Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2012 December 29

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December 29[edit]

Stephen Harper[edit]

Why Stephen Harper speaks French with a trilled r ? Fête (talk) 02:50, 29 December 2012 (UTC)

I have no idea who Stephen Harper is, but in some areas of France, a non-uvular pronunciation of "r" was used as a kind of regional quasi-standard pronunciation of French until rather recently. The idea that good French must have uvular "r" could be considered a somewhat narrow Parisian point of view... AnonMoos (talk) 03:00, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Stephen Harper is the current Prime Minister of Canada. (What was that about Americans being unaware of the world outside their own borders?  :) -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 03:18, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
I've been aware of some Canadian PM's who made news (like Trudeau, Mulroney, etc.), but not necessarily all of them. I live well over a thousand miles from Canada, and don't know of anything that Harper has personally done which has made major international news... AnonMoos (talk) 11:33, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Just getting to be the Prime Minister of your neighbouring country would seem news enough to me. But that's just me ... -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 11:39, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
I live around 14,000km away. I've heard of Harper. HiLo48 (talk) 11:44, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
As a purely practical matter, the presidents of Mexico have a greater impact on my home region than the prime ministers of Canada. I actually keep up reasonably well with foreign news (more so than the average American), but the names of leaders who are not colorful personalities or who have not directly made significant news often don't stick in my mind. Sorry if you consider this unfortunate, but that's the way it is... AnonMoos (talk) 11:53, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Jack, do you also know who is governor of California? The population is about the same. —Tamfang (talk) 19:42, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
  • We have an entire article on this; the trill is the original pronunciation, while the Guttural R began in Paris after the 17th century and only slowly spread from there. French Canada had already been settled by then and French immigration was not very high after Britain won the territory in the settlement of the Seven Years War. μηδείς (talk) 04:07, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
It's actually normal in French. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 04:55, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Except Edith Piaf sings with a uvular R, no? --NorwegianBlue talk 07:49, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Well, if she has a spare tongue in the back of her mouth, that may be so. In parts of the song she does, but the main part is trilled. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 08:39, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
I was not arguing trilled vs non-trilled, but uvular vs alveolar. Your Piaf example, and the example Rendezvous:About this sound [ʀɑ̃devu]  at Uvular trill, to me sound similar. I interpreted the OP's question as why does Stephen Harper use an Alveolar trill (which he does, listen to second half of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kf6KKWa7xLU). The article Quebec French phonology has a section about Alveolar vs Uvular trill vs other R's. --NorwegianBlue talk 13:58, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Aside from whatever French he may have learned as a child in school, Harper did not learn to speak French until he became Prime Minister. It was a big deal at the time. He's probably too old to learn how to use the "proper" French R. Adam Bishop (talk) 12:34, 29 December 2012 (UTC)

Why Stephen Harper speaks French with a French accent ? Fête (talk) 15:07, 29 December 2012 (UTC)

I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean...he speaks with a pretty thick English accent. Adam Bishop (talk) 20:35, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Not sure where he could have come by such an accent, being a Canadian. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 20:55, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Well...you know what I mean. The accent of a monolingual Canadian English speaker, speaking French badly. Adam Bishop (talk) 21:31, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Let me point out that I am American and knew exactly who Stephen Harper was when he was first mentioned. Our article Quebec French phonology mentions that a trilled alveolar 'r' was the traditional Montreal pronunciation. It is quite possible that Stephen Harper's French teacher in school was from Montreal. (All Canadians study French in school, though not all Anglophone Canadians retain it.) Often a person's first teacher will shape his or her pronunciation even if he or she undertakes further study of the language at a later date. Marco polo (talk) 23:27, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Since he went to school in Toronto, if he didn't have a French-speaking teacher from Quebec, he may have had a teacher who was in French Immersion (and who probably had a really weird French accent), or maybe a teacher who just learned French like everyone else. Now he has a proper native-speaker teacher, I hope... Adam Bishop (talk) 02:52, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
@ Marco polo. Not all Canadians study French in school. In Nunavut Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun must be taught, either as the language of instruction or as a secondary language. If Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun is the language of instruction is Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun then English must be taught but French is up to the community. Other than Iqaluit I'm not aware of any community that has French language instruction. CambridgeBayWeather (talk) 12:52, 30 December 2012 (UTC)

"Idiots can't catch colds."[edit]

