Fraggle Q2

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Xotica, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    What do you think of this translation convention?

    When applicable...

    Russian surnames end with: ii
    Ukrainian surnames end with: yi
    Polish surnames end with: i
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I'm not sure what you mean, since it's an almost universal practice to never translate names. We didn't refer to Chairman Mao as Chairman Hair. Anglophones name their sons Michael, not He Who Struggled With God. Americans named Smith are not called Schmidt in Germany and Austria.

    There are exceptions, of course. Some Jewish families who came over with the German surname Klein changed it to Small, and so many named Mueller changed it to Miller that it's now the most common surname among Jewish Americans.

    But that's rare. Even Laozi (or Lao-tzu in the old Wade-Giles transliteration system) is Laozi in English language history and philosophy books, not The Beloved Old Guy.

    So I don't have any idea what you mean by a "translation convention" concerning names. Perhaps you meant transliteration? We use the same rules for transliterating names from foreign alphabets or other writing systems as we use for plain old words: Archimedes, Tutankhamen, Mao Zedong, Midori Gotō, Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, Menachem Begin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
    Or maybe you're just looking for a way to identify the nationality of a surname? The problem with Russian and Ukrainian names is that they are written in the Cyrillic alphabet, so before you even get to see them they have been transliterated into the Roman alphabet. There are, unfortunately, no universally honored transliteration formulas.

    One very good reason is that although speakers of English, French and German use the same letters, we don't pronounce them the same way. This is why you may see the famous author's name spelled Chekhov, Tchekhoff or Tschechow.

    But back to your example, I don't think I've ever seen a Russian name spelled out in English and ending with a double I. I'm curious where you got that. IY is not uncommon.

    Same with YI in Ukrainian names: I've never seen it. All the Ukrainians I've known (American children of Ukrainian families, anyway) have names that look exactly like Russian names. You may find one with a lone H (not the combination CH or KH)--now THAT is Ukrainian; Russian doesn't have an H sound.

    On the other hand, many Polish names end in a single I. But so do many Russian names. People sometimes write them in English with a Y instead of an I, but that's just to confuse us.
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  5. mathman Valued Senior Member

    I thought the most common Jewish surname was Cohen.
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  7. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Mueller is a common name in Germany, but not a particularly Jewish one.
    Some Millers were Jewish, some not.
    I should think Cohen and Levy are the commonest surnames of Jewish origin.
    Is Miller more common than Cohen among American Jews?
    It could be, but it is not a name which would lead you to think that a person was of Jewish origin.
    There are 87,000+ Cohens in the USA, and over a million Millers, (see
    so if only one in 10 Millers is a Jew, there would still be more Millers than Cohens.

    Why did you name this thread after Fraggle?
    Is it a tribute?
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
  8. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    Yes. This is precisely the intent. In a work that contains numerous references to Russian, Ukranian, and Polish individuals, it would be convenient if English speakers could instantly discern nationality via such a surname convention (explained in a Preface).

    Just floating an idea.
  9. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    He is an editor. I specifically sought his personal expertise and input.
  10. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Oh, a private thread.
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No. Cohen is one of very few surnames that is actually Hebrew rather than a name taken from the host population during the Diaspora. It meant "priest" in biblical times. Genetic research is being conducted to determine whether a significant number of people with that name are related, indicating that it has been handed down for dozens of generations, making it the oldest surname in Europe, or at least one of the oldest.
    Even in the USA, more Millers are Gentiles than Jews. But of our seven million Jewish Americans (if I've got that number right) Miller accounts for more of them than any other surname.
    I can't even find any other surnames of Jewish origin!
    That's what I have read in multiple sources.
    Of course not. Most Millers are not Jewish. Virtually all Cohens are. Other spellings, like George M, Cohan, are not. (Just as Avril Lavigne is not a Jewish name.)
    That's just not possible in Eastern Europe, or for that matter in Western Europe. Ever since the Etruscan Empire, the safety provided by a central government and the transportation technology provided by civilizations (draft animals, wheels, sailing ships, railroads, airlines) has made populations mobile. The name of the British royal family was Battenberg until just before WWI, when they decided it might be better to translate it from German into English and start calling themselves the House of Mountbatten. As someone pointed out in another thread, the Citroen family who founded one of France's icononic auto empires bears a Dutch name meaning "lemon" because in the old country they were fruit dealers. In Poland, Bohemia (we call it the Czech Republic today because that's easier to spell and pronounce), and other Eastern European countries German and Russian names are common. Ukrainian, Belarussian and Russian are so closely related that some linguists insist that they are dialects, not distinct languages. So distinguishing surnames is very difficult.
    Not at all. There aren't as many linguists on SciForums as there are physicists or biologists, so I end up answering a lot of the questions by default. And I barely qualify as a professional linguist. I'm a professional writer and editor, and I've taught classes in ESL as well as business and technical writing. Not exactly sterling credentials!
  12. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Even when you are agreeing you sound like you are disagreeing.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2012
  13. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    Indeed. Even today, Russian is widely spoken in eastern Ukraine.
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Uh... it's really not a private thread!
  15. Emil Valued Senior Member

  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Ukraine is often called "the Ukraine" in English, since the name originally meant frontier or borderland, equivalent to our old word "march." It's not clear whether lexicographers approve of this form--rather like the now out-of-fashion form "the Argentine." In the Slavic languages, Ukraїna has four syllables with the accent on the I: oo-kra-YEE-na. Thus the casual American pronunciation yoo-KRAY-nee-ah is really wrong!

