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

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  • 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 1 of 4 , Jun 30 8:05 AM
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      --- 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 2 of 4 , Jul 1, 2002
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        --- 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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