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The difficulties of judging a language which you don't speak natively (was Re: The difficulties of being weirder than English)

From:Javier BF <uaxuctum@...>
Date:Saturday, May 29, 2004, 0:56
>The first item: somebody here posted an interesting link a few weeks >ago to Talmy's typology of verbs of motion >(, if anyone's interested).
I had already heard about this typology of verbs of motion, but had a look into that link anyway... only to get nonplussed at this piece of utter nonsense: <quote> "Because of the different lexicalization patterns they characteristically use, English and Spanish differ in the way they present information. Thus, in English, information about the manner of movement will usually be given in the background, whereas in Spanish, if present, it will typically appear foregrounded. What is more, since English can accumulate several paths accompanying just one verb, the amount of background information that English can convey will be much richer, giving as a result that not all of the information can be kept in the Spanish equivalent. Thus, sentences like the following cannot be adequately rendered in Spanish: (2.18) Come right back down out from up in there! (2.19) The man ran back down into the cellar In (2.18) a very complex path is present. Nothing similar can be expressed in Spanish. With regards to (2.19) any of the possible translations will not manage to capture all the backgrounded information, namely, that the manner of movement was running, that it was a return trajectory, that it was a downwards movement and that a place was entered. The rest will have to be presented in the foreground, or omitted altogether, as the following possible translations for the English sentences attest [...]. Any attempt to capture more of the English original will sound unnatural in Spanish or will not be faithful." </quote> Then, the guy, who I had thought to be knowledgeable, lists a series of poor near-translations for (2.19), in each instance pointing out the semantic nuances from the original they fail to express, and as you see he claims those examples are all and the closest Spanish can get to try to express the "much richer" content of the English sentence without sounding "unnatural" or being "unfaithful"; proving that, given that his knowledge of Spanish is clearly limited and second-hand, he should have first cared to ask a native speaker before daring to be so bold as to state categorically that Spanish cannot express it: "El hombre bajó de vuelta corriendo al interior del sótano" That Spanish sentence expresses every nuance of meaning conveyed by "The man ran back down into the cellar" (running, returning, going down, entering), and there's no added nuance nor anything awkward or unusual in it at all - the sentence sounds perfectly normal. As for the sentence (2.18), of course it's also nothing impossible to express in Spanish - for a native speaker, that is: "¡Vuelve de allá adentro a aquí abajo enseguida!" This Spanish translation conveys every semantic nuance in "Come right back down out from up in there!" (going out, going down, going towards speaker, doing it back and right away) and, in fact, it sounds to me far less convoluted than its English equivalent. Cheers, Javier


Marshall and Endemann <vaiaata@...>
Tim May <butsuri@...>
John Cowan <cowan@...>