    It was originally called Kievan Rus and was arguably the first Slavic state to congeal out of the ethnic and political turmoil in the extreme east of Europe in the 9th century CE, earlier than Russia itself. The turmoil continued and Ukraine disintegrated 300 years later, to be divided and redivided among conquering tribes and/or nations, including the Poles, the Lithuanians and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    Given this history it's no surprise that today its ethnic makeup is no more homogeneous than America's. Only about 3/4 of the people are Ukrainians, with lots of Russians, Belarusians, Romanians, Tatars and other groups.

    It's the second-largest country in Europe by area, the 27th in the world by population (46M), and the world's third-largest grain exporter.
  17. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    Non-government nationalist militia are still active in western Ukraine. They apply subtle and not-so-subtle pressure on “foreigners” to emigrate.
  18. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Firstly, it is possible to translate proper names: Of persons, places, geographical features etc.

    Secondly, many other terms in one language may just defy translation. For example, DUKHA in Sanskrit/Pali just cannot be translated into English. So western scholars resort to "loose" translation, which just cannot capture the spirit and whole range of connotations.

    Thirdly, inadequate knowledge of cultural background of a language can lead to outrageous translations. Such translations can be due to ignorance or the personal agenda of the translator.

    Fourthly, in the "translation" you can read something that simply is not intended in the source language.

    If Fraggle is what he is cracked to be, he can furnish the required examples.
  19. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Indeed. Santa Fe, the capital of the state of New Mexico, means "holy faith" in Spanish. Nevada, one of our western states, is Spanish for "snowy." The popular name Judy is a nickname for Judith, which means "a Jewish woman" in Hebrew. Nihon/Nippon, as well as Japan, our rather poor transcription of it, are all Chinese Ri Ben, "the root of the sun," since, when viewed from China, the sun seems to rise over Japan.
    Indeed. This is why learning a foreign language and reading the original versions of its people's writings gives much more insight into how they think and feel than reading translations.

    Most Indo-European languages have two different second-person pronouns, one that implies familiarity or affection (German du, French tu, Spanish tú, Russian ty, Portuguese você) and another than implies formality and/or a difference in social class (German Sie, French vous, Spanish usted, Russian vy, Portuguese o senhor). They both are translated into English as "you," blotting out an entire dimension of the conversations and relationships of other cultures.
    It's probably an urban legend, but it's said that the first computer translation software rendered the English aphorism "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" into Russian as "the wine is satisfactory but the meat is inferior."
    This is why it's rather scary to realize that virtually all diplomatic personnel are shifted from one country to another so often that they never become experts in any foreign language, and since they know this most of them don't even bother trying. Almost all of the world's diplomacy is conducted through translators!
    I've never claimed to be a professional linguist, just an enthusiastic amateur. I've spent most of my life learning Spanish and half of it learning Mandarin, in urban America where opportunities to converse with native speakers arise almost every day. Yet the nuances of both languages are still lost to me.
    Wikipedia says that Parvati (in various spellings) is an inflection of a Sanskrit word for "mountain," and means something on the order of "a lady of the mountain." My manager in my last job was named Parvathi.

    If I gave the impression that I think all words can be translated with precision (if at all) from one language into another, please excuse me for not writing clearly. That is certainly not true.

    By the way, there is no such word as "secondly," "thirdly" or "fourthly," and even "firstly" is not regarded as proper English (although that doesn't stop people from saying it). "First," "second," "third" and "fourth" function as both adjectives and adverbs. "I arrived first."
  21. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    It is scarier than that, much more scarier I should say. Like a city in Siberia wanted a ban on Bhagvad Gita, after reading something into Russian translation which IS not in the original Sanskrit.

    Again, Fraggle, I have found Wiki to be frequently inadequate as a source of knowledge. Parvati means Daughter of Mountain. Her father was Himvan, meaning Lord of Snows. Strictly, it should be Paarvati.

    Eeshanvi is bit more complicated. In Indian system, there are 8 directions, at 45 deg interval. Eeshan means North East. Eeshanvi is dweller of North East, where the kingdom of Her father was.

    Btw, every language can be modified by the local usage. English is no exception to that principle.
  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    But in every language of India the words and names take slightly different forms. My friend Parvathi pronounced her name with the sibilant TH of English "bath" and "theater." I never asked her which was her native language, but in my experience about 90% of the Indian people in the information technology profession in the USA speak Telugu.
    Yes, but stricter rules are followed in written language. Colloquialisms like "secondly" are not permitted in edited writing in any English-speaking community--any more than "ain't," "I'm going to lay down and rest," or "just between you and I."
  23. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Parvati or Parvathi, the meaning is still the same, spirit and connotations are same. It could even be Parbati in Bangla.
    first·ly   /ˈfɜrstli/ Show Spelled[furst-lee] Show IPA
    in the first place; first.

    1525–35; first + -ly Unabridged
    Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2012.
    Main Entry: lastly/last
    Part of Speech: adverb
    Definition: in the end
    Synonyms: after, after all, all in all, at last, at the end, behind, bringing up rear, finally, in conclusion, in the rear, to conclude, to sum up, ultimately

    Notes: finally is used when the item being introduced figures as part of a process or development; lastly should be used when the item introduced counts as part of a list

    Please update.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2012

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