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Translation and language comparison

 
mister krabs
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
They are not roses, Tom, they are thorns! Do we really need thorns on our roses?

Even thorns serve a useful purpose. They keep animals from eating the rose plants.
Think of it this way, when I hear someone who is foreign not properly using articles, I know to listen carefully because they may not have full command of the language so they may not say exactly what they mean. Think of it as a warning system.
 
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Think of it this way, when I hear someone who is foreign not properly using articles, I know to listen carefully because they may not have full command of the language so they may not say exactly what they mean.


"so they may not say exactly what they mean" - but when I drop articles - this is exactly what I mean! "to listen carefully" wont help here!
Ok, to get practical:
Tom said:
So what if articles are redundant! They make THE sentence nicer and
make it flow smoothly and cleanly.

From what I understand, I am supposed to type "a" when I do not have any particular thing in mind, but rather any, or typical, or unknown yet etc. thing of this kind. And "the" when I do have something particular in mind, or some thing that is known out of context, for both interlocutors etc. Now, why did Tom say "They make THE sentence nicer" and not "A sentence"? I would say "a sentence". What is this "the sentence"? Where is it? Show me with your finger. What about other sentences? They are not nice?
Is it a mistake to use "a sentence" in this context? If no, then what each variant means?
Michael Matola recommended:
Very, very rough guidelines with some severe restrictions: boil the utterance down to its simplest. If it's a nonemotional, unmarked context and you find yourself putting the noun at the end of the sentence in Russian, tend towards "a" in English. If you find yourself putting the noun at the beginning of the sentence in Russian, tend towards "the" in English.
Russian word order would map 1:1 to English: "They make sentence nicer...". "Nonemotional, unmarked context" - probably. So you suggest "a", then why did Tom use "the"?
-------------------------
"Articles drive me crazy!"
Mapraputa Is
[ December 14, 2002: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
whippersnapper
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Russian word order would map 1:1 to English: "They make sentence nicer...". "Nonemotional, unmarked context" - probably. So you suggest "a", then why did Tom use "the"?[/img]


What was your Russian translation? Mine is
Eto kogo volnuet, chto artikuly izlishnie! S artikulami predlozhenie bolee priiatnoe, techet spokoino i chisto.
 
Michael Matola
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MM> Built a house on top a cliff in Malibu. Woke up one day and noticed a Pacific Ocean oustide my window."
MM> Just got email from my wife in Indonesia. A Pacific Ocean separates us, but I can still hear that tone in her voice."
MM> Test your iazykovoe chut'e -- what do you make of these usages?
Ok, my language instinct:
1. the situation is unusual/appealing, and "a Pacific Ocean" stresses it further.
2. I am lost here. I wouldn't notice any difference if you said "The Pacific Ocean"

1. Right, but I would describe what I was trying to get at as "novelty." Who put this thing where a back yard should be? (Despite knowingly putting the house where they did.)
2. This is more along the lines of putting something unexpected into a slot: "A thousand miles separates us," "An 18-hour flight...," "An ocean..."
This is exactly what I am interested in!
1) Do all languages more or less have a set of base features
2) Are there better (more economical) ways to express them

Why is more economical necessarily better?
 
Michael Matola
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*"On rasskazal mne ob ety knigu"; this is not valid Russian, true, yet the meaning is perfectly clear. Only proves that our six cases are superfluous.
Come up with an example that *doesn't* involve a preposition. Give me a sentence to play with in which you think a word's case ending is superfluous. Make it a word not in the nominative case, too. (Hmm, maybe something about housemaids and doors.)
MM> Two people enter a dark room they've never been in before and hear movement and then a crashing noise.
-- I think there's a cat in here.
-- (Panicked) Where's a cat? I don't see any cats? I hate cats!

Ok, in Russian it would be rendered as:
-- I think there's cat in here.
-- (Panicked) Where's cat? I don't see any cats? I hate cats!
and if you asked me if they were talking about some famous cat they both knew before, or just some unknown cat, I would have to scratch my head and finally decide that probably the latter, but the whole matter is, unless you ask, I do not really care whether they knew that terrifying cat or not.

