2014/08/31

Experts in dismantling and mantling funitures, with an ad of my own

roberto rob in Barcelona Metropolitan's classifieds:

We offer the most reliable services of movings both within the town and outsidethe town,even outsside the country. we are experts in dismantling and mantling funitures, we are on duty 24 hrs and 7 days a week. just give us a trial,

I think mantle is a pretty nifty bit of back-formation, but I know there will be conservatives who will prefer to speculate, following the OED (access with a UK local library card), that the funitures will actually

  • be concealed or obscured;
  • be covered with a coating of ashes in order to shelter them from the weather;
  • become covered with some other type of coating or scum;
  • become frisky or rampant;
  • start to embrace people in a friendly or affectionate manner.

BTW, anyone driving from ~Barcelona to ~London this week and interested in transporting one large item and its owner in exchange for a wad of cash? No return required.

2014/08/28

Hots dogs

Possible evidence of the Spanish Conquest of England, seen on a neighbourhood barbecue ("BQ") notice on Wick Road, Hackney. Though perhaps, given the character of some of the dogs round there, the adjective was simply intimidated into agreeing. Adjectives have feelings, known as adverbs.

2014/08/27

Linguist lawyers

Transblawg picks up again on an Economist thing suggesting translation as an outlet for under-billing associates, and quotes one of the comments:

I am also a US qualified lawyer working in document review in Spanish and Portuguese. I have been steadily employeed in these temporary projects for quite some time, but inoalls is correct, these projects do not lead to permanent employment. I also agree that these law firms that hire people like us do not realize the full benefit of having someone who is not only fluent in the language, but able to act as a liasion between them and their foreign clients. I recently worked on a review in which the documents captured were clearly not what the firm had been looking for. I asked to see a list of the search terms and it was no wonder they got the result they did, they simply translated English legal terms into Portuguese, not taking into account the variations in the legal systems. I mentioned this to the supervising attornesy and gave them a list of more specialized terms to search for. This is an example of how firms are not making an investment in associates who bring languages to the table.

Though eloquence is prized in the profession, I sometimes get that old Moses & Aaron ache - if you're not stone-tablet-lugger-in-chief then you're a fucking loser - which wounds Moses if he slums it as Aaron, and which is punishable by antiphonal thunderbolt for any Aaron who presumes to a bit of mountaineering.

Exceptions are to be found on the wild side - new technologies and other Wild Wests - and this foolish babbler has had some amusing moments trying to unravel for demigods what happened in a particularly confused bit of Francophone industrial Africa.

But as night falls my hovel and hogs await on the plain.

2014/08/25

Early Hispanic bad loans and the Berbers: how we got from "el cadi" (the judge) to "el alcalde" (the the mayor)

Were the medieval Spanish arseholes? enquires anti-patriot Jesús P. Zamora Bonilla re the agglutination of the Arabic definite article in Spanish Arabisms - here's a list of al- & ar- nouns.

No, replies Federico Corriente, Dictionary of Arabic and Allied Loanwords: Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Galician and Kindred Dialects (2008), it were the Berbers what was the rearguard trumpets, brown-eyed cyclops, antiphons:

Our impression is that Noll has underestimated the cogency of the hypothesis .... purporting that article agglutination has to do with the well-known fact that the majority of the Muslim invaders were superficially Arabicized Berbers who, lacking an article in their native language and being therefore scarcely able to master the rules of its usage, attached it permanently to the [Arabic] loanwords acquired by [Berber], as well as to every substantive in the [Arabic] they learned, spreading this usage in the areas invaded by their troops, the Iberian Peninsula and wide expanses of Western Africa. This adstratic hypothesis is rejected by Noll, pleading an allegedly rapid decay of [Berber] in Al-Andalus, the unaccountable difference of results in the cases of [Catalan] and Southern Italy, where article agglutination is much less frequent, in spite of no lesser contacts with Berbers, and finally the situation of [Moroccan Arabic], where the [Berber] substratum is strongest and, nevertheless, there would be no such abusive use of the article. However, when these arguments and counter-arguments are checked and counter-checked, a different picture emerges, in our view more clearly favourable to that hypothesis.

