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I was thinking about creating a pure isolating language, and was curious
about how Chinese puts sentences together. I suppose I could get a textbook
on Chinese grammar, but what I tried turned out to be more fun.

I took a sentence from A Princess of Mars and ran it through Google
Translate. Here's the sentence:

"In submitting Captain Carter's strange manuscript to you in book form, I
believe that a few words relative to this remarkable personality will be of
interest."

 I was curious to see which of the words corresponded to "Captain Carter",
so I substituted "Captain Jack" and translated it again. To my surprise,
two translations had nothing whatsoever in common. I couldn't pick out the
one word for "Carter" or "Jack" that was different, because they were
virtually all different.

So then I made these substitutions:

...Captain Carter's...
...Captain Jack's...
...Captain Smith's...
...Captain Bill's...
...Captain Jones's...
...Captain Mark's...
...Captain Zappa's...

And all the Chinese translations were wildly different. So, out of
curiosity, I plugged the Chinese back into Google Translate to see how they
differed in their meaning. But guess what, they had almost no meaning left
after that double translation. And what little meaning remained, did not
reflect the meaning of the original sentence. Here are the results
translated back into English:

In the form of the book to submit the captain's captain's manuscript to
blame you, I believe, relative to the personality of the words will be
interested.

In writing in writing to you Captain Jack's manuscript, I believe that this
sentence will be meaningful relative to this remarkable personality.

When I wrote a strange manuscript to Captain Smith in writing, it would be
interesting to believe that this impressive personality might be.

It is possible to believe that this impressive personality may be
interesting when submitting a strange manuscript to Bill in writing.

In writing to the Jones Executive to submit a strange manuscript, I believe
that relative to this excellent personality, the word will be interesting.

In writing in writing to Mark Captain's manuscript, I believe that the
words of this outstanding personality may be interesting.

In writing to give you the strange manuscript of the captain of Zappa, I
believe that the word will be meaningful relative to this excellent
personality.

On the other hand, Google translate did something very different when I
repeated the same exercise using Vietnamese. There results were:

In sending Captain Carter's amazing manuscripts to you in book form, I
believe that some of the words related to this remarkable personality will
be of interest.

In bringing Captain Jack's strange manuscript to you in book form, I
believe that some of the words related to this salient feature will be of
interest.

In sending Captain Smith's strange manuscript to you in book form, I
believe that some of the words related to this remarkable personality will
be of interest.

In bringing Captain Zappa's strange manuscripts to you in book form, I
believe that some of the words related to this remarkable personality will
be of interest.

And so on with translations so uniformly almost perfect that it got boring
to continue trying.

I realize that a great deal of the trouble with Chinese is the vast amount
of semantic overloading of words, so it would appear that Vietnamese
grammar would make a better model for learning how isolating grammars work,
if for no other reason than Vietnamese grammar seems to make more sense to
a computer algorithm, so there's a good chance it would make more sense to
a mere human such as myself.


--gary