But if the goal is to use articles like a native speaker of English, you should develop some appreciation of the distinction we make.
If want to say "Dad went to the store" in Russian I have to decide whether to indicate whether he's returned:
Otets poshel v magazin.
Otets khodil v magazin.
Otets skhodil v magazin.
Which I, as a speaker of English, really don't care about. Why does Russian force me to care about this distinction I don't care about?
Back to cats -- it pretty much has to be "a cat" here in that specific sentence. Not only is it not a "famous" cat, but we're not even sure it *is* a cat at this point in the conversation.
Also, to follow "I think there's a cat in here" with something about "the" cat would get you into the realm of some linguistic principle whose name I forget but is something along the lines of "economy of reponse." Essentially it works like this (I'm sure is much more complex and I'm getting things way wrong, an I'm not sure when it's relevant, but anyhow there's some optimal level of information provided in response to a question. The "economic" response provides the smallest amount of information that answers the question. However if you start to provide more than the minimal amount necessary, you often have to provide lots more information than the original question asked, in order for your response to make sense. (This isn't about being able to elide answers to "yes, I did" instead of "yes, I did read the book.)
For example, if you asked me:
-- Maikl, ty chital "Voinu i mir" v podlinke? Michael, have you ever read War and Peace in the original?
The economic response would be:
-- Da, chital. Yes, I have
And nothing would be out of the ordinary.
But if I would answer the original question solely with the following:
-- Da, prochital. Yes, I have finished reading it.
There would just seem to be something weird about that response because I've provided a tiny bit more information than the original question asked (namely that I've *finished* reading it) but I haven't told you enough to make it seem like an appropriate or relevant answer.
-- Da, prochital. Za chetyre mesiats'. Chital kazhdyi den', kogda ezdil na rabotu na metro. Yes, I've read it from cover to cover. It took me four months. I read it every day, to and from work on the subway.
(And "da, prochital" in this instance is likely to have nonneutral intonation.)
Back to cats -- so likewise, if the original is cast as "a cat": I think there's a cat in here, a response of "Where's the cat?" would seem weird because it starts to provide a little more information (first speaker is just speculating about the presence of a cat, second speaker concretizes it to "the" cat, implying some known or previously discussed or relevant cat or even that the thing under disussion *is* a cat) but doesn't provide enough information about this "the cat" for the response to make sense.
Gee, thanks for using "koshka" (feminine cat) rather than "kot" (masculine cat), I also think feminine cats are far more interesting
I didn't do it out of any particular love for female cats. When Russian has word pairs for male and female animals (kot/koshka, lev/l'vitsa) and the animal's sex is unknown or irrelevant, there's a tendency to default to the female for domesticated animals and to the male for wild animals. But you knew that, right?
MM> I would lean toward "A koshka gde?"
This "a" word is utterly superfluous, yet very Russian, and I am lost how they are able to teach these subtleties in the USA,

Well, surely it gets boring after awhile to focus just on the obvious stuff. And why do you think I've studied only in the US? I've spent time studying in Russia.
 
Michael Matola
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MM> Studenty, kotorie sdali eksameny, ushli na kanikuli.
Seems fine in Russian, but try to translate into English and you stumble over the question of whether every student who left for vacation passed all their exams.
Another interesting case! In Russian there is only one way to express the idea you expressed but as far as I understand, in English you can say either (roughly):
Students, who passed their exams, left for vacation
Or
Students who passed their exams left for vacation.
- two different meanings, glued together in Russian variant so I never even realized that "Studenty, kotorie sdali eksameny, ushli na kanikul" has not one meaning, but two.

And from another post:
I said "two different meanings, glued together in Russian variant so I never even realized that "Studenty, kotorie sdali eksameny, ushli na kanikul" has not one meaning, but two", but after some better thinking, this is not true. Russian punctuation rules are more rigid and you have to provide commas whatever the meaning is, so Russian counterpart is perfectly ambiguous. Now, I vaguely remember that we were taught in school to avoid this ambiguity by re-formulating the sentence.
Well, the classic way of disambiguating the sentence in Russian, when absolutely necessary, is to use a form of "tot" with the word "kotoryi" refers to:
Te studenty, kotorie sdali eksameny, ushli na kanikul.
"Those students who" implies that maybe there exist "those students who didn't."
Now my little iazykovoe chut'e suspects that adding a little more info about the exams might tip things over to the "only students who passed" version:
Studenty, kotorie sdali vse eksameny, ushli na kanikul
Students who passed all their exams...
I also suspect that using a participial construction instead of "kotoryi" would also lean towards "only those":
Studenty, sdavshie eksameny...
Would it require both of these tricks?
Studenty, sdavshie vse eksameny...
Map, Shura, could you confirm or refute my suspicions on this?
Russian counterpart is perfectly ambiguous
So Russians go along their lives merrily saying "Studenty, ko..." and the like never suspecting that what they're saying is ambiguous to an English-biased ear, just like we English and Russian speakers merrily say "brother" or "brat" never suspecting that what we're saying is ambiguous to a Japanese-biased ear, which, according to what Map tells us, doesn't have a word for "brother" only "younger brother" and "older brother."
MM> You do know that there are only seven basic intonation patterns in Russian, right?
I never heard about it! What are they?
Um, pattern #1, #2...
 
Michael Matola
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MM> If it's a nonemotional, unmarked context and you find yourself putting the noun at the end of the sentence in Russian, tend towards "a" in English. If you find yourself putting the noun at the beginning of the sentence in Russian, tend towards "the" in English.
This is interesting. Are you sure?
Er, fairly. Bu that's why I didn't want to post this sort of thing so early in the conversation.
I read an insightful observation, I can post a link if you need it, that in an English sentence logical stress is at the beginning, and in Russian at the end. (I suspect it can be more complicated than that, but Ok.)
Sure. Maybe it'll give some good examples. I think there's no doubt about what you're saying about logical stress. Russian tends to place the most important/newest info at the end of the sentence. I started to write up something on this but it's horrendously long and doesn't make much sense at this point.
Another reading, right on the matter, "how to convey "a/the" with word order in Russian. They give this example:
1. Housemaid opened door
2. Door opened housemaid
For me the first variant sounds like "a housemaid" and the second as "the housemaid", but you seem suggest the opposite.

