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Thread: Translating prepositions

  1. #21
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Again, there is "augurare" and "augurarsi", but this time they mean different things. The first could be translated as "wish" (Ti auguro[auguro a te] buon compleanno=I wish you a happy birthday), the second as "hope" (mi auguro che lui abbia passato l'esame=I hope he has passed the exam).

    Yesterday my supervisor corrected me when I wrote, speaking of a play, "division in scenes"; she wrote "division into scenes": I can't really understand why she did so: I don't see the movement that "into" usually indicate. I believe it is more difficult for Italians as we have just one proposition to convey both meanings, that is "in".
    The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

  2. #22
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Yes Loki (#18), that was what I was thinking of. I've only had a very few Spanish lessons, when I was in a group of twelve young people learning how to teach English to foreign students, and one of our number had not only studied Spanish, but had read Cortázar's Rayuela (Hopscotch). He gave us a few lessons, as we were going to Madrid for part of our teaching practice. I think he brought up this curious "a". He has been senior lecturer in English in Hong Kong for donkey's years now.

    "Po polsku", prosze pana.

    Loki's "into scenes" reminds me of something I hinted at earlier on: that you find things "out of" a cupboard in Finnish and Estonian, and stay "into" a place. This certainly seems odd to the English-speaking mind. (Do minds speak?)

  3. #23

    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Yes, two details that always make me stop a moment before saying out loud or writing in Croatian are expressions of congratulations and expressions of gratitude.

    čestitam na uspjehu
    literally translated: congratulations ON your success

    hvala na pažnju.
    literally translated: thank you ON your attention

  4. #24
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post

    Yesterday my supervisor corrected me when I wrote, speaking of a play, "division in scenes"; she wrote "division into scenes": I can't really understand why she did so: I don't see the movement that "into" usually indicate. I believe it is more difficult for Italians as we have just one proposition to convey both meanings, that is "in".
    Your supervisor was right. It seems more natural to me to say "division into scenes". There is more of a sense of activity with "into" - somebody has taken the trouble to divide the thing into scenes. "In" by itself is more passive. We would say, "the play is in five acts", but if you want to use "divided", then "the play is divided into five acts", definitely not " ... divided in five acts."

    Harking back to Swedish, the word for "in" is 'i', and the word for "out" is 'ut', but there is also a rather old-fashioned Swedish word, "uti", which means 'inside'!

    Sweden's favourite Christmas carol, Staffansvisan (The Ballad of (St.) Stephen), has a line that goes: "Nu är ljus uti vårt hus", which means "now there is light (or, now there are candles) inside our house". The Swedes love their flickering candles at the darkest time of year. They refer to candles as "levande ljus" (living lights).

    Harry

  5. #25
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Alright, fair enough. Thanks for the explanation! Comparing "the play is in five acts" and "the play is divided into five acts" has helped a lot.
    The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

  6. #26
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    This play thing with "in" versus "into" is a question of movement or action. The play in five acts just is in five acts. Whereas the verb "divide" suggests that someone is actively doing the dividing. Think of a cake or a pie. You will cut it up into slices, then it will be displayed on the table in slices, segments or wedges (before everyone gobbles it up). But the use of "in" is not entirely logical. "Displayed as slices" would be more accurate, but sounds rather unnatural and clinical.

  7. #27
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Quote Originally Posted by hdw View Post
    Your supervisor was right. It seems more natural to me to say "division into scenes". There is more of a sense of activity with "into" - somebody has taken the trouble to divide the thing into scenes. "In" by itself is more passive. We would say, "the play is in five acts", but if you want to use "divided", then "the play is divided into five acts", definitely not " ... divided in five acts."
    And yet, if the acts were just two, wouldn't you rather say "divided in two acts"...........or in the case of Eric's cake, wouldn't you just split it "in two slices" rather than "into two slices "? Maybe it's just a question of usage and the "into-two" sound would lead to cacophony and therefore it is avoided.

  8. #28
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    I've noticed that in Spanish, you tend to put an "a" in front of a person's name where we have the straight direct object in English. I can't think of examples, but some of you can perhaps provide some.
    To complement Loki's response to this issue, let me add that in Spanish most action verbs, when associated to people or names or places, that is to nouns unaccompanied by articles, must carry the "a" even in the direct object/transitive form. In order to check if the verb requires a direct object the verb must also allow the passive voice.

    Example:

    "Amo a María" (I Love María) ........María is a direct object.......the PV would be: "María es amada por mi" (Marií is loved by me)

    "Hablo a María" (I speak to María).........María is an indirect object.......in this case you cannot say: "María es hablada por mi" (María is spoken by me)

  9. #29
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Quote Originally Posted by Stiffelio View Post
    "Hablo a María" (I speak to María).........María is an indirect object.......in this case you cannot say: "María es hablada por mi" (María is spoken by me)
    How about "Maria is spoken to by me" in Spanish?