I heard of this translated (Japanese?) phrase somewhere but couldn't find the original saying in Japanese. Anyone know what it is? There's some details on this page. — Preceding unsigned comment added by BankerK (talkcontribs) 04:58, 29 December 2012 (UTC)

馬鹿は風邪をひかない KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 05:08, 29 December 2012 (UTC)

need Middle English translation[edit]

Can someone give me in modern English the first 4 lines of this poem? -- 14:13, 29 December 2012‎ Doug Coldwell

Well the beginning of the sentence is in the preceding line, so including that (in brackets) gives "[Age has crept in, calls me to my grave,] / To give a reckoning of how I have spent my time; / Barren of virtue, alas!, who will save me / From demon's clutches, to account for my talent? / Unless Jesus be my staff and crutch ..." (See Parable of the talents or minas for the allusion in "t'acounte for my talent".) The last line is just the beginning of another sentence. Deor (talk) 15:04, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
I agree with the translation, except perhaps I'd go with the more literal "From fiend's danger" rather than "From demon's clutches". My translation allows for less supernatural threats. StuRat (talk) 23:36, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
That was a little free on my part, but "danger" in its most familiar Modern English senses isn't really equivalent to ME da(u)nger. "From the Devil's [or the devils'] power" might be more felicitous. I don't know how one could make the threat of eternal damnation "less supernatural". Deor (talk) 23:54, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
I took it to mean they wanted Jesus to save them from highwaymen, and such. StuRat (talk) 00:06, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
By the way, the whole of John Lydgate's Testament can be found beginning on page 232 of this book. Deor (talk) 15:25, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Thanks! Very useful...--Doug Coldwell (talk) 15:33, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Note that Deor is appealing to the use of "talent" as a sum of money (as in the parable). Your other question was about the earliest use of "talent" to mean "skill", so this poem might not be it... SemanticMantis (talk) 16:42, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
However, the editors of the ODE cite this as an example of "Mental endowment; natural ability. [From the parable of the talents, Matt. xxv. 14–30, etc.]". Note that even in the original use in Matthew, the 'talents' seem to signify something similar. I would think it quite unlikely that Lydgate here is literally referring to a sum of money that was entrusted to him. - Lindert (talk) 16:49, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Very good points. I saw Lydgate's use of "talent" as related to "skill" and NOT money (as my background was in sales and I needed "talents" to complete a business transaction). That's why Doer's translation from Middle English was useful to me - as it shed a light to me that Matt. xxv. 14–30 is referring to "skills" and NOT money. That's how it came out to me. A hint here is: To give a reckoning of how I have spent my time. = to me means "skill", how I spent my talent.--Doug Coldwell (talk) 17:22, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
COntinuing this aside, Etymonline agrees that the word "talent" originates from Greek/Latin for a weight of currency (i.e. money or coinage) and that the later use of talent = skill comes from the biblical story; which uses money metaphorically to refer to skills. So the original use of the word Talent comes from the monetary value, and the use of it to mean a skill comes later. --Jayron32 07:00, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
Lydgate is certainly acknowledging the "financial" sense of the parable, since he refers to an "overstrict audit" in the next line. But I read the "account for my talent" as more or less metaphorically equivalent to "give a reckoning of how I have spent my time". He's saying that he will have to account for the use (or lack of use) he's made of what has been given him, but whether that means that he's using talent to mean "mental endowment; natural ability" is debatable. C. S. Lewis's distinction (in the introduction to Studies in Words) between a "speaker's meaning" and a "word's meaning" is relevant here; Lydgate may or may not have been thinking specifically of mental endowment or natural ability when he alluded to the talent of the parable—and it's rather a leap of interpretation by the OED entry's editor to take it so—but, by itself, that would be no evidence that the word talent denoted "mental endowment; natural ability" in Lydgate's day. To establish that, you'd need a use of it in a context that doesn't explicitly refer to the parable. Deor (talk) 17:46, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Is it not possible that Lydgate is deliberately playing on the two meanings of the word? Angr (talk) 21:25, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Is there an earlier non-English source that establishes that the metaphorical meaning of 'talent' was a main meaning by or at the time Lydgate was writing? Evidently he employs language which suggests (to us) both meanings, but how apparent that was to his own audience would depend on the wider context. If someone writing in (say) Medieval French had made such a reference 100 years earlier, that would be highly informative. AlexTiefling (talk) 10:38, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
As the O.P. I like Alex Tiefling's question very much! An answer I can throw in that might have some significance is that Wycliffe's Bible of Matthew 25:15 talks of "talentis", which apparently is like our "talent" of "skill"("mental endowment; natural ability"). Later N.T. versions of up to and including the KJV says this is in reference to "ability" - which to me means one's ability to handle a job "skill". We have an article on Francesco Talenti, which to me means "Francesco the talented one" - since he was a very talented Tuscan architect and sculptor who worked mainly in Florence after 1351. He had this natural ability. Wycliff wrote his New Testament around this time period, so I believe he meant "mental endowment; natural ability". --Doug Coldwell (talk) 14:33, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

