Mark and Kristen
Thank you for your questions, replies and comments, and
apologies for my tardiness in replying: I have been very busy
The short answer is:
1. Coping with noun inflection changes will add between 10% to
20% to your translation costs.
2. You cannot escape the adjectival agreement trap which will
produce ungrammatical output in most languages.
The cost of translating into one language will cost roughly the
same as writing the original. If you translate into the typical
21 to 40 languages then the increase in cost will be
substantial. You are creating a rod for your own back.
The long answer:
What is suggested is a very serious anti-pattern. As I laid out
in my previous post, what is proposed works reasonably well in
English and possibly a few other languages, like Mandarin, that
have a primitive morphology. These languages are unfortunately
atypical. Languages with a primitive morphology belong
predominantly to a category of language termed creole: they are
formed by a fusion of two or more languages. The English we use
today was formed during the 15th century by a fusion of medieval
French and old English. The impact of French on the English that
we use today should not be understated - it was immense.
The vast majority of human languages have a rich, or in the case
of Slavonic languages an extremely rich morphology. English
nouns do not have gender association and their morphology is
only expressed in the possessive and plural forms. An obvious
consequence of this is that word order in sentences is of
paramount importance, which is not true of morphologically rich
Let us now move on to the substantial flaw that is caused by
treating product names, or any other noun, as a variable when it
comes to translation: the noun inflection and the adjectival
1. Noun inflection
The only inflections for nouns in English is the possessive and
plural forms. Other languages can have many more forms depending
on the role that the noun is playing in the sentence. Take my
mother tongue, Polish. There are 7 noun cases in Polish:
nominative, genitive, dative,
locative and vocative, each with a possible different ending. It
is very difficult for monolingual English speakers to grasp the
fact that nouns can have so many different forms. Why is this a
problem for automatic noun substitution? The answer is a great
deal: 7 does not go into 2 (English nominative and possessive).
Let is look at a practical example in the following sentence
where the noun 'spanner
' in Polish
Please undo the bolt using a spanner
Proszę odkręcić śrubę kluczem.
Please note the inflection of the noun in Polish as it takes on
its instrumental form, which results in adding en 'em' ending.
You can redo the translation so that spanner uses the nominative
, proszę odkręcić
The English equivalent is:
Using a spanner
please undo the
This imposes an extra burden on the translator which you will
have to pay for. The translator has to rearrange the sentence:
this is an extra task and will increase the cost of translation.
It can also result in a very strange style for the document as a
2. Adjectival agreement
Nouns in English do not express gender. This is quite unique.
Most other languages associate a particular gender with each
noun and require that any adjective accompanying a noun has to
agree in terms of both gender and in most instances also with
regard to case. Let us take a simple example of automotive
product names from Ford of Europe: Fiesta, Mondeo and Focus. Let
us also take the example of Polish, which is typical of all
Slavonic languages. Nouns in Polish can have three genders:
masculine, feminine and neuter.
Fiesta in Polish is automatically assigned feminine gender
because it ends with an 'a'. Mondeo is automatically associated
with neuter as it ends in an 'o'. Focus is masculine, mainly
because in ends in neither 'a' nor 'o'. Now let us look at the
simple noun phrase 'new model':
Please note that all three models force different endings on the
adjective 'new'. Add to this the fact that the adjective will
also have to take on the inflection of the noun we have the
Driving the new 'model' is a great experience:
a) Jazda nową
jest wspaniałym przeżyciem.
b) Jazda nowym
c) Jazda nowym
jest wspaniałym przeżyciem.
As you can see, even if we forced the use of the nominative case
for the model name, which may result in a stilted translation,
we cannot escape the gender trap. You will end up with
ungrammatical text, which depending on your target audience may
not be the result you desired.
The examples given above were obviously for a single target
language, but Polish is fairly typical of most morphologically
rich languages. Other languages have different traits, such a
Finnish which has 15 inflections for nouns, no gender but
requires adjectival agreement. French has an even more primitive
noun morphology than English, but has a very strong gender
requirement on adjectives and particles, e.g. nouveau, nouvelle,
du, de la, le, la. Hebrew also requires adjectival agreement for
gender and has three cases for nouns as does unsurprisingly
To sum up it is ill advised
to use any mechanism to
provide for individual word or noun phrase substitution if you
are going to translate your output to any other language with a
richer morphology than English, unless you are prepared for the
extra cost and possible low quality of the resultant output.
Human language is too rich and varied to be treated in simple
word substitution terms.
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On 18/01/2013 17:20, Troy Klukewich wrote: