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Re: [volapuk] El

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  • Jim Henry
    On Sun, Sep 26, 2010 at 8:01 AM, kalvoup ... I m not sure it actually has anything to do with definiteness. It s a proper name marker, more like certain
    Message 1 of 12 , Sep 26, 2010
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      On Sun, Sep 26, 2010 at 8:01 AM, kalvoup
      <robert.morris@...> wrote:
      > I'd like to clarify something regarding the article EL. The dictionaries says it means "the", but is it not the case that it's actually an adefinite article, rather than a definite one? This puts it in line with Volapük nouns, which are also adefinite.

      I'm not sure it actually has anything to do with definiteness. It's
      a proper name marker, more like certain Loglan/Lojban particles
      perhaps than anything in natlangs or in most older auxlangs. I
      suspect de Jong described it as a definite article because some
      language, e.g. ancient Greek, use definite articles with proper names.
      But that's a marginal use of the definite article in Greek, if I
      understand correctly, the more central use being, y'know, to mark
      *definiteness*. Proper names are definite by their very nature; a
      language will generally either always mark them with the definite
      article, or never do so, or do so always with certain names (e.g. The
      Hague) and never with others -- it's an arbitrary rule in any given
      language, not done on a case by case basis according to whether this
      specific use of a proper name in this particular sentence is definite
      or not. (Sometimes English, at least, will use a proper name not to
      signify the person that name normally refers to but a type of person
      of whom they're an exemplar; in which case we'll generally use an
      indefinite article with the name -- e.g. "he had the strength of *an
      Achilles*".)

      In an auxlang or engelang, you often have more or less unassimilated
      proper names from foreign languages -- a lot more often than you have
      in typical natlang discourse, where most proper names mentioned are
      traditional names within a given culture, or at least are thoroughly
      assimilated to the language's phonotactics, orthography, and
      morphology. An auxlang or engelang doesn't always have that luxury,
      thus de Jong's ingenious invention of "el" and the (probably
      independent) reinvention of similar particles by James Cooke Brown for
      Loglan.

      On Sun, Sep 26, 2010 at 10:14 AM, Michael Everson <everson@...> wrote:
      > On 26 Sep 2010, at 14:47, kalvoup wrote:
      >
      >> I used that word because I couldn't find one that means "definite or indefinite". And because "a-" is an English prefix, and "definite" is an English word, it's arguably legitimate.
      >
      > No, since it doesn't mean anything. "a-" is the Greek privative prefix and is derived from Proto-Indo-European vocalic n-, just as Latin "in-" is.

      > "Adefinite" would not mean "definite or indefinite"

      I like the idea of a word that means "unmarked for definiteness". I'm
      not sure that "adefinite" is the best possible coinage for that
      meaning, but your arguments against kalvoup's coinage seem weak to me,
      and I can't think of a better word for that concept. Etymology is not
      destiny, and there are other examples of English coinages using a-
      with a given stem in constrast to an older im- or in- negative used
      with that stem; for instance, "arational" coined in contrast to
      "rational" and "irrational" to signify something to which reason
      doesn't apply or which transcends reason in some way, or (with a
      different kind of contrast) "amoral" vs. "moral" and "immoral" to
      signify someone who's not simply violating morality in one particular
      way but a sociopath who ignores morality entirely.


      On Sun, Sep 26, 2010 at 2:36 PM, Michael Everson <everson@...> wrote:
      > On 26 Sep 2010, at 18:52, Ralph Midgley wrote:
      >
      >> It does, however, mean altering the story a bit, e.g. where Alice makes a mistake in English, this has to be a mistake in Volapük.
      >
      > Actually, most translations localize this to the target language.

      Indeed, it seems that failing to do -- for instance, trying to render
      the English mistake as literally as possible and explaining in a
      footnote that this corresponds to a grammatical error in the source
      language, or simply translating it in normally grammatical Volapük --
      would be a cop-out. Rendering that sort of thing into an analogical
      construction in the target language is of the essence of translation;
      one can't always do so for every sentence of a work, but if you aren't
      going to try to do so as often as possible, why bother to translate
      something?

      --
      Jim Henry
      http://www.pobox.com/~jimhenry/
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