I don't have a good answer. Let me think about it, read your articles.
Ha! I just thought about "where cat" and "cat where" word order, and in this case your theory works. Except that one can utter "where cat?" with such a stress on "cat" that everybody around would abandon their occupation and start looking for a/the cat (What a brilliant idea! Like you use he/she, I could write "a/the"! )
Koshka gde? (1) There's previous mention or prior knowledge of a cat."
True. If you do not know there is a cat in the house, you wouldn't ever ask
"Koshka gde?"
It occurred to me that in this case you would not ask "gde koshka " (where cat) either. You would ask "Do you have cat"? (notice that there is no article -- we do not need them )

Well, then you have to decide whether to use "est'" or not -- which is a whole nother conversation.
U tebia est' koshka? (Do you have a cat?)
U tebia koshka? (I see that your furniture is shredded and your house smells. Do you have a cat?)
Koshka u tebia? (Is the cat at your place?)
 
Mapraputa Is
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MM: What was your Russian translation?
Let me try...
I chto is togo chto articules <redundant>, s nimi predlogenie priyatnee, techet spokoino i chisto
"Eto kogo volnuet" is absolutely possible also, it's only that "chto is togo..." came to my mind first. But I am not sure how to translate "redundant". "izlishnie" sounds a little awkward, I think that there is normally a noun after "izlishnie", "izlishnie articuly", maybe "articuly izlishni"... Anyway, I cannot think about a variant that would sound natural!
 
Mapraputa Is
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1. Right, but I would describe what I was trying to get at as "novelty." Who put this thing where a back yard should be? (Despite knowingly putting the house where they did.)
2. This is more along the lines of putting something unexpected into a slot: "A thousand miles separates us," "An 18-hour flight...," "An ocean..."

Aha! So there is a "typical" article your would normally use, and if you do not, it signals "novelty"? so in "They make THE sentence nicer and make it flow smoothly and cleanly", "the" is used as a way to emphasize "sentence"? Like "the Sentence"? Please, confirm ASAP, because if this is true, then your theory that the problem with teaching articles to foreign speakers is that "the topic is approached as one of "grammar" or "syntax" -- when really things are operating at the more abstract level of discourse" makes a lot of sense. The rules we were taught are incomplete, so after several times these rules were apparently broken, I finally decided that there is no logic behind applying articles at all, and there is no way to ever learn how to use them. Another example that baffled me was "a first", unfortunately, I forgot context in which it was used.
This reminds me about a short story, "Winter Oak", that was required reading in primary school. A teacher explained to the class what "noun" is, and asked kids to come up with examples. Everybody was doing just fine and only one troublemaker said "Winter Oak"! The teacher was annoyed and explained that these are two words, not one, and that only "oak" is a noun etc. but the pupil went on to insist. Finally the teacher gave him a Russian analog of "D" and decided to visit his mother (she had problems with this kid before). On the way to their house, she was shown that very "Winter Oak" and it was a tree of such an immense beauty and power that she was enlightened, got life-changing experience and even took back her "D"
I remember, that I hated this story passionately. If you asked me to name my the most hated piece of literature, I wouldn't think too long. "Winter Oak" as an example of a noun did not make sense to me at all, and prolonged description of its beauty was deadly boring. Only recently I understood what it was about and came to appreciate it. I think, that the teacher was thinking about "a noun", and the kid about "the Noun".
 
Mapraputa Is
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Come up with an example that *doesn't* involve a preposition. Give me a sentence to play with in which you think a word's case ending is superfluous. Make it a word not in the nominative case, too. (Hmm, maybe something about housemaids and doors.)
Ya dala knigu mame (structurally: I gave book Mom)
Or
Ya dala mame knigu (I gave Mom book)- both variants are possible.
In English, if I am not mistaken, we can say
I gave a book to Mom
Or
I gave Mom a book

Since in English nouns do not change form, word order and prepositions are needed to resolve ambiguity. Hm... why do I think that prepositions and not word endings are better, because there are several categories of nouns in Russian and they all will change forms differently, so you need to know them all :roll: Like "she-nouns" get one ending, "he-nouns another" and it's even more complex that that! While prepositions work uniformly: they are more economical way of expressing the same idea.
 
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If want to say "Dad went to the store" in Russian I have to decide whether to indicate whether he's returned:
Otets poshel v magazin.
Otets khodil v magazin.
Otets skhodil v magazin.

You mean that all three could be translated as "went"? I always thought about "went" as an analog of 1...
Which I, as a speaker of English, really don't care about. Why does Russian force me to care about this distinction I don't care about?
But I would not expect you to "develop some appreciation of the distinction we make" Rather I would expect you to develop better appreciation of your own language that is flexible enough for not to impose artificial restrictions on you.
Also, to follow "I think there's a cat in here" with something about "the" cat would get you into the realm of some linguistic principle whose name I forget but is something along the lines of "economy of reponse."
How interesting... If you gave me an assignment to provide the story with my own articles, I would use "the cat" in the second case, because according to what I was told, we use "a" in the first sentence since it's a first mentioning of something unknown and "the" in the second, because now they already know that there is some specific cat somewhere here.
-- I think there's a cat in here.
-- (Panicked) Where's the cat?

