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There is a distinction between 'how do you say X in LANGUAGE' and 'what does this word mean'. It looks like you are asking for the latter. The former would be expressed in French by (I think) 'comment se dit X' as in 'comment se dit 'refrigerator' en français?' rather than 'qu'est-ce que le mot 'frigo' veut dire en anglais?'.


James

On 31/05/2013, at 12:24 AM, George Corley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hey, people.  I'm working on a series of shorts for Conlangery on some
> simple phrasebook-style phrases, one of which will be asking for the
> definition or translation of a word.  I've thought of a couple somewhat
> interesting examples from languages I know:
> 
> Spanish: "Que quiere decir (X)?" lit. "What does X want to say?" (with some
> word order fun)
> Mandarin: X有什么意思? "What meaning does X have."
> 
> And of course the more mundane examples that literally translate as "What
> does X mean?" or "How do you say X?" or "What is X?"
> 
> So, basically, I'm asking about interesting ways that natlangs or conlangs
> express this idiomatically, as a way to provoke some creative thinking.
> I'm also interested in how to express the "... in LANGUAGE" bit, as in,
> "How do you say simpático in English?" In the past, I have tended to use an
> instrumental for this meaning, but I'm not sure if this occurs in natural
> languages -- Mandarin might be close, as I believe you can say something
> like 用中文说, "use Chinese to say", but that may be in contexts more related
> to what language a message is conveyed in, and not more generally.