    In English, to be "spoken to" by somebody can mean to be told off, reprimanded, for something you have done.

    Harry

  10. #30
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Convention can not be altered at whim by logicians. That is why Esperanto has failed up to now. It has logic (in some parts of the grammar and spelling) but has no cultural hinterland.

    By convention in English, the cake will be "divided in two" yet "into two, five, or seventeen pieces". Languages have an element of wild irrationality, which is rather fun really.

  11. #31
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Quote Originally Posted by hdw View Post
    How about "Maria is spoken to by me" in Spanish?

    In English, to be "spoken to" by somebody can mean to be told off, reprimanded, for something you have done.

    Harry
    María is not the "direct object" of my speech, so to speak; she is definitely spoken "to" (indirect object). But in Spanish you just cannot do the passive voice check with an indirect object. You'd have to rephrase it altogether into something like "palabras han sido habladas por mi a María" (words have been spoken by me to María), which is only approximative.

    Yeah, translating is a fascinating task!

  12. #32
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Fascinating task, for sure. But I approach poetry and prose differently. With prose, even if you're not translating a 500-page novel, but merely a short-story, there are a lot more words than with poetry.

    That is not the banal statement it sounds, because if you are a perfectionist, you can revisit a poem as often as you like and tweak your translation. But when translating a novel, especially under contract and with a tight deadline, the number of occasions you can check, go over, edit, and otherwise re-read the text is limited.

  13. #33
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    I was just looking at a Spanish grammar written in Swedish. I see the following:

    Vivimos en un pueblo de Galicia.
    Vi bor i en by i Galicien

    And the English:

    We live in a village in Galicia / We live in a Galician village.

    If you translate this simple sentence into perhaps a dozen languages, I wonder how many different prepositions or other sentence features you will discover.

    Sometimes it's not only the preposition that is different, but the whole sentence structure.

  14. #34
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Regarding the use of "a + animate direct object" in Spanish, I've just noticed that Bécquer wrote "mirando a la luna" (looking at the moon): I don't know if this is due to the fact that he personifies the moon someway, or to the fact that we're talking about a book (Leyendas) written in the second half of the 19th century.
    The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

  15. #35
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Regarding the use of "a + animate direct object" in Spanish, I've just noticed that Bécquer wrote "mirando a la luna" (looking at the moon): I don't know if this is due to the fact that he personifies the moon someway, or to the fact that we're talking about a book (Leyendas) written in the second half of the 19th century.
    I think the explanation is more mundane. In Spanish, mirar can be either transitive or intransitive. If you say mirar a algo, it means something like "to look in the direction of" instead of "to look at/to watch."

  16. #36
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Alright, but if you say "miro la luna" it's obvious that you look in that direction, otherwise you wouldn't see it!

    Anyway, he metido la pata, as they say in Spanish.
    The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

  17. #37
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Looking at the headlines of articles in El País (19 de abril 2011) you see the "a" in both a dative usage for things, but also a rather ambiguous usage for things and people. Examples from the front page:

    Las dudas sobra Grecia castigan a España en los mercados
    Bruselas respalda a Francia en el bloqueo a trenes con inmigrantes
    El Supremo abre la vía para devolver a prisión al etarra Troitiño
    Hacienda recuerda a Cataluña que debe cumplir con el défecit previsto

    How many are true datives?

  18. #38
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    I have found a section on this "a" in a grammar book I borrowed from the library. It distinguishes between "a" with an accusative and "a" with a dative. It's the accusative usage with people that is the most unusual for a native-speaker of English.

  19. #39
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Looking at the headlines of articles in El País (19 de abril 2011) you see the "a" in both a dative usage for things, but also a rather ambiguous usage for things and people. Examples from the front page:

    Las dudas sobra Grecia castigan a España en los mercados
    Bruselas respalda a Francia en el bloqueo a trenes con inmigrantes
    El Supremo abre la vía para devolver a prisión al etarra Troitiño
    Hacienda recuerda a Cataluña que debe cumplir con el défecit previsto

    How many are true datives?
    The only dative clause is "devolver a prisión" = "return to prison"
    All the other a s are accusative. The proof, as I explained further above, is that you can make perfect sense if you turn it to the passive voice. You can say: "Spain has been punished by...", "France is supported by..."; "el etarra Troitiño is returned (to prison) by...", "Cataluña is reminded (that...) by...", but you couldn't make sense of "prison is returned by..."

  20. #40
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    Default Re: Translating prepositions

    So, in that one dative sentence it really means "to". The accusative usage certainly throws you, if you are a native-speaker of English.

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