More Babbling

Through the filter of time … a repost that may still be interesting to you from two years ago.

Admit it. Once you discovered Alta Vista’s Babel software you did this: You entered a phrase to translate from your native language to some other language, then translated it back again to see what would happen. Or, you translated it through several different languages.

Whether you’ve done that or not, via Rosetta Rants, we have this site, which will translate your phrase through one of two pathways. One is via French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. The other includes Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

Here are a few examples of results, with the original, the Indo-European run, and the Indo-European-Asiatic (Asiatic is not a language group, I quickly add) run. I tried to pick phrases that might have meaning in an imagined historical context, in order to exploit deep connections among these langauges. Perhaps this is a way of building language phylogenies? (Linguists: I know, I know, this is stupid. Don’t send me nasty emails.) You’ll also note a bit of playing around with Broca’s area…

The cow is in the pasture.

the cow is in the grass
With the gram that the cow interests

The lion eats the lamb.

The lion eats the lamb.
The lion eats the lamb.

The lamb is eaten by the lion.
The lamb eats of the lion.
The lamb eats the lion.

How many goats must I provide to marry your daughter?

I must make how many goats available, the end to marry to its son?
If ã. 6á. for the connection and the girl, one does not occur little
shutdowns?

The river is wide, but my bow is strong.
The river is extended, but my elbow is strong.
The river is extended, but my elbow is strong.

Was that a Neanderthal I saw you down at the club with last night?
Was Neanderthal, the one that I have yesterday from engolido with the
association with tonight?
Lower it has east Neanderthal, sees yesterday with this association to
be uniform era?

Conclusions? 1) “The lion eats the lamb” vs. “The lamb is eaten by the lion” is a valid test for Broca’s aphasia; different languages use slighly different arrangements of brain parts. 2) The practice of goats as bride price is not universal; 3) Other than the small confusion of “bow” and “elbow” we now know that bow-size anxiety is a deeply organized human trait; and 4) The range of Neanderthals did not extend into eastern Asia.

Comments

  1. #1 Interrobang
    June 20, 2009

    I’ve never actually done that; I don’t use machine translation except where I’m looking up a word I don’t know in a language I already do. I understand the results can be…humourous at times, but it just kind of underscores for me that machine translation isn’t, as they say in my native idiolect, ready for prime time. :D

  2. #2 NewEnglandBob
    June 20, 2009

    Since I had never heard the term idiolect, I looked it up.

    “An idiolect is a variety of a language unique to an individual.”

    Therefore “my native idiolect” is redundant.

    /pedantry

  3. #3 Deen
    June 20, 2009

    This was the basis of a fictional game that the main character would play in Philip K. Dick’s 1969 novel Galactic pot-healer. You’d take a book title, take it through several translation machines in several languages, and back to English. The results were given to the other players, who’d have to guess what the original title was.

    I’m sure you can guess what book is “On rye, fish”. I used Google translator, English -> German -> French -> Japanese -> English, if you want to check for yourself.

  4. #4 humorix
    June 21, 2009

    And still there, I do not speak about ” short scales(ladders) ” and about ” long scales(ladders) “, about kilometres, about miles, about squared feet, about cubic thumbs, etc.!! Ha! Ha!
    Et encore là, je ne parle pas des “échelles courtes” et des “échelles longues”, des kilomètres, miles, des pieds carrés, pouces cubes, etc !! ha ! ha !
    Traduction “Reverso” !

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