[FOM] The Natural Language Thesis

hendrik@topoi.pooq.com hendrik at topoi.pooq.com
Thu Jan 17 19:32:37 EST 2008

On Tue, Jan 15, 2008 at 07:12:08PM -0300, Joao Marcos wrote:
> Do you have a specific reason or example hidden up your sleeve to
> doubt the translational equivalence between natural languages?  If so,
> it would be nice to hear about that from you.

There's Navaho (so I'm told) where verb tenses do not refer to time, but 
to how you know the information -- is it something everybody knows?  is 
it something you saw with your own eyes?  Is it a legend?  Is it a 

So when translating form English into Navaho, you have to shoose a 
tense, which is information not present in the original.  And when 
translating from Navaho into English, you have to include temporal 
information, which is not present in the original.

Thus except for a very few sentences, in which the extra information 
happened to be encoded as, say, adverbs in the original, exact 
translation is impossible.

Is this the kind of untranslatability being discussed?

-- hendrik

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