Wednesday, June 13, 2007

One of these things is not like the other... (Crosspost from LL)

Audience participation segment: Instructions from the back of a container of special Japanese 'silk' facial cleansing powder:

English: Work into lather with a little water.
German: Mit etwas Wasser aufschäumen.
French: Faire mousser avec un peu d'eau.
Spanish: Producir espuma con un poco de agua.

I really only have any actual speaking command of two of the langauges on this list (English and French), but given that these are all intended as a direct translation of the English instruction, and what with being able to recognize various cognates in the German and Spanish, and having worked on causative and resultative constructions in English and Italian, and you know, heck, being a professional linguist and all, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what was going on in these four sentences, syntactically speaking, when I first read them. And it seems to me that one of these imperatives instructions is not like the others.

Which one? And why?

Post your thoughts in the comments section here. I'll tell you what my take is tomorrow.

(Interlinear glosses (not translations) provided below, if you want a little more direct information.)

Mit etwas Wasser auf-schäumen.
with some water up-foam

Faire mousser avec un peu d'eau.
Make to.foam with a little of water

Producir espuma con un poco de agua.
produce foam with a little of water


Blogger gregates said...

It seems to me it's the Spanish variant which is different, on the grounds that the word for "foam" is the direct object of the verb, whereas in the other three the object is left unspecified, with the context filling in the product itself as what one is to make into foam (up-foam?). So the other three tell you what to do with the product, whereas the Spanish version seems to leave the product out of it.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Jorden said...

Maybe the german translation is different. It is the only one where the person using it doesn't have to perform an action (work it into lather, produce foam, make it foam) but rather 'lets it foam' with a little water. Mit etwas Wasser aufschaumen (lassen).

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Neil Dolinger said...

I have two other possibilities:

1) The English version is the outlier in that it is the only one that seems to use an explicit imperative. The other three use the infinitive forms.

3) The German is the outlier in that it is the only one in which the action of making foam is contained completely in one intransitive verb. I see gregates point that the Spanish variant is the only one with an explicit direct object, but an implicit direct object (as the object of a preposition in English or another infinitive acting as an object in French) is still a direct object.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous ella said...

I think it's the Spanish one. It sounds dirty.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

wow, Heidi I hope you don't give open ended questions like this to your students! I'd fail your class. I'd say it it is the German because we have a synthetic causative with an incorporated result. But it could also be the French because we have a biclausal purely analytic (two verb) causative

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the German French and English there
seems to me to be a lurking "this" as
implicit direct object.

EN: Work this in to a lather
ES: Foam this up with a little water
FR: Make this foam

It seems a tad perverse, but I think you could follow the Spanish command by making foam with a little water in two ways. Either you could use the stuff in the bottle or you could use some other foaming agent. If you wanted to
express the role played by the stuff in the bottle in some explicit way you'd maybe have to say "with this"

How would these languages do the
following old joke?

Stand in lukewarm water for 20 minutes

3:27 PM  
Blogger Editoress said...

The German seems different somehow. I don't speak the language but like to play at reading it occasionally. Something seems a little different from the others, but I will, of course, bow to all experts.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous versailles said...

Hmm. The Spanish seems to be verbless. I'd have literalized it as 'producing foam with a little of water', or 'to produce foam with a little of water'. Neither of those make sense as a rendering of the English. Since the blogger rendered 'producir' as 'produce', she probably wasn't thinking of this. And I could be wrong. I'm not a native speaker.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Ollock said...

It is obvious that Spanish and English don't match exactly. In the English instruction, it says "Work into lather", seeming to emphasize the act of turning the product into lather, while the Spanish bit 'producir espuma' doesn't have any presupposition of where the actual lather comes from (unless you count it as pragmatic).

Of course, all the languages have different verb constructions.

Another, more obvious difference is the fact that German says 'some water' (according to your gloss), but all the other languages clearly say "a little (bit of) water". Not much semantic difference, but interesting.

On a side note: I've always wondered why Spanish uses infinitives rather than a polite imperative on labels like this.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only in the Spanish is the 'foam' being created. In the other languages the powder is being made either 'foamy' or 'into foam/lather'

4:59 PM  
Anonymous miked said...

