HCDE 512 – Week 6 – Bellos on Translation

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IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR?  READING NOTES

PG 157 – “Language and a culture are so closely bound together as to be one and the same thing”  – For me, this quote is at the heart of arguments about the translatability of the different tongues.  This will provide interesting context for our class discussions based on how others feel about this statement.

PG -160 – “Evidentials – For each noun-phrase, the grammar of the Hopi marks not so much the categories of definiteness or indefiniteness but whether the thing or person referred to is within the field of vision of the speaker.  ‘The farmer I can see’ has a different form from the ‘the farmer I saw yesterday’ which is different again from the form of ‘the farmer you told me about.’   As a result, the English sentence ‘The farmer killed the duck’ is quite untranslatable into Hopi without a heap of information the English sentence doesn’t give you. ….. Though this holds true for any decontextualized sentence in any language.”  I had previously not been exposed to languages with this structure and I found it very fascinating.  It does open all up all kinds of challenges for translations on the web and machine translation in particular.

Pg 162 – “….Capacity for abstraction was the key to the progress of the human mind”  and “too many concrete nouns”  – what the early  20th century linguists said about “primitive” languages.  A theory that has been hotly contested.

Pg 163 – “The long pan-European drive toward ‘standard languages’ was powered not only by political will, economic integration, urbanization, and other forces at play in the real world.  It also expressed a deeply held belief that only some languages were suited to civilized thought.”    This is an interesting quote for the discussion as well – reference item for discussion on language and the expression of thought.

Pg 164 – Linguist Edward Sapir – All languages are equal.  there is no hierarchy of tongues. “Every variety of human language constitutes a system that is complete and entire, fully adequate to performing all of the tasks that its users wish to make of it.”   He sees that language, culture and race ante independent variables.  He showed that there is nothing simple about the languages of simple societies.   He did find that “Different languages, because they are structured in different ways, make their speakers pay attention to different aspects of the world.”

Pg 165 – Reference for the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (this hypothesis is a flawed one and one that Sapir never actually subscribed to)

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