Katakana ヲ (Japanese)[edit]

Wikipedia articles are currently inconsistent about whether katakana ヲ is obsolete or merely uncommon. My understanding is that the character is not obsolete because one could in principle write を as ヲ in a katakana-only text. Could anyone confirm this? 86.130.66.65 (talk) 21:06, 29 December 2012 (UTC)

I don't know whether most Japanese would quickly and easily recognize the "wo" katakana character or not, but grammatical particles such as the noun object particle (w)o are strongly associated with hiragana in ordinary Japanese orthography, so writing them with katakana would be something of a game for special effect... AnonMoos (talk) 21:40, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
I seem to remember it being mentioned as used in telegrams, or computer systems limited to katakana characters. Whether these uses are still current I am not certain. As you say, katakana can also be used for stylistic effect, but I don't know if that extends to ヲ. 86.130.66.65 (talk) 21:57, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Those computer systems were 1980s-era dot-matrix printers with ASCII in the lower 7 bits of the 8-bit character set and katakana in the upper half of the character table. That had a lot to do with why Japanese businesses were less computerized on the office side than American businesses at the time, but I think things have moved on since then... AnonMoos (talk) 22:15, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Katakana is still used in government publications and other official documents, such as letters and notifications, etc. The character has not gone obsolete at all. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 22:33, 29 December 2012 (UTC)
Hmmm, I don't believe such usage is mentioned at Katakana or Japanese writing system, both of which attempt to list the situations in which katakana is used. Probably it should be added. Do you mean that in those documents hiragana is replaced by katakana but kanji is not? 86.130.66.65 (talk) 03:50, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
Government publications and other official documents were written in katakana until the script reform after the World War II, but not anymore. Telegram messages were also written in katakana until September 1988. Now the letter is rarely used, but not obsolete. Children learn katakana after hiragana in the first grade. Oda Mari (talk) 07:41, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
When I was living in Japan only a few years ago, I was receiving government documents written entirely in katakana, which I thought was odd, and which is why I remember it. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 08:18, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
Interesting. Who was the sender? The government? Or the city where you lived in? Maybe because you were not a native speaker and they thought it would be understandable without kanji. But I've never received documents like that. Oda Mari (talk) 08:29, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
I was in Nagoya, and actually, many (though not all) of these letters from government were addressed to my wife, who was Japanese. Also, I don't think they'd write it all in katakana just because they thought I couldn't read Japanese. That's just silly (books for learners - including books for Japanese children - are all written in hiragana, not katakana, and if there is any kanji, furigana are provided). Plus, they were mostly generic letters, anyway. We'd get the same (or similar) one every few months - looked like they had been copy+pasted. In any case, these are busy people. They don't have the time to write out an entirely new letter in a different script just because they suspect I am a foreigner. That's absurd. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 08:46, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
From everything I've seen, a Katakana-only document would be more easily pronounceable than one in ordinary Japanese orthography, but could sometimes be a lot less easily understandable, especially if much Sino-Japanese technical vocabulary was used... AnonMoos (talk) 12:05, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
Anything that deviates from the standard 2,000 Joyo-kanji taught up to high-school generally has either furigana or the pronunciation in brackets in katakana. A technical document written entirely in katakana would be near-impossible to translate unless you are familiar with the terms and field. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 12:37, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
Also, utility bills and bank statements are written in katakana, and if you have ヲ in your name, it will be there. The character is not obsolete. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 02:30, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
In addition, a simple Google Search for the character ヲ gives almost 20 million results, so it is definitely not obsolete. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 10:56, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
Those Google hit counts are usually Large Random Numbers™. For sure, I expect there are a lot of hits for that single character, but whether it's 20 million or 20 thousand, who knows. 86.169.36.43 (talk) 18:20, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
Furthermore, my first mobile phone which could do text messaging only had katakana, and no facility to change to kanji or hiragana. This was in 1998. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 19:02, 31 December 2012 (UTC)