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I have been doing a theme on Wordcraftjr about Unique Foreign Words, and I am using "In Other Words" by Christopher Moore as my source. Here was my post about "Hai": This small word has created a lot of misunderstandings in East-West relations. It actually means - "Yes, I am listening to you and I understand what you are saying." It doesn't mean: "Yes, I agree with you." You can see how it has caused confusion!

That made CW to ask if it is related to the word "Haiku." I couldn't find that answer anywhere. Can someone help?
 
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I would argue that hai means 'yes', but that the Japanese use it differently than English speakers do.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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And I'd argue that it's closer to yes? than yes!

You see even in English yes can have a wide range of meanings depending on tone of voice. This is one of the hardest things to teach ESOL students -- that depending purely on the sound of someones voice I can distinguish between the following meanings of the single word "yes";

Yes, what can I do for you? (polite)
Yes, what do YOU want? (irritated)
Yes, I agree with you.
Yes I am listening to what you say though I don't necessarilly agree with it.
Yes, I believe that you believe that but personally I think you are a fool.
Maybe.
No.

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Yes, indeed, Bob. The interesting thing is to consider how the meaning of a word is qualified (or narrowed) by its context in an utterance (syntax), the rhetorical intension of the utterer, social conditions, etc. Most enjoyable to ponder. For example what does yes meanin the final sentence of Joyce's Ulysses? "... and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras the watchman going about serene with his lamp and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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So do you disagree with Moore's definition of it (the one I cited)? Does it merely mean "yes?"? No relation to "haiku?"
 
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I reckon I'd enjoy Joyce more if he wasn't so sparing with his puntuaction.

Mind you, I suppose that's one of the things his fans like.


Richard English
 
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So do you disagree with Moore's definition of it

I disagree with the whole sub-genre of the no word for it, impossible to translate, combing dictionaries for obscure words, 1000 Innuit words for snow school.

俳句 (haiku) written in kanji (characters)
はい (hai 'yes') written in hiragana (syllabary)

While we're on it, the French have two words for yes: oui and si. The latter is used to answer yes to negative questions: "Aren't you going to eat that tiramisu?" "Yes (I am)."


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I disagree with the whole sub-genre of the no word for it, impossible to translate, combing dictionaries for obscure words, 1000 Innuit words for snow school.

I am sorry, but I don't equate the "impossible to translate" with the "1000 Innuit words for snow school." The former I find interesting, the latter often inaccurate.

I am not sure what you are objecting to, but I do think there are some words in a language that are not translatable, at least in English; that's what I find to be interesting. For example, in writing my Wordcraftjr theme, I found that there is a Finnish word for that hard crust that often appears on snow: Hankikanto. That would be a very useful word in Chicago.

Another interesting word is the Arab word: taarradhin - Interestingly, the Arabs have no word for "compromise," in the sense that you have to struggle to reach an agreement. Instead they use taarradhin, which means that you've reached a happy solution for everyone. It's a way of resolving a problem without losing face.

Thanks for your answer about "hai" and "haiku."
 
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While we're on it, the French have two words for yes: oui and si. The latter is used to answer yes to negative questions: "Aren't you going to eat that tiramisu?" "Yes (I am)."


As does German: "Also gehst Du nicht nach Hause?" (So you're not going home?) / "Doch!" (But (I am (indeed)))

D
 
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I am sorry, but I don't equate the "impossible to translate" with the "1000 Innuit words for snow school." The former I find interesting, the latter often inaccurate.

But I do. We've discussed the various mistakes and outright lies of books like Tingo and even Bryson's Mother Tongue. Positing words for German that were coined by American humorists, giving non-existent words in Russian and then drawing shakey cultural inferences from same, or combing dictionaries for strange, obscure words for snow or eyebrows. (See previous threads and links to Language Hat and Language Log for better argumentation and details. I've never said that any word wasn't interesting, but I don't think any word is impossible to translate, unless you mean from one word in the foreign language into one word in English, and in that case we can just borrow the word if we really need it. It's like Mrs Byrne's dictionary which I have been recently perusing: no etymologies and no attributions or citations. Near worthless.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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"Also gehst Du nicht nach Hause?" (So you're not going home?) / "Doch!" (But (I am (indeed)))

Then we have one, too: "Aren't you going home?" "Sure."


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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unless you mean from one word in the foreign language into one word in English, and in that case we can just borrow the word if we really need it.

You're surely right about translating one foreign word into an English word. For example, with the Finnish word Hankikanto, we can translate it quite effectively merely by saying "that frozen crust on top of snow." If you live where there is snow, you'd get it.

