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Kinship – and its problems for translation services

Posted on : May 28, 2012

A good translation service will always take into account the nuances of the target language, so you’re not left with a word-for-word translation of your text, but a new document that reads grammatically and sensibly in its new wording.

However, some categories of language can cause significant problems with this – including kinship, an area that has recently been studied by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California at Berkeley.

Charles Kemp and Terry Regier looked at the words for different relations – such as grandparents – in languages from around the world.

These can prove complicated for translation services as, while English has just two words for grandparents (grandfather and grandmother), some Eastern languages have four – allowing paternal and maternal grandparents to be identified immediately.

When rewording a document from English into one of these languages, it’s important for a translation agency to be able to choose the correct word, particularly for sensitive documents like wills.

However, the researchers claim the issue is actually one of simplicity, not complexity – for instance, while a single word for all family members would be too simple, too many different terms over-complicate language.

As such, most countries around the world have a compromise, leading to a specific set of similar relations being identified, with frequent terms omitted – such as, for example, whether a nephew is the child of a brother or sister.

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