Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2010 July 8

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July 8[edit]

English to French translation[edit]

Can someone please translate the following sentence into French? Thanks:

I am doing research on the Jews of China and I need information from "Textes historiques". As far as I know, it appears in the area describing China from the year 1100 - 1130 AD. Have you completed transcribing that portion of the book yet? If so, is there any way that you can email me those pages? Thank you for any help you may provide.

--Ghostexorcist (talk) 04:41, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Je fais des recherches sur les Juifs en Chine et j'ai besoin d'informations contenues dans les « Textes historiques ». Je crois savoir qu'elles apparaissent dans la partie qui traite de la description de la Chine des années 1100 — 1130 apr. J.-C. Avez-vous déjà fini de traduire transcrire cette partie du livre ? Si c'est le cas y aurait-il un moyen de m'envoyer ces pages par e-mail [or courrier électronique] ? Merci pour toute aide que vous pourriez m'apporter.AldoSyrt (talk) 08:27, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
You may want to use transcrire (transcribe) instead of traduire (translate), depending on what is actually meant. --Wrongfilter (talk) 09:47, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
Oops, my fault! To stick to the original text transcrire is better. Corrected. — AldoSyrt (talk) 15:04, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Grammar question: "Note well" (English of N.B.)[edit]

Hi! Can someone please help out with this question? I've never seen any recommendation not to (e.g.) start a sentence "Note well that there are no mome raths in the gibbardine." Does anyone have a reason (citation, ideally) why using "Note well" specifically, or the imperative voice generally, is deprecated? Thanks! ZenSwashbuckler 16:04, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

FWIW, my opinion is that the term in particular and the imperative voice in general are not grammatically incorrect, but that they can be perceived as having a marked attitudinal tone - that of a particular person, possibly a 'superior', instructing or lecturing another particular person, possibly an 'inferior', rather than conveying a dispassionate and impersonal approach. As such they might be perfectly appropriate in some circumstances, such as an instructional/safety manual for a piece of machinery, or a religious senior teaching an acolyte, but inappropriate in others, such as an encyclopaedia article. (talk) 16:34, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
You may never have seen a recommendation to avoid beginning a sentence with "Know all men by these presents," either, but I'd avoid turning that into encouragement to use it. "Note well," a literal translation of nota bene, can connote formality, including excessive formality, or imply that you're pining for the tenure track. Either of these gets in the way of the message. In the context (how to use a citation template), I'd look at the issue as "how can people understand when to use <tt> instead of <ref>?" If some aspect of the template is tricky, I'd make that clear. "IMPORTANT: the <ref> tag must not contain spline divots. If the tag does contain them, Jimbo Wales will come to your house and plant poison ivy."
None of this says not to use the imperative mood, which the article has many instance of ("use the template," "click the template," "copy and paste"). Indeed, if I were editing that article, I'd use a lot more imperative and a lot less of the often dithering, typically wordier passive voice. --- OtherDave (talk) 19:20, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
NB is kind of pretentious. "Please note" is much better. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:27, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
Yes. I use "Note that ... " (perhaps too often) in explanatory writing; and I might use "NB" if I were writing more tersely and not in full sentences; but I don't think I should ever write "Note well". --ColinFine (talk) 19:39, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
I use N.B. occasionally, just like I use e.g. and etc., it's just part of my normal written language, lazy possibly, but not pretentious. Mikenorton (talk) 19:46, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
N.B., e.g., i.e., etc., ergo are all out of laziness. IMHO they also get across what follows (i.e., "that is," clarification; e.g., for example) without filling your sentences with jumbles of words which just position content but don't otherwise add value. If you're clarifying, providing examples, et cetera, then your sentences are likely to already be quite long (!). PЄTЄRS J VЄСRUМВА TALK 19:54, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
Hard to follow that, Peters. You cite effectiveness, efficiency and conciseness - all good, positive reasons to use these devices - so how can you claim it’s a sign of laziness to use them? They’re no more “lazy” than referring to the “US” rather than “the United States of America”. -- (talk) 23:12, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
I sometimes use "It should be noted that...", but I wouldn't particularly recommend it. It carries more authority than the other options mentioned, which means you shouldn't use it unless you actually have that authority. It is also unnecessarily long. I would never use "note well". It suggests that, for some reason, you refuse to use Latin abbreviations (since everyone knows you are just translating "NB" into English) and that comes across at pretentious. If you particularly want to be pretentious, writing out the Latin in full is much better. --Tango (talk) 20:53, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Thanks to everyone who responded! ZenSwashbuckler 14:02, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

squirrel call[edit]

How does a squirrel call? On WP I find that squirrels squeak. But I think I must have found bark or chirp more often than squeak. -- (talk) 19:00, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

