Ansori

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I'm in Groningen, where I participated in Martijn Wieling's PhD thesis defense and a workshop. Earlier in the week, I gave three talks at a workshop organized by DGA on "Traitement de l'information multimédia" at ENSTA in Paris. Between the various events and the travel I haven't had time to post anything for a few days, so when one of Martijn's paranymphs showed me this SMS message, it struck a chord:

mi no camin tumoro no andesten go x bas ni for tren you no camin for mi tumoro monin ansori

That message was apparently composed by a native speaker of Spanish, to explain to his (American) employer that he would not be able to come to work as usual, due to some kind of transit problem, so that the employer should not come pick him up at the station at the usual time.

The message is a useful lesson in phonological redundancy.

And anyhow, ansori for the lack of posting over the past week.

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43 Comments »

  1. Margaret said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 3:21 am

    It sounds like Nämberch Englisch Spoken by Günter Stössel – a book that looks as if it is written in Franconian dialect but actually reads like English.

  2. Kanji, Ansori « Puntar said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 4:40 am

    [...] maybe it's a problem, but enough of one to justify so much extra learning? Cue Language Log this morning. This is in English: mi no camin tumoro no andesten go x bas ni for tren you no camin for mi tumoro [...]

  3. Jason said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 5:37 am

    To me that looks like some weird highly basolectal form of Tok Pisin. I never would have thought it came from a Spanish speaker. Mind you, Tok Pisin has a Portugese influence, so perhaps there is some legitimate similiarity there.

    Also, "Paranymph" sounds like a good name for a symphonic goth-metal band. You know, the type that always has an opera soprano as their lead singer.

  4. Peter Taylor said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 6:33 am

    I can get most of it, but how should I decipher go x bas ni? In Spanish SMSese, x is short for por, but that doesn't fit with the full spelling of for later. And is ni being borrowed from Spanish or used for an English homophone of knee?

  5. Tyro said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 7:07 am

    Peter Taylor, I interpret the "x" as "by," as in "2×4 lumber."

  6. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 9:09 am

    @Peter Taylor: I don't think people are always consistent about using abbreviations. Also, maybe the texter knows "x" for "by" because it's used in Spanish but doesn't know "4" for "for" because that only works in English.

    I think "ni" is indeed the Spanish word.

    What I don't understand is "andesten". It looks like "understand", but it seems to mean "is possible". Could the texter have understood "understand" as "can"?

  7. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    @Peter Taylor: I don't know whether people are always consistent about using abbreviations. Anyway, the texter could use "x" for "by" because you say that's used in Spanish but not know "4" for "for" because that only works in English.

    I think "ni" is the Spanish word.

    What I don't understand is "andesten". It looks like "understand", but it seems to mean "impossible". Could the texter have understood "understand" as "can"?

  8. Dan Lufkin said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 9:46 am

    I think you can parse it thus:

    [mi no camin tumoro no] I'm not coming tomorrow, repeat not. A negation at both ends of the negated thing is standard in (Creole) Afrikaans and used for emphasis in colloquial Scandinavian.

    [andesten go x bas ni for tren] Be aware that I won't be with you, Boss, nor will I be taking the train (ni … ni… standard Spanish neither… nor…).

    [you no camin for mi tumoro monin ansori] Don't come to the station to pick me up tomorrow — I'm sorry!

  9. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 9:49 am

    Sorry about the double post. An ISP or browser crash was involved.

  10. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 10:11 am

    @Dan Lufkin: But that leaves only one negative for "ni … ni…" or "neither… nor…". You used to be able to do that in poetic English, but it seems unlikely for a native speaker of Spanish who struggles with English. Of course, someone could always leave out a word in a text.

    Otherwise I agree except that you left out "morning".

  11. Andy Averill said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    I thought it was the opening lines of the Inferno in Esperanto…

  12. Coby Lubliner said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    I understand "andesten" as a mistranslation of entender, which can mean either 'understand' or 'intend', and the writer seems to have had the latter meaning in mind. That is, no entiendo ir por bus ni por tren → "no andesten go x bas ni for tren".

  13. Mike W said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 11:23 am

    @Dan Lufkin: If "tren" is train, might not "go x bas" be "go by bus", signifying that the speaker has tried all possible transit options and none are possible?

  14. Tora-chan said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    I'd take "andesten" as a translation of saber, "to know/know how": no sé ir por bus ni por tren "I don't know how to get there by bus or train". Entender only means "understand". "Intend" is pretender or pensar.

  15. MikeM said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 11:49 am

    Seems to me that he's saying, "I'll go by bus, not [by] train." That is, it may take me longer, but I'll get there and won't need a ride from you.