However, while you know a whole lot more about languages than I do (which makes me hesitant to say this), I do believe there are words that are difficult to translate into English. We've posted about the ramifications of the translation of mokusatsu in World War II. Further, my very good colleague was educated (undergraduate) in China, though she received her graduate degrees in the U.S. Quite often she will try to communicate something to me from a word or thought in Chinese, which she will say just doesn't have an English translation. She is very fluent in English, so it isn't that she doesn't know our vocabulary. I think really there really are words or concepts that just don't translate into English. She will do her best, of course, and then she'll say it doesn't quite capture what the Chinese language is saying.

Yet, you know, Zmj, I always bow to your knowledge in language.

I totally agree about dictionaries with no discussion of etymology or origin of words. I haven't looked at Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary in awhile, but I will tonight. However, for that reason, I find wwftd, the online Grandiloquent Dictionary, Luciferous Logolepsy, Hutchinson Dictionary of Difficult words, The Phrontistery, etc., nearly useless as well. That, however, is why I like Quinion and the The Word Detective; their discussions are usually well researched. We also have several word books that just provide definitions, with absolutely no sources or etymology. Yet, we have others with rich detail and explanations, along with sources and citations that you can check out. Those are my favorites.

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I do believe there are words that are difficult to translate into English.

Difficult no doubt, but not impossible. Also, I would add that the fault lies not in the language but in the speaker / writer. Sometimes I cannot think of a word in English, that doesn't mean I blame English for its shortcomings. I blame myself. I do so enjoy Quinion. Your Chinese friend might simply mean there is no word for some Chinese word, but I'm sure if you asked her to explain the Chinese word in English she could. Again, I think many folks get hung up on finding a one-to-one correspondence between languages, which is rarer than one would think.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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My Chinese friend is at a conference now, but I will ask her to explain when she returns. Perhaps you are right.

One amazing thing about my Chinese friend is that she and her husband were raised and educated in China. They didn't move here until their eldest child was 5. They live in the Chicago area with her parents, who only speak Chinese. Their eldest is now a junior in high school and just received her SAT scores back: 800 in the verbal section! That is amazing, really, when you think about it.
 
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I agree with zm about 99%, however I have this nagging doubt. I believe, although my knowledge isn't nearly broad enough to confirm this first hand, that different cultures may well have concepts embedded within their cultural standards that are extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, for people outside the culture to fully comprehend. This isn't, I stress, a linguistic difficulty per se, but rather a cultural one. However when members of a culture use their language to describe those concepts the words used, whatever they are and whatever the language, will carry nuances and cultural values with them. No translation into the language of another culture will carry those same nuances because the listener to the translated version simply does not have the same frame of reference within which to appreciate the concept in the same way.

In this sense, and it is a very limited sense, I'd say that you could claim that some words are untranslatable.

Any thoughts on this, zm?
 
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If the children in the hypothetical culture can learn the concepts, then so can an outsider. It's like saying that I can write something in English that cannot be translated into Chinese. It may be a long-winded, tedious, and long-term translation, but it should be possible. Especially so, since any kid can learn any language, if s/he is brought up in the culture, speaking that language. Also, what's to say that all people in the culture understand the term in the same way with all its connotations? We've seen how people on this board disagree about the meanings of words, and we're all speaking the same language for all intents.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I agree with zm about 99%,

What else is new? Roll Eyes
 
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I totally agree about dictionaries with no discussion of etymology or origin of words. I haven't looked at Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary in awhile, but I will tonight. However, for that reason, I find wwftd, the online Grandiloquent Dictionary, Luciferous Logolepsy, Hutchinson Dictionary of Difficult words, The Phrontistery, etc., nearly useless as well.


from the better late dept...
I take some modicum of exception to this, since I've been including derivations for more than three(3) years. My efforts to update the dictionary are, however, stuck in the As.

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Yes, you are correct, and I am sorry. You have been including derivations in your words.

The fact is, I use all those sites a lot, so I don't know what I was talking about. I was just crabby, I guess.
 
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Different languages package reality in different ways. We might expect that speakers in turn perceive reality in different ways - although I don't think it necessarily follows.

here are some synopses of articles that might provide some evidence of a weak Sapir-Worf hypothesis.
 
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here are some synopses of articles that might provide some evidence of a weak Sapir-Worf hypothesis

I've not read Harry Potter yet - is Sapir-Worf a goodie or a baddie?


Richard English
 
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Just to help a new member out...

Richard knows perfectly well that Sapir-Whorf isn't from Harry Potter. It's Lord of the Rings.

(Yes, I too know what the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis really is...)
 
