Tag Archives: Linguistics

languagehat.com: COPS AND MULTILINGUALISM.

COPS AND MULTILINGUALISM.

At first I was intrigued when I saw the link to the latest issue (Vol. 11, No. 1) of the journal Reconstruction (at wood s lot), since its theme was “Multilingual Realities in Translation.” Then I got discouraged when I turned to the Introduction and saw the epigraph “No theorization, inasmuch as it is produced in a language, will be able to dominate the Babelian performance” (by, of course, Jacques Derrida) and the first sentence “The idea of this issue is to consider the possibility of Babelian performances in the context of scholarly mediations on multilingual realities in translation,” and I almost gave up when the first two articles turned out to be “Decotitles, the Animated Discourse of Fox’s Recent Anglophonic Internationalism” (by DT Kofoed) and “Call Center Cultures and the Transnationalization of Affective Labor” (by John Muthyala). No offense if dense theory and phrases like “the Transnationalization of Affective Labor” are your meat and drink, but they’re not mine. But “Facing off: French and English in Bon Cop, Bad Cop” by Heather Macdougall sounded interesting enough to check out, and aside from the obligatory nod to Theory (“a fixed dichotomy separated by an empty void”—an empty void? what other kind could there be?), there’s some interesting background on a truly bilingual movie, apparently “the highest-grossing domestically-produced film in Canadian history”:

Patrick Huard, an established Québecois actor, first thought of the concept for a bilingual film when he was presenting at the Genies, the Canadian film awards. Relating the incident to Playback magazine, he explains,

The French-Canadians and the English were laughing at the same jokes, and I wasn’t prepared for that. I was doing a joke on the French, and the English would laugh. And the other way around. […] I was surprised, and realized that maybe there’s something that we have in common. The one thing we can laugh about together is our differences. That’s when I had a flash for Bon Cop.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop is a Canadian version [of the formulaic odd-couple cop movie] that employs Canada’s most obvious cultural dichotomy, language, to provide a contrast between the two principal characters. David Bouchard is a hot-tempered Montreal cop who chain-smokes, drives too fast, and is always one wrong move away from being suspended; Martin Ward, by contrast, is a Toronto officer with an exemplary record, an ambition to get a desk job, and a healthy diet low in cholesterol. The two are forced to work together when a murder victim is found on the Ontario-Quebec border. …

The issue of subtitling was dealt with in Canada by making available two versions: one print that subtitled the English dialogue in French, and a second that subtitled the French in English. Interestingly, no version was struck to include subtitles in both languages thereby allowing the film to be seen by monolinguals from both communities in the same theatre. (While it was not possible in theatrical screenings, the DVD version allows bilingual viewers to switch off the subtitles completely, but again there is no option to have both languages appear in the subtitles). Separate advertising materials were also prepared in the two official languages. Both theatrical trailers emphasized the linguistic subject matter of the film, although there is a notable difference in the approach of the two versions. The English trailer, which ran under the tagline “Shoot first, translate later,” contained scenes of David speaking French-accented English and only one, clearly facetious, line of subtitled French dialogue. It would be possible, then—and perhaps this was the goal of the trailer editors—for English audiences to assume that the film would be about French Canadians without actually being in French. By contrast, the French trailer contains an almost equal number of lines in French and English, and included the slightly more conciliatory tag line “Pour une fois, les deux solitudes vont se parler … peut-être”. The marketing strategy hints at a greater acceptance of bilingualism among the French-speaking population than among the Anglophone community; this difference between the two groups is also supported within the text of the film, albeit in a more nuanced way.

There’s a detailed discussion of the use of language in the movie, with extended quotes and a blessed minimum of Theory.

Posted by languagehat at July 2, 2011 07:24 PM

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languagehat.com: COPS AND MULTILINGUALISM.

COPS AND MULTILINGUALISM.

