multiple definitions

Discussion in 'Glossaries discussion' started by Phryne, Sep 8, 2005.

  1. Phryne

    Phryne Senior Member

    New York City
    I thought of a possible problem.

    Considering that some languages have many words that mean only one thing, i.e. Spanish words for refrigerator, I thought that maybe it can be very confusing if I follow the row along languages and I find that the equivalent in Spanish of "apartamento" in English is "flat" and/or "apartment", but also, in Spanish is "piso", "departamento", end so on. So, the rows would look like this:

    apartment departamento
    flat piso
    flat apartamento

    If I don't speak any of the languages that well, or I'm not familiar with any of the words, how do I know that “flat” = “apartment”, and that "piso", "departamento" and "apartamento" are the same things? I mean, "piso" in my country means "floor" and “apartamento” is not considered to be correct either.

    To make things worse, if I add another language, for which I'll use an imaginary one since I can't think of words in any other but English and Spanish, we'll see this:

    apartment departamento XX
    flat piso YY
    flat apartamento XX

    This is random too, for it could be this:

    apartment apartamento YY
    flat piso XX
    flat departamento XX

    And we see no connection with apartment and XX, for instance.

    I believe that if we put all words in one cell, it'll be quite obvious that they all mean the same thing.

    I’d love to hear from all of you.

    saludos :eek:
  2. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Great, thorough problem description, MJ!

    Let's try to put some bounds on what a glossary is, say in contrast to a dictionary.
    A glossary, in my experience, tries to give only
    a simple, brief definition

    while, in contrast, a dictionary typically gives...
    -definition(s), often in great detail
    -pronunciation guides
    -usage examples
    -dates of first/early citations

    A translation glossary, I think, should give only..

    -Word/term in original language
    -brief simple definition in original language
    -one or more valid equivalents in other languages.

    Thus--pardon the quick/innaccurate definition...just to illustrate the concept:

    EN word: Apartment
    EN definition: Single or multi-room living quarters in a building with multiple dwelling units.

    SP word: Apartamento
    SP word: Departamento
    SP word: Piso

    Notice that I've omitted 'flat'. That's a BE synonym for apartment, not part of the definition, glossary style, of apartment. Hence it deserves its own entry.

    If the original language were Spanish, it might look like this:

    SP palabra: Piso
    SP definición: Conjunto de habitaciones que constituyen vivienda independiente en una casa; planta; pavimento
    EN palabra: Flat (BE)
    EN palabra: Apartment (AE)
    EN palabra: storey
    EN palabra: floor

    I think we need to share a common understanding that we are attempting to do something limited and simple, albeit very useful.
  3. mkellogg Administrator

    South Florida
    English - US
    Yes, I don't expect these lists to be perfect, but we can give plenty of information.
    Maybe at some point we can consider adding columns for descriptions of the translation, such as: Mexico only, slang, etc.

  4. Phryne

    Phryne Senior Member

    New York City
    Thanks Cuchu and Mike.
  5. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    I agree anyway with Phryne, there is a problem whith synonyms.
    If two synonyms S1 and S2 are present in the source language, they appear on two separate lines.
    If two synonyms T1 and T2 also exist in the target language, what should the user do?
    If the user writes:
    S1 T1
    S2 T2

    The reader will think there is an exact match between each pair.

    In theory, there should be 4 lines:
    S1 T1
    S1 T2
    S2 T1
    S2 T2
    in order to show the terms are interchangeable, and any of them in the source language can be translated as any of them in the target language.
    But if there is a 3rd language with several synonyms, it will multiply exponentially the number of lines!

    For this reason, it would have been better to write:
    S1 / S2 T1 / T2
    on a single line, isn't it?

    Note: I know it doesn't match what I have written previously about this topic, but I have not yet found a solution. Just asking :)
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hi Olivier,

    QP to K4?

    But if S1 and S2 are interchangeable in the source language, but the target language has greater precision on the topic, such that T1 and T2 are not synonymous?

    As you have pointed out, this could easily get exponentially muddled.

