29 September 2015

Negative first-person questions

Having recently encountered "Amn't I" in Irish short stories and in conversation with an Irishman, I was about to blog on the topic of "negative first-person questions" in English, but after a quick Google search and some interesting finds, I now see that all I need do is share some links. So here they are two of the best:
  • Amn’t I glad we use “amn’t” in Ireland? from Sentence first, an Irishman's blog about the English language. Excellent. The responses are also fascinating, not least on posted on 5 March 2014 by Malie who wrote: I grew up in Devon with ‘to be’ as an almost regular verb in the present tense (I be, thee best, he/she/it be (or bes), we/yous/they be) and the negative contraction is just ‘ben’t’ (or ‘bain’t), with the first-person question form being ‘ben’t I?’ often without the ‘t’ pronounced. ‘aren’t I?’ is one of those things that always trips me up a little in Standard English, ‘amn’t I?’ isn’t something I’d say but feels much…easier.
  • Amn't by Michael Quinion of World Wide Words includes a brief description of the related history of 'ain't' and 'aren't'
Note that The Story of Ain't on the Language Log is a review of a book by David Skinner. The review does not, however, say anything about the story of the contraction 'ain't'.

I note in passing that the only form I was ever aware of hearing or using in Australia for negative first-person questions is 'Aren't I?' This, despite the fact that H W Fowler, writing in 1926, commented on these contractions in A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, indicating that, for him, 'an’t' wasn’t yet extinct while 'aren’t' I didn’t yet exist.

I also note in passing that this post and these links give very short shrift to the notion often expressed by those learning English as a second language that English conjugations are very simple.

21 September 2015

The quality angel

Whether drafting, revising or proofreading, translators often engage in extended thought dialogue with an imaginary reader who is not only wise, bilingual and language sensitive, but also a severe judge of translation quality, communication skills, cultural adaptation and much more besides. She is, in a word, the quality angel on the translator's shoulder. In talking to her, translators justify and defend their renderings of important or especially challenging passages.

Even translators who have extended discussions picking through multiple aspects of key jobs with clients with communication skills approaching the quality angel's know that the angel must never be given a full hearing for fear of drowning the client in unnecessary detail. When a client query matches one of her exchanges with the translator, she does provide raw material to justify and defend choices.

So where is this heading? Well, while I haven't found an internet-accessible example of a discussion between a quality angel and a client, my readers might be interested in the following.

Quand l'anglais rend les entreprises du CAC 40 audacieuses ... par Grégoire Pinson, dans le numéro de Challenge du 3 septembre, présente une étude sur la traduction du français en anglais des messages des présidents dans les rapports annuels par Michaël Vallée, professeur associé à l’EDC Paris Business School, qui vient de paraître dans la revue Gérer & Comprendre de l’Ecole des mines. Surprise : les propos varient selon la langue utilisée. Tentative d’explication.

While Pinson's article is just a click away, Michaël Vallée's paper is not. All Gérer & Comprendre offers is the following résumé in French and its translation.

Voici le résumé :
La traduction du français en anglais transforme-t-elle le sens du discours des présidents des sociétés du CAC 40 ?
Michaël VALLÉE,
Enseignant-chercheur, EDC Paris Business School
Ce travail se propose de montrer des différences dans les traductions du français en anglais des messages des présidents des sociétés du CAC 40. Alors que la traduction en anglais devrait être le plus fidèle que possible au texte originel en français, on observe des contextes dans lesquels certains choix de traduction marquent de grandes différences. La tendance générale consiste à présenter en français l’entreprise de manière factuelle et neutre, alors que la traduction en anglais en donne une vision beaucoup plus positive et valorisante.
And here is Gérer & Comprendre's English abstract:
Does the translation from French into English of communications from corporate chairmen alter their meaning?
Michaël Vallée,
Research professor, EDC Paris Business School
The aim of this study is to show how the messages from the Board chairmen of companies listed on the CAC 40 (in the annual reports) are translated into English. Even though the translations should be very similar to the French messages, some noticeable variations can be found in English. It has been observed that companies are depicted in a factual and neutral way in French whereas the English translations reveal a more positive and encouraging way of describing it.
Allow me to add that I have read Vallée's paper closely and will have plenty to say should it beome readily accessible to the general public.

19 September 2015

Four miracles of translation

On 18 September fellow Iberia-based translator Brian Harris posted an excellent piece entitled The Four Miracles of Translation. Recommended reading. Brian's blog is called Unprofessional Translation.

04 September 2015

anglocom, Canada: Best practice LSE

There are many language service enterprises, or LSEs, also know as 'translation agencies', but there is only one anglocom This Canadian company's exemplary website — with the faces of some of its translators and writers right there at the top of the homepage — features clear statements promoting an impressive added-value proposition.
Clever logo too!

Be sure to check out their excellent publications:

01 September 2015

Country qualifiers and the like

My colleagues at WLF Think Tank– producers of 101 things a translator needs to know – have been thinking about 'country qualifiers' and the like.

So far, we have simply compiled questions, comments and observations.

Some examples

Headlines from today's Financial Times (my bold):
Google under fire for India market abuse
India faith census spurs debate
US to hit Chinese hackers with sanctions
An example from The Guardian on 15 July 2014:
Germany team return to heroes' welcome before Brandenburg Gate
(compare the headline with the first words in the second paragraph).
In the case of sports teams, "England" and "Germany" players go by that name precisely because they play for England or Germany. The country is not so much a qualifier, as a descriptor that tells us that they play for the England or Germany team. In other words England or Germany stands for "the England team" and "the German team", respectively.
  • Victoria, Australia, has its "Victoria Police".
  • The European Patent Office uses expressions like "the United Kingdom delegate / contingent / view".
  • Americans say "California wines", not "Californian wines". Indeed, Americans, apparently, seldom use the adjective Californian ("California weather", "California beaches", etc.).
  • Adjective forms of country qualifiers are the only ones used when naming currencies, embassies, presidents, etc..
  • India vs. Indian are especially useful in North America and India.
  • Some country names have no adjectival form in English, so leave no option (e.g. US, UK and their long forms; also Luxembourg).

Questions, comments and observations


  • Is the term 'country qualifier' the best way to identify the issue? Given that it doesn't produce any hits with Google, it may not.
  • Have others observed a recent increase in the use of 'country qualifiers' in noun form rather than the traditional adjective forms?
  • The distinctions the different forms make clear are fairly obvious but have any academics or others written about the phenomenon?

  • Noun forms clearly appeal to headline editors.
  • Euphony is often, it would appear, an unconscious driver.
  • Political correctness is sometimes a factor. Consider India(n).
  • Some country names and adjectives pose special problems. Example: Argentina, Argentine, Argentinian.

NavTechGloss: client satisfait

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