Why can't anything be 100% clearly translated?

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

  1. IamJoseph Banned Banned

    Its not subjective at all. These great writers like Shakespear and Milton uses phrases from the Hebrew bible as their punch line.
    Like what - I never stated the post was from a media? What is unsubstantiated is the term RUBBISH with no directions. Do you find the first mention of Mount Arafat as rubbish - or historically vindicated? Is the omission of pivotal verses of a text substantiated for you?
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  3. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Of course it is.
    There is no objective standard for "literary style" with regard to superiority or not.

    So what?
    They used what they needed. And Shakespeare in particular introduced a large number of phrases into the English language.

    Fraggle has already pointed the numerous errors, distortions and outright falsehoods in the quoted document.
    Oh, and per the forum rules if you can't post a link then you should give the source anyway. Otherwise it could be seen as plagiarism (or invention on your part).

    And your reply betrays an equally false perspective, for example:
    The falsehood here is that document you cited did NOT claim that Hebrew writing appeared from nowhere, but that the language itself did, which is what Fraggle replied to. Yet you ask for surviving writing, as if that makes the point.

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    Oh, and your constant misuse of the word "alphabetical". The word means that the contents are ordered alphabetically, which is true for neither the bible nor the torah.
    Plus, of course, the other slight problem of Hebrew not actually having an alphabet.

    I'll leave your other attempts at obfuscation and falsehood for Fraggle to reply to, since he made the larger post.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2010
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  5. stateofmind seeker of lies Valued Senior Member

    I love the way you worm yourself out of a compliment

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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    There are some terms that can be used in a linguistic sense, or in a cultural sense, or both.
    Terms like "dialect", "dialectal"; colloquial"; "vulgar" come to mind.
    "Vulgar" as in "vulgar Latin" means something very specific, as you are probably aware of.

    I gave the example with Latin being considered a dialect of Sanskrit from a Sanskrit-centred perspective to point out how much perspective can change what something is termed.

    If you read 19th century works in linguistics, you can see that the way some terms are used is different from the way they are used later on.
    Or read Aristotle's Poetic, preferrably in different translations.

    (Anyway, I only found out about this by accident once, it is not my field of expertise.)
  8. superstring01 Moderator

    It would depend on where you are in the Spanish speaking world.

    "Hmm, okay, I don't see that at all, but okay," Is just a quick way of saying, "Hmm, okay, I don't accept what you just said, but I accept that you believe it," or "Hmm, okay, I don't see what you're seeing, but I believe you anyway."

    So the whole thing depends--obviously--on context.

    Were I addressing my friends in Spain, I'd say,

    "Eh, bueno, no lo veo ni nada, pero vale." If you were conveying a lack of ability to see.

    "Eh, bueno, no te sigo, pero vale." If you were conveying casual misunderstanding.

    All of which supports the OP that nothing can be translated directly. Many sentences have multiple meanings, and the meaning has to be translated not the sentence.

  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Here you go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenician_alphabet. You really need to improve your scholarship skills. Anyone could have found that in less than five minutes. It's actually an abjad, not a true alphabet, because it has no vowels. As I explained, they're not necessary in the Semitic languages (or any of the Afroasiatic family) because there's no such thing as two words that are the same except for the vowels.

    The Aramaic abjad and the Greek alphabet were both derived from the Phoenician abjad. The Hebrew and Arabic abjads were derived from the Aramaic.

