Die schreckliche Englische Sprache

N.B. I have not yet inserted a translation plug-in.

Why not, Bill?

I don’t want to crash this blog by pasting html code improperly.

Kommen wir gleich zur Sache — die Wikinger emigrierten von Sachsen nach England im Jahre 793, und sie hatten mit den eroberten Frauen und den zukünftigen Kindern sprechen wollen. Hör mal zu: die Wikinger konnten die ungeheueren komplizierten Endungen jedes Dingworts überhaupt nicht verstehen. Die Eroberer hatten eine Lösung schnell gefunden: zum Teufel mit den verdammten Endungen.

This is a thinly veiled attack upon the official language of the free world. What be your purpose here?

WikingerServiette

Wenn Sie English lesen können, schauen Sie den folgenden Link an:

How Vikings Changed the English Language: Morphology.

Interessanterweise fing die große Vokalverschiebung zur etwa gleichen Zeit an. So viel wurden dabei geändert, aber so passieren die alternativen Geschichten.

als ob

Stellen Sie mal vor: “als ob” habe ich in einem Glossar der literarischen Ausdrücken gefunden, zwar als eine Übersetzung des Konzepts von Samuel Colleridge:

the willing suspension of disbelief 

5 Buchstaben auf Deutsch gegen 31 auf Englisch. Finde ich den Unterschied super. Eine Sprache zu lernen ist ein Abenteuer anzufangen, meiner Meinung nach.

denken.sie.doch.selber
Bill, why did you choose a SHOUTING green font to threaten world order? We’re taking names.

Gern behaupte ich, dass man einen deutschen Text schneller als einen englischen Text lesen kann. Einfach erkläre ich den Urgrund dieser Behauptung — Schon beim ersten Wort erkennen wir die Funktion des ersten Wortes, z.B. “dem” muss unbedingt das indirekte Object signalisieren. Also, entweder Maskulin oder Neutrum, oder?

Quod erat demonstrandum.

So wurde “the” erfunden. Wortstellung muss jede Funktion, bzw. jeden Kasus erklären. Konnten Herr Wiking mit der Familie anreden.

Ich hoffe, dass die Leser dieses Dingsbums mein Thema genossen haben.

 

Discovering Patterns in Language

Regular expressions. are powerful metamathematical tools, advanced techniques for matching patterns in a text or multiple texts — something fun and something useful. They are concise chunks of cryptic characters that can search a single text or multiple texts for precise patterns. Select an input file, do one thing or very many things to the file, then drop the resulting text into an output file.

regex-to-fa

Stephen Cole Kleene is the mathematician and philosopher who introduced the concept of the regular expression. He worked with Alan Turing and other pioneering types who were intensely active in the 1930’s. Their understanding of a mathematical maneuver called recursion; that led to breakthrough tools in logic — decisions made at superhuman speed and using the processing speed and memory to process words and numbers thrown together and called data. However, beware of the sorcerer’s apprentice phenomenon. Just bewaring.

recursion

An example: look for successive occurrences of WTF (upper or lower case) and substitute “what the fart”.

Through recursion you can stop, go backward a certain of characters, query the findings. Do something with it. Once you become familiar with the meta characters and the syntax, you can do a lot of useful things or destroy many useful things. So save the original file in a safe place and know where your output file ends up.

 

When I was a freelance translator I maintained a translation memory database that kept track of all my translations so that I might be reminded of earlier translations. The software I used was called SDL Trados; however, that was over ten years ago.

Here is one example of how I used regular expression code to insert a carriage return and linefeed whenever a blank space appeared in the original German. Essentially this created records that were one word long — the number of records was the number of words in the text. Then I queried my database for finds. A lot faster than the technique I used when learning German — looking up the words in a large-ass dictionary that I still have on the bottom shelf over there.

mastering.regular.expressions

The same Unix tools developed in the 1960’s remain in the electrons flowing from my screen to yours. They remind me of Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Three Laws

Hoping this is somewhat illuminating, or mildly amusing 🙂

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Now for something incompletely different, something inspired by Hariod Brawn’s comment below. It’s an article on The Sound (And Taste) Of Music by Layla Eplett — she brings a platter to the conversation and complements Mariano Sigman’s TED Talk:

 

SoundTasteofMusic
Layla Eplett

Thanks for reading this postscript 🙂

Sid Caesar — A Language for all Seasons

Sid Caesar died in 2014 at age 91. A pioneer in the gentler arts of subtle humor, Caesar approached his craft with an inquisitive spirit and intellectual curiosity — you can’t do that without patience and discipline. He listened to rhythms and song, he could mime anything animate or inanimate. Though able to transmit the theater of language, his only two tongues were English and Yiddish.

sid-caesar

All languages are indeed songs. Iambic pentameter is, quite simply, the cadence of spoken English. In my opinion a haiku never sounds right in English because the Japanese haiku does not transplant well in foreign soil.

