Friday, July 24, 2009

Not an idiot.

Lost in the language. Or is it a ghost?
(Photo by Philipp Klinger)


When it comes to learning other languages, I'm hopeless. Mostly it's the talking. I never sound right. Terrified, I hear that in Vietnamese (a tonal language) "ma" can mean horse or rice-seeding or mother or ghost. Add a " 't " to "ma" and you're cool or lost...and I feel hopelessly bound to my mother tongue forever. This example, of tonal meanings in the English language, made me feel a bit better. I mean, this is complicated stuff. And I've got it down. In English. Stop laughing!

(from Melancholia)
This sentence has seven different meanings, depending on the stressed word:
  1. I didn’t say she stole my money — someone else said it.
  2. I didn’t say she stole my money — I didn’t say it.
  3. I didn’t say she stole my money — I only implied it.
  4. I didn’t say she stole my money — I said someone did, not necessarily her.
  5. I didn’t say she stole my money — I considered it borrowed, even though she didn’t ask.
  6. I didn’t say she stole my money — only that she stole money.
  7. I didn’t say she stole my money — she stole stuff which cost me money to replace.
See? I'm brilliant.

1 comment:

janet said...

Very good! Now just transfer that to Vietnamese, and you will have it made!