    Result: It's imperfect, but simpler and easier to deal with a single source word at a time, and omit or overlook synonyms. We can deal with those in the forthcoming (aaaargh!) thesaurus sub-forum.

    My real concern here is that a user may wish to search a glossary on any language included. Multiple entries per cell, in the form x/y/z, may make this impossible for a person searching for 'y'.

    This is a messy issue, and I don't have a perfect answer.
  7. lauranazario

    lauranazario Moderatrix

    Puerto Rico
    Español puertorriqueño & US English
    Dammit... I have it when the tecchies "hijack" threads where those of us who are regular people (meaning, non-techs) are trying to express a concern.
    Furthermore, your oblique chess references might confuse the hell out of someone who is still trying to decipher if S1, S2 or T1, T2 refer to colums in the Excel worksheet, or to rows or what!

    Your contributions are valuable, guys --there is no denying that! ...but please remember to post in a way that is comprehensible to the average layman/laywoman.

    Meaning well,
  8. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Good point Laura,

    Let's try to back into a less confusing way of saying things.

    Back to the apartment/flat -- apartamento/piso/departamento example.

    I offer Olivier my respectful disagreement. I am unconcerned if apartment=flat.

    For a glossary, we usually just try to define one word, and not worry about listing its synonyms or closely related words, as a thesaurus would.

    apartment in EN = apartamento in SP
    and if there are other valid SP translations, such as piso and departamento, they should appear as

    apartment -apartamento
    apartment - departamento
    apartment - piso

    The multiplication across other languages will be less this way, as each additional language entry should correspond to 'apartment'. Thus, if there are three German words for apartment, the spreadsheet would look like...

    apartment -apartamento - German word#1
    apartment - departamento - German word#2
    apartment - piso - German word#3

    It only gets out of control if we include the synonyms or near-synonyms for the target language (English in this case) word.
  9. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    Sorry for the confusion, Laura. But I couldn't find right now real synonyms in English that match real synonyms in French, so I replaced the words by these cryptic symbols, in order not to discuss about the words (flat, apartment...) themselves but on the process of dealing with them. I admit it was not a good idea, I was influenced by my long background in Secret Services ;)

    In my previous message, just replace S1 by "flat", S2 by "apartment", T1 by "apartamento" and T2 by "piso".

    No, it's not a puzzle game :)

    I would agree with you, Brian, if the purpose of the glossary was to translate FROM English TO Spanish or German, but the glossaries can be used in any direction.

    In the system you describe, if you search for the English word "apartment", you will get all the possible translations in Spanish or German, but if you search for "apartamento", you will only get "apartment", and not "flat", which would have been useful too. There is no reason to favour one language relatively to the others.

    I am just thinking about a possible solution :
    Why not to add an "English synonyms" column to the glossary?

    It would then provide the following array:
    English        English synonym  Spanish 
    apartment      flat             apartamento
    apartment                       departamento
    apartment                       piso
    What do you think of this?
  10. Phryne

    Phryne Senior Member

    New York City
    Hi Olivier. I second that motion!

    After Cuchu and Mike's reply I thought of that too. My biggest concern is not so much about English speakers feeling left out by the default words, which are mainly those used by Americans, but people who are learning English and cannot relate "apartment" with the word they learned, "flat".

    Are we making things complicated and losing the spirit of this glossary?

    Saludos :)
  11. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Phryne and Olivier,

    Many thanks for thoughtful answers and an abundance of common sense.

    That's a real concern for me. As I said many posts earlier, the point of a glossary, unlike a dictionary or thesaurus, is limited. In that post, I also suggested that 'flat' should have its own entry!

    If this were a glossary on dwelling units, living quarters, or anything similar, I am convinced that both flat and apartment would be entered in the EN column if FR or DE or PT or whatever were the source language.

    Thus someone doing a lookup for 'apartamento' would see both flat and apartment in the EN results.

    I believe we all want exactly the same outcome. The question for me is how to get to it in the most simple fashion. A synonmyn column would work, but no better than a reasonably complete source language word list.

    So for me the question is, 'Which will be simpler?' as we may expect similar outcomes.

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