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语法有意义吗? – 译学馆
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语法有意义吗?

Does grammar matter? - Andreea S. Calude

你正在给朋友讲述一个超棒的故事
You’re telling a friend an amazing story,
刚要讲到最精彩的部分 你的朋友突然打断
and you just get to the best part when suddenly he interrupts,
“The alien and I”不是“Me and the alien”
“The alien and I,” not “Me and the alien.”
我们大多数人可能会为此生气
Most of us would probably be annoyed,
但除了这种无礼的打断外
but aside from the rude interruption,
你朋友说的有道理吗?
does your friend have a point?
从语法上看 你的句子真的有错吗?
Was your sentence actually grammatically incorrect?
(果真如此)他还能听明白的话 语法还有用吗
And if he still understood it, why does it even matter?
从语言学的角度来说
From the point of view of linguistics,
语法是一套在写作或口语中
grammar is a set of patterns for how words are put together
为把单词组织起来
to form phrases or clauses,
形成短语和词组而准备的模式
whether spoken or in writing.
不同的语言有不同的模式
Different languages have different patterns.
英语中 主语通常被放在第一位
In English, the subject normally comes first,
紧跟其后的是谓语动词
followed by the verb,
然后是宾语
and then the object,
日语和其他很多语言中
while in Japanese and many other languages,
句子构成的顺序是 主语 宾语 谓语动词
the order is subject, object, verb.
一些学者尝试在所有语言中找出一种普遍的模式
Some scholars have tried to identify patterns common to all languages,
但是除了一些基本的特征外
but apart from some basic features,
比如都有名词 动词
like having nouns or verbs,
这些发现的特点 都不能被称为“语言学的普遍性”
few of these so-called linguistic universals have been found.
任何语言都需要一致的模式来发挥功用
And while any language needs consistent patterns to function,
对这些模式的研究在两个阵营里引发了一场公开的讨论
the study of these patterns opens up an ongoing debate between two positions
也就是规范主义与描述主义的争论
known as prescriptivism and descriptivism.
简而言之
Grossly simplified,
规范主义者认为一种特定的语言应该遵循一致的规则
prescriptivists think a given language should follow consistent rules,
描述主义者却将变化与改变看成是
while descriptivists see variation and adaptation as a natural
语言的一种自然且必要的部分
and necessary part of language.
历史的大部分时间里 大多数语言是口口相传的
For much of history, the vast majority of language was spoken.
但随着人们沟通的更加密切 书写的重要性与日俱增
But as people became more interconnected and writing gained importance,
书面语言的规范化可以让沟通变得更加广泛
written language was standardized to allow broader communication
并确保不同地区的人们可以相互理解
and ensure that people in different parts of a realm could understand each other.
在很多语言中 这种标准的模式渐渐被认为是唯一适合的一种
In many languages, this standard form came to be considered the only proper one,
尽管只是来源于很多口头表达中的一种
despite being derived from just one of many spoken varieties,
通常用于有权势的人之间
usually that of the people in power.
语言纯化论者过去致力于通过细化一系列
Language purists worked to establish and propagate this standard
反映他们那时已存在的规则建立并推广这种标准
by detailing a set of rules that reflected the established grammar of their times.
同时用于书面语法的规则也被应用到了口语中
And rules for written grammar were applied to spoken language, as well.
起源于写作规则的语言模式 被认为是堕落
Speech patterns that deviated from the written rules were considered corruptions,
或社会地位低下的标志
or signs of low social status,
很多从小就用这些方式说话的人
and many people who had grown up speaking in these ways
被迫接受标准化的语言模式
were forced to adopt the standardized form.
然而最近
More recently, however,
语言学家已经弄明白 讲话和书写是不同的现象
linguists have understood that speech is a separate phenomenon from writing
它有自己的规律与模式
with its own regularities and patterns.
我们大多数人在不记事的时候就开始学说话
Most of us learn to speak at such an early age that we don’t even remember it.
我们通过无意识的习惯而不是记住规则
We form our spoken repertoire through unconscious habits,
形成了自己的说话技巧
not memorized rules.
因为说话也要用情绪与语调来表达意思
And because speech also uses mood and intonation for meaning,
它的结构经常更加的灵活
its structure is often more flexible,
以满足说话者和倾听者的需求
adapting to the needs of speakers and listeners.
这可能意味着 要舍弃复杂的 很难即时从语法上分析的从句
This could mean avoiding complex clauses that are hard to parse in real time,
通过改变来避免拗口的发音
making changes to avoid awkward pronounciation,
或省去一些音节 加快说话的节奏
or removing sounds to make speech faster.
这种语言教读法试图理解并映射这些差异
The linguistic approach that tries to understand and map such differences
而不用指定正确的语言 这就是所谓的“描述主义”
without dictating correct ones is known as descriptivism.
它并非是决定应如何使用语言
Rather than deciding how language should be used,
而是描述人们实际上是怎样运用它的
it describes how people actually use it,
并记录这一过程中人们对语言进行的创新
and tracks the innovations they come up with in the process.
虽然规范化主义与描述化主义之间的讨论
But while the debate between
仍在持续
prescriptivism and descriptivism continues,
但双方并不是互相排挤
the two are not mutually exclusive.
规范主义的作用在于
At its best, prescriptivism is useful for informing people
告诉人们既定时代下 一种最普遍存在的模式
about the most common established patterns at a given point in time.
这很重要 不仅在正式的场合
This is important, not only for formal contexts,
而且也让来自不同文化背景的外乡人
but it also makes communication easier between non-native speakers
沟通起来更加容易
from different backgrounds.
另一方面 描述主义
Descriptivism, on the other hand,
让我们了解到我们是如何思考的
gives us insight into how our minds work
以及我们架构自己对这个世界看法的本能方式
and the instinctive ways in which we structure our view of the world.
最后 对语法最好的定义就是一系列的语言习惯
Ultimately, grammar is best thought of as a set of linguistic habits
借由语言使用者
that are constantly being negotiated and reinvented
持续的不断的调整与使用
by the entire group of language users.
就像语言本身
Like language itself,
是一件通过各地说话者和倾听者
it’s a wonderful and complex fabric
写作者和阅读者
woven through the contributions of speakers and listeners,
规范主义者和描述主义者的贡献
writers and readers,
做成的美丽而复杂的织物
prescriptivists and descriptivists, from both near and far.

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规范主义还是描述主义都有其存在的意义。

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