    The Phoenician abjad was derived (indirectly) from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics--which were non-phonetic logograms like Chinese--but the phonetic abjad of later Egyptian writing was, in turn, inspired by the Phoenician. It appears that all phonetic alphabets, abjads and abugidas (a syllabary in which the symbol for the consonant is modified to show the vowel, rather than a separate symbol for every combination as in Japanese) except Korean are ultimately traceable to Egyptian writing, often by way of Phoenician. The Phoenicians were a widely-traveled people, just at the time when the Bronze Age was in full glory in Eurasia and civilizations were in need of a writing system. Even the Devanagari script appears to be an offshoot of the writing systems of Mesopotamia, although I haven't studied it enough to explain the details.
    They weren't doing fancy math with the census, just basic arithmetic. The Greeks managed to calculate pi, so with determination and plenty of time, such calculations can be done without a positional decimal system or a symbol for zero. But mathematics as we know it could not be developed until Fibonacci brought the Indo-Arabic system to Europe; the calculations were too cumbersome to do very many. And old habits die hard. Mathematicians immediately jumped on it, but it took almost two centuries before businessmen started using it for accounting.
    I said you're confusing it with a numbering system. The choice of symbols doesn't matter, it's how you organize them that makes the difference. The Hebrew, Greek and Roman numbering systems do not have positional significance. In Roman numerals, a V is five, no matter where it appears in a numeral. In our system, the symbol "5" can stand for five, fifty, five hundred, or five decillion; or five tenths, five hundredths or five decillionths; depending on its position in the numeral. And a positional numbering system doesn't work very well without a symbol for zero. They tried just leaving a blank space, but that was very unsatisfactory and easily misinterpreted. It doesn't matter whether you're using the Indo-Arabic symbols, letters of your alphabet, or new symbols you just made up for the purpose. It's the organization that matters, not the particular symbols.
    No. They got it directly from the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians were great sailors and had a huge trading economy all over the Mediterranean. Everyone from the Egyptians to the Iberians traded with them and picked up bits of their culture. The Greeks had already developed their written language by the time they came in contact with the Jews.
    Do your own homework. Examine the Phoenician abjad in Wikipedia and then compare it to the Hebrew abjad. Then you tell me which one looks like the ancestor of the Greek alphabet.
    Books are not always sturdily made so they don't survive. Besides, the early civilizations didn't do that much writing. After all, only a tiny percentage of their population could read and write. The more recent civilizations had more written works so more of them have been discovered. With the earlier writing systems we're often limited to inscriptions on stone. Sometimes there are clay tablets, but they're pretty fragile.

    Consider that the Etruscans had a major civilization contemporaneously with Greece and Rome, and they had a written language. Yet so few examples of their writing have survived that we can't even figure out what family their language belonged to.
    Read that entire article about the Phoenician abjad (although they call it an "alphabet"), it explains all of this.

    You keep trying to make a shortcut. No one said that the Hebrew writing system was derived directly from Egyptian. It is descended from Phoenician, which is descended from an earlier Proto-Canaanite abjad. As the article explains, that earlier set of symbols is clearly derived from Egyptian.
    You're talking to the wrong guy. I've studied Chinese and, to a lesser extent, Japanese. All of the kana symbols are stylized forms of Chinese characters.
    You're not paying attention. I already told you that in the Afroasiatic language family it is not necessary to write vowels, because for any combination of consonants, there is only one word. It's not like English, where bat, bait, bet, beet, bit, bite, boat, bought, but, bout and butte are all different words.
    I'm not even sure what you mean because I can't understand that sentence. You seem to keep interchanging the word "alphabet" and "letter," which is very confusing.

    In any case, how much Hebrew have you studied? More than I have? I can read a little of it; on my own powers-of-three fluency scale I'm about a 3.5 in Hebrew. But you give me a page without the vowel markings (which are used for instruction and in the liturgy) and I'm lost.

    It took us a long time to figure out the vowels in Ancient Egyptian words. It wasn't until linguists discovered that it's related to the Semitic languages, so they could reconstruct the vowels from its relatives, that we had any idea what it sounded like.

    And these are languages in which vowels are not important! Imagine how hard it would be to read English, or any Indo-European language, if the vowels were missing or de-emphasized.
    You're not very imaginative. Is slavery and exile the only way that members of one nation travel to another nation? Egyptian civilization went through many periods of prosperity, and Jewish migrants traveled there to find work. Duh?
    I know at least twenty Christians who would call you a heretic and a blasphemer and start praying for your soul, for doubting their literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. They insist that all non-aquatic animals on the entire planet drowned and were repopulated from Noah's menagerie. There used to be one here; I don't remember his name so I don't know if he's still around. Probably not, we were not very kind to him because he kept breaking the forum rules and using the bible as evidence for his assertions.
    I'm not well-versed in biblical lore. When exactly was Noah's time? The Hebrew people differentiated from the Canaanites around 2000BCE, IIRC.

