At 23:26 28/3/98, Robin Gaskell wrote:
> Years ago I submitted a paper to a conference in America that was about
>"Non-Literal Language." I got jumped on so severely, that I probably
>suppressed the word psychologically. APOLOGIES, APOLOGIES: I should have
>described idiom and metaphor as 'non-literal language.'
> And no matter how many word games Ray Brown and Paul Bartlett play,
Sorry - but I resent this implication very strongly!
I can't speak for Paul, but I WAS NOT PLAYING WORD GAMES. I have better
things to do with my time.
In your original mail you kept talking about idiom & figures of speech as
tho they're the same thing. This is unhelpful & misleading: they are
_different_ things. Now in your present mail you mix metaphor & idiom -
again, IMHO not helpfully.
>problems of non-literal language, in translation, are monumental, and a
>very serious matter for all of those wishing to see Global Communication.
It may surprise Robin, but I have noticed this before - even those 40+ long
years ago when I was doing Latin & Greek composition at school.
>unconsciously. Perhaps there is something that can be done to avoid this
>problem. Perhaps we can agree that when a German is *shaking your arm* he
>is doing the same as an Englishman who is *pulling your leg.*
This is IDIOM - even the most mediocre language teacher is aware of this.
Of course you can't translate these things literally and be understood.
Indeed, a perennial source of jokes among language teachers are the howlers
- actual or apocryphal - of schoolchildren who produce such literal
translations: "il a fusille' le jusqu'a`".
>auxlang creators need to wake up and write standard equivalents of natlang
>idioms into their auxlangs ... or, at least compile list of phrases that
>could be used to carry the meaning of the non-literal usages, when their
>auxlangs are being used as bridge languages in translation.
Maybe they should NOT have idioms. Maybe they should do what we have to do
when we translate from one natlang to another: translate the _meaning_, not
the verbatim literal translation of an idiom. No competent translator
would render "it is raining cats and dogs" as "il pleut des chats et des
chiens"; she would rephrase the English and translate the equivalent of
something like "it is raining very heavily" - and even then not take the
word for "heavy by weight" but find out what the French use in this
I hate to disillusion you, Robin, but the more intelligent creators of IALs
were aware of this problem long before you even knew of IALs. The problem
has been known, indeed, for thousands of years.
> So, the asterisk has already been given an association: *this wrong is.
> I challenge the cretive thinkers [?] of the Auxlang List to come
>something better than my suggestion!
If we avoid idioms, there's no need for any mark. In any case I scarcely
think putting an asterisk in front of, say, "pluva kates e hundes" is going
to make the slightest difference as regards comprehension. Unless the
reader or hearer is pretty familiar with English, the phrase will appear
stupid no matter how many asterisks or other symbols you put around it.
> Use a questionable idiom in speech, as Ray and Paul would have us do,
>could result in a friendly "WHat the bloody hell do you mean?" or a less
>friendly punch in the nose, if the spoken idiom is not understood. Fine,
>fine: communication is being seen to be done.
THIS IS A BLATANT MISREPRESENTATION OF WHAT I SAID.
In fact, it is the exact opposite; the petty sarcasm is quite misplaced.
I would NOT have you use an idiom in inter-cultural communication, whether
the idiom is questionable or not. To do so shows poor communication skills
If I'm to be misrepresented & greeted with petty sarcasm, then serious
discussion is somewhat precluded; so there's little point in continuing
Written in Net English Humor not necessarily marked