Friday, 1 June 2012

Hô-ló Sin-gí 2 Animals from Comenius

I raised this list of words (and sentences) for discussion in my email group for Learning Hô-ló (台語, 臺灣話)* for a peculiar reason: the original exercise (from Comenius in 1658) practices vocabulary of a type that children commonly know but that you often can't find in the dictionary.

For each of the pictures, you're supposed to make a sentence along the lines of "The bear growls, grr grr".  Many people who learn English as adults might not know the verbs growl, bleat, bray, etc. (we have specific verbs for the sounds that animals make in English).

This sounds easy, but you soon see the trouble when you try to translate this exercise using a dictionary.  I'm pretty sure that the Hô-ló sound that a bear makes is hm̄-hm̄-kìo ("to growl").

So, what you can see at a glance with a language exercise of this kind is that different languages both have different nouns and verbs to form these sentences, but also have different assumptions about onomatopoeia (is the sound of a bear growling "hm̄" or "grr?").

* (If you're having trouble finding the group, the name is exactly as stated above, but the e-mail is Learning-Ho-Lo@Googlegroups).