Spanish Dialect is more than your thoughts

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Another difference in pronunciation lies in the palatal lateral approximant (written with two “Ls” ll) and the voiced palatal fricative (written as y). This phonemic contrast can be understood as /ʎ/ (ll) and /ʝ/ (y). In the past, Spanish used to maintain this distinction. However, the majority of speakers today in Spain and the Americas have merged these two phonemes into /ʝ/. This merger is otherwise known as yeísmo. In Spain, speakers continue to differentiate these two phonemes in rural areas and smaller cities of the north while the same phenomenon is observed in South America and this characteristic suggests that bilingualism is a contributing factor – Quechua languages, Guarani and other indigenous languages possess the /ʎ/ sound in their speech sound patterns. This characteristic shows up in speakers from Peru and Paraguay.

Examples:

hoya “pit / hole” olla “pot”
baya “berry” valla “fence”

Grammar wise, there is only one minor difference. As Spanish is a T-V distinction language, (T-V distinction indexes level of politeness depending on the social status of the addressee) there is an emphasis on how the addresser refers to the addressee. For instance, different pronouns representing “you” (second person singular pronoun) denote different levels of formality. In most varieties, there are only two levels of contrasts – either “formal” or “informal” (or “familiar”). Under the formal usage of the second person pronoun, most speakers of Spanish (as well as other Spanish dialects) and Spanish America agree on using usted (second person singular pronoun) and ustedes (second person plural pronoun). However, when it comes to the informal usage of the second person pronoun, there is a regional contrast. For example, either or vos can refer to the second person singular informal and either vosotros or ustedes can refer to the second person plural informal. For instance, in Standard European Spanish, the plural of (second person singular informal pronoun) is vosotros and the plural of usted (second person singular formal pronoun) is ustedes. On the contrary, in Spanish America, vosotros is not used, thus, the plural of both and usted is ustedes.

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Learn the third most widely language in 5 minutes

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The standard variety of Spanish that is usually taught in classroom settings is otherwise known as Castellano or Español. However in many parts of Latin America, the standard variety is commonly accepted as Castellano, rather than Español. Apart from the standard variety, other Spanish dialects or varieties are also present due to geographical reasons. This does not mean that such dialects are inferior. These non-standard (instead of sub-standard) varieties usually differ in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary while grammar remains intact to a large extent. The different pronunciation and vocabulary merely reflect a different linguistic environment that has shifted away from the linguistic environment that adopts the standard variety.

Languages are subject to change overtime and the linguistic environment and speakers play a major role in influencing language use. Written Spanish does not differ amongst different speakers and the different spoken forms are not portrayed too. Differences can be found between European Spanish and Spanish America. Furthermore, there are also differences within European Spanish and Spanish America respectively. The different varieties that adopt Spanish America can be generally categorized into Mexican, Caribbean, Andrean Pacific (Cuba, Panama), Plata River (Peru, Colombia), Chilean and Central American (similar to Caribbean).

Despite an array of contrasts within the Spanish dialects, there is one extremely striking feature that allows listeners to tell Spanish speakers apart. This is usually known as the maintenance versus the loss of distinguishing these two phonemes /θ/ and /s/. The contrast between these historical phonemes /θ/ and /s/ is retained in northern and central Spain whereas these two phonemes have merged in Spanish America and a huge part of southern Spain. The maintenance of such a contrast is referred to as distinción in Spanish. Speakers of Spanish America produce the merged phoneme as [s] while on the Canary Islands, speakers produce it as either [s] or [], which is unlike /θ/.

Examples:

cinco “five”
ciudad “city”

<to be continued…>

Pic source: learnspanish4life.co.uk

Loanwords in Japanese (II)

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Besides the influence of trade, foreign loanwords in Japanese have other implications too. By using loanwords, the speaker demonstrates being a cut above the rest in terms of education, social status and exposure. English as a universal language invokes the thought and feeling of one being polished and superior since many Japanese perceive Western culture to be more interesting and prestigiEous. Research findings show that ordinary folks usually adopt foreign words, such as English, in order to indicate a higher social status. Another contributing factor that supports the endorsement of foreign loanwords in Japanese may be the desire for novelty. As foreign loanwords tend to represent fresh and modern ideas and products, using such loanwords will enable one to appear well-informed and ahead of times.

It is not surprising to note that the prevalent foreign loanwords in Japanese can be found in the music industry. The fascination with English in the music scene is conspicuous – the titles of Japanese pop songs are very often in English. Let us take a look at just this particular list of loanwords!

Loanwords Katakana
genre (French) ジャンル janru
ballad (French) バラード barado
Black music ブラックミュジック burakkumyujikku
hip hop ヒップホップ hippuhoppu
jazz ジャズ jazu
pop ポップ poppu
rap ラップ rappu
backup dancer バックダンサー bakkudansa
band バンド bando
director ディレクター direkuta
group グループ gurupu
main vocal メインボーカル meinbokaru
member メンバー menba
songwriter ソングライター songuraita
lyric リリック ririkku
melody メロ mero
rhythm リズム rizumu
title タイトル taitoru
tempo (Italian) テンポ tenpo
collaboration コラボ korabo
maxi single マキシシングル makishishinguru
new single ニューシングル nyushinguru
live ライブ raibu
festival フェス fesu
one man live ワンマンライブ wanmanraibu

Pic source: www.tofugu.com

Translating Onomatopoeia

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How would you describe the sound of a car honk? In fact, something as universal as the sound of a car honk can be depicted differently across languages! For example, native Japanese speakers will perceive it to be tu-tu, native French speakers will hear it as tut-tut while native Korean speakers will express it as bbang-bbang. Onomatopoeia is basically a formation of a word that is used to represent a sound associated with a referent. The etymology of onomatopoeia has its origins in Greek. In Greek, ὀνοματοποιία, coined from ὄνομα for “name” and ποιέω for “I make”, simply describes the sound of the source in a phonetic manner. Stark examples include sounds made by animals, such as meow and woof.

