Friday, 7 November 2014

Praeceptum Googlus

Say that you wanted to indulge in a little reactive wankery and create for yourself a little motto in Latin in response to someone’s quote from Thomas Aquinas.  Say that you went, as one often does, to Google and looked for a Latin to English translator.  Say that you were surprised to see that Google has its own little translator.

You’d be impressed, right?

However, there are some interesting bugs.  I know that Latin is pretty precise, so that when you have the right declensions and whatnot, you’ll know precisely what is being done by who to whom and why.  English, however, is a little less precise.  So I typed in my potential motto and checked out the result.  However, I know that errors can creep in so I reverse translated it to see what I got, then I did it again and again until I reached linguistic equilibrium (where back translation resulted in no change):

·                     English – A wise man knows that god does not exist
·                     Latin – Vir sapiens , scit non est deus
·                     English – A wise man , knows that there is no God
·                     Latin – Vir sapiens , scit quod non est Deus
·                     English – A wise man , knows that is not God
·                     Latin – Vir sapiens , scit quod non est Deus,
·                     English – A wise man , knows that I is not God,
·                     Latin – Vir sapiens , scit quod non est Deus,

True enough, I suppose.  A wise man knows that I am not god, even if he (the wise man) doesn’t know me.

To be honest, I really did want a slightly more wankery-rich motto (and one that was less sexist), so let’s look at what that turns out to be:

·                     English – When all truth is known and all that is known is truth, the wise shall know that there is no god
·                     Latin – Cum omne quod cognoscitur , cognoscitur et verum est verum, quia non est Deus sapiens
·                     English – When all that is known is known and the truth is the truth , because God is not a wise
·                     Latin – Cum omne quod verum est , et cognoscit , quia Deus non est sapiens
·                     English – Since everything which is true, and knows , because God is not wise
·                     Latin – Cum omne quod est verum, et quia Deus est sapiens
·                     English – When everything that is true , and as God is a wise man
·                     Latin – Cum, quod verum est, quod , cum Deus sit sapiens
·                     English – When the Lord, that the truth of it is, that , since God is the wise man
·                     Latin – Cum de Domino, quod verum est, quod , cum Deus sit sapiens
·                     English – In the case of the Lord, as it is true, that, since God is the wise man
·                     Latin – In casu , ut dictum est, quod , cum Deus sit sapiens
·                     English – In that case, as has been said , that, since God is the wise man
·                     Latin – Quo in casu, ut dictum est , quod , cum Deus sit sapiens
·                     English – In this case, as has been said , that, since God is the wise man
·                     Latin – In hoc casu, ut dictum est , quod , cum Deus sit sapiens
·                     English – In this case, as has been said , that, since God is the wise man
·                     Latin – In hoc casu, ut dictum est , quod , cum Deus sit sapiens

What the …?  We go from saying that there is no god to saying that god is a wise man?

Is this a problem with Latin or Google?  Let’s see.  I’ll do the same with Swedish (since I can do that manually anyway, so I can keep an eye on what it is doing):

·                     English – A wise man knows that god does not exist
·                     Swedish – En vis man vet att gud inte existerar
·                     English – A wise man knows that God does not exist

And:

·                     English – When all truth is known and all that is known is truth, the wise shall know that there is no god
·                     Swedish – När all sanning är känd och allt som är känt är sanning , skall den vise vet att det finns ingen gud
·                     English – When all truth is known and all that is known is the truth, the wise man knows that there is no god
·                     Swedish – När all sanning är känd och allt som är känt är sanningen , vet den vise mannen att det inte finns någon gud
·                     English – When all truth is known and all that is known is the truth, the wise man knows that there is no god

Ok, one was pretty much perfect (the capitalisation of “god” doesn’t really matter) and some sexism crept in via the English in the other, but they are both essentially correct.  Why the dog’s breakfast with Latin?

Swedish and English are both from the same root languages (via the Angles and Saxons) so perhaps we could try a completely different one?  I happen to know a bit of Thai also, note that while Thai does borrow some Sanskrit and Pali words, via its Buddhist heritage, the majority of common words are of Austric origin.

·                     English – A wise man knows that god does not exist
·                     Thai – คนฉลาด รู้ว่า พระเจ้า ไม่ได้อยู่
·                     English – A wise man knows that God does not exist

And:

·                     English – When all truth is known and all that is known is truth, the wise shall know that there is no god
·                     Thai – เมื่อ ความจริง ทั้งหมด เป็นที่รู้จักกัน และสิ่งที่ เป็นที่รู้จักกัน เป็น ความจริง คนที่ฉลาดจะ รู้ว่า ไม่มีพระเจ้าอื่นใด
·                     English – When the truth is known and what is known is the fact that intelligent people will realize that there is no God .
·                     Thai – เมื่อ ความจริง เป็นที่รู้จักกัน และสิ่งที่ เป็นที่รู้จักกัน เป็นความจริงที่ คนฉลาด จะรู้ว่า ไม่มีพระเจ้า
·                     English – When the truth is known and what is known . It is true that the wise man knows no God .
·                     Thai – เมื่อ ความจริง เป็นที่รู้จักกัน และสิ่งที่ เป็นที่รู้จักกัน มันเป็นความจริง ที่ คนฉลาดรู้ว่า ไม่มี พระเจ้า
·                     English – When the truth is known and what is known . It is true that the wise man knows no God

Now with the more wankery-rich motto Google clearly struggles due to the lack of punctuation in Thai, so a human might need to get in there to change a word or two to tie the concept of truth back to what is known (delete มัน and the space before มัน, and possibly replace the last ที่ with ก็), but it’s not the complete cock-up observed with Latin.

So why does this happen with Latin?  My suspicion, and it’s only a suspicion, is that Latin has been used for in the rough order of two thousand years to discuss god related stuff and there are biases in its use that prevent complex phrases which convey that god does not exist.  Note that this does not stop very simple phrases from expressing the concept, or is there:

·                     English – There is no god
·                     Latin – Non est deus
·                     English – There is
·                     Latin – est
·                     English – The
·                     Latin – est

What?  Ok, how about this:

·                     English – god does not exist
·                     Latin – deus non est,
·                     English – God does not exist ,
·                     Latin – Deus non est ,
·                     English – God is not ,
·                     Latin – Deus autem non est ,
·                     English – He is not God,
·                     Latin – Et non est Deus ,
·                     English – And there is no God ,
·                     Latin – Et non est ultra Deus ,
·                     English – And there is no God ,

For some reason it wants to add in the “et”.  Let’s look what happens when we take that out:

·                     Latin – Non est ultra Deus
·                     English – There is no God
·                     Latin – Non est Deus,
·                     English – There is no God ,
·                     Latin – Non est Deus ,
·                     English – There is no God ,

Take out the comma and remove the capitalisation of “deus” and we are soon back to a string that ends up flipping between “the” and “est”.

The lesson on this, apparently, is that if an athiest wants a motto that is full to the brim with wankery, he or she should stick with Swedish or Thai and avoid Latin altogether.

Or not rely on Google.

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