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[OT] Does language model thought!? (was RE: Re[2]: Business Case for i18n?)

From: Marco Cimarosti <marco.cimarosti@essetre.it>
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 12:31:26 +0200
Message-ID: <27E7FB58F42CD5119C0D0002557C0CCA03F926@XCHANGE>
To: "'webmaster@befrienders.org'" <webmaster@befrienders.org>, www-international@w3.org
Eric Jarvis wrote:
> One final point. There are ideas that are easy to express in some
> languages but difficult or impossible in others. Anyone who speaks
> both English and Italian will know how many concepts related to time
> and duration simply can't be translated accurately. This means that
> diversity of language encourages diversity of thought. So whilst it
> may be convenient in the short term to try to standardise as much as
> possible into English, in the long term it will be limiting.

Eric, can you make at least one examples of time and duration concepts that
would be easy to express in Italian and not in English, or the other way
round?

I am a native speaker of Italian and speak an acceptable English, but I
really cannot imagine any such cases.

I rather find that the verbal tenses in the two languages are perfectly
comparable, if not identical, and express exactly the same degree of
precision. Also the time-related vocabulary and repertoire of idioms
connected with time are totally analogous in the two languages.

If there are any such differences of expressiveness between languages, it
normally only depends on the fact that, for historical reason, certain
technical or specialist terminologies are more developed in one language
than in another. But, also in this case, it is quite easy to fill the gap:
just import or imitate the terminology of the leading language. So English
lacked terminology for talking about opera music, but is easily solved the
problem importing lots of Italian terms. Similarly, Italian massively
imported computer terminology from English, because information technology
evolves so quickly that it is difficult to keep the pace inventing new
Italian words.

But these situations only occur with the specialized terminology for new
disciplines, not with everyday concepts as time and duration!

Sorry for being so blatantly off topic, but I think that spreading myths
about languages is not the best way of favoring i18n. Especially if such
myths are used to conclude that it is necessary to "try to standardise as
much as possible into English".

By the way, Eric, if you really want to standardi*z*e to English, could you
please beging by standardi*z*ing to proper English spelling? You certainly
understand that we "foreigners" take the time to learn English because it is
the language of a large, crowded and wealthy country in northern America,
not certainly because it is accidentally also the languages of two small
islands in northern Europe. ;-)

_ Marco
Received on Thursday, 14 June 2001 06:31:52 GMT

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