  16. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

    @Mike W: Yes, tren is "train"—in fact it's the Spanish word for "train"—and I agree that the texter is saying he can't go by bus or by train, not using the word "boss". I wasn't paying attention when I said I agreed with Dan with only one exception.

    @Tora-chan: Can't no sé ir por bus mean simply "I can't go by bus," or is that obsolete?

    @MikeM: Since he says, "Me not coming tomorrow", I don't think he can mean he's going by bus.

    One thing that surprises me—a delayed surprise—is the "o"s in "tumoro" and "ansori", which most Americans pronounce with a sound more like a Spanish "a". I can hardly believe he knows that "I'm sorry" is spelled with an "o" when he doesn't know it's two words. I've heard a few people say "sorry" and "tomorrow" with an [ɔ], and I associate it with New York (which is consistent with that train), but I don't really know whether there's a regional pattern.

  17. marie-lucie said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

    mi no camin tumoro no andesten go x bas ni for tren you no camin for mi tumoro monin ansori

    I think the middle section is:

    Don't understand (= You shouldn't understand) that I will go by bus
    [n]or by train

    Perhaps "for" is a contamination of Spanish "por" (in "por tren")

    It looks like there have been misunderstandings in the past about whether the employee was coming directly by bus or needed to be picked up by his boss at the train station. This time he won't be coming at all and is trying to make sure that there is no misunderstanding about transportation.

  18. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: One thing that surprises me—a delayed surprise—is the "o"s in "tumoro" and "ansori", which most Americans…

    Andesten and monin clearly point to a non-rhotic model variety; probably non-American. Sori fits perfectly ;)

    Note that Mark and the paranymphs (!) were in Groningen, and that American bosses can be found all over the world.

    But who was this speaker/texter? Are there Spanish-speaking people who get totally zero exposure to written English these days? Not even the odd coming or understand, or even sorry (!) in a song title on TV? Somewhere in Latin America???

  19. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: One thing that surprises me—a delayed surprise—is the “o"s in “tumoro” and “ansori", which most Americans…

    Andesten and monin clearly point to a non-rhotic model variety; probably non-American. So sori fits perfectly ;)

    Note that Mark and the paranymphs (!) were in Groningen, and that American bosses can be found all over the world.

    But who was this speaker/texter? Are there Spanish-speaking people who get totally zero exposure to written English these days? Not even the odd coming or understand, or even sorry (!) in a song title on TV? Somewhere in Latin America???

  20. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    Sorry for the double comment. I must have clicked the button twice — the server seems to be very slow. Could someone delete one of the two please?

  21. Circe said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

    A bit off topic, but from ML's link for paranymphs (emphasis mine):

    Furthermore the paranymphs would also act as a physical shield in case the debate became too heated, or as a backup for the doctoral candidate to ask for advice when answering questions.

    Is it a common occurrence for Dutch theses defenses to become "heated" enough for the "defender" to require "physical" assistance from the paranymphs for her "defense"?

  22. Coby Lubliner said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

    Tora-chan: Here is DRAE for entender: 6. tr. Tener intención o mostrar voluntad de hacer algo.

    No entiendo hacerlo is standard Spanish for 'I don't intend (plan, mean) to do it.' No entiendo ir gets thousands of hits with just that meaning.

  23. marie-lucie said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

    myl: As I was trying to post the above comment, there was some kind of glitch and nothing happened for quite a long time. While I was waiting, I quit Language Log, and came back to it later: my comment had not been posted, and I was glad because in the meantime I had been thinking that it must be wrong. I tried to write a new comment, but was not happy with it and erased it. Coming back here later, I see that my first comment, which I had wanted to delete, is here (posted at 1:06 pm). I would like it deleted, if possible.

    Here is my new comment:

    I think that Tora-Chan and Jerry Friedman are right and that the writer means "I don't know how to go [either] by bus or by train". "For tren" must be a calque of Spanish por tren, since there are cases – no this one – where Sp por corresponds to Eng "for".

    The difficulty of translating the message lies not just in the unconventional spelling and the limited vocabulary and syntax but also the lack of context known to both the writer and his boss but not the outsider who is reading this and is trying to imagine that context. As the writer obviously takes the train since the boss meets him at the station (but are we sure of the place?), perhaps he gets a ride at the other end too, from someone else. If that person is unable to take him to the train "tomorrow", and the employee does not know how/where to take the bus, he will be unable to come to work. This is just one possible reason for the writer's transporation problem.

  24. Coby Lubliner said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

    Tora-chan: FYI, here is DRAE for entender: 6. tr. Tener intención o mostrar voluntad de hacer algo.