To begin with, that alleged rapid decay of [Berber] appears to be a myth, originated perhaps in the dislike of many an Arab or Western scholar for an abstruse language which most of them did not know at all, and furthered by the historical fact that many [first-wave Berber invaders] tried at all costs to pass themselves off as Arabs and had no qualms about forging the matching lineages. But this was the attitude of those who, having a chance of socio-economic advancement, dwelt in the cities and played a role in political life. We do not for sure know what happened in the important rural communities of certain parts of the country, nor to what extent they managed to hide from each other a still strong competence in their native language in order to disguise their ethnic background. It stands to reason that, even if they had managed to forget [Berber], they could not help speaking Berberized [Arabic]. No surprise then that [Berber] loanwords in [Andalusi] be relatively few, and even fewer those having entered [Romance], but it is equally well-known that they are also relatively scarce in [North African Arabic] dialects, because [Berber] was and for most purposes still is a discredited language of peasants and highlanders which it is preferable to pretend not to know, even when it is one's mother tongue. However, it can be asserted on mere grounds of population statistics that the majority of the Hispanic people who became Andalusi had to learn [Arabic] from bilingual Berbers...; on the other hand, we have also shown that the situation in [Catalan] is not so different, nor so inexplicable. Finally, it is not completely true that the definite article be used in [Moroccan Arabic] with a distribution strictly governed by the category of determination: the mere existence, especially in non-[Bedouin] dialects, characteristically more influenced by the [Berber] substratum, of an indefinite article of the shape waḥd+ɘl means that substantives not preceded by [ɘl+] are statistically few...

[read the whole thing]

So, for the headline example, the RAE entry for alcalde she say:

Del ár. hisp. alqáḍi, y este del ár. clás. qāḍī, juez

As fire is extinguished by water, so innocency doth quench reproach.

2014/08/20

The vehicle in the MOTs: what's the author's mother-tongue? Plus, wanted: Piaggio Ape 50 van

An ad for a Piaggio Ape coffee van conversion:

Hello. I sell piaggio ape 50 cc 2001, in good condition equipped for the sale of hot drinks (coffee, cappuccino, latte.ecc). The vehicle in the MOTs and Tax paid up to May 2015. It is equipped with a coffee machine Professional two groups fracino, professional fracino grinder, a small fridge 12/24/220 volt pump of the water, small sink for hands, first aid kit and fire protection. The price is compressed everything that I need to start what `s activity table, blackboard, gazebo,various staff.

Clue below, and now the meat: I'm looking for a good second-hand Piaggio Ape 50 van in London / southern England or Barcelona / northeastern Spain.

[
About 60 are sold new annually in the UK, many of which appear to become coffee vans with an espresso-grade markup. My understanding is that many of those return to market quite rapidly and struggle to sell. In such cases I wonder whether the sum of the parts is worth more than the whole, and whether stripping acid from asset might make sense, but maybe their embrace is not soluble.

The new Piaggio Ape 50 market is curious. You can put one on the road in Spain for about 4200GBP, while the equivalent British price appears to be around 5600GBP. Explanations: sales are higher in Spain due to better weather, the scooter tradition, ecc.; national legislation in the UK and other countries prohibiting residents from driving foreign-taxed and -registered vehicles, thus protecting autochthonous car showrooms (and fuck the Treaty of Rome); a lack of interest at Piaggio Inc in the appreciation of sterling vs the euro; any more, bearing in mind that it's not exactly a LH- vs RH- drive issue?

But, as with fruit and veg, the cheapest prices I've seen are in Germany.
]

Meanwhile, if anyone with some boot space is driving from Spain to England before September 6, I'd be interested in renting said space.

2014/08/17

Convergent etymology: paella / pilau

The other day in the London City out of scientific interest I ate from a hipster stall a portion of /pʌɪˈɛlə/. It wasn't paella - it looked and tasted like sewage sludge, black, oily, foul - but I couldn't work out (and didn't dare ask) what method had led to this madness.

