Why can't anything be 100% clearly translated?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by science man, Jul 18, 2010.

  1. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    We all do-- Doreen's fashionable 'thinking' sounds like a good pair of gibberish.

    I know this from history, not this thread.

    Then that would be more a philosophical problem of 'qualia' , a term used to describe the subjective experience of existence.

    You and I, for example, would not experience the sound of a skull smashing to pieces the same way.

    This is not a linguistic problem-- this is why I do no agree that it is a colloquialism.

    A colloquialism would be some snarky word or phrase use to describe the event of a skull being crushed, and it would would vary from place to place.

    Doreen is using the word wrong.
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Doreen certainly hasn't used the word "colloquial" in the sense it is generally used. But as I sketched out above, I can think of a use in which it would make sense.

    There are people who call Latin a dialect of Sanskrit. From a Sanskrit-centred perspective, this is justified.
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  5. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    How so?
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  7. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    And how does it relate to Doreen's misuse of 'colloquialism'?
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Well pardon me for being hyperbolic. Obviously it's not possible to have literally no concept of time. (Although dogs come pretty close to it: "I don't know how that puddle got here, do you?") "Time" is a broad topic. Still, being able, for example, to distinguish morning from evening because they look and feel different doesn't automatically give you the ability to relate to the distant past or a hypothetical future. I lived in Arizona for many miserable years; I've been to the Hopi rez and talked with Americans who worked with the Hopi. They said that it was very difficult to communicate with them about time, that some of the aspects of time we take for granted and manipulate with the ease of doing arithmetic with one-digit numbers, were hard for them to handle.

    Now of course this was fifty years ago. Today I'm sure almost all of them have been Americanized and have been taught English since they were little, and that would certainly change their way of thinking.

    Something else they told me is that when a Hopi kid was acting up, his mom would discipline him by saying, "No, that is not the Hopi way." I'm sure that doesn't work any more.

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    English prepositions have virtually no intrinsic meaning. Every prepositional phrase is a figure of speech. On the table, on time, on a tight schedule, on order, on TV, on call, on a journey... how can you abstract a proper meaning for the word "on"? Dictionary.com lists 30 different definitions!

    In, to, of, with, for... our language is hamstrung with a tiny set of prepositions left over from the Stone Age, with which we're expected to describe every possible relationship between nouns and/or verbs. And prepositions are the one part of speech that our grammar doesn't allow us to create. Within, without, upon, into, the small number of new prepositions that have been added to our vocabulary in the last 1500 years is pathetic. Out of frustration, we've taken to using gerunds like "regarding" and adjectives like "absent" as prepositions.

    Prepositions add very little meaning to a sentence. Their primary purpose is parsing, to let us know that there is a relationship implied and to hope that we can figure out what it is. Actually I've often thought that the true purpose of prepositions is to help us identify foreign speakers, because they have a hell of a time getting them right. It's surprising how little confusion is injected into most sentences by using the wrong preposition.

    In the last century we finally gave up and invented a new paradigm for expressing relationships: the noun-adjective compound. User-friendly, fuel-efficient, computer-literate, cable-ready, labor-intensive. This is a new type of construction in English.
    Hmmm, bien, yo no entiendo ni una palabra, pero está bien.
    I just said "not one word of it," but that's not close enough. I assume you're not saying that you don't understand what I just said, but something more abstract than that. And I translated "see" as entender, "understand," which is also not close enough. You're not saying you don't understand it, you're probably saying that you doubt it. I suppose you could say, Yo dudo ésto completamente, "I doubt that completely." And está bien isn't really good enough either. It implies that even though you disagree, it doesn't matter, when what you probably mean is that you're just tired of arguing about it.

    Colloquialisms are the most difficult things to translate.
  9. Giambattista sssssssssssssssssssssssss sssss Valued Senior Member


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    That's my favorite. But honestly, most of those confusions can be avoided by different word choice.

    And English is not the only language with homophones, ie words that are spelled or sound similar but have different meanings.
  10. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    You weren't.

    You and I know precisely what you did. You, like a million other people, caught the slightest glimpse of this Sapir-Worf hypothesis and began repeating it-- without thinking-- because it appealed to this need you have to romanticize foreigners.

    You might as well prattle about the billion words that Eskimos have for snow.
    "OOOhhhhhh", say it with me "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh":

    Eskimos, unlike, say, the American with 'slush' "flurry" and "sleet", have so many words for snow that its exotic and fascinating!

    Why? Because they eat blubber and hunt seal with their molars?

    If I were to tell you that computer programmers have dozens of words for fonts-- Helvetica, Times New Roman, Gaelic, Sans serif, Your Mother-- you'd find it boring and wonder that such a thing should be worth intellectual discussion.