    Nonetheless, we have to bear in mind that names are subject to fashion. You can't always expect the people who lived a thousand years ago to give their babies the same names that their descendants use today. Today there are Jews named Robert, Craig, Keith and Stewart.
    Of course they used them. But Shakespeare created far more figures of speech than he borrowed from biblical sources. He singlehandedly enriched our language.
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I still say that's bullshit - and you never dealt with the examples I posted the last three or four times you made that assertion.

    "On time" and "in time" and "over time" and "of time" and "under time" and "through time" and "across time", to point to an example you yourself invoked, do not mean at all the same thing - none of them are synonyms, and the differences are all (in at least some contexts) significant.
    Probably none. There were beats.
    About the Hopi conception of time, Pinker knows less than many grade school teachers on the Hopi res. And the idea that those teachers are overpaid and underworked dilettantes is best simply forgotten in a mild fog of embarrassment.
    You're old enough to know better.

    Tip re your audience: if there are still any people around here who take confidence for competence and belligerence for authority, they are a shrinking minority. Just saying.
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    If I were a Hopi, and some Ameri would come to me bothering me with something, I would think "Why on earth should I try to do and think as this person wants me to?"

    "On the bridge" and "under the bridge".
    That is "little meaning"?

    If anything, it seems that on some fundamental metaphysical level, you just do not appreciate relationships between phenomena, and so you minimize the roles of their indicators.

  13. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Words get their meanings from the way they are used.

    That's why a good dictionary will define a word, and also show usage.
    You can't translate the usage directly into another language.
  14. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    You think my getting banned every time a moderator sniffs around here means anything to me?


    So confidently written, as well-- I'm trying to decide if your arrogance sneered to the right or the left when you wrote that.

    It takes a mere 80 volunteer-hours at intellectually challenging places like day care centers and kindergartens, where the syllabus includes deconstructions on nose-wiping next to cootie protocols, and a mere 4 years in college to earn a certificate that entitles a poorly taught animal to teach younger animals addicted to television.

    And you-- are actually-- claiming the average grade school teacher knows more about language than Pinker, a man who is not only so passionately obsessed with verbs he never watched television when young, but has a doctorate in cognitive neuropsychology and teaches at MIT?


    Now tell me about Malotki and how he doesn't know the Hopi language or rock art or Latin as well as Middle Classed Midge taking three weeks to teach simple math to a moron she just spent 3 months empowering to believe that math is not as important as his sweet 'self esteem'.

    Here is where competence comes in, Iceaura:

    Substantiate your claim that the average school teacher-- you know, that woman up there so dutifully mistaking memorization for learning and grading for thinking, she's that fucking retard who will scowl on bad spelling and solecisms like That Awful Hanging Participle, good little scholar that she is-- yet could not write a decent piece of prose if her fucking life depended on it -- tell me how she knows more about the Hopi conception of time, or their language, than Pinker does.



    Thank you.

    Castillian Spanish has this magical way of squeezing Broca's area til all the beautiful language dancing around in there gets a hernia, sounding as stilted and empty as the typical Spaniard.

    Perhaps its the whole European thing?
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
  15. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Some words have few associations other than their simple meaning.

    "The boy was sitting on the chair"
    would be easy to translate into most languages.

    "The lad was resting on the stool"
    would be a little harder.

    Lad implies an apprentice, eg stable lad, and a male approaching manhood.
    Resting implies that the lad had been working, but now isn't.
    A stool is a very simple chair, with little ornamentation.

    There is much more information in the second sentence.

