Languages of Belsha

Posted by Irgend Jemand on 7:40 12/15/01

In reply to: Languages of Belshai posted by Christopher O'Regan on 20:06 12/14/01

Ok, this is almost entirely about languages on earth, but then again, you've started with the topic.

First, since so many place names on Almea are derived from place names on earth, is there some language in wich the word for Switzerland sounds somehow like Belshai? With some imagination, one can think that the "shai" in "Belshai" is derived from Switzerland or Schweiz or Suisse, but where does the "Bel" come from?

And Chris, I don't really think that simultanous translation between English and German, or other European languages, is that difficult. After all, spoken sentences usually don't take more than a few seconds, so even when you have to wait for the whole sentence to translate it, you shouldn't fall back to much in time. And longer sentences are usually divided in segments of about that size, wich can be translated one by one, and than left in the same order. The only serious problem I could think of is when you've forgotten a word and don't have the time to look it up in the dictionary.

Perhaps there could be a more serious problem when it comes to Arabic or Chinese. I think this Sapir-Whorf thing could become a problem then. I know it's outdated, but I still think it might work the other way around: That language determines thought. It might be quiet difficult to translate many Western terms into Chinese while keeping their meaning, and vice versa. For instance, I've heard somewhere that the Chinese term for "freedom" generally means something bad in Chinese- that it's associated with chaos and crime or something- so that, when a leader who speaks one of the European languages says something like "We must defend our freedom against those who want to take it from us" in the UN, this automatically means something bad in Chinese, even without the political tensions. Could something like that happen?

Mark responds:

The name Belshai isn't consciously based on anything, and in fact I don't yet know what it means!

On translation: one mitigating factor is that contexts can bring in their own connotations. For instance, Bernard Lewis tells us that the word malik 'king' had, in general, bad connotations in Classical Arabic; it was associated with pagan monarchs. Much later, though, in the 1800s, the pasha of Egypt changed his title to malik, as an assertion of equality with the kings of Europe.

I think that if there's enough diplomatic contact, problems due to differing connotations will be smoothed over.

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