Monday, July 21, 2003

Mark my words

Many languages have the ability to express a particular thought in a variety of ways. Indeed, we instinctively base our choice of words on the current circumstances, casual for friends and peers, more formal for authority figures, playful or curt with children and so on. The differences sometimes don't amount to much and yet we have known since childhood how to make these adjustments and what they mean when others make them.

One form of language adjustment leads us to use what linguists call "marked" language. In this case, we use a form of address somehow inappropriate to the moment, but for a distinct reason. The article below discusses "marked" language and the way such language can complicate interpretation in a multi-national situation.

The Italians have a saying, "Traduttore, tradittore" which means "To translate is to betray." I think they mean that any translation to some degree misrepresents the original meaning, especially a direct translation which often misses the not just the essence but even the sense of the statement. Marked language may lead to just such a "betrayal".
Read the full article: Daily Yomiuri On-Line

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