Onomatopoeia is quite common across languages, however, some languages appear to place a larger emphasis on onomatopoeia. Japanese onomatopoeia is considerably challenging even for translators. Japanese onomatopoeia can be divided into 擬声語 giseigo and 擬音語 giongo. The former refers to sounds associated with humans and animals while the latter refers to sounds associated with real sounds that can be heard within the context. Giseigo include high pitched sounds produced by women, such as kyaakyaa and sounds made by frogs, such as kero kero. Giongo include sounds from streams, such as sarasara or from falling raindrops zaazaa.

A study discovered that a bulk of Japanese onomatopoeic expressions was not translated in Swedish. The conclusion was of a sociolinguistic nature, taking into account that onomatopoeic expressions were possibly considered to be childish and uncouth, hence, the translator would not be able to retain the original meanings of the onomatopoeic expressions without affronting Swedish readers. In one example, the translator used the Swedish expression plaskar to substitute two different Japanese onomatopoeic expressions, bachabbacha and bochabocha. These two onomatopoeias refer to water splashing sounds but bochabocha describes a deeper water level. In another instance, the translator used the Spanish expression crac to substitute two different Japanese onomatopoeias, pokipoki and kotsun. These two onomatopoeias refer to the sound when something is hit. The former indicates the cracking of fingers while the latter describes the sound of something tiny and hard hitting a hard surface lightly. When translated in Spanish, the difference is not spelt out.

It is interesting to note how universal sounds can be perceived differently according to speakers. There are also certain onomatopoeic expressions which are available in the source language but unavailable in the target language. In addition, nuances of these onomatopoeic expressions are usually overlooked. This makes it a challenge for translators when they have to retain the original meaning of the onomatopoeic expression as much as possible. Omission would be highly unadvisable and undesirable. Alternatively, translators can strive to paraphrase or elaborate by adding descriptions even though a close substitute is available. Are there any onomatopoeic expressions in your native language that are deemed almost untranslatable?

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The Power of Punctuation (II)

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The outcome of this study showed that the students have not been cautioned that punctuation marks may convey meaning and be crucial in forming a mutual relationship between the writer and reader. In addition, this lack of understanding or knowledge in punctuation systems impedes Iranian translators from producing accurate pieces of work.  The reason for these findings can be briefly summarized in three points. First, the punctuation system in Persian does not provide enough data in explaining and establishing the functions of punctuation marks. Second, there is a lack of contrastive study done on English and Persian in differentiating the functions of similar punctuation marks in these languages. Third, there is a lack of applying a linguistic point of view in translation studies when it comes to understanding the affect that punctuation marks have on discourse (organizing one’s text and forming a relationship between the writer and the reader).

Even when the punctuation systems of both the source language and target language are well established, translators may still experience some difficulty. For instance, even fluent Greek-English bilinguals do not breeze through translating English documents to Greek and vice versa. This is again, due to the fact that punctuation marks play different roles across languages. For example, in Greek, at the end of an interrogative sentence, people use a semicolon instead of a question mark. There may be guidebooks on explaining the functions of punctuation marks in foreign language but people often dismiss or overlook the important feature of punctuation marks. This is not advisable at all. In conclusion, “translating” punctuation marks requires having a strong foundation in not just one punctuation system, but in at least two, in order for quality translation to occur.

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The Power of Punctuation (I)

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In 1905, when the striking Bolshevik printers of St. Petersburg vehemently requested to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, this triggered the first wave of the Russian Revolution. This factoid from a librarian’s speech spurred Lynne Truss on to dedicate her non-fiction book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation to the printers. In this book, Truss laments the current situation of punctuation in United Kingdom and United States, with many taking a more nonchalant stance and adopting more liberal rules towards it. Her intention is to highlight the importance of punctuation to her readers by combining admonition with wit.

For instance, this excerpt from Truss’ book pokes fun at misapplying the punctuation mark:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

“Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“Well, I’m a panda,” he says. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.

When we think of translation, what often come to our mind are larger units, such as words, instead of tinier units, such as punctuation marks. In fact, punctuation marks are empowering. They form powerful connections by creating a relationship between the writer and reader. Failure or confusion in understanding punctuation marks in a source language results in problems when meaning is transferred onto the target language. Because punctuation marks help the writer in organizing his text, when translators overlook or misunderstand them, the reader may be left feeling bewildered and frustrated.

Punctuation marks play different roles across languages. In a study that focused on translating a few sentences from English into Persian, only a minority of the 22 graduates who majored in translation managed to succeed. The reason was attributed to the absence of contrastive study on the punctuation systems of English and Persian as well as the failure to apply and use punctuation marks appropriately.  Three punctuation marks were chosen in this study. They are the colon, the semicolon and the comma. It was discovered that majority of the students who did not succeed in translating the sample sentences either could not translate or mistranslated the punctuation marks. In view of the comma, only 9% of the students could translate successfully. Taking the various functions of the semicolon into account, 18%, 18% and 4% of the respective usages were properly translated. Lastly, the correct translation of the colon was a mere 4%. (to be continued)

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