Like in "... There was a vase on the table. The vase was blue, bla-bla-bla..." - so I would mindlessly transfer this knowledge into "cat" problem. Well, these were our Russian textbooks, so do not blame your instructors
I didn't do it out of any particular love for female cats. When Russian has word pairs for male and female animals (kot/koshka, lev/l'vitsa) and the animal's sex is unknown or irrelevant, there's a tendency to default to the female for domesticated animals and to the male for wild animals. But you knew that, right?
No! And I never realized it! I need to take "Russian as a second language" classes!
 
Mapraputa Is
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Why is more economical necessarily better?
Deep question. Frankly, I myself thought that these my observations about "economy" and "elegance" are just peripheral, unimportant issues, entertaining in the best case.
Well, maybe not.
Here is my homegrown theory:
The process of a language emergence and development has been unorganized, stochastic and spontaneous (until very recently anyway). Grammar constructs were born as a way to avoid two evils: redundance from one side and ambiguity from another. They are compromises, they are embodiment of balance They are a result of thousands if not millions of attempts to communicate, successful or not. Your interlocutor misunderstood you -- means tou need to provide more clues via cases, endings, articles, prepositions, word order, whatever. But there is the opposite, balancing drive: to use as little resources as it's enough for getting your ideas across. Your example: "Te studenty, kotorie sdali eksameny..." In real-world environment, a teacher giving a test could say "kto zakonchil, mogut idti domoy" (who finished, can go home) rather than "te, kto zakonchil..." (those who finished...) and so on. Thousands of small simplifications, and you have only two cases instead of 6 or 13.

I was in a book store today and came across this book that talked precisely about "economy" and "elegance" in languages. After I got home, I searched on the Internet and found something interesting, like this entry, for example:
"I will argue that the economy principles which theoretical linguists are currently trying to discover in the theory of language are something comparable to the Principle of Least Action in physics."
http://www.nuis.ac.jp/jcss/journal/vol03/0301fukui.html
This paper has some interesting ideas about why redundancy is good, but I did not get them after first reading, need to read again.
[ December 16, 2002: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
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How interesting... If you gave me an assignment to provide the story with my own articles, I would use "the cat" in the second case, because according to what I was told, we use "a" in the first sentence since it's a first mentioning of something unknown and "the" in the second, because now they already know that there is some specific cat somewhere here.
-- I think there's a cat in here.
-- (Panicked) Where's the cat?

Don't fret. I feel this is the more natural English usage. I have a hard time imagining using "Where's a cat?".
Just to add to the fun. I wrote the above sentence without the "the", the first time, but looking back feel that "the" is most idiomatic, although "a" and no-article are also valid. D'Oh!
 
Mapraputa Is
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Te studenty, kotorie sdali eksameny, ushli na kanikul.
Or "te, kotorie sdali eksameny..." or "te kto sdali eksameny..." - but this is probably informal speech.
Students who passed all their exams...
I also suspect that using a participial construction instead of "kotoryi" would also lean towards "only those":
Studenty, sdavshie eksameny...
Would it require both of these tricks?

Hm, it took me a while to figure whether they are still ambiguous or not, and my final verdict is: "guilty". Both are still ambiguous. (but somebody else's opinion would be welcomed and appreciated) And thinking more about why/how does Russian allow this ambiguity, my intuition is that it's often clear from context what the meaning is. With your student example, "ushli na kanikuly" means there are no scheduled lectures, and in reality there are no scheduled lectures for both those who passed the exams and for those who did not (for different reasons, perhaps ). So "Students ?comma? who passed their exams ?comma? left for vacation" isn't really ambiguous in Russian -- they all "left for vacation" = means they do not have to go to listen to the lectures.
 
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
If want to say "Dad went to the store" in Russian I have to decide whether to indicate whether he's returned:


Do you know, in Bengali, there is no word like going. Even when someone is going out, one says "Ammi Aschi"
Aschi => coming.
They never say Jaschi=> going
any Bengali plz CMIW.
 
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Originally posted by Frank Carver:
Just to add to the fun. I wrote the above sentence without the "the", the first time, but looking back feel that "the" is most idiomatic, although "a" and no-article are also valid. D'Oh!


Aaaaaaaaaah...
Articles drive me crazy!
 
Michael Matola
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This is my ASAP response. Take a look at these links on uses of articles, especially the bits about "generic" constructions.
http://www.iei.uiuc.edu/structure/Structure1/grammar_articles.html
http://www.linguistlist.org/~ask-ling/archive-1997.5/msg00001.html
I don't think the guidelines I posited about a/the beginning/end are relevant if it's a generic construction in English. (Remember, I said there were some "severe restrictions" -- I just didn't get to all of them.)
 
Michael Matola
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
But I am not sure how to translate "redundant".


Something with tavtologicheskii, maybe. (But I don't like how Russian abuses that word, so I avoided it in my proposed translation.)
 
