The winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature was someone who writes in Norwegian, Jon Fosse. That award is notable not just because Fosse is the first winner known best for his plays since Harold Pinter (2005). And not just because he is the first winner who writes in Norwegian since Sigrid Undset (1928).…… Continue reading Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize
I’ve written before about a court case which concluded that UK retailer Tesco mis-translated the phrase chocolate powder into Czech. Translation and food packaging – Language Miscellany The judgement of the EU Court of Justice was produced in French. When I wrote before on this case, the official English translation wasn’t yet available. The English…… Continue reading A tricky legal translation problem: food packaging
Here’s a link to a map of German in which the place names have all been translated into pseudo-English. https://www.facebook.com/TeutonicTongues/photos/a.2123278127942706/2699877216949458/ We recently stayed in Hambury, from where we did day trips to Henver and Lubbitch. On the way back, we changed trains in Theesbury and Minchin Ladbatch and Ea. I’ve linked to this map before.…… Continue reading Anglicised Germany—again
There are some differences between the brains of German speakers and Arabic speakers. Why do those differences arise? It seems to be because these 2 languages place different processing demands on some parts of the brain. Those conclusions emerge from a recent paper Native language differences in the structural connectome of the human brain, by…… Continue reading Does your first language affect the structure of your brain?
Is it possible to quantity how one language differs from another language? In 2015, two academic researchers tried to do that by creating what they called a ‘Language Friction Index’ (LFI). They describe the index in their paper Language friction and partner selection in cross-border R&D alliance formation, Amol M Joshi and Nandini Lahiri, Journal…… Continue reading Measuring how much languages differ
I was shocked to see this beginners’ translation blunder at Gatwick airport. This picture shows a box inviting passengers to donate their spare currency. The largest word on the box says Change. Presumably, this is the original English word. No doubt, the intended message is that passengers should give over their remaining small change. The…… Continue reading Translation gaffe at Gatwick
Many western European languages have a perfect tense, formed by combining an auxiliary verb (meaning ‘have’ or ‘be’) with a past participle. Different languages use this verb form in different ways. A recent paper used translations of a well-known French novel to explore those differences. The aim was to see which tense the translators used…… Continue reading Using translation to show how the perfect differs across languages
People are endlessly fascinated by words that are claimed to be untranslatable. A recent request by the American dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster led to many suggestions of words that are untranslatable. On 28 February 2023, the publisher tweeted a question: ‘Non-native English Speakers, what’s a word from your language that you think is perfect that doesn’t…… Continue reading Untranslatable words
Someone recently sent me a link to a good article about the carnival in German-speaking countries. https://www.mdr.de/brisant/ratgeber/fasching-karneval-fastnacht-102.html I first came across the carnival on an exchange visit to Frankfurt-am-Main when I was 13. My exchange partner’s family took us to the big carnival procession in Mainz on Rose Monday. Several years later, I saw the…… Continue reading Talking about the Carnival in German
A recent study suggests that approximants—sounds such as /l/; /r/; /w/; and /y/—appear less often in swear words than they do in other words. The paper is The sound of swearing: Are there universal patterns in profanity?, by Shiri Lev-Ari and Ryan McKay (2022) published online in December 2022 by the experimental psychology journal Psychonomic…… Continue reading Do swear words contain some sounds more often?