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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘language conflict

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross announces his support of Scottish independence on political grounds. Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen takes issue with him.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes movingly about self-critical voices.
  • The Cranky Sociologists’ SocProf shares sociology-related World Cup infographics.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Homo erectus picked up the herpes virus from chimps.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog notes that German attitudes towards the United States and the United Kingdom have cooled in recent years.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the election of out lesbian Kathleen Wynne as premier of Ontario.
  • Language Hat notes the increasing prominence of languages other than English in India, particularly in mass media.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the economic effects of recessions make people in recessionary economies more inclined towards racism.
  • Torontoist notes that many employees of the provincially-owned Beer Store chain have been active on social media in arguing against allowing convenience stores to sell beer.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes 2MASS J05233822-1403022, 40 light years away, a very low-mass star that’s just barely massive enough to be an actual star, not a brown dwarf. (The lowest-mass, in fact.)
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the peculiarities of giant planets orbiting giant stars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper analyzing archeological remnants (shell middens) of the earliest Maori settlers in New Zealand.
  • Joe. My. God. notes Roman Catholic cleric Robert Carlson, testifying about sexual abuse cases during his tenure as a bishop in Minnesota, stating he wasn’t sure if priests having sex with children was criminal.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair takes another look at the situation with the Arabic-language translation of Frozen, noting similarities and differences between the sociolinguistics of Arabic and Chinese.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the use of slave labour–often immigrant–in the fisheries of Thailand.
  • Marginal Revolution comments on the exceptional difficulty of reforming Pemex, the Mexican state oil company.
  • The Search looks at the results of a conference on community digital archiving, noting that the actual software is only a small portion of the overall effort.
  • Savage Minds’ Simone notes the importance of text and tourism, looking at guide books to the Nordic Faroe Islands.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs describes a proposed urban development in Scandinavia, uniting Norway’s Oslo, Denmark’s Copenhagen, and the west coast of Sweden.
  • Towleroad notes that Hong Kong is not allowing Britons the right to marry–including same-sex marry–at the British consulate in that city-state.
  • Window on Eurasia notes potential problems with new Russian legislation on dual citizenship.

[LINK] “Translating “Frozen” Into Arabic”

Writing in the New Yorker, Lebanese linguist and writer Elias Muhanna takes issue with Disney’s version of the hit musical Frozen for the Arabic-speaking market. His argument, that the Modern Standard Arabic chosen for the translation doesn’t connect with the different forms of the Arabic language spoken by different peoples, makes a certain amount of sense. There’s also the non-trivial question of identity: having a version of Frozen in an Arabic theoretically common to everyone might well have ranked highly in Disney’s prospective market.

There has never been a Disney musical so widely translated (or “localized,” in industry-speak) as “Frozen.” There has also never been a Disney musical so loaded with American vernacular speech. Princess Anna may have spent her childhood in a remote Scandinavian citadel, but she talks like a teen-ager from suburban New Jersey. Singing about her sister’s impending coronation ceremony, she says, “Don’t know if I’m elated or gassy, but I’m somewhere in that zone,” and confesses to a need to “stuff some chocolate in my face” at the prospect of meeting a handsome stranger at the party. Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine were more demure in their longings, and sang in a register of English more readily amenable to translation.

One of the forty-one languages in which you can watch “Frozen” is Modern Standard Arabic. This is a departure from precedent. Earlier Disney films (from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to “Pocahontas” to “Tangled”) were dubbed into Egyptian Arabic, the dialect with the largest number of speakers in the region, based in a country with a venerable history of film production. Generations of Arabs grew up watching Egyptian movies, and the Disney musicals capitalized on their familiarity with this particular dialect.

Modern Standard Arabic is very similar to Classical Arabic, the centuries-old lingua franca of the medieval Islamic world. Today, it is the language of officialdom, high culture, books, newscasts, and political sermonizing. Most television shows, films, and advertisements are in colloquial Arabic, and the past several years have seen further incursions of the dialects into areas traditionally reserved for the literary language.

Ironically, though, children’s literature has remained deeply resistant to the trend toward vernacularization. “If we read to them in dialect, when are they supposed to learn real Arabic?” is the answer I usually get when I ask other parents about this state of affairs. As a scholar of Classical Arabic and a native speaker of Lebanese Arabic, I have always felt this to be a false choice. Setting aside the fraught question of what constitutes real Arabic, there is surely something to be said for introducing children to literature that speaks to them.

It’s tricky to describe the quality of a literary text in a formal language to a speaker of American English or any other language that does not contain the same range of linguistic variety as diglossic language families like Arabic, Chinese, and Hindi. One way to put it is that Modern Standard Arabic is even less similar to regional Arabic dialects than the English of the King James Bible is to the patter of an ESPN sportscaster.