When Grey squirrels are cornered, they scream their heads off. Alansplodge (talk) 21:07, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
I'm guessing that when Red squirrels are cornered, they deny everything. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:00, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Black squirrels also chirp, and have an annoying high-pitched wail when threatened. But these could also be described as "squeaking". Adam Bishop (talk) 03:24, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a black squirrel a mutation of a grey squirrel? At least that seems to be the case in the Eastern US. Falconusp t c 04:58, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Yes, black is the same species as grey. I've only ever heard reds, but can confirm that the sound is sort of mid-way between squeak, chirp and high bark. Dbfirs 17:17, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
  • While I'd love to recommend that we all do some original research and spend the weekend terrifying captive squirrels, it may be more in keeping with Wikipedia policy to point out that YouTube has dozens of relevant videos if you just search for squirrel call, squirrel squeak, or something like that. --M@rēino 20:18, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Premature "is"[edit]

The "premature is" is a term made up by me to refer to a common mistake(?), often committed by ESL speakers, where the copula appears too early (at least for my taste) in a sentence. Examples:

  • We have yet to find out who is the culprit. (Rather than "... who the culprit is")
  • You need to tell me where are you staying. (Instead of "... where you are staying")
  • "If you knew how great is a mother's love ..." ( —Wendy Darling, Peter and Wendy)

I was wondering what is the actual name of this mistake, and considering the third example, is it even a mistake? Thanks, decltype (talk) 22:25, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure that's actually Wh-movement. ESL students probably want to put a verb between the two noun phrases, but with wh- phrases, the wh- word (who/where/how) moves to the beginning of the phrase, so the sentence structure is OSV. I'm sure it's very confusing, especially in subordinate clauses (like your examples). It might be easier to mention that, without wh-movement, the sentence might be "We have yet to find out the culprit is who.", and then show how 'who' moves up. Indeterminate (talk) 23:02, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
Heh, also, I suppose it ought to be whom in that example, since it's an object. Indeterminate (talk) 23:04, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
No, it's the subject of is; who is correct. Deor (talk) 23:20, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
I disagree. If who were the subject, then the sentence would already be in the correct word order. And actually, the first example is already correct the way it is. But Decltype said the correct version should be "... who the culprit is ": this is wh-movement, so the original sentence order (pre-transformation) was "We have yet to find out the culprit is whom.". Clearly in this sentence the culprit is the subject of the subordinate clause. So the example Decltype intended to make was "... whom the culprit is ". Sorry, I'm not really a prescriptivist, I don't really argue in favor of using "whom" all the time. But I think that's how the transformation is supposed to work. Indeterminate (talk) 04:11, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
Off the original topic, and the thread is old, but I thought I'd mention that "who" is actually correct here according to the prescriptivist rules. You are right that "the culprit" is the subject in the relative clause, but "who" is not the object, but rather the subject complement, and therefore should remain in the nominative. Since most of us do say "it is me" instead of "it is I", you could argue that "whom are you" should be possible, but since "whom" is a word used mostly in higher registers, it would be unusual to see it in a situation where it is not a true object. Lesgles (talk) 19:24, 14 July 2010 (UTC)
Wh-movement does not distinguish the sentences Decltype considers incorrect from those he considers correct; rather it's the verb moving into the position it would have in an interrogatory sentence (question position). AnonMoos (talk) 19:10, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I thought of that after I posted. I should have said that I think the actual error is Hypercorrection, due to not understanding the confusing rules of wh-movement. I'm going to guess that most ESL students making this mistake are probably native speakers of Japanese or another SOV language. The speakers making the error know that English normally has SVO sentence structure, so they try to correct for their intuition by putting the verb between two noun phrases. But in this case it's a mistake, and the verb should be left dangling at the end. Indeterminate (talk) 04:21, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
The OP's third example seems to of a slightly different form to the others: more of a poetic inversion, as in Hamlet's "What a piece of work is a man!". AndrewWTaylor (talk) 09:01, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

jeez you guys are dumb. It's an indirect question. "Who is the culprit?" "Where are you staying?" "How great is a mother's love?" That's the question order, and other languages preserve it in an indirect question, English doesn't. Other examples: "Do you know the muffin man?" "I want to know do you know the muffin man". No is. etc. (talk) 11:50, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Your participation here is welcome. Your abuse of other editors is not. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 20:43, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but why doesn't English preserve word order in questions? That's a really interesting question. And speaking of questions, actually, none of Decltype's examples are questions - they are all declarative statements with subordinate interrogative clauses (sentences with embedded questions, if you like). Indeterminate (talk) 04:11, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
We have an article on Subject-auxiliary inversion, but this is only the English manifestation of a phenomenon seen in a number of languages. Presumably the functional motivation is at least in part to always mark an utterance as being a question right near the beginning. Some languages don't show verb inversion, but do have a special particle which is put at the beginning of yes-no questions, so that such questions will have a marker at the beginning like wh-questions do. By the way, the distinction between direct and indirect questions is not always as 100% categorical as you seem to assume... AnonMoos (talk) 19:15, 12 July 2010 (UTC)