IANALinguist, but I'd say the English version is different because whether the lather already exists could be ambiguous (ie, mix product into an existing lather by using water (say as a solvent) versus using just this product and some water to create a lather).

5:15 PM  
Blogger ChrisW said...

Hum, lots of little differences and variations on how to cast this instruction into language.

jorden (2nd comment) is IMO wrong about German: aufschäumen is a transitive verb here.

I agree with several others that Spanish stands apart in that the powder (or whatever noun stands in for it) is not implicitly the direct object of the verb.

P.S.: Are you sure the stuff is safe on facial skin?

5:28 PM  
Blogger Peter Berry said...

I spotted some of the differences mentioned above, but here's one more: All except the German have "a little" translated directly, which (I think) is idiomatic for them. If the translators had done the same for German it would be "ein bisschen", but instead we have "etwas", which is more idiomatic in this context.

6:08 PM  
Blogger undeadgoat said...

I think the Spanish rather sucks, on the grounds that making foam with a little water appears to have nothing to do with the product. However, I often notice non-proofread-by-anyone-I-could-have-done-better-in-my-first-year-of-study.

Also the word "espuma" is forever contaminated for me because in my AP Latin we have translated its antecedents with "spume" which is a ridiculous word. I mean, eew. Spume. I don't' know what it means, and I don't want to.

But then, I know neither French nor German.

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the admittedly limited German I know, "etwas wasser" just sounds strange. I would translate that as "some kind of water or other", or "something like water". But perhaps I'm missing an idiom.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Jack Lecou said...

The German sentence is different.

All the others begin with a verb.

The German one doesn't. (And, though my German is nearly rusted over, I think it's supposed to.)

8:46 PM  
Anonymous Jack Lecou said...

Or maybe it's the English, since that's the only one not using the infinitive to phrase impersonal commands. (Which I guess is grammatical in German. Who knew.)

9:04 PM  
Blogger WordzGuy said...

I can't speak for the French, but all but the Spanish appear to be in either an explicit imperative (make, work) or an imperative form (mit Wasser aufschaeumen, while not explictly imperative, is a kind of impersonal way to order someone to do something -- Bitte nicht stoeren!). Producir is not imperative, is it? Infinitive. I would anticipate produzca. I'm not familiar offhand with a way to use the infinitive in an imperative kinda way. Dunno. Maybe jorden's got it.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Rowboat said...

The form used in the German translation (which, for those who are not sure, at least does not look at all odd to this native speaker) is also the infinitive.

As for differences... hmm. My familiarity with Romance languages is deficient, but I would also guess the significant point is that the English version is the only one that actually uses a "real" imperative.

There's other things, some of them probably too unsubtle/insignificant to bother pointing out (e.g. the German's the only one that puts the "with a little water" first), the rest I can see also already noted by others above.

(anonymous: Zwanzig Minuten in lauwarmes Wasser stellen. I haven't actually heard this, but it works about as well as it does in English.)

10:43 PM  
Anonymous paperpusher said...

Does this ever happen to you? I saw this on msn: "suspension brewing for Giambi" and I immediately envisioned a new micro-brewing process entailing a slurry of suspended particles in the brew,
"for Giambi"(a town, a beer company?) but then I realized he/she is some sort of athlete who is in imminent danger of "suspension". (That shows how much of a sportsfan I am).

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wordzguy: yes the Spanish text does not use the imperative, but this does not mean it's wrong. Recipes and product instructions normally use the infinitive (producir espuma) or a passive voice (prodúzcase espuma).

The imperative (produzca espuma) seems very intrusive to me, and definitely feels like a literal translation from American English.

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should add that another possible form in Spanish is "se produce espuma".

And, by the way, the French is also in the infinitive, so this does not set the Spanish apart.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous Sus said...

To me, the German looks different, just because we put the infinitive at the end of the clause. Just as an aside for non-German speakers, the translation is correct, and we use the same structure for recipes and instructions. I reckon if Mark Twain had to read German manuals he'd have suffered an aneurism from verb-absence...

