LINGUIST List 9.848

Tue Jun 9 1998

Disc: Recent Change in English

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <martylinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Robert Orr, Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English
  2. Larry Trask, Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English
  3. crwhiteley, Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English

Message 1: Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Sun, 7 Jun 1998 02:28:03 -0400
From: Robert Orr <roborruottawa.ca>
Subject: Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English

A brief comment - some names seem to be more prone to alteration than
others. This is a very complex issue, and seems to involve whether
the names in question have an easily recognisable equivalent in the
target languages.

Examples:

The six rulers of Muscovy/Russia called "Ivan" are usually referred to
as "Ivan" in English, as are the three called "Vasilij", in contrast
to, e.g., "Petr", who is called "Peter", and "Jekaterina" who is
called "Catherine". There is, however, a fairly well-known history
book, published (I think) earlier this century, which refers to a
certain ruler as "John (!) the Terrible".

Also, Macaulay (1800-1859) refers to Kings of France as "Lewis".

I've also seen a fairly recent Spanish text refer to Queen Elizabeth I
as "Isabel".
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Message 2: Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Sun, 7 Jun 1998 10:28:07 +0100 (BST)
From: Larry Trask <larrytcogs.susx.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English

Alexis Manaster Ramer writes on the fairly recent tendency in English
to refrain from translating foreign personal names, and wonders
whether Spanish might be a language that still rigorously translates
these things.

Well, until very recently, Spanish did indeed translate every name
that could be translated into Spanish: Karl Mark is `Carlos Marx',
Queen Elizabeth of Britain is `La Reina Isabel', and Prince Charles is
`El Principe Carlos'. But, at least in popular newspapers and
magazines, this practice has suddenly been abandoned: so far as I
know, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are always so cited in Spanish, and
they are never called `Guillermo' and `Antonio'. Of course, they're
not royalty, but then neither was Karl Marx.

Larry Trask
COGS
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
England

larrytcogs.susx.ac.uk
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Message 3: Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Sun, 7 Jun 98 12:29:00 GMT
From: crwhiteley <crwhiteleytyco.geis.com>
Subject: Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English

Reply to item 4618337 from LINGUISTLIN sent on 98/06/06 18:26


>Date: Wed, 3 Jun 1998 17:10:44 -0400 (EDT)
>manasterumich.edu
>Subject: Re: 9.820, Disc: Recent Change in English

AMR writes about the custom of no longer translating names of royalty
into English and mentions other European languages.

> I am reasonably sure that the same tendency exists in several
European languages, certainly Polish, but I know almost nothing about
its full extent (I seem to remember that it has not effected Spanish,
at least not as completely), its origin, or the history of how it
spread.

He is right that it is affecting Spanish (peninsular Spanish, at
least) more slowly than most other European languages. Queen Elizabeth
is still la Reina Isabel Segunda de Inglaterra and her son is el
Principe Carlos de Gales. And of course the Pope is Su Santidad
Juan-Pablo II. However, politicians, artists and other famous 20th
century, especially post WWII, people keep their original names, so we
hear nothing of Guillermo Clinton, Santiago Chirac, Isabel Taylor or
even Antonio Blair (but it's always Carlos Marx and Juan Sebastian
Bach)! Even in Spain the tendency not to translate can be seen in
names of towns and cities, where local names are more often used than
the translated ones, except where . However, "professional linguists"
have authoritatively informed the public on television and the press
that such names should be pronounced as though they were Spanish. Some
years ago in a TV quiz, the contestants were asked to give the
"correct" pronunciation of 'Manchester and Miami' among other
cities. The right answer was to pronounce each syllable with the value
and stress it would have in native Spanish orthography, and this still
seems to be the rule for most newsreaders (the standard pronuncation
of 'Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart' has to be heard to be believed)!. My
Mexican friends are incredulous and make a big thing of pronouncing
foreign words the "right way", i.e. making an effort to approximate
the original language's pronunciation, especially where this is
English. Spanish also tends to translate technological terms where
possible, so that we have 'ordenador', 'base de datos', 'disco duro'
and 'archivo' where Italian, for instance, uses 'computer', 'data
base', '(h)ard disk' and 'file'.

Some of Spain's conservatism in this area was probably politically
motivated. During the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco (never
referred to as Francis outside Spain, but often as Paco inside!) Spain
took very seriously its God-given mission as 'la reserva espiritual de
occidente' (the spiritual reserve of the West) and that included
maintaining the 'purity' of the Spanish language.

I like Alexis' idea that translating names is part of a global
tendency, and it would be interesting to know what happens outside the
mainstream Indo-European languages.

Colin Whiteley
Barcelona, Spain
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