Michael Matola
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"Winter Oak"
Hmm. If it's the one pod Iasnoi polianoi (near where Tol'stoi's buried) that is supposedly the inspiration for the one in War and Peace, then I've seen it...
 
Thomas Paul
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Tom: "There's a cat in here."
Map: "Where's a cat?"
Tom: "Where? Well, there are cats all over the world. Was there a particular cat you had in mind?"
Map: "Yes, the cat you said is in here!"
Tom: "Oh... you mean THE cat that is in here. I think it's on the sofa."

The sentence "Where's the cat?" is really a short version of "Where's the cat that you said is in here?" which requires the more specific "THE" as opposed to "A".
 
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Ok, to get practical:
Tom said:
So what if articles are redundant! They make THE sentence nicer and
make it flow smoothly and cleanly.

From what I understand, I am supposed to type "a" when I do not have any particular thing in mind, but rather any, or typical, or unknown yet etc. thing of this kind. And "the" when I do have something particular in mind, or some thing that is known out of context, for both interlocutors etc. Now, why did Tom say "They make THE sentence nicer" and not "A sentence"? I would say "a sentence". What is this "the sentence"? Where is it? Show me with your finger. What about other sentences? They are not nice?

I used "the" because I was thinking of a particular sentence. Which sentence? A sentence with articles in it. Obviously articles don't improve every sentence. "Betty likes ice cream." is not improved when I change it to "The Betty likes ice cream."
In the sentence "it makes the sentence nicer," I think "the" sounds nicer although either "the" or "a" will work.
[ December 16, 2002: Message edited by: Thomas Paul ]
 
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I think there'a a cat in here...
 
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For fun - consider the sentence:
I'm looking for ___ cat.
What should go into the blank? Now consider - what if the context is a person inside their own home? Or a person who has just entered a pet store? Or a butcher's?
[ December 16, 2002: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
 
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In "Le Ton beau de Marot" Hofstadter talks how he and his friends entertained each other by using in speech only words that do not have "e" letter. Then he decided to add to the ban list the next most frequent letter, t, and discovered that with this restrictions they cannot carry any meaningful communication. I remembered Jim's mentioning of text compression, and thought that perhaps zip uses some variant of Huffman algorithm for compression. Turned out, that it uses the Lempel-Ziv algorithm, which employs right the opposite idea. Here is a very good description of both algorithms with comparative statistics and animations.
However there is a (unrelated) question: why some letters are used more often then other? Not sure how universal this "feature" is among languages, what about non-European languages, for example? The same phenomenon works on word level, but there it can be easily explained, while letters inequality is enigmatic.
 
Mapraputa Is
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MM: Sure. Maybe it'll give some good examples.
http://www.vavilon.ru/noragal/slovo19.html
I think there's no doubt about what you're saying about logical stress. Russian tends to place the most important/newest info at the end of the sentence. I started to write up something on this but it's horrendously long and doesn't make much sense at this point.
Actually, J.Williams recommends the same in his "Style" book.
"The First Principle of Cohesion: Old-to-New":
"1. Begin your sentences with information familiar to your readers
<...>
2. End your sentences with information your readers cannot anticipate."
I was wondering how this coordinates with allegedly opposite position of logical stress in Russian and English sentences when reading this.
About Japanese brothers, I found where I read about them.
Sebastian L�bner. "Undesrstanding Semantics":
"Japanese distinguishes between elder and younger siblings. Furthermore, there are pairs of formal and informal terms with the same descriptive meaning. If the relative is treated as superior, the formal terms (on�san and ot�san) are used. Obviously, none of the four Japanese terms is equivalent to the English word brother, they all relate to all brother-like hyponyms."
Brothersiblingmale

-

-

anisiblingmaleelderinformal
onîsan siblingmaleelderformal
otôtosiblingmaleyounger informal
otôsansiblingmaleyounger formal
 
Jim Yingst
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Map, have you ever seen Guy Steele's "Growing a Language"? I meant to point it out to you long ago, but don't think I did. You may well have found it anyway. It ties into this conversation in several ways, loosely at least. And even if it didn't, it really deserves to be read by linguistically obsessed types such as ourselves.
However there is a (unrelated) question: why some letters are used more often then other?
I don't think this is particularly mysterious, so perhaps I'm missing something. Natural languages were not designed for efficient data compression (at least not by modern CS standards). I think the primary "design goal" for most alphabets was to provide simple mappings for sounds used in languages (given that spoken languages predate written forms). Admittedly this goal is rather imperfectly realized in English for historical reasons, but there is at least some correlation between letters and sounds. The question then becomes, why are some sounds more common than others?
Well, I think some sounds (and combinations of sounds) are just easier than others for humans to form. Those sounds will generally be favored as people coin new words.
Periodically it becomes necessary (or at least, more convenient) to start using new sounds or combinations, in order to create new unique words. Some of these sounds may have been perceived as "hard" initially. However once they're learned, people get used to them, and it's easier to incorporate them into other words. Thus, "hard" sounds can nonetheless become common in a particular language. Eg. the "th" sound many foreigners have trouble with in English.
I should note that these are just my offhand thoughts on how languages evolve - I could be completely mistaken. But why should that stop me from posting, after all.
As an aside, I was recently reading a Polish novel (in English translation) where the protagonist is named Skrzetuski - rendered more phonetically in the translation as "Skshetuski". :roll: Gee, I'm so glad they were able to simplify that one for me. However some Poles I polled seemed to find this combination of sounds perfectly normal. Perhaps a Russian speaker would agree here; dunno. I guess it's an acquired taste.
[ December 16, 2002: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
 