From the Caesar, not the one known for “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres”:

“I didn’t allow cue cards because, to my mind, when you’re acting with someone you listen when they speak, … Because then you can push off not just what they say but how they say it. You don’t just hang around waiting for your cue.”

Translation is a gentle art,  all translations are rough estimations. Something is always lost in the translation. In the hands of the demagogue language is a weapon to leverage propaganda. Agendas render translations that wish to mislead — always, or at least often enough.

Poetry resists translation intensely. But that is as it should be — poems are distilled language, translation muddies and soils.

quote-raffiniert-ist-der-herr-gott-aber-boshaft-ist-er-nicht-god-is-subtle-but-he-is-not-malicious-albert-einstein-90-85-72

By my own estimation an oft repeated remark by Albert Einstein is not a good enough translation of the German. A wise man once hadn’t said…

The German:  Raffiniert ist der Herrgott aber boshaft ist er nicht

The most common render: Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he is not.

A single word change: Mischievous is the Lord, but malicious he is not.

I think it’s good alliteration. Well, I may be outnumbered, but isn’t it an improvement on the more clumsy subtle/malicious. Perhaps I’m guilty of some degree of bias when taking sides with my own blog. With a nod to a rare public voice (hint: Habemus papam — “who am I to judge.”)
2-saints-from-palestine
Movements to excommunicate — or at least exile — Pope Francis are loud, vociferous and growing with brute fervor.
Listening patiently is among the lost arts. The sentient fellow-being in your presence deserves your attention — it’s that breathtakingly short moment when they may reach and teach you. Carpe diem!
Okie dokie, let’s consider another quote from Mr. Caesar:
The remote control changed our lives, … The remote control took over the timing of the world. That’s why you have road rage. You have people who have no patience, because you got immediate gratification. You got click, click, click, click. If it doesn’t explode within three seconds, click click, click.
~ Sid Caesar (from Successories)
When it comes time for you to speak, do not use your words as weapons but as tools for removing barriers, widening perspectives and sharing a planet where homo sapiens is the sole responsible specie threatening to drop another extinction event on all and each.
 Be also wary of weaponized symbols and icons, my impertinent opinion of course.
Thanks for reading.

Losing Rumi in the Translation

A couple years ago I attended an interfaith discussion at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati: “Welcoming the Stranger.” Their guest, Ismaeel Chartier of the Clifton Mosque, spoke to this theme. One attendee literally thumped a Qu’ran on a table and demanded an answer of Chartier:

“Do you know what is written in this book?”

He delivered this inquiry with a sharp accusatory tone. Then he gave the Qur’an interpretation another thump.

The Imam calmly replied:

“It depends on the translation.”

dua

Translation is a science, it’s an art, and there’s a lot at stake. Interpretations that serve a trenchant agenda may wish to cloud understanding, to close open minds. This is an odious breach of ethics and a declaration of cultural militance. An imperious position that lusts power. Most Muslims are not Arabs, but each adherent relies upon a faithful transmittal of the Word in Arabic language. It is in the marrow of Islam.

Simple answers to complex societal questions are wrong-headed and arrogant, but they are widely believed and have entered the body politic like a body-blow.

Yesterday I happened upon an article in the The New Yorker on the inescapably important Persian poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī . Coleman Barks is a decades-long lover of Rūmī, but it is unfortunate that his is an interpretation that informs his Christian upbringing. Barks is not disingenuous in working the poet through that innate filter, but the heart of Rūmī speaks to Islam — the faithful focus of his heart and being is integral.

rumi-calligraphic

From the article:

Rūmī is often called a mystic, a saint, an enlightened man. He is less frequently described as a Muslim.”

Source: The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi – The New Yorker

Memes that attribute heartfelt insight through search-engine algorithms often misattribute, mistranslate, misinform. Truth becomes an early victim. Allow me to repeat the oft repeated:

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

This quote is attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a voice much worth hearing. But this very popular attribution adopted by innumerable memes is not sourced to Moynihan.

lies

To quote the late and astonishing John Ciardi: writer and world-class translator of Dante.

“Good Words to You.”

irvine-welsh
As an incurable pedant I assign vetting this quote as a reading assignment 🙂

Thanks for reading.