    But if "Computer Programmer" was the name of some savage in Borneo that ate his Durian fruit with his anus, why, you'd be suffocating these forums with emotionally stimulating chunks you selected out of a theory you never questioned because of the exotic perspectives of savages you wished to believe in.

    There's nothing 'automatic' about language.

    What is the past or the future but a series of evening and mornings strung along an eternity of tomorrows and yesterdays?

    Who were these people?

    Anthropologists? Linguists? Or mere hippies still trying to find themselves among brutes?

    You're still going off the haphazard, chaotic mess of hearsay.

    By the by--
    Where in "Hmmm ok I don't see that at all but ok" do you find the word 'word' meaning 'palabra'?

    You're reading yourself into the translation. The closest, most literal translation of the following in Spanish:
    "Hmmm ok I don't see that at all but ok"


    "Hmmm...ok, no lo veo para nada, pero ok"

    Puerto Ricans, Costa Ricans, Columbians, and Mexicans-- just to name a few-- all have "ok" in their vocabulary.

    I hear that you, as a moderator, used to go around editing people's posts just to butcher what they wrote with your "corrections".
    You're doing that here, meddling that busy little body of yours into people's work like a nosy teacher hacking, twisting, slashing, distorting something to fit your view of correctness.

    There was no need to put 'palabra' in there.
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    There weren't any hippies fifty years ago. They were teachers, social workers and various health care workers, probably all federal employees.
    I thought it was pretty clear that we were to translate the sentence with the original meaning. It's not much of a challenge to do a mechanical word-for-word translation. I pointed out the deficiencies in my attempt, there's no need for you to echo that. Ni una palabra is a perfect way to say "not at all" if you're talking about not understanding speech, and I admitted that we were probably not talking about speech.
    This is a good illustration of the question under discussion. "OK" is merely vernacular in English and therefore acceptable in all but the most formal speech, whereas it's slang in Spanish. I wouldn't use it in a class exercise. I'd have to look up the spelling, since o.k. ought to be pronounced "oh-kah."
    So now you're going to castigate me for something that happened three or four years ago when I first took this job?
  12. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    2010 minus 50 is 1960.

    There weren't any hippies in 1960?

    Live with it.

    My own 'reputation' follows me around like a lost, hungry piranha.
    Goes from frustrating to boring, but you deal with it.

    Ah, teachers, social workers, and health care workers-- in other words, overpaid, underworked dilettantes who barely skim the surface of things before pretending an understanding of it.

    I would value the work of an anthropologist like Ekkehart Malotki or Steve Pinker, professor of cognitive neuroscience at none other than MIT, over the presumptions of some starry-eyed social worker getting fat off the state.

    But you didn't.

    You, unintentionally perhaps, complicated it. Then again, Polonious never intended the long wind of his mind.

    Like defacating, one doesn't "intend" what comes perfectly natural.

    I appreaciate the effort, but only I say what goes for gendanken's needs around here.

    I don't think this adds or detracts from the discussion, so to continue this point is counterproductive.

    I say anyone else reading this should breathe life into this sagging thread and just pull my finger.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2010
  13. stateofmind seeker of lies Valued Senior Member

    You're my favorite iconoclast

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  14. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    Fraggle's an icon?
    I con't imagine you worshipping at his scrotum.
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No. The Beatles hit the airwaves in 1963 and the hippie movement didn't really get started until at least one year later. The "decade" that people call "the sixties" was really a twelve-year period of attitudes, politics and activities that began with the British Invasion and ended with the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.
    I remember you from my early years here, but I can't say I associate you with a reputation.
    Isn't that the dictionary definition of civil "service"?
    I wasn't trying to. I was trying to salvage the meaning, and doing a poor job of it.
    This board doesn't get that much traffic.
  16. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    SHAME on you.

    GOD, if I could get my hands on this forum-- do you realize that language is the most accessible science in the world?

    Unlike physics or chemisty, every human does it-- he breathes and eats it, thinks it, fornicates with it, everything a man does is contaminated with the wonderful scent of language.

    If you even had a lick of the spiritual fire that singed the eyebrows of the poorest wretch that wrote for a living, this place would blind with the energy emblazoned in any topic dealing with such an explosive as Language.

    I bet that if you were to do this, you'd have as many proles in here as they do in Free Thoughts.


    Sorry, I'm a little too young to know.
    Well, people here do and you can hear the maw of their mind snap shut because I'm a 'bitch'.


    No, the dictionary definition of that is 'for suckers'
  17. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    With respect to any sophisticated thought, it is easy enough to get drawn into disagreements over the meaning when dealing with the work in one language. Language is often susceptible of more than one interpretation and the author may not have been clear in his or her own thinking to start with. When the author is no longer around to clarify his or her thoughts, the problems become intractable...and even if the author is there, who is to say that the author's interpretation is more correct than a reader's? If the goal is truth, then the author's thoughts are irrelevant except where they are closer to truth. If the goal is entertainment, then neither need be thought of as more correct, since entertainment value is subjective.

