Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Eleven Untranslatable Words

I came across this article as part of my Linguistics course - it was a nice surprise after reading pages and pages of very heavy essays! Ella Frances Sanders compiles a list of eleven 'untranslatable' words, some of them beautifully poetic, complete with some great illustrations.

In linguistics we learn about linguistic relativity: this is the idea that as long as the world shares the same concept, a language can survive. That is to say, words themselves are arbitrary and are only symbols for what we collectively understand- the word 'dog' is irrelevant whether we call it a 'chien', a 'perro', or a 'hund'. 

So this means that these words are untranslatable because their meaning is not generally shared- true, we don't have one exact word for 'komorebi-sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees', but that's not to say we can't translate it's meaning? Personally I think 'dappled light' is pretty close...?

If you agree with me here, take a look at Michelle Hume's food blog which takes a stand against the idea that these words really are 'untranslatable' and gives us an example of what really is.


No comments:

Post a Comment