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Map, have you ever seen Guy Steele's "Growing a Language"? I meant to point it out to you long ago, but don't think I did. You may well have found it anyway.
Well, yes. I did not found it particularly insightful, but I need to read it again, maybe this time it will make more sense.
Sounds - this is a good point. I also had the same idea, but then decided to consider it unsatisfactory. There *are* sounds that are slightly less comfortable to utter, but the difference is so immaterial (for native speakers, of course), that it can hardly account for an order of magnitude difference in frequency. If the "easy of utterance" factor was important, there would be even now a tendency to avoid words with those "hard" sounds, but I do not observe anything like this in myself...
And it very well can be the other way around: these sounds are harder to pronounce because we use them less often.
Then, can you notice any difference in easy of pronunciation between "E" and "I"? Yet "E" in English is almost 2 times more frequent.
Another problem, in English, like in most European languages, the most frequent letter is "E" and in Russian "O".
I was thinking that perhaps there can be something interesting in comparing relative frequencies of the 4 nucleotides in DNA, but couldn't find this information. All articles I saw calculate frequencies of codons - this of course, makes much more sense for biologists.
There are codons in the language too, so maybe what matters is frequency of bigger building blocks and frequency of single letters is only epiphenomenona. Then your theory of hardness of forming groups of sounds will work.

Another speculation, that perhaps it's convenience of an acceptor and not of a provider of sounds what matters. From usability POV, the main feature of sounds (or groups of them) is to be clearly distinguishable from each other, and perhaps some sounds are better at it.
As an aside, I was recently reading a Polish novel (in English translation) where the protagonist is named Skrzetuski - rendered more phonetically in the translation as "Skshetuski". :roll: Gee, I'm so glad they were able to simplify that one for me. However some Poles I polled seemed to find this combination of sounds perfectly normal. Perhaps a Russian speaker would agree here; dunno.
Hard to say, because how you, users of English, spell foreign words - one simple sound can become totally unpronounceable. But I remember once in a ESL class we asked our classmate to say something in Farsi, and one of sounds we heard nobody of us was able to reproduce - it was like cracking one can hear from a radio that isn't tuned to any station. On the other hand, once my another classmate, a professor of metallurgy from Belorussia, decided to test our instructor's ability to reproduce foreign sounds and asked to repeat his wife's maiden name that included sound "Щ" (for MM) - softer variant of English "sh", claiming that no American was ever able to repeat it. However, this particular American failed to demonstrate any difficulty with repeating a sound that was fairly new to him
 
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Originally posted by Ravish Kumar:

Do you know, in Bengali, there is no word like going. Even when someone is going out, one says "Ammi Aschi"
Aschi => coming.
They never say Jaschi=> going
any Bengali plz CMIW.


What "Ammi" means? "Aschi" means both "coming" and "going"?
--------------------
Disclaimer: lack of smiles in my previous post was caused by UBB's drakonian "no more than 8 smiles per post" policy.
 
Jim Yingst
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Hard to say, because how you, users of English, spell foreign words - one simple sound can become totally unpronounceable.
To clarify - "Skrzetuski" is the Polish spelling; "Skshetuski" was an Anglicized version. The latter incorporates a complex code which we seldom reveal to foreigners - but just for you Map:
S - as in Send
K - as in Kill
SH - as in SHow
E - as in bEd
T - as in Table
U - as in dUal
S - as in Send
K - as in Kill
I - as in brewskI
I think most native English-speakers would have no trouble working out the individual sounds. (Maybe some variance on how the vowels are interpreted, but not too much). The primary problem with this name, from my perspective, is that S-K-SH are just not meant to go together without some vowels as intermediaries. The Poles I met disagreed.
[ December 17, 2002: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
 
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Originally posted by Michael Matola:
This is my ASAP response. Take a look at these links on uses of articles, especially the bits about "generic" constructions.


Thank you, Michael, it makes more sense now. The second text was particularly insightful. But comparing the two, I made a profound conclusion I need to test. The second text make use of "Tigers", while the first has this to say:
The and a plural count noun can occasionally refer to all members of a human group in general .. not just particular people known to the speaker/writer and listener/reader. This is the least common kind of generic nouns, usually referring to a religiously, politically, or professionally-based group of people.
The Germansare known for their beer.
(which Germans? all of them)
The Republicanswill meet in Philadelphia
(which Republicans? representatives of all of them)
Does that mean that to say "Russians..." rather then "The Russians..." would be kinda insultful by virtue of using the same grammatical device one uses when referring to animals
[ December 17, 2002: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
Mapraputa Is
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Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
The latter incorporates a complex code which we seldom reveal to foreigners - but just for you Map:


