Monday, 15 October 2012

The importance of 'logic systems' in developed discourse

I'm really grateful and enjoying my new job as a terminologist. I'm learning new things everyday and enjoy the company of and the interaction with my colleagues at the office. I'm not criticizing anyone but trying to point out an abstract process that is largely invisible and underappreciated by even the experts that come up with glossaries that we, at the office, are expected to translate into the Inuit language. This also affects the translators that we have to interact with from time to time in the course of our work.

I was reading the posting of the reader/members of a media website today when I was reminded of something that I think I've written about in this very blog - the importance of logic systems of a developed discourse. A poster, whom I assume is a kid based on what he wrote, said something that was kind of off about politics but I couldn't quite put my finger in it. Then, in a flash of insight, it occurred to me that it's the internal logic system of political analysis that was missing in the poster's thoughts.

Internal logic systems allow for productive and consistent discourse, whether it is science, politics, journalism, etc. What is missing, in my estimation, in much of the Inuktitut in media and translation work is that invisible, underlying logic system that allows for the generation of new and original insights in a given discourse. While Inuit translators are expected to translate such terms as 'abnormal' into Inuktitut, the concept itself is often left undefined in grammatically productive terms or not said explicitly why something is 'abnormal' as per the internal logic system in which the word occurs.

In fact, without knowledge of, say, the Linnaeus taxonomic scheme of the animal kingdom I'd have an extremely hard time trying to come up with productive, non-circular definitions in Inuktitut for animal terms. Some animals have the same name in Inuktitut - most species of sandpipers, say - while some terms in English have same words that in Inuktitut are differentiated (juveniles from adults; four legged from bipedal running). The word for 'speckled' or 'spotted' in Inuktitut changes depending on whether the speckles or spots are on a bare skin, fur or scales of a fish, and whether they are large and few or small and numerous.

Given these facts, the best strategy is to try and find cognates between the two languages (and the logic systems) that will translate the terms more accurately (both ways, especially in Inuit Knowledge discourse). But that is what is frustrating tryng to explain to not only translators but also the experts who take these things for granted or have internalized them so much that they've become invisible.

Mnay a time I've been told - sometimes in my face - that I don't know what the heck I'm talking about because I have a tendency to talk over people (not intentionally, of course) but what I'm actually trying to do is to point out cognates and commonalities between the logic systems of the different languages that the self-same people are talking about exactly, only in different terms.

Jay

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