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Re: Notes on Óre; or the perils of dictionary translation

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  • gentlebeldin
    ... More precisely, it would be Mir ist heiss , lit. for me (it) is hot . The same impersonal construction with the logical subject in dative is often used
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 26, 2002
      --- In lambengolmor@y..., "Carl F. Hostetter" <Aelfwine@e...> wrote:

      > More than one German student has loudly exclaimed "Ich bin heiss!",
      > meaning to express "I am hot", because it is a word-for-word translation
      > of the English phrase. (In German idiom, however, it in fact means "I'm
      > horny". One should instead say "Es ist heiss", lit. "It is hot".)

      More precisely, it would be "Mir ist heiss", lit. "for me (it) is
      hot". The same impersonal construction with the logical subject in
      dative is often used to describe personal feelings ("mir ist kalt" --
      I'm cold, "mir ist schlecht" -- I'm feeling unwell). It's even more
      common in Russian, and one can translate such sentences literally
      from German to Russian (see footnote below), but not to English.
      Literary translation is something many German students of English do,
      however, so don't be surprised when you hear a German asking for
      a "bloody steak" (instead of a blue or rare one). :-)

      The same impersonal construction seems to be intended in Quenya for
      some verbs, especially _oola-_ (dream) and _or(a)_ (urge, impel,
      move). The impersonal construction with dative for "dream" is known
      from Russian ("mne snilos'", lit. it dreamed to me), and the same
      construction "mir träumte" can still be found in 19th century German
      (it's out of use now, replaced by "ich träumte" in everyday speech).
      HF quotes these cases in his course, but he has to admit "We don't
      know very many Quenya verbs that invite such constructions, though."
      (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/less-d.rtf, lesson 18)

      Without having a *complete* list of those verbs or even a hint at the
      underlying principle, how can one hope to speak/write correct Quenya?
      The literal translation of the personal "I dreamed" is incorrect, as
      it would be in Russian, and the same applies to other verbs we simply
      don't know to be of the same type.

      [Misusing a word because there is no evidence of its more proper usage
      is one thing -- though as you note, at a Platonic level it does not bode
      well for "spoken Quenya" -- but it is quite another, and quite inexcusable,
      to misuse a word simply because one can't be bothered to check primary
      sources (or even to cite them). Carl]

      Hans

      footnote: It's interesting (but hopelessly off topic) that German
      semantics is often closer to that of Russian that it is to the
      semantics of a Germanic language like English.
    • Petri Tikka
      ... [...] ... In Finnish the I am hot construction is done by the same way as denoting possession: Minulla on kylmä. If translated literallyu, it would be
      Message 2 of 4 , Jun 30, 2002
        --- In lambengolmor@y..., "Carl F. Hostetter" <Aelfwine@e...> wrote:
        [...]
        > More than one German student has loudly exclaimed "Ich bin heiss!",
        > meaning to express "I am hot", because it is a word-for-word translation
        > of the English phrase. (In German idiom, however, it in fact means "I'm
        > horny". One should instead say "Es ist heiss", lit. "It is hot".)

        In Finnish the "I am hot" construction is done by the same way as
        denoting possession: "Minulla on kylmä." If translated literallyu, it
        would be "I have cold" or (even more poorly) "At I is cold". "I am hot"
        translated without human inteligence, "Minä olen kuuma", would still
        connote being hot, but in a sexual way (in a different way from "horny").

        (All this reminds me of a silly word play. _haista_ is the intransitive
        word for "to smell" in Finnish. _heissen_ is the word for "be named" in
        German. "Ich Heisse Petri" could be interpeted in Finnish (in "hoono
        soomi") as (approximately) "I smell like Petri".:)

        > Unfortunately for the prevailing efforts to "speak Quenya"

        I wonder: where did the idiom arise from? Hmmm...

        > coerced into an idiosyncratic system for which consistency is
        > nonetheless claimed and artificially imposed),

        Consistency is impossible to reach from scarce material of internal
        inconsistency. How could one consider it possible?

        > the use of such secondary compilations _in place of_ (rather than in
        > _aid_ of) consultation and consideration of the primary sources

        I personally only use wordlists that cite the sources, and check the
        sources, if available to me, before using the word. The sad thing is, I
        don't yet have any VT-issues.