A couple of days later, somewhere in NW, I paid a Moroccan street vendor a fiver for a fine piece of chermoula-marinaded sea bass, which came with rice, sold again as /pʌɪˈɛlə/. The rice was fine, but prepared and spiced like a generic Ottoman pilav, so I deserted the grunting Slav street alcoholic on my table, and gently cross-questioned the entrepreneur.

Firstly, Spanish branding works. So far, so obvious.

Secondly, paella-the-dish is a miserable Iberian copy of a great Maghrebism, and paella-the-word is merely the application of a Spanish ll marinade to pilau, or whatever. That's amusing bollocks, so it should do quite well on internet.

Thirdly, the only difference between /pʌɪˈɛlə/-palou and risotto is that you stir the latter. Sounds like Caliphate cookery.

Then I had a pint of Doom Bar for 3GBP - not bad for a neighbourhood where three-bed ex-council flats go for a million.

2014/08/16

Spanish noun-adjective semantic ambiguity

None of the immediate context enables one to say whether the South Tangier refugee relief committee was anxious to grasp Helena Maleno's breasts à la Egyptienne because they read her as a Spanish prostitute (adjective española classifies noun puta (restrictive)), or as a fucking Spaniard (adjective puta describes more fully the noun española (non-restrictive)):

Agredida una activista española en Tánger: "me tocaban las tetas al grito de 'puta española vete a Tindouf'"

Perhaps two contrasting groups of suitably clad and trained empirical sociologists could be sent to Boukhalef; maybe Twitter-mining would provide answers.

I also recall meeting with this difficulty in other Romance languages - for example, in Romanian. Perhaps this explains why you will never meet with Bucharest ladies in Tangier suburbs, although I'm told they're quite popular in regal Rabat.

Speaking in Saturday-morning self-pitying mode, I'd say that we anglocabrones are actually worse off: unlike in Spanish, we cannot rely on word order to indicate whether an adjective is restrictive or not; and we also suffer dreadfully from noun adjuncts (often leading to compulsive stacking) - will your Latin lover's talk lead to walk or chalk?

But my English grandma is a vague and distant memory, and I still retain a vague and distant hope that someone will clarify some of the confusion posted here.

2014/08/14

"The dialectal divide in Spanish is essentially urban-rural, not Peninsular-American"

Bruno Gonçalves and David Sánchez's Crowdsourcing dialect characterization through Twitter subjected 50 million geotagged tweets to lexical analysis (beginning with stuff like auto/carro/coche/concho/movi) to come to this conclusion. Neither author belongs to the academic linguistic establishment, and they challenge the traditional view, which in Spain at least has defined linguistic variation to a considerable extent on a neo-feudal, territorial basis - in X we speak Xish, because that's what the regional government pays for in order to maximise central government grants and minimise audits. There are obviously grave problems with sampling (who uses Twitter? can tweets really be regarded as representative utterances? can such bold claims be based solely on word use?), but the mere fact that the dataset is pretty large and un-self-conscious gives it a huge edge over traditionalist surveys like Al meu poble en diem, and it's the most interesting (albeit incredibly short) study of modern Spanish I've seen for a while.

2014/08/08

Shit in, shit out

Over at Colin Davies': Google Translate as free copy Terminator, or, if your masterpiece is illegible in the source language, then don't expect a transbot to help you out.

Similarly, if not in style, Salvador Sostres says that language learning is for secretaries and salespersons, something you should encourage in your child only if his attic is static.

2014/07/18

An untranslatable pome?

Over at Futility Closet:

rua
      torta

                       lua
                             morta

                                              tua
                                                    porta.

No solution occurs to me, but in general rendering in English Portuguese meaning and mode should surely be easier than doing so in Spanish (that is where García Yebra struggled), because of English's far greater lexical resources and linguistic freedoms. Perhaps the Spanglish revolution will change all that.

The RAE apparently now accepts setiembre and otubre.