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I've moved the discussion which was here to Wiktionary:Beer parlour under the heading "Senses, Shades of Meaning, Definitions, Translations" for wider analysis. — Hippietrail 02:41, 13 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I've moved it back. The Beer Parlour page is too long already without adding more to get lost there. Wandering into a fog of generalities will do nothing for this article. Eclecticology 09:11, 14 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Umm so what is the beer parlour for?? Should we now move out each discussion to to the talk page of one relevant word, ignoring all other relevant words, then delete the beer parlour? How does help Wiktionary improve by hiding an important and active discussion in the talk page of one affected word? Is this a Wiktionary policy? Should it be a Wiktionary policy? — Hippietrail 09:40, 14 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Senses, Shades of Meaning, Definitions, Translations[edit]

I think we should distinguish between meanings "a person of Mongol descent" and "a person from Mongolia" or "pertaining to Mongolia", "pertaining to Mongol language" etc. When a definition contains the word "or", this should alert us to the difference in meanings. It is impossible properly to translate a word without such distinctions! Andres 17:34, 30 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Not impossible at all. In English there is no distinction, in other languages there are. Just because one language has distinctions doesn't mean they need to be forced upon every other language to make translation easier.
Just do it the same way we do adjectives into languages with gender. Put the distinction in parentheses after the translated word, separate each translation with a comma. If there are so many that it becomes cluttered, turn it into a list using asterisks. — Hippietrail 03:53, 1 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I guess you are right. It is possible to indicate the translations but this seemed to me to violate the rules.
But I don't think that distinguishing between shades of meaning is worthless if there are no other languages where they are expressed by different lexical items. For example there are four close meanings of the words egg in that article but only for Nahuatl and Finnish any lexical differences are indicated. It is pretty clear to me that the differences are real. But it seems to me that the differences between different nuances of "Mongolian" are real. And by the way, it is not true that there is no distinction in English. The word "Mongolian" in different meanings has different synonyms: e.g. "Mongolian language" (noun), "Mongolian language" or "Mongolian-language" (adjective), "of Mongolian descent", "pertaining to Mongolia" etc. Though these synonyms are not single words, it is impossible (would you object?) to indicate synonyms without distinguishing the meanings. Andres 07:23, 1 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I agree that we should cover all shades of meaning, but different languages just don't see the same shades as each other. In egg, defs #1 and #2 are different definitions of the same sense. The object vs substance shade I would expect not to exist in many languages, as I would expect the domestic fowl vs generic shade not to exist in some languages.
A year or two ago I remember a Portuguese-speaking guy telling me that "to be" has two very different shades of meaning. One which matches the Spanish "ser" and one which matches "estar". Portuguese and Catalan also have these distinctions. It doesn't mean that in the English definition of the English word "to be" we should say 1) relates an essential quality of an obect and 2) relates a changeable quality of an object. English simply doesn't have these distinctions.
When it comes to the subject of race, nationality, heritage etc. It's very blurry indeed. For example, an English speaker has little trouble using the word "jew" to describe various people. But does that mean the speaker had to make judgements about the other's religion, race, nationality, heritage, etc? Probably the speaker doesn't think about such things unless prompted. He's just talking about "jewishness" because the word doesn't easily break down into discrete senses.
So egg is probably wrong, and maybe I'm wrong on "Mongolian", but it's good to think about these things and discuss them to make the best articles and definitions. — Hippietrail 14:16, 1 Jul 2004 (UTC)
It is not very clear to me what should be the criterion that a language itself has or doesn't have a distinction. If it's the consciousness of the speaker then the speaker tends to distinguish precisely these meanings for which she uses differents words, and the use of a dictionary is making here aware of different meanings of one word. For example, the word is indicates entirely different relations: identity; having a quality; existence; location. If you say that English doesn't distinguish between those shades of meaning then this means just that is is one lexical unit. A dictionary lists different meanings of one lexical unit.
Other languages make us alert to distinctions we don't notice otherwise. I think we cannot objectively tell whether a distinction is big enough. Why does it seem to us that between the meanings of ser and estar there is no big distinction? It seems to me this is because both meanings are describable through "quality". Therefore I suggest that a good test for distinctions of meaning within one language is whether there are different synonyms for different meanings. For example, ovum and egg cell are synonyms only for the first meaning of egg. On the other side, has the quality of being is a synonym for one meaning of is, but there are no such expressions as has the essential quality of being and has the accidental quality of being... Or are there?
I think that the amount in which the distinctions are made is related to translations. If some shade of meaning is not felt within English and is felt in, say, one or two other languages, it need not be fixed in the list of meanings. If many other languages make the distinction, it should be made in the list of meanings.

I had always thought of Mongolian in the sense "of Mongolia" as separate from the sense that is synonymous to Mongol "of the Mongol ethnos", but checking my dictionaries I see this is not universally held — AHD partially conflates them: "Of or relating to Mongolia, the Mongols, or their language or culture." in the adjective sense, but "A native or inhabitant of Mongolia." and "A member of the Mongol people." as separate noun senses. Wordnet doesn't appear to admit the sense of "Mongolian" as a noun for an inhabitant of Mongolia, only one of Mongol descent, and for its adjective senses one refers to the country of Mongolia, the other to the region, its people, languages, or cultures (all at once)... I think there is leeway here but given the way we do translations it might be better to split definitions when the semantics admit of it.
However the case of verbs like ser and estar is not quite parallel, as that is a grammatical difference: ser is the copula for predicate nominals, and estar for predicate adjectives, locatives, etc. (Similarly, you doesn't differentiate between singular/plural nor formal/informal, though most of its translations do, but these categories aren't relevant to the English pronoun at all.) —Muke Tever 19:24, 1 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Don't use WordNet to evaluate subtle shades in meaning. It just doesn't have them, giving several different words an identical definition, and not distinguishing between meaning to the same extent and clarity that, for instance, the OED and Webster do. It's only useful as a quick and simple reference. - Centrx 20:55, 13 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I agree that there may be grammatical differences and that it is easier to tell which are the grammatical categories of a language than which are the meanings a language makes distinction between (though the difference is probably not entirely sharp). But ser in Spanish can be used in the case of predicate adjectives if the quality the adjective indicates is essential: El hombre es mortal. Man is mortal. Andres 01:30, 13 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Was making all the headers level 2 only a conscious decision or an accident? I was just about to fix them but if some experiment is going on shall I leave it for a bit? — Hippietrail 05:37, 16 Jul 2004 (UTC)

By level two do you mean == where the language headers would normally go? I did this because there are currently no other languages on the page and, indeed, this is a word that is unlikely to get any other languages, because it is the kind of word that has the same meaning if in another language. If there are no other languages, the sections look better at ==. - Centrx 20:04, 16 Jul 2004 (UTC)
It was the fact that every heading was changed to ==. Normally we use the heading levels to make a heirarchy to give a bit of structure. — Hippietrail 02:55, 17 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Ah, yes, my oversight. Fixed now. - Centrx 16:56, 17 Jul 2004 (UTC)

RFC discussion: June 2007[edit]

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The following discussion has been moved from Wiktionary:Requests for cleanup (permalink).

This discussion is no longer live and is left here as an archive. Please do not modify this conversation, but feel free to discuss its conclusions.


Tagged but not listed. --Connel MacKenzie 21:13, 3 June 2007 (UTC)