal of the project was to ensure the necessary preconditions for the implementation of the project’s second phase which included a collaboration with experts in different fields leading to a more systematic building of Croatian terminology related to certain special fields. In order to meet the preconditions for the collaboration with experts in different fields, three basic goals of the coordination project had to be reached: the making of the terminology manual, the building of a unique database and the organisation of workshops for the training of experts in particular fields, terminographers and language consultants. Croatian Terminology Manual was published in 2009. Lana Hudeček is the co-author of this publication, which has had three editions so far. The idea was to incorporate into this manual all the issues that people who work with terminology may encounter. The manual is primarily practice-oriented, but it also provides a short overview of the necessary theoretical knowledge. It provides basic linguistic and terminology knowledge in a user-friendly way to anyone who works on the building of terminology related to their field as it introduces basic terminology concepts and terms, explains the ways of term formation. It also elaborates on and gives examples related to terminology principles that are based on Vienna School of Terminology and built in International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) terminology standards. The manual particularly focuses on typical language mistakes that appear on all language levels.

A unique database was built for the purposes of the project with a focus on robustness, user-friendliness and compatibility with the existing standards and recommendations.

The following workshops were created and developed: Term formation and terminology principles, Mistakes regarding term and definition formation, English influence on Croatian in term and definition formation and Databases. In the second phase of the project, the content of the workshops changed and they were built upon and adapted. New workshops that respond to the needs of a particular special field or all fields were also developed. In the first phase, the workshop participants were terminographers and language consultants from the Institute who collaborated with experts in particular fields in the second phase of the project. From that point on, the workshops are intended for experts in particular fields who work on STRUNA. STRUNA’s second phase began in January 2009 with Maja Bratanić as its head. The Croatian Science Foundation issues calls for tender to provide support to projects related to specific field terminology building and the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics provides linguistic, terminological and terminographic support to the approved projects in a multidisciplinary work. In a methodological sense STRUNA joins the normative approach with the descriptive one as it offers synonyms of the recommended terms, which are classified as preferred, admitted, deprecated, obsolete and jargon. STRUNA is open to the public ( and it currently comprises 27 (completed and ongoing) projects.


  1. Could you tell us what project related to terminology you would like to work on in the future?Milica

I would really like to be in charge of the STRUNA project on Croatian linguistics terminology building. I would also like to participate in the Croatian computer terminology building project. These two terminology fields have been the topic of my studies my whole life, which is why I would like to systematise this knowledge with the help of a team of collaborators. Since I have recently worked on terminology related to education as a member of the Unique General Terminology for Curriculum Reform Working Section of the Scientific Council for Education and Schooling System of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, one day I would maybe like to participate in a project related to this topic.


  1. What do you think about IATE, the EU’S inter-institutional terminology database, and the work of terminologists related to it?

I did not take part in the building of IATE terminology database, therefore I believe I cannot give a competent assessment of IATE terminology.


  1. How would you evaluate terminology work in Croatia in comparison to terminology work in other countries?

From my point of view, we can be satisfied with terminology work in Croatia in comparison to that of other Slavic countries. We have a large terminology base, a lot of PhD theses and monographs dealing with terminology issues, as well as a lot of young experts who work in this field. Personally, I think that we became a role model for the surrounding countries. What represents a problem, however, is the long-standing ban on recruiting new staff, which makes the education and employment of new young terminologists and keeping the existing ones in permanent employment impossible.


  1. You were a professor at some Croatian universities such as the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the University Department of Croatian Studies at the University of Zagreb. Do you think young people are interested in terminology?

I was a lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University Department of Croatian Studies, and the Faculty of Teacher Education and Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing. I taught a course named Nazivoslovlje i nazivlje na hrvatskom jeziku (Terminology theory and Croatian Terminology) at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences for three years. Considering that it was an optional course, students’ interest was really high. A few students chose terminology as a topic for their Masters thesis. The work on this course resulted in a scientific monograph (Mihaljević, Mihaljević, Stančić Croatian Archival Terminology) and three popular science papers published in the Hrvatski jezik journal (The Croatian Language) (two works on pedagogical terminology and one on hotel sector terminology). The course has been cancelled with the abolishment of external collaboration for reasons related to financial problems. At the Faculty of Electrical Engeneering and Computing I teach a course Hrvatski jezik u inženjerskoj praksi (Croatian in Engineering Practice) with Professor Bernardina Petrović, an important part of which is also terminology. There are a few students in each generation who are strongly interested in this problematic.


  1. What piece of advice would you give to young people who want to work in the field of terminology?

Every special field has two basic terminology requirements: it has to be in line with the contemporary level and the latest scientific achievements as well as to be in line with standard Croatian language. Therefore, people who want to do terminology work have to know their profession and standard Croatian language standards very well. They also have to be familiar with terminology theory, which can be easily learned from Croatian Terminology Manual, for example. Nowadays, everything is easier for young people stepping into the world of terminology than it was for my generation. We were mostly autodidacts, whereas today there are terminology workshops, seminars, schools, meetings in which terminological knowledge and skills can be acquired. I made my own methodology for my PhD thesis because I had no role models, and today there are many PhDs on terminology issues related to various fields. However, the important thing is practice, constant work on concrete language material and continuous collaboration between linguists and experts in a specific field.



Interview prepared by Lucija Mišlov, trainee at the Croatian Language Unit in the European Parliament in Luxembourg.

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