Thank you for your concern. By the way, are you a dextrophobic or are you a dextrosinistral? Never mind, I am reading this amazing files...
Regarding spelling foreign words, I am yet to meet a person who would be able to pronounce my last name (well, other than "Is") . Normally when they see it, there is a pause, a buffled expression on a/the face, and then "mmm..."
And to use "sch" for one simple "ш" - ha! ... And if I am not mistaken, they use four letter for one "щ"!
[ December 17, 2002: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
Michael Matola
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Update:
I'm behind on processing most of this and won't have time to catch up for several days.
Map -- I read the first couple paragraphs of that article of yours. This is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. Only I'll eventually try to claim that some of these kinds of things are quite systematic. (For example, provide a dry, dispassionate explanation of why the little girl is more likely to say Ia ee boius' than Ia boius' ee'.)
Oh, to have a Russian woman say to you Znaiu ia vas... ;o)
Also, in general -- before launching off onto discussions about letter/sound frequency etc., make sure that you don't fall into the trap of too closely equating sounds and the letters that (imperfectly) seem to represent them.
Map> the most frequent letter is "E" and in Russian "O".
Maybe I'm missing the point of this kind of observation? Russian "letter O" represents at least 3 different "sounds" (arguably 4, but I'm not arguing that point) and the Russian sound "O" can be represented by 2 different letters.
(And Russian has (at least?) two sounds for which it has "no letter" to represent them...)
I mean, one of the uses of the "letter e" in English orthography is to signal characteristics of the pronunciation of a different letter/sound altogther: cf. hat vs. hate.
Jim -- Russian provides some striking consonant clusters too. My personal favorite is vzgl'- as in vzgliad (which is a one-syllable word).
[ December 17, 2002: Message edited by: Michael Matola ]
 
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Mapraputa,

Originally posted by Mapraputa:
quote:
Originally asked by Gena Banin:
Do you want to treat me with the same reverence as your farther or substitute my mother on-line to orient my everyday life?
Did my farther treat you with reverence?


The sentence implied that you, as Mapraputa, treat your father with reverence (and would pass it to me if I have the same age).
There is no need to distort my name! I am sorry if you feel offended.

Originally posted by Mapraputa:
Jeeeesus, which "those seven"? You just talked about seventeen, is this what you mean?


There is no connection between seven and seventeen. The words are in separate paragraphs. The digits are more than 2 times different.
I answered to your question immediately before about seven.
Let me stress that is unique word in previous posts in this thread.
I only wanted to help with your citation-question:

Originally posted by Mapraputa:
[Originally posted by Michael Matola:]

"You do know that there are only seven basic intonation patterns in Russian, right?"
I never heard about it! What are they?


I tried to guess and answer your question that MM just confused intonations with cases/inclinations. Because, as I believe, in Serbo-Croatian (or now in Serbia and in Croatian and in Slovenian after recently giving separate names to the same language) there is SEVEN (SEVEN But NOT SEVENTEEN, I INSIST, IT IS MORE THAN TWICE A DIFFERENCE) cases/inclinations while in Russia there are 6 (SIX not SVENTEEN).
Before your hijacking the string "seven" uniqeuly identified UNIQUE context. I did not know that you do not remember even your own writings, just before.
My posts are shorter than yours since I tried to facilitate their readings. Again sorry.

Originally posted by Mapraputa:
This thread lied dormant until *you* resurrected it,


I had an error to be hijacked from my asking about links to:
1)downloading a dictionary from German/French, in the start, and in the meanwhile also
2)for links to online library. and
3) to links on mentioned earlier books there

Originally posted by Mapraputa:
And you know what, instead of going to the library to connect to the Internet to ask where online books are, you could just borrow these books right in the library, as Jim recommended, this would save you few steps. I guess, this is how they use libraries in Arizona...


I cannot afford visiting nearby Arizona library. Find this advise very intelligent?
It is the same in Arizona, the public libraries usually do not buy many books from abroad and in foreign languages...

That is interesting that even Russian in Arizona thinks that all the world's libraries are filled by american books!!!
[ December 17, 2002: Message edited by: G Vanin ]
 
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downloading a dictionary from German/French

On-line dictionary

Another on-line dictionary

downloadable dictionary

on-line English dictionary

I don't know how Arizona ever got into the picture since neither Guennadii nor Map lives in Arizona. Map lives in Oregon and Guennadii lives in Portugal.
 
Marilyn de Queiroz
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Michael Matola: "You do know that there are only seven basic intonation patterns in Russian, right?"