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Sapir-Worf

Being for the benefit of Messers English & Hale: Edward Sapir [1884-1939] was an German-born American linguist, and Benjamin Lee Whorf [1897-1941] was a non-academic linguist, who was a student of Sapir's at Yale. Whorf worked as an engineer for Hartford Fire Insurance. Their hypothesis states that "there is a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it." Worf, son of Mogh, (or wo'rIv in Klingon) is a character in the fictional Star Trek franchise.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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So we were both wrong - it was Star Trek!

You live and learn...


Richard English
 
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Originally posted by zmjezhd:
Sapir-Worf

Being for the benefit of Messers English & Hale: Edward Sapir [1884-1939] was an German-born American linguist, and Benjamin Lee Whorf [1897-1941] was a non-academic linguist, who was a student of Sapir's at Yale. Whorf worked as an engineer for Hartford Fire Insurance. Their hypothesis states that "there is a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it." Worf, son of Mogh, (or wo'rIv in Klingon) is a character in the fictional Star Trek franchise.


Damn, that was it. I knew that my recent Cert-Ed course hadn't included LotR or Harry Potter. There's certainly a systematic relationship between Klingon and how the Klingons behave.
Very aggressive language, Klingon. Not like those nice Vulcans at all.
 
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Interesting hypothesis.

I wonder...do language "prescriptivists" tend to be more conservative (in the U.S. Republican), while "descriptivists" tend to be more liberal (or Democrats)? That would seem to follow, or am I completely off-base?
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
Interesting hypothesis.

I wonder...do language "prescriptivists" tend to be more conservative (in the U.S. Republican), while "descriptivists" tend to be more liberal (or Democrats)? That would seem to follow, or am I completely off-base?


I have no idea if it's really true, but isn't that what Pullum hints at in his Ideology, Power, and Linguistic Theory article?
 
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I have known (of) some rather (politically) conservative descriptive linguists.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Wow...you've just hit 1,000 posts, zmj! Big Grin

Surely there are outliers, zmj. I'd not expect every liberal linguist to be a descriptivist, and vice versa. But it's an interesting thought.

While I am not in linguistics professionally and know very few linguists personally, I have known a number of writers. I have noticed that those who are more anal, compulsive, rule-oriented, etc., tend to be more prescriptive with their writing and editing.
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
Another interesting word is the Arab word: taarradhin - Interestingly, the Arabs have no word for "compromise," in the sense that you have to struggle to reach an agreement. Instead they use taarradhin, which means that you've reached a happy solution for everyone. It's a way of resolving a problem without losing face.


Geoffrey Nunberg on Arabic compromise:

quote:
So I checked with a couple of Arabic linguists, who confirmed that Arabic has several items that translate the English "compromise." I'm not sure why Heggy would think Arabs didn't have the notion, but probably it's because the most common way to speak of compromise in Arabic is to use a phrase rather than a single word -- you say "we reached a middle ground." But then we do the same thing when we talk about "a meeting of the minds" or "meeting someone half-way."


This dictionary has حل وسط ẖalla vasaṭan "A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions".

I don't know where Christophe Moore got taarradhin from. I wish he had provided sources.

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I don't know, Goofy. That's a good question. When I put taarradhin into Google Translate, it doesn't offer a translation. Yet, when I put it in Google, many sites come up. This one may not be accurate, but touts that it has words that aren't translatable in English. We've talked about that before!
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
I don't know, Goofy. That's a good question. When I put taarradhin into Google Translate, it doesn't offer a translation.


Because it's not in the Arabic alphabet.

quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Yet, when I put it in Google, many sites come up. This one may not be accurate, but touts that it has words that aren't translatable in English. We've talked about that before!


I had a look at that site. It's the same old thing: take unremarkable words and make them sound exotic. For instance it says Urdu "goya" means "A contemplative “as-if” which nonetheless feels like reality. The transporting suspension of disbelief that can occur, for example, in good storytelling."

In reality, گويا goyā means "As you (or as one) would say, as it were, as though, so to speak; thus, in this manner"

Or Japanese "Hikikomori": "A teenager or 20-something who has withdrawn from social life, often obsessed with TV and video games."

Well, my dictionary says 引きこもり hikikomori is "a shut-in".

Or Spanish "sobremsa": "The time spent after lunch or dinner talking to the people you shared the meal with."

Guess what, English can talk about this too: "after-dinner talk".

Did you know English has a word meaning "Resembling or likened to the morning twilight as preceding the full light of day; characterized by (as yet) imperfect enlightenment"? Crepuscular. What an exotic language.
 
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Yes, this board has convinced me that there are no "untranslatable" words. It might take a paragraph, but the word can be translated.
 
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