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Portuguese (X: word; Y: language):

"Como se diz X [em Y]?"
"O que significa X [em Y]?"
"O que quer dizer X [em Y]?"

In my under-development conlang Montakielu, a possible structure would
be like that:

<3rd person> <mean> <thing>-<interrogative particle> <speak> <language>


Até mais!

Leonardo


2013/5/30 George Corley <[log in to unmask]>:
> 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.