    Harder still would be something like this:

    She was dressed in the mourning clothes of a
    widow. Her companion, also in black, appeared as a well-
    formed young woman about eighteen, completely possessed of
    that ephemeral precious essence youth, which is itself
    beauty, irrespective of complexion or contour.

    From "The Mayor of Casterbridge" by Thomas Hardy

    Try translating that into Czechoslovakian.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
  16. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    I mentioned the blond, didn't I?

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    I feel certain I mentioned the blond.
    But maybe I didn't.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2010
  17. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Because it is being used for 'understand' or 'experience' or perhaps 'believe.' Which are also dead metaphors or at least not originally literal. But given the context is translation, we have the visual sense being used as a metaphor for experience or believe. He is not saying that something about the language was not visible. Especially given what he was saying he did not see.

    'It is an idiom' would have been better on my part, you're right. I was referring to the phrase not the preposition alone.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    What would be a more formal, non-colloquial alternative to "at all"?
  19. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    There are no instances of_______________.
    ____________does not occur.


    There is no degree of_____________

    IOW I do not think there is a direct formal one, but sentences of another structure would show up in dissertations and fact books.

    But note: I do think 'at all' is colloquial, but my actual use of colloquial, in the post gedanken dismissed as babble, was not correct. So I changed my previous post.
  20. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member


    Or how about under no circumstances?
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It's not hard to think of counterexamples because they do occur. But pick a paragraph at random from the newspaper and tally the percentage of prepositions that are anything but placeholders.
    These idiomatic phrases do not all mean the same thing, but in most of them the contribution of the preposition to that meaning is minimal. As I pointed out, "on" has 30 definitions in Dictionary.com. I shudder to think how many there might be in the OED. This isn't a paradigm someone can teach or learn. We learn each idiomatic phrase one at a time.

    On drugs, on loan, on a voyage, on the air, on duty, on trial: In most of those sentences you could substitute a random preposition off of a dartboard, and the odds are maybe 1/20 that you accidentally picked one that will actually change the meaning of the sentence. My thesis is that this utility ratio holds in general for all prepositional phrases: 95% of the time the choice of preposition doesn't mean anything.

    As I asserted earlier, it's because the Indo-European languages don't have enough prepositions so each one has to have thirty meanings; and there's no mechanism to make up new ones or borrow them from other languages like we can with other parts of speech. That's one of the many things I like about Chinese: you describe relationships with nouns and verbs, so you've got thousands to pick from to say precisely what you want.
    As I said, it's easy to craft an example that makes your point. My point is that the majority of prepositional phrases aren't like that. The preposition is a noise word, like articles. Our prepositions were developed by Bronze Age or even Stone Age tribes; they are designed primarily to describe physical relationships, and they do a decent job of that. But in the modern world most of our communication is about abstractions, and prepositions that are mostly about location, movement, possession and purpose aren't the right tools for the job.
    I'm the writer and editor on a project staffed almost entirely by Indians. I spend an inordinate amount of my time giggling over their choice of prepositions, and then giggling some more because about 95% of the time they would cause no misunderstanding.

    I like to describe things precisely, which is why I would prefer to use Chinese, if only I had pursued it assiduously enough when I was younger to be able to speak it that fluently.
    There was never a Czechoslovakian language. There's Czech and there's Slovak. Even the country of Czechoslovakia only existed for less than a century.
  22. Hipparchia Registered Senior Member

    A short paragraph from the NY TImes; the first I came to.

    A car bomb near a Shiite mosque in a village north of Baghdad exploded among crowds of people on Wednesday, killing at least 13 and wounding 24 others, the police said.

    The prepositions in blue provide information.
    The one in red, arguably, is a placeholder.
  23. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Do you get the "IT Crowd" on TV in the states?
    That sounds just like the character Moss.

    Moss: [laughing] Oh, dear me.
    Jen: What are you laughing at?
    Moss: This flipping circuit board, Jen. Some chump has run the data lines right through the power supply. Amateur hour! I've got tears in my eyes!

    I'm not being too critical of you, Fraggle.
    I love the character Moss, and he often reminds me of myself.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2010

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