    No entiendo hacerlo is standard Spanish for 'I don't intend (plan, mean) to do it.' No entiendo ir gets thousands of hits with just that meaning.

  25. Rod Johnson said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    Now I'm kind of sad I didn't have a paranymph at my defense.

  26. marie-lucie said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

    paranymph

    I had to look up the word. The first thing that had come to my mind was a ballerina in the romantic costume with full, full-length skirt. With one of those at one's side, the examiners would not think much about the content of the thesis.

    acting as a physical shield

    I understand that medieval academic debates could become extremely heated, so that having a bodyguard ("paranymph" seems quite euphemistic) could be a useful precaution.

  27. marie-lucie said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

    Coby Lubliner: you are quoting the Diccionario de la Real Academia Espan~ola which reflects Standard Spanish in Spain, and the meaning you quote ("to intend", etc) is no. 6 in the entry for entender, therefore it is not the main meaning of that word even in that country.

    The writer of the message is unlikely to be from Spain, but most likely from a Latin American country. No entiendo there generally means 'I don't understand'. 'To intend' is more generally tener (la) intencion de, as in No tengo ninguna intencion de [hacer] … 'I don't intend to [do] ….

  28. Peter Taylor said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

    Coby Lubliner said

    No entiendo hacerlo is standard Spanish for 'I don't intend (plan, mean) to do it.' No entiendo ir gets thousands of hits with just that meaning.

    I get about 7000 ghits for the phrase, but of the first 50 the only ones which don't appear to either cross a sentence boundary or mean "I don't understand going…" are from a translation of Boccaccio's Decamaron. I can't get anything useful out of CORDE.

  29. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    "No entiendo + infinitive" would mean "I don't understand doing something" or "I can't see why you would do that, more or less.

  30. Ken Brown said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

    It made perfect sense to me read as London Jamaican.

    So I probably misunderstood it entirely.

  31. mahir256 said,

    June 30, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

    mi no camin tumoro no andesten go x bas ni for tren you no camin for mi tumoro monin ansori

    No estoy viniendo mañana. No entiendo cómo ir en autobús ni por tren. Usted no está viniendo para mi mañana de la mañana. Estoy arrepentido.

    I am not coming tomorrow. I don't understand how to go by bus or through the train. You will not come for me tomorrow morning. I'm sorry.

    This is at least how I interpret it in both languages.
    Note that I am not completely fluent in Spanish.

  32. John Walden said,

    July 1, 2012 @ 2:02 am

    I don't see a Spanish speaker using "mi" for "I". The disjunctive "Yo" is "Me" but this doesn't simply ring true. Wouldn't a Spanish speaker have noticed "I" in bumper stickers or hamburger ads? Or have left it out completely?

  33. Lektu said,

    July 1, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    The only problematic word is "andesten", and I think the author has used "understand" to mean "know", which makes sense.

    The meaning is quite clear:

    "Me not coming tomorrow. No understand go by bus *ni[or] *for[by] train. You not coming for me tomorrow morning. I'm sorry."

    "I'm not coming tomorrow, don't know how to go neither by bus nor by train. Don't come for me tomorrow morning. I'm sorry."

    "Mañana no iré. No sé cómo llegar ni en tren ni en autobús. No venga a buscarme mañana por la mañana. Lo siento."

  34. Lektu said,

    July 1, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    The only problematic word is "andesten", and I think the author has used "understand" to mean "know".

    The meaning is quite clear:

    "Me not coming tomorrow. No understand go by bus *ni[or] *for[by] train. You not coming for me tomorrow morning. I'm sorry."

    "I'm not coming tomorrow, don't know how to go neither by bus nor by train. Don't come for me tomorrow morning. I'm sorry."

    "Mañana no iré. No sé cómo ir ni en tren ni en autobús. No venga a buscarme mañana por la mañana. Lo siento."

  35. Rodger C said,

    July 1, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    @Jarek: I take the writer to be a recent immigrant to the US, probably sub rosa, who learned his English entirely by ear and can read and write only Spanish. I've met such people.

  36. michael farris said,

    July 1, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

    Rodger C, why to the US? The message was seen in the Netherlands and that's an immigrant destination too now.

    And English not being the primary or preferred language of the country (and therefore not a big priority for the sender) would help explain the sender expecting the phonetic spelling to be understood.

  37. michael farris said,

    July 1, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

    Rodger C, why to the US? The message was seen in the Netherlands and that's an immigrant destination too now.

    And English not being the primary or preferred language of the country (and therefore not a big priority for the sender) would help explain the sender expecting the phonetic spelling to be understood.

