April 27, 2006

Around the water cooler at Language Log Plaza

Dramatis personae: Ben Zimmer, Bill Poser, David Beaver.

BZ:   Anyone familiar with Tiago Tresoldi of Brazil, who's posting Portuguese translations of LL posts on his blog?
A quick search finds that he's a developer of an open-source MT program called Traduki.
BP: Cool. I write Portuguese better than I thought.
DB:   Perhaps that's the original blog, and we're doing the translation?
BP: Could be. Depends on whether time runs forward or backwards.
DB: Ahh, a prime example of reducing a hard problem to a much harder one.
BP: That's how science is done.

[To clarify the context and interpretation for readers who might be confused, this virtual conversation is an exact transcription of a series of emails sent by the people to whom the quotes are attributed; and we're all very pleased to find that Tiago Tresoldi is translating some of our posts into Portuguese on his blog. I mention this last point because Tiago at first misinterpreted this post to mean that we were upset. This is a good example of how affect can be misunderstood in virtual conversations, especially when irony is involved. (Though I suspect that similar misunderstandings take place in real life much more often than is commonly realized -- it's just that we don't scrutinize recordings of our interactions, and so we less often come to be aware that such misunderstandings have happened.)]

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 27, 2006 06:19 AM