Friday, 22 March 2013

Langwidge Pt. 3

Here's parts uno and dos for your delectatory delight. This part is going to deal with Sapir-Whorfy stuff, a subject I'm 'not a hundred per cent on', to use the parlance of our times, but I'm going to talk about anyway. You're all bright enough to do your own research if anything grabs you anyway... Yeah one thing I forgot to mention in part two (which, incidentally, would have ended it on a rather positive and hopeful note) is that I want to learn Italian and Dutch, and if possible polish up my existing MFLs. That didn't sound so positive out of context... Oh well you can go back and read the other posts if you want.


So what is this Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and what's it got to do with my mini series on languages and translation? The hypothesis: the way we talk reflects the way we see the world (put very simply). The ramifications being, in a way, that there's no real expression we can make that hasn't been conditioned by social (and psychological?) factors. Ergo, 'pure translation' is going to be futile. If one could translate a piece into another language 'perfectly' then those two countries would be the same. And therefore have the same language. Does that make sense? Anyway, I'm not saying translation is useless, I'm just saying that the differences between translations should be celebrated in their own right.

On the whole business of 'variations'... Everything's just a variation of something else isn't it? Information goes into the brain, is mangled up by our thought processes, then reformed onto the page. The poems a Spanish person might write about a sunset (yeah, I know...) will be different to the poems a Finnish person would, and that's for a reason. So I dunno, either go back in time and be born in another country, then read the original, or be happy with the translation which will be a richly diverse and worthwhile production.

Now the usual bit: "So I'm not confident about anything anymore, I'm not sure what I'm doing or where I'm going boohoo wahwah." I'm not good enough. I don't know things. I've not done anything. I'm not even sure of the English language anymore, what's it all about? It's time to start rebuilding my life. Maybe. Pass the bricks I guess...

Erm, well I should say thanks to Miriam Meyerhoff for Introducing Sociolinguistics and maybe you should check out The Poetry Foundation, which has some lovely things about linguistics and poetry. Ron Siliman's blog has a great many resources in this vein also, such as videos of Noam Chomsky and Lera Boroditsky.

I think that's it. Sorry it was so awful. You can go now. Bye.

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Just keep it clean (ish)!