    [(myl) In this case, the note was composed and sent in the U.S. The recipient sent it to a friend, who showed it to me in the Netherlands.]

  38. alec said,

    July 1, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

    @John Walden: Probably the difficulty emerges because the equivalent constructions in Spanish – "I do X" versus "[I] me do X" (as in "I put myself on the train", common in romance) are respectively rare and common. To a Spanish speaker "I can't take the train, I can't take the bus, I can't make it to work" is unusual, because the "I" is implied by the verb conjugation.

    A lot of why "me" is used in English is because "I" feels wrong. This looks like a case of it feeling wrong to someone without a native-level familiarity with the grammar, i.e. [Of course it's not "I can't come by train", you wouldn't say "Yo no sé cómo ir en tren", so it's "me" that goes there].

  39. marcos said,

    July 1, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

    I speak both English and Spanish… a few points:

    "x" in "go x bas" is Spanish text language for "por". It appears that the author of the message is under the impression that there is a one-to-one correspondence between English "for" and Spanish "por" (I have seen this type of mistake in learners of both languages who are native speakers of the other).

    Here's the original message:
    mi no camin tumoro no andesten go x bas ni for tren you no camin for mi tumoro monin ansori

    Here's how it would be written using standard English orthography:

    "Me no coming tomorrow no understand go for bus ni for train you no coming for me tomorrow I'm sorry"

    In idiomatic English:

    "I'm not coming tomorrow. I don't understand how to go by bus or by train. Don't come for me tomorrow. I'm sorry."

    In idiomatic Spanish:

    "No voy a ir mañana. No entiendo ir por autobús ni por tren. No vengas por mí mañana. Lo siento."

    My guess of the situation is that usually the author of the message gets to work either in their own vehicle, or by catching a ride with a coworker. For whatever reason, their usual way of getting to work wasn't going to work out for the day in question (tumoro), so they had planned with the boss in advance that they would take the bus or train to a nearby station and that the boss would pick them up there. However, after trying to figure out the public transportation system, the author could not figure out how to get where they wanted to go, or perhaps found that there was no route or line that passed near them.

  40. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 2, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    @Jarek Weckwerth: To add to what others have said… even though I'm trying to learn Spanish, partly by eavesdropping, I find that I tend to tune out Spanish conversation. I can easily imagine someone totally tuning out written English no matter how much exposure he has. This seems especially likely because reading English is hard for many Spanish speakers who are used to a much easier writing system, and if the person isn't very comfortable with reading to begin with.

    @marcos: I think you've got the most likely explanation. I might add that not being able to figure out how to get to work by public transportation is consistent with not being comfortable with reading.

  41. Lektu said,

    July 3, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    Marcos, where in the Spanish-speaking world would be idiomatic "No entiendo ir por autobús ni por tren"? It certainly would not be understood in Spain.

  42. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    July 3, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    @(myl) In this case, the note was composed and sent in the U.S.

    Then Jerry Friedman's question wrt the o in tumoro and ansori returns, along with my comment about the non-rhoticity of andesten and monin.

    Those readers who have had experience with this type of speaker: How does the middle vowel in tomorrow and the first one in sorry get interpreted by Spanish speakers of US English? [a] or [o]? The /ʌ/ in bus and coming gets assimilated to [a], so I would expect these two to follow the same path…

    @Jerry Friedman: I can easily imagine someone totally tuning out written English

    I dunno. I for one find it hard to imagine ;)

    This person is clearly not illiterate (they did send the text msg after all, didn't they?), and they do have some English. How long does it take to spot items such as morning or bus on signage in the street? Two days? And they do know how to spell you

    So if they have learned their English from spoken interaction in the US, it's an amazing feat of graphemic imperviousness; and if they are such a fresh arrival, they must have learned it at home (in Latin America?), thus probably at school…

    Are we sure this isn't a joke? It's all a bit of a stretch.

    BTW: The RSS feed isn't working in Thunderbird. Coupled with the fact that people have had problems posting comments — something's wrong with WP.

  43. DCBob said,

    July 6, 2012 @ 11:07 am

    As the person who shared this with Mark, I can vouch for its authenticity and add as well that the sender of the note is originally from Mexico and is literate in Spanish; has lived in the U.S. for several years and makes a living in the D.C. area doing various kinds of semi-skilled work such as painting, carpentry and so forth; and has indeed learned English from spoken interaction in the U.S. A funny addition is that the recipient of the note, who is Turkish, had no idea what it meant, and initially thought it was in Spanish; but his Italian girlfriend immediately understood it perfectly.

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