The Arabic lyrics to “Let It Go” are as forbidding as Elsa’s ice palace. The Egyptian singer Nesma Mahgoub, in the song’s chorus, sings, “Discharge thy secret! I shall not bear the torment!” and “I dread not all that shall be said! Discharge the storm clouds! The snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me…” From one song to the next, there isn’t a declensional ending dropped or an antique expression avoided, whether it is sung by a dancing snowman or a choir of forest trolls. The Arabic of “Frozen” is frozen in time, as “localized” to contemporary Middle Eastern youth culture as Latin quatrains in French rap.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 2, 2014 at 8:01 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO’s Derek Flack posts photos of beach scenes in Toronto dating back a century or more.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly offers ten tips for tourists visiting New York City.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that life on planets can influence the effective size of the circumstellar habitable zone, expanding it inwards or outwards.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to an Economist article arguing that the English language has become the common language of the European Union’s citizens.
  • Eastern Approaches comments on the life of Polish general Wojciech Jaruzelski.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ PO Neill notes that the European Monetary System predating the Euro was associated with booms and busts in Ireland, among other countries.
  • Kieran Healy notes a study suggesting that the success or not of crowdfunding and other online collaborations is strongly determined by whether or not people make initial large contributions.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money comments on the ethics of immigration and border control.
  • At the Planetary Science Blog, Joseph O’Rourke summarizes a paper suggesting it’s reasonably likely that Pluto has plate tectonics and subsurface oceans, derived from the impact that created its binary partner Charon.
  • pollotenchegg maps turnout in the recent Ukrainian election.
  • Strange Maps notes that the Belgian province of Liège looks in outline quite a lot like Belgium.
  • Torontoist notes that the policies of the Progressive Conservatives under Tim Hudak would bode ill for Toronto if they won the upcoming election.
  • Window on Eurasia links to an author who predicts only hard and soft authoritarianism for Russia.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Charlie Stross speculates about the recent tragic crash of Malaysian Airline’s flight MH370 off the Vietnamese coast. Does the fradulent use of passports indicate terrorism?
  • The Dragon’s Gaze suggests that Beta Pictoris has another exoplanet in addition to Beta Pictoris b, which is photographed.
  • The Dragon’s Tale, meanwhile, notes that China is not supportive of Russia’s move into Crimea.
  • At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Peter Kaufman shares his experience of Crimea, attending a multinational youth camp in the late Soviet period.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Alex Harrowell notes that the balance of soft power in Ukraine has been tilted towards the West and the European Union, not Russia, and is becoming even more West-leaning.
  • Geocurrents’ Asya Perelstvaig traces the complex language and human geography of Ukraine.
  • Joe. My. God. links to the Pet Shop Boys’ remix of Irish drag queen Panti Bliss’ speech about gay rights.
  • Language Log notes a study suggesting that elephants apparently have warning signals for human beings.
  • Marginal Revolution links to an article exploring the Dutch construction of an online site for journalism akin to iTunes, and notes Ukraine’s very weak post-Soviet economic growth.
  • Registan’s Nathan Barrick analyses Ukraine’s situation, suggesting that some deal with Russia will be necessary and worring about civil society elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
  • Towleroad describes how Neil Patrick Harris has become a popular gay icon.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy links to a claim by a former worker at a left-leaning American think tank, the Center for American Progress, that it was censoring itself in order to avoid offending Obama.

[NEWS] Some Sunday links

  • The Globe and Mail profiles the growing political tensions within Thailand, increasingly polarized between populist rural areas and conservative urbanites.
  • io9 suggests that Russia is continuing to prepare for a long-range mission to Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, to be launched in a decade’s time.
  • Open Democracy’s Jamie Mackay describes how, in Venice, racism–especially anti-Asian racism–distracts and is used to distract Venetians from their city’s decline as an actual inhabited areas.
  • The photos heavy metal cowboys of Botswana must be seen.
  • The Atlantic Cities has noted Facebook’s utility in tracking global migration trends.
  • Shanghaist observes that the Shanghai metro system is offering announcements in Shanghainese as well as in standard Chinese.
  • The conclusion of a National Post columnist that Thor bests Superman–perhaps, by extension, Marvel besting DC–by virtue of having fun relatable characters is difficult to escape.
  • Also in The Globe and Mail, the evolution of a bar in Bloordale–Bloor West and Lansdowne, just to my west–from a neighbourhood joint to something ore hipsterish is interesting.
  • Should the abundance of vintage cars in Cuba, a guest writer at The Guardian writes, be seen merely as cute or rather as symptom of corrosive totalitarianism? (I say yes.)

[BLOG] Some Thursday links (2)

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