At first I was intrigued when I saw the link to the latest issue (Vol. 11, No. 1) of the journal Reconstruction (at wood s lot), since its theme was “Multilingual Realities in Translation.” Then I got discouraged when I turned to the Introduction and saw the epigraph “No theorization, inasmuch as it is produced in a language, will be able to dominate the Babelian performance” (by, of course, Jacques Derrida) and the first sentence “The idea of this issue is to consider the possibility of Babelian performances in the context of scholarly mediations on multilingual realities in translation,” and I almost gave up when the first two articles turned out to be “Decotitles, the Animated Discourse of Fox’s Recent Anglophonic Internationalism” (by DT Kofoed) and “Call Center Cultures and the Transnationalization of Affective Labor” (by John Muthyala). No offense if dense theory and phrases like “the Transnationalization of Affective Labor” are your meat and drink, but they’re not mine. But “Facing off: French and English in Bon Cop, Bad Cop” by Heather Macdougall sounded interesting enough to check out, and aside from the obligatory nod to Theory (“a fixed dichotomy separated by an empty void”—an empty void? what other kind could there be?), there’s some interesting background on a truly bilingual movie, apparently “the highest-grossing domestically-produced film in Canadian history”:

Patrick Huard, an established Québecois actor, first thought of the concept for a bilingual film when he was presenting at the Genies, the Canadian film awards. Relating the incident to Playback magazine, he explains,

The French-Canadians and the English were laughing at the same jokes, and I wasn’t prepared for that. I was doing a joke on the French, and the English would laugh. And the other way around. […] I was surprised, and realized that maybe there’s something that we have in common. The one thing we can laugh about together is our differences. That’s when I had a flash for Bon Cop.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop is a Canadian version [of the formulaic odd-couple cop movie] that employs Canada’s most obvious cultural dichotomy, language, to provide a contrast between the two principal characters. David Bouchard is a hot-tempered Montreal cop who chain-smokes, drives too fast, and is always one wrong move away from being suspended; Martin Ward, by contrast, is a Toronto officer with an exemplary record, an ambition to get a desk job, and a healthy diet low in cholesterol. The two are forced to work together when a murder victim is found on the Ontario-Quebec border. …

The issue of subtitling was dealt with in Canada by making available two versions: one print that subtitled the English dialogue in French, and a second that subtitled the French in English. Interestingly, no version was struck to include subtitles in both languages thereby allowing the film to be seen by monolinguals from both communities in the same theatre. (While it was not possible in theatrical screenings, the DVD version allows bilingual viewers to switch off the subtitles completely, but again there is no option to have both languages appear in the subtitles). Separate advertising materials were also prepared in the two official languages. Both theatrical trailers emphasized the linguistic subject matter of the film, although there is a notable difference in the approach of the two versions. The English trailer, which ran under the tagline “Shoot first, translate later,” contained scenes of David speaking French-accented English and only one, clearly facetious, line of subtitled French dialogue. It would be possible, then—and perhaps this was the goal of the trailer editors—for English audiences to assume that the film would be about French Canadians without actually being in French. By contrast, the French trailer contains an almost equal number of lines in French and English, and included the slightly more conciliatory tag line “Pour une fois, les deux solitudes vont se parler … peut-être”. The marketing strategy hints at a greater acceptance of bilingualism among the French-speaking population than among the Anglophone community; this difference between the two groups is also supported within the text of the film, albeit in a more nuanced way.

There’s a detailed discussion of the use of language in the movie, with extended quotes and a blessed minimum of Theory.

Posted by languagehat at July 2, 2011 07:24 PM

Be It Numbers or Words – The Structure of Our Language Remains the Same

It is one of the wonders of language: We cannot possibly anticipate or memorize every potential word, phrase, or sentence. Yet we have no trouble constructing and understanding myriads of novel utterances every day. How do we do it? Linguists say we naturally and unconsciously employ abstract rules—syntax.

How abstract is language? What is the nature of these abstract representations?  And do the same rules travel among realms of cognition? A new study exploring these questions—by psychologists Christoph Scheepers, Catherine J. Martin, Andriy Myachykov, Kay Teevan, and Izabela Viskupova of the University of Glasgow, and Patrick Sturt of the University of Edinburgh—makes what Scheepers calls “a striking new finding”: The process of storing and reusing syntax “works across cognitive domains.”

More specifically: “The structure of a math equation correctly solved is preserved in memory and determines the structuring of a subsequent sentence that a person has to complete.” Neuroscientists have found evidence suggesting a link between math and language, “but this is the first time we’ve shown it in a behavioral setup.”

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Read the rest here: psychologicalscience.org

Crowdsourcing: Using Language Students to Translate the Internet via @languagenews

reCAPTCHA
With Luis von Ahn’s reCAPTCHA, users help
correct distorted words in digitized books.