(PS: And it's not "aufschmaeumen lassen". It's "ich schmaeume auf, du schaeumst auf, etc" perfectly active and transitive. It's just that we use the infinitive instead of the imperative. I think it's because we have the "du vs Sie" problem. If we were to use the imperative in manuals and instructions, we'd constantly have the trouble of having to decide the age group and status of our customers... But I'm just thinking aloud here. :)


12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

German, for instructing you to "foam" rather than to "make to foam" "produce foam" or "work into lather."

1:05 AM  
Anonymous cuerno said...

"Se produce espuma" is wrong in Spanish for this kind of sentence. As anonymous said the infinitive is normally used in instructions and manuals. "Prodúzcase espuma" doesn't sound that good, but I agree, this kind of impersonal form (it's not reflexive nor passive) is also correct. A third alternative would be the formal imperative using "usted" as subject: "Produzca espuma".

I agree with gregates and others commenters. Spanish is the odd one out, since it does no reference to the product itself. It could be read as "Produce lather (just) with water". I guess having it printed on a product is enough context and I wouldn't consider it a bad translation.

Other (more "referential" ) translations would sound wordy, wrong or too long to me: "Mezclar con agua y hacer espuma", "Convertir en espuma con un poco de agua".

3:03 AM  
Anonymous mraig said...

I'm certain the difference is that all the languages other than English can use an infinitive in instructions to express a command (although there is no real way to tell if English is using an imperative or an infinitive...the form looks the same in 100% of cases).

Rowboat: I think the thing about "stand in lukewarm water for 20 minutes" is that English "stand" can be either transitive or intransitive. My understanding of German is that the two possible English meanings would be expressed with two different German verbs: English "stand=make someone/something else stand" would be German "stellen", and English "stand=assume a standing position oneself" would be German "stehen". So the English is ambiguous in a way that German cannot be (maybe?).

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Rick Sprague said...

Since the challenge was to identify which "one of these imperatives is not like the others", I'll adopt the narrow focus on comparative syntax: English is different for using the imperative mood even when the intended audience is not known in advance.

As to why English may be different, Sus's hypothesis about avoiding the familiar/formal distinction sounds right on the mark to me, and applies equally to French and Spanish but not to English. I'm curious whether the De/Fr/Es forms would have used the imperative mood if the instructions were being given in person.

8:53 AM  
Blogger terrycollmann said...

The German is the only one not to say use "a little" water - but the English one uses "lather", not "foam" - a lather, surely, is thicker and heavier than a foam ...

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Rowboat said...

mraig: It's correct that English is more ambiguous in this, but the way the joke works in German is by assuming the omitted object to be the addressee - this is an awkward interpretation, but no more so than any other way of instructing somebody to stand in lukewarm water. In fact, to me it feels a good deal more natural than "Zwanzig Minuten in lauwarmem Wasser stehen", the intransitive variant (which indeed does not have the ambiguity).

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Alan Gunn said...

Well, English is the only one that uses a preposition to say this, unless the "auf" prefix in the German counts as one.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信社, 感情挽回, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 挽回感情, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信, 捉姦, 徵信公司, 通姦, 通姦罪, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 捉姦, 監聽, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 外遇問題, 徵信, 捉姦, 女人徵信, 女子徵信, 外遇問題, 女子徵信, 外遇, 徵信公司, 徵信網, 外遇蒐證, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 感情挽回, 挽回感情, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 外遇沖開, 抓姦, 女子徵信, 外遇蒐證, 外遇, 通姦, 通姦罪, 贍養費, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 女人徵信,

徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信網, 外遇, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 女人徵信, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信社,

徵信, 徵信社,徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 離婚, 外遇,離婚,

徵信社,徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信,徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社,徵信,徵信, 徵信, 外遇, 抓姦

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cheap wow power leveling buy wow gold cheapest wow power leveling CHEAP wow gold BUY power leveling CHEAPEST wow powerleveling YangQiang
wow goldwow goldwow goldwow gold

5:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home