Reading It Wrong – Who Is in Charge of Language?

translation berlin german english
“How far is language really able to communicate something new, something that runs contrary to my expectations,” asks Tim Parks at the New York Reviww of Books: “Or rather, how far will I allow it to do so? One of the intriguing aspects when teaching translation is watching students struggle with sentences that say things they didn’t expect them to say. They are used, of course, to the process of passing from not understanding a foreign text to understanding it, that moment when a seemingly meaningless drift of words suddenly falls into place. But they also know that they often make mistakes. They must be careful. If the text says something ordinary and commonplace, there will be little doubt in their minds: “This is the kind of thing people say. It must be ok.” But if a writer should come up with some perplexing idea, or, worse still, some declaration running contrary to received wisdom or political correctness, then anxiety sets in; the words will be examined and re-examined even if their individual meaning and the overall syntax is fairly clear. In many cases, especially if the novelty is expressed subtly, students, but also practiced translators, will end up reducing the text to something more conventional.”

Read on at the New York Reviww of Books

– At the same time at Daily Writing Tips“Who Is in Charge of Language?” by Mark Nichol: “Who invented the English language, and to which mental institution was that person thereafter committed (or from which did the culprit escape)? More to the point, who regulates language, and why, as demonstrated in any one of countless exhibits of spoken and written discourse, are they doing such as poor job of it?

How do we, as a culture with a common predominant language, decide what is correct English, whether spoken or written? The corpus, or body, of our language is determined by a precarious consensus based on the contributions of prescriptivist linguists and descriptivist lexicographers, the traditions and innovations of professional writers, and the speaking and writing habits of the general populace. And it is the tension between all those participants in the process that makes pinning the language down such a challenge.”

– Read on at


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