What’s the News: Nothing…yet! But word is that  Luis von Ahn–the Carnegie Mellon professor behind the clever projects reCAPTCHA and ESP Game–is bringing his crowdsourcing know-how to bear on the problem of web translation. With Duolingo, a project his lab has been working on for the last year and a half, people learning new languages will serve as translators. How well will that work? It remains to be seen, but according to von Ahn, a private beta version should be launching in several weeks.

How the Heck: Getting good translations online is difficult; it generally requires a human being, and certainly isn’t free. von Ahn described his plan for making decent, free web translations possible to TechCrunch:

“The solution was to transform language translation into something that millions of people WANT to do, and that helps with the problem of lack of bilinguals: language education. It is estimated that there are over 1 billion people learning a foreign language. So, the site that we’ve been working on, Duolingo, will be a 100% free language learning site in which people learn by helping to translate the Web. That is, they learn by doing.

“We’re now mostly testing the site, and it really works — it teaches users a foreign language very well, and the combined translations that we get in return are as accurate as those from professional language translators,” he says. (via TechCrunch)

What’s the Context:

  • reCAPTCHA and ESP Game (now called Google Image Labeler) use crowdsourcing on problems that machine learning just can’t solve:
  • With reCAPTCHA, the distorted words you have to identify before making an online purchase, posting a comment, and so on are drawn from digitized books. Computer algorithms trying to correct glitches in the scanned text can’t tell what the words are, but humans can. So with each purchase, you’re helping books go online.
  • In ESP Game, users are presented with images to tag as part of a game. The result: when you search for images online, the results correspond to what you’re looking for.

The Future Holds: A private beta version, for starters: You can sign up to be notified on Duolingo’s progress here.

April 13th, 2011 2:05 PM Tags: , ,

by Veronique Greenwood in Technology | 9 comments | RSS feed | Trackback >

Let’s talk dolphin!

A dolphin with a scuba diver

If dolphins could talk: ‘Get your face out of my blowhole!’ Photograph: Stephen Frink/Getty Images/Science Faction

The vision was set out in Life magazine in 1961 by Dr John C Lilly, an American physiologist, who was pictured at his laboratory in white shirt-sleeves with a microphone pressed against the blowhole of a young dolphin called Elvar.

Lilly was partial to hallucinogenic drugs and championed the recreational use of isolation chambers meant for sensory deprivation studies, but he also held a rare passion for dolphins. He devoted much of his life – and no fewer than five books – to the animals and dreamed one day of creating a common language we might use to converse with them. He even sketched designs for an aquatic lounge, where pods and people could meet for a natter.

And all for good reason, Lilly argued. Together, side-by-side with our marine mammal comrades, humans would be invincible. Or at least better at measuring ocean currents, collecting spent nose-cones from space rockets and fishing. “No human is as good at detecting, tracking, herding and catching fish as dolphins are. If we could get their cooperation, the whole fishing industry might be revised,” he wrote.

Useful Words From Indian English

Useful Words From Indian English

Mar 9 2011, 4:50 PM ET
By James Fallows

By Sanjay Saigal

In his list of lessons learned traveling by Indian air carriers — who knew? — topmost for my fellow guest blogger Sriram Gollapalli is:

1. Flights can be advanced (seemingly without too much notice)
Here Sriram inexplicably lets pass an opportunity to circulate a wonderful word from Indian English — prepone

Prepone is the antonym of postpone. It makes perfect sense. If an event is re-timed to occur earlier than previously scheduled, it is preponed. A marriage is preponed, for instance, if  the couple decide to elope to Las Vegas instead.
Why is this word not in common currency worldwide?

Locutions in Indian English can be mystifying to the untrained ear. North Indians of a certain age, for instance, might say something along the lines of, “James Cameron is the holisoli on his films.” Holisoli, as it happens, is a re-purposed “wholly and solely.” In other words, James Cameron is responsible for all aspects of his films.

A couple of other locutions peculiar to Indian English that lack comfortable equivalents in American English are:
  • Black money is undeclared wealth, likely obtained by illegal means. Given that cheating on taxes isn’t exactly rare, I’m not sure why the term doesn’t see more use in America.
  • Funda, slang, from fundamental, refers to an essential truth, as in, “Did you see Charlie Sheen on television hurling fundas left, right and center?”

Sanjay Saigal is founder and CEO of Mudrika Education, Inc., with offices in Silicon Valley, CA and Delhi, India.