    These problems are compounded when dealing with a separate language, as it adds a new layer of possible error into the mix. Words do have subtle shades of meaning that can be added or lost. If you believe that reaching the "original intent" of the author is important, that additional layer is detrimental to that effort.
  18. IamJoseph Banned Banned

    There is a reason why the Hebrew bible commands, not to add or subtract anything. Hebrew is a very pristine language, with only 22 letters, inclusive of numerals and music notes. Examining its litrary style, it surpasses the likes of Shakespear with its never dated phrases and metaphors [Let there be light has manifold meanings and applications], and it appropriately begings with IN THE BEGINNING, followed by the word, GOD. Here's a hint what this language highlights:

    Last edited: Jul 20, 2010
  19. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    More rubbish from you. And a link is required for cut and paste quotes.
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You need to read more and write less. Hebrew is a member of a huge family of languages called Afroasiatic. This family has six branches:
    • Semitic (Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Akkadian, Phoenician, Amharic, Ge-ez, etc.)
    • Berber (Kabyle, Tamazight, etc.)
    • Chadic (Hausa, Tumak, etc.)
    • Cushitic (Somali, Hadia, etc.)
    • Egyptian (now extinct but including Ancient Egyptian)
    • Omotic (Bambassi, Kafa, etc.)
    We have a wealth of evidence showing the evolution of the Hebrew language from its predecessors. Its immediate ancestor is called Proto-Canaanite.
    You are confusing a language with a number system. This is fallacious.
    Again, I urge you to study more. The Hebrew number system had no zero, just like the Roman system and the Greek system. This made mathematics arduous. It's really not much different from the Greek system.
    Civilizations typically invent the technology of writing during their Bronze Age. Writing usually is invented as a means of keeping business records. Besides, the Hebrew writing system is descended from the Phoenician system, which is descended from Egyptian hieroglyphics. The history is clear. You need to study more and write less.
    That's because all alphabetic writing systems are offshoots of Egyptian--with the single exception of Korean, which was developed independently a few hundred years ago. So of course they're going to have similarities. Other types of writing such as the syllabaries of Japanese and Cherokee were invented independently, as were the logograms of Chinese. There is no relationship between the Japanese kana (syllabaries) and the Hebrew abjad (an alphabetic writing system with no vowels). Wherever you got that, it is wrong.
    Vowels are not phonemic in the Afroasiatic language family--i.e., they are irrelevant to the meaning of a word, so they can be omitted in writing with no loss of understanding. This is not true in the Indo-European family (ours), Sino-Tibetan, Finno-Ugric, Mongolic, Malayo-Polynesian, Athabascan, or most of the world's languages. You have to write the vowels or you lose precision.
    Many of the people and events in the Torah are fictitious. It's a book of mythology, not necessarily history. We already know that there was no exile in Egypt, for example. And there certainly was no Great Flood: there are not enough water molecules available to raise sea level to cover Mount Ararat! The highest sea level that ever existed, when all the ice caps and glaciers melted, was less than a kilometer above today's level.
    How about freedom of religion, freedom of the press and freedom of speech? These are granted in the United States Constitution and were remarkable for their time for being unprecedented.
  21. IamJoseph Banned Banned

    If you wish to really impress me, I can make it very easy for you. Please post a Canaanite alphabtical book predating the Hebrew: you should have 100's - I ask for just one. Or any other language you wish. I think that is a reasonable request.

    There was no problem of a cencus in the millions - how come? The Hebrew alphabets are also numbers, yet you say I am confusing alphabets with numbers - that does not sound right.

    The Josephus documents, as well as some ancient Greek archives, say the Greeks got their alpha beta from the Hebrew alef bet. Most European fostered links and encyclopedea say Phoenecian. I say, which ever one can prove an earlier hard copy wins.

    No dispute about commerce being a strong reason for inventing numbers. But this does not account for litrary, gramatical, alphabetical writings.The oldest alphabetical book I know of is the Hebrew bible - book meaning a continueing multi-page narrative.

    I've of course read such descriptions. However, I also checked them out, and I find you are not addressing the impacting factors here. Where is the Phoenecian alphabetical books - which museum? With regard Egypt, do I have to remind you, they did not have alphabetical books when the Israelites left - nor did they speak Hebrew - so how could the latter have derived from there? Fundamental factors must apply.

  22. IamJoseph Banned Banned

    No link available. I got that from a pamplet in a lecture series. Which part is rubbish - you never said?
  23. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    The vast majority of it, as shown by Fraggle (and your subsequent misunderstanding or misreading of his reply). Including this:
    THAT is a purely subjective opinion.

    On the other hand, posting unsubstantiated rubbish does appear to be your forte.

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