25 November 2016

What can translators learn from news agencies?

As mentioned in the header, this blog focuses on a small niche in the language services market, namely the adaptation of technical journalism for clients who seek to influence a clearly definied readership. The following is not directly relevant, but has the merit of directly adressing another aspect of translation work involving journalism.

Translate or not to translate? What can translators learn from news agencies? by Hanna Gembus.

More to come following ITI's May 2017 conference where this paper will be presented.

25 October 2016

Cathars, better late than never

Libération, La Dépêche du Midi and other French newspapers relayed an AFP press release on the rather amazing fact that the Roman Catholic church has formally pardoned those who massacred the Cathars, also know as Albigenses, some 800 years ago. See also The heresy of perfection.

The article in Libération's edition of 16 October was entitled L’Église d’Ariège demande pardon pour le massacre des cathares.
La Dépêche du Midi's version of 17 October was headed: Cathares : l'église demande pardon.

The name Cathar comes from the Greek word katharoi, which means 'pure ones'. 

Vue prise le 25 juin 2001 du château Cathare de Montségur perché sur un rocher appelé "Pog" à 1207 mètres d'altitude. Haut lieu du Catharisme au 13e siècle, Montségur fut assiégé en 1241 et tomba le 16 mars 1244 où 205 Cathares furent brûlés vifs. Photo Pascal Pavani. AFP

24 October 2016

Mer et Marine à Euronaval 2016 : Succès pour le stand et le magazine

Source: Bon bilan pour la 25ème édition d’Euronaval

Mer et Marine : Succès pour le stand et le magazine

Concernant Mer et Marine, partenaire privilégié d’Euronaval depuis 10 ans, nous disposions pour la première fois d’un stand sur le salon. Une expérience très concluante puisque nous y avons reçu de très nombreux visiteurs et lecteurs, venus échanger avec la rédaction et l’équipe commerciale. Nous tenions à les remercier chaleureusement pour leur visite et les commentaires très positifs dont ils nous ont fait part, tant pour le travail effectué dans le cadre de notre édition quotidienne numérique que pour notre nouveau Hors-série paru à l’occasion d’Euronaval. Un magazine de 98 pages qui s’est pour ainsi dire « arraché », ne nous laissant en fin de salon qu’un petit stock qui sera diffusé dans les mois qui viennent, grâce au GICAN, sur les Pavillons France des grands salons internationaux dédiés à la défense.

Cette année, le magazine n'a été publié qu'en une seule langue, l'anglais, traduis par moi-même.

L'équipe sur le stand Mer et Marine à Euronaval (© : Mer et Marine)

10 October 2016

Of Sacks, Edelman, perception, terminology and more #2

When Sacks writes:
Categorization is the central task of the brain, and reentrant signaling allows the brain to categorize its own categorizations, then recategorize these, and so on.
it suggests to me first, that Wittgenstein was on the right track, and more importantly that Edelman's theory of Neural Darwinism (and Sacks's interpretation thereof) gives a deeper explanation of why categorisation is so central and how it works.

And when I read
This perceptual generalization (of 'chairhood') is dynamic, so it can be continually updated, and it depends on the active and incessant orchestration of countless details.
it suggests to me:

  1. That it may be time to review that most fundamental concepts of lexicography and terminology in the light of Edelman's theory. Perhaps they too need to be more dynamic.
    (If this has already been done then I'd be very grateful if anyone out there could send me a relevant link or two.)
  2. That this may help us to understand why text analysis on the basis of dictionary definitions and/or term databases often leaves one with the feeling that the author has actually managed to say something different because the overall impression left by a given passage depends to some extent or another on the fuzziness of the meanings of many if not all words and terms.
  3. That this may help us to understand how superior observers, specialists and devotees of all sorts are able to steadily increase the amount of useful information they can extract from the close observation of whatever it is they are interested in. Think of the golf instructor watching a player's swing or a swimming coach watching a swimmer's stroke.
I may not be making myself completely clear (although I can say, in French, je me comprends) and I may not even be saying anything original, so feel free to set me straight if you wish.

Of Oliver Sacks, Gerald Edelman, perception, terminology and more #1

I've just finished reading On the move by Oliver Sacks.

The second last chapter is entitled A new vision of the mind.

On p363 of the UK edition we have (with my punctuation):
Where perception of objects is concerned, Edelman* likes to say, the world is not "labeled"; it does not come "already parsed into objects". We must make our perceptions through our own categorizations. "Every perception is an act of creation," as Edelman says. As we move about, our sense organs take samplings of the world, and from these, maps are created in the brain. There then occurs with experience a selective strengthening of those mappings that correspond to successful perceptions  successful in that they prove the most useful and powerful for the building of "reality".
Edelman speaks here of a further, integrative activity peculiar to more complex nervous systems, this he calls "reentrant signaling". In his terms, the perception of a chair, for example, depends first on the synchronization of activated neuronal groups to form a "map", then a further synchronization of a number of scattered mappings throughout the visual cortex -- mappings related to many different perceptual aspects of the chair ( its size, its shape, its color, its "leggedness", its relation to other sorts of chairs  armchairs, rocking chairs, baby chairs, etc.). In this way, a rich and flexible percept of "chairhood" is achieved, which allows the instant recognition of innumerable sorts of chairs as chairs. This perceptual generalization is dynamic, so it can be continually updated, and it depends on the active and incessant orchestration of countless details.
Such correlations and synchronization of neuronal firing in widely separated areas of the brain is made possible by very rich connections between the brains maps  connections which are reciprocal and may contain millions of fibers. Stimuli from, say, touching a chair may affect one set of maps, stimuli from seeing it may affect another set. Reentrant signaling takes place between these set of maps as part of the process of perceiving a chair.
Categorization is the central task of the brain, and reentrant signaling allows the brain to categorize its own categorizations, then recategorize these, and so on. Such a process is the beginning of an enormous upward path enabling ever higher levels of thought and consciousness.
*: Gerald M Edelman, author of Neural Darwinism (1987) 

Many who have read about the origins or the philosophy of terminology will have realised that the decision to focus on the perception of a chair rather than, say, a table or anything else is no accident. It has been used by others including Steven Pinker in Words and Rules (p273 of the Perennial paperback edition), though I'm not sure who used it first. In any case, as Pinker says, this superb cartoon from The New Yorker "says it all".

"Attention, everyone! I'd like to introduce the newest member of our family."
The New Yorker Collection 1977 Jeff Kaufman from cartoonbank.com. All rights reserved.

The initial insights in this area appeared in Philosophical Investigations (German: Philosophische Untersuchungen), where Ludwig Wittgenstein uses the word 'Spiele' as his example.

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