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Re: [ontolog-forum] (OT) German

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2008 13:20:56 -0500
Message-id: <478BA808.9050105@xxxxxxxx>
Duane Nickull wrote:
> Perhaps not illogical, however the Germans have pushed the limit with
> Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz
> Which is the word for "Beef labeling oversight transfer law"     (01)

Depending on your point-of-view, you could actually parse the German 
into its individual bits:
  "Cattle meat labeling oversight duties transference law"
Note also that Duane uses "oversight" in a now typical extended meaning 
-- not "the process of overseeing" but rather "the responsibilty for 
overseeing".  And the German distinguishes them.    (02)

But this is merely a demonstration of a difference in linguistic styles: 
  English has "noun phrases" -- that string of 5 words is 5 consecutive 
nouns (most of which are nominalized verbs) without a single 
preposition.  German has no "noun phrases" per se; it just has 
Marathonwörter (Marathon words), which are "noun phrases with the spaces 
removed".  Russian has the same practice, and Russian words are 
typically even longer.  French has neither "noun phrases" nor 
"Marathonwörter"; in French one has to use the prepositions.  A 
paraphrase of the French would be "The law for transfer of 
responsibility for oversight of the labeling of beef".  So it is just a 
matter of the conventions of your language for dealing with the problem 
of specificity -- there is no high ground here.    (03)

German speakers would doubtless agree that a 64-character word is too 
long to parse on first glance, and they also make jokes about outrageous 
Marathonwörter.  OTOH, Brits and Americans are often amused by 
outrageously long noun phrases, too.  (And the one above is right up 
there with the worst offenders.)  There is such a thing as bad practice, 
and most bad examples of language use can be traced to government-ese.    (04)

-Ed    (05)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (06)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (07)

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