        [I'm mailing _VT_ 44 off to everyone tomorrow, along with all outstanding
        back-issue orders. You'll have your packet of _VT_s, and lots of
        interesting reading, within a week. Enjoy! Carl]

        Adapting a saying from the Shire: "A dictionary is as dictionary does".
        With this I mean, IMHO, that a good dictionary could be made to serve as
        a way to learn languages, if sufficently complete. It would, in itself,
        contain explenations using "the methods of historical and comparative
        linguistics". I think that at least one is made similarly to that:
        http://www.jrrvf.com/~hisweloke/sindar/main.html .

        [I quite agree that it is _possible_ to create a dictionary of
        Tolkien's languages that will be _useful_ to scholar and student alike,
        through full and thorough source citation, cross-reference among entries,
        and by very careful consideration in writing the entries. But the fact is
        that the dictionaries I've seen thus far fall short of the mark. Didier's
        dictionary (what I've seen of it -- I _do_ wish Didier would get the
        Tolkien Estate's blessing/permission and publish it) does look like the
        best effort I've seen to date; but even he implies that it has
        shortcomings along the lines that I've mentioned (see:
        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfling/message/15989). In any event, no one
        has ever learned to _speak_ a dead language -- and Tolkien's languages are
        most assuredly that, and what's more, they have never been anything but --
        by reading a dictionary. Carl]

        PS: What do you think about my "Kalevala translations" at
        http://www.geocities.com/petristikka/elvish/ ?

        Petri Tikka
      • Petri Tikka
        ... Yes, I agree. Almost all of them are poorly and quickly done, without citations and without any cross-references. One must say in defence of the ones Helge
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 1, 2002
          --- In lambengolmor@y..., "Carl F. Hostetter" <Aelfwine@e...> wrote:
          > [I quite agree that it is _possible_ to create a dictionary of
          > Tolkien's languages that will be _useful_ to scholar and student alike,
          > through full and thorough source citation, cross-reference among entries,
          > and by very careful consideration in writing the entries. But the fact is
          > that the dictionaries I've seen thus far fall short of the mark.

          Yes, I agree. Almost all of them are poorly and quickly done, without
          citations and without any cross-references. One must say in defence
          of the ones Helge Fauskanger has done, that they indeed do have
          source citations (most don't), but of course, only from publications
          available to the maker at the time of the creation.

          [Part of the purpose of Web publishing is that documents can be kept up to
          date with ease. I would have thought that Helge could have updated his
          word-list some time in the past two years. Carl]

          And so, the instance of the misinterpretation of _óre_ in "the Quenya
          Corpus Wordlist" is not, in fact, the wholy best example, for VT41
          had not been published during the making of the Wordlist. So the
          discussions in VT41:11 weren't available for citations. The case is
          different in his newer private "Quettaparma Quenyallo", since it
          does refer to this issue.

          [Helge has refused me a copy of his dictionary, so I wouldn't know. I do
          wish he'd get the Tolkien Estate's blessing/permission and publish his
          dictionary properly. As for _óre_, I never said it was the _best_ example;
          but it is a good one. Further, Helge's is not a "misinterpretation", but
          it is certainly an _incomplete_ interpretation, presenting as it does
          only a small part of the available information about this word, and its
          significance across the decades of Tolkien's creativity. Carl]

          But even that wordlist, indeed, falls "short of the mark", not being
          carefully made at all points. But it is the best Quenya-dictionary
          I'm aware of. A much better one could be made, of that I am sure.

          > Didier's dictionary (what I've seen of it -- I _do_ wish Didier would
          > get the Tolkien Estate's blessing/permission and publish it) does
          > look like the best effort I've seen to date; but even he implies
          > that it has shortcomings along the lines that I've mentioned (see:
          > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfling/message/15989).

          Yes, I am aware of them. But at least it is attempting to be accurate.

          > In any event, no one has ever learned to _speak_ a dead language

          No, not to fully speak. That is impossible for the simple
          fact that to learn to fully _speak_ one must hear people
          who actually _speak_ the language. If no speakers are
          alive, the atempt to do so is doomed from the start.

          > -- and Tolkien's languages are most assuredly that, and
          > what's more, they have never been anything but --
          > by reading a dictionary. Carl]

          A dictionary can be a wonderful helper, but its contents
          are dead without context.

          Petri Tikka
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