G. Vanin: "It seems to me that those seven are called cases (inclinations)"
 
Jim Yingst
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That is interesting that even Russian in Arizona thinks that all the world's libraries are filled by american books!!!
I'm in Arizona, but not Russian. Map is Russian, but not in Arizona. Map inferred (correctly) that my own experience (in Arizona) led me to believe that libraries contain books (!). No one thinks the rest of the world's libraries are "filled with" American books, but Hofstadter specifically seems to have reached a wide audience. I know GEB has been translated into French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Swedish, Dutch, Italian and Russian - possibly more by now. I don't know about LTBDM, but it certainly seems like a lot of translators would be interested in reading it, based on its subject matter; thus, I suspect they'd also be interested in attempting to translate it. It might take them a while though. Since you are known to visit a library reasonably often, it wouldn't hurt to look up "Hofstadter" to see if they have any of his books, in any of the languages you speak. Failing that, there's probably a website somehere in Russia that's got the Russian translation(s) available free of charge.
There is no connection between seven and seventeen. The words are in separate paragraphs. The digits are more than 2 times different.
The original quote:
[MI]:
Do you want to treat me with the same reverence as your farther or substitute my mother on-line to orient my everyday life?
[GV]:
I was in Primary School when "The Seventeen Instances of the Spring" came to TV screens. Do you remember?
It seems to me that those seven are called cases (inclinations)

Your "separate paragraph" was only separated by one newline, rather than the two you usually use to separate paragraphs. At some screen widths it looks exactly like a continuation of the previous paragraph, where the single line break was caused by the browser's word wrap. So it's perfectly reasonable to think that the last sentence is somehow related to the previous two. It's obvious to all of us that "seven" and "seventeen" are different - but since they are unfortunately similar in appearance, it seemed reasonably possible that you might have erroneously confused the two. We frequently have to perform interpolations like this when interpreting your English; sometimes our guesses are correct, and sometimes not. We now understand what was meant though.
 
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Originally posted by Jim Yingst:

S - as in Send
<...>
T - as in Table
<...>


So you think that in Michael M. example
"Otets poshel v magazin"
last two sounds are "t as in table" and "s as in send"? You know, "ts" refers to one Russian sound The same about "khodil" - "kh" is one sound, not two separate. The sound/letter "щ" (let's use * to refer to it) is especially confusing, a popular Ukraininan last name *erbina is often spelled as "Shcherbina" in English (example) - four letter for one sound! :roll:
That's why I wondered how "Skshetuski" really sounds.
 
Jim Yingst
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"ts" - you may conceptualize it as one sound, but the two-letter equivalent is close enough for our purposes here. Run the sounds together quickly enough, it's pretty much the same thing. Assuming that your "ts" sound is not significantly different from that represented by Z in German and Italian - e.g. "Nazi" and "pizza". This is a minor example of a "difficult" combination that seems much simpler once you're used to it. (Noting that it generally only seems "difficult" to English-speakers when it appears at the beginning of a word, like tsunami. And the difficulty is pretty minor, and easy to overcome.)
Consider "Tchaikovsky" (or however else you prefer to transliterate it; I've seen many variations). Focusing just on the initial sound(s) "tch" - it's just what we would normally represent in English as "ch", right? I'm not sure why it's typically rendered as "tch"; my guess is it's inherited from other European languages like French, where a lone "ch" would mean what we call "sh" (as in "share"). Adding the "t" simply ensures that no one (even the French) tries to say "shai-koff-ski", but rather "chai-koff-ski". (Yeah, we've probably got some of the other sounds wrong to some extent, but ignore that - I'm talking about the initial sound(s).) The simple fact is that even in English, the "ch" sound is a "t" followed by an "sh" sound, run together quickly. We think of it as one sound, but it's easy to decompose into two when explaining it to someone else.

Similarly take "djinn" or "djinni" - these are just French-influenced transliterations of the word we otherwise spell "genie". The French had a need for a d before the j to prevent it from being pronounced "zheenee". Run the d and j together, they become a soft "g" as we know it in English. If it helps someone to think of it as two sounds rather than one, fine.
Back to "Skrzetuski"/"Skshetuski" - I heard Poles pronounce it (I made them repeat it several times), and I could clearly hear the S-K-SH sounds, all run together quickly. It's a pretty accurate representation. I just have a hard time training my own mouth to do it.
"kh" is one sound, not two separate.
Kh is a different sort of construct
(assuming it's at least vaguely similar to the ch/kh-type sounds in German, Scottish, Arabic, and who knows how many other languages.) Conceptually it's analogous to English constructs like sh and th - there's no way to decompose those sounds into a t and an h. The h here functions as a modifier, not an addition.
The sound/letter "щ" (let's use * to refer to it) is especially confusing, a popular Ukraininan last name *erbina is often spelled as "Shcherbina" in English (example) - four letter for one sound!
And is there some other way this would be better rendered using the Roman alphabet? I've heard the "shch" sound, and it does decompose into "sh" and "ch". It just takes practice to run the sounds together quickly enough to pretend it's a single sound.
[ December 17, 2002: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
 
Thomas Paul
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Here's Hofstadter's home page:
http://www.psych.indiana.edu/people/homepages/hofstadter.html
One of the interesting things he talks about in "Le Ton..." is the difficulty of translating GEB into foreign languages. GEB has so much word play that it was extremely difficult to do the translation. One of the humorous things he talks about is how Tortoise's sex changes from translation to translation.
 
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:

The Germans are known for their beer.
(which Germans? all of them)
The Republicans will meet in Philadelphia
(which Republicans? representatives of all of them)


Intresting but these two sentences:
"The Germans are known for their beer."
and
"Germans are known for their beer."

aren't really different. But you would never say:
"French are known for their wine."
The French need "the".
 
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