আজ রাত অন্নো কোন রাতের থেকে আলদা কেন?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/12/09 07:01 -08:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2007/12/09/6710888.aspx


So the question seems simple enough, whether it is asked in Hebrew:

מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות‏‏?

Or Tamil:

இன்றிரவுக்கும் மற்றிரவுகளுக்கும் என்ன வித்தியாசம்?

Or Bengali:

আজ রাত অন্নো কোন রাতের থেকে আলদা কেন ?

Or Klingon:

qatlh pImlaw' ramvam rammey latlh je?

Or Quenya:

Manen lóme sina ume va neune lómi?

Or any of literally hundreds of other languages.

Though to be perfectly honest, I would have found even attempting to type most of them myself (as I attempted1 to do with the above three non-Latin script ones!) to be pretty much impossible.

Except for the book 300 Ways to Ask The Four Questions: From Zulu to Abkhaz, by Murray Spiegel and Rickey Stein.

Over on the Unicode List, Mark E. Shoulson sent out the note with the recommendation:

At my parents' house for Thanksgiving today, they gave me a copy of a book that might interest some of the readers here.  A friend of my mother's, over ten years ago, started collecting translations of the "Four Questions" from the Passover Seder into as many languages as he could.  According to him, finding out about me and getting from me the Klingon version gave him the impetus to really pursue the project and turn it into a book.  The book has translations into 300 languages, each printed in its native script (if applicable), and comes with a CD and a DVD full of performances and readings of the various translations.  (Things like signed languages couldn't be printed and are thus really only available in video on the DVD). 

I'm actually pretty impressed with the quality of the work and the explanations they give for each and every language.  I'm sure not all the typography is 100% perfect, but there was definitely a lot of effort put into it.  All the languages have the appropriate font, often with a transliteration as well.  Mongolian, relevant to recent discussion, is shown in Cyrillic transcription, but in the "ancient/extinct languages" section there is an entry for "Ancient Mongolian" which is written in proper vertical fashion.

Take a look:
http://whyisthisnight.com/ The book is called "300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions: From Zulu to Abkhaz".  The languages are somewhat annoyingly arranged in *reverse* alphabetical order, on the grounds that Hebrew reads right to left.  Go figure.

~mark

(I actually thought the reverse alphabetical order was a lot of fun, though I have been a big champion of that particular collation in the past!)

Now it isn't Passover just yet, though I figure I could maybe learn to do the questions in another of these languages between now and then with the help of the CD/DVD resources? :-)

Now even if goals are not as crazy as that, it is still a fascinating tome with a ton of information about the different languages, including the various English translations of the variety of different ways the questions are/were asked in various languages around the world.

I am really glad Mark pointed this book out and even gladder that I got one. Highly recommended!

As a somewhat unrelated side note, the Hebrew keyboard was easy enough once I learned the layout but at this point I find both the INSCRIPT Bengali keyboard and the other one in Windows to not be very usable. I think I am going to have to start up those text-based TSF TIPs posts again if I am going to actually type the rest of the questions up in any Indic language.... :-)

 

1 - When I say attempted, I mean it. This is unproofread attempts at typing sentences in Hebrew, Tamil, and Bengali when I only know really 40% of 33% of the languages on the list!

 

This post brought to you by ন্ন (U+09a8 U+09cd U+09a8, aka BENGALI LETTER NA + BENGALI SIGN VIRAMA + BENGALI LETTER NA, aka NA hasant NA, my first self-determined conjunct consonant!)


# pne on Sunday, December 09, 2007 11:40 AM:

The second word of the Klingon should be pImlaw' with a capital I. (There is no lower-case i in the usual Klingon romanisation.)

# Ambarish Sridharanarayanan on Sunday, December 09, 2007 4:05 PM:

FWIW, the Tamil one is spot-on!

# Michael S. Kaplan on Sunday, December 09, 2007 7:11 PM:

That's good news! :-)

But then I've been doing Tamil for a while now, getting better at recognizing elements in the script. Not getting Tamil right would have been very embarrassing!

Next step is to try to understand more of the languge....

# Michael S. Kaplan on Monday, December 10, 2007 2:33 AM:

Where is friend Omi when I need him? :-)

# Mihai on Monday, December 10, 2007 12:45 PM:

Actually, typing something when you already have it in text format feels really easy.

Except if you need Kanji, which is a bit more difficult, but still possible :-)

It is completely different story if you have to do this from a transliteration or from pronunciation.

# Mihai on Monday, December 10, 2007 1:05 PM:

Spoiler: try this with the Bengali keyboard

"Ep jel Dvdva kav jelsj Lsks Enoe ksv"

# Michael S. Kaplan on Monday, December 10, 2007 1:09 PM:

It is an interesting challenge with any script that takes consonantal conjuncts or has forms that are visually dissimilar from their source characters (unless you know those forms!)....

# Mihai on Monday, December 10, 2007 1:16 PM:

"It is an interesting challenge with any script that takes consonantal conjuncts or has forms that are visually dissimilar from their source characters (unless you know those forms!)...."

Depends on the rules of the game.

If you are allowed to look at the text as hex it becomes trivial.

1. Take this কোন and dump it as hex: 0995 09CB 09A8

3. Add the spaces, convert back and show the split string: ক ো ন

Now take MSKLC, load the Bengali keyboard, find the glyphs, and you know what to type (don't forget Shift-AltGr states :-)

A bit more work with dead-keys, but nothing impossible.

And most likely a method easy to automate.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Monday, December 10, 2007 1:26 PM:

I specifically did no keyboard reverse engineering here, instead relying on knowledge of other forms (or of the fact that there were other forms in existence, as was the case for that conjunct sponsoring the post!).

Perhaps I am making things harder on myself here, but it feels more "honest" in terms of trying to understand mechanics of the language. :-)

# Mihai on Monday, December 10, 2007 1:50 PM:

Well, that was the whole point of the precondition: "when you already have it in text format" :-)

Otherwise a printed version is enough.

And MSKLC is just to make life a bit easier. You can always press each key and see what you get :-)

# Mihai on Monday, December 10, 2007 1:52 PM:

Ok, if what you try to do is "trying to understand mechanics of the language," then you are right.

What my approach tried to do is create test cases without really knowing the language (and assuming one has a bit of understanding on how things work).

# Michael S. Kaplan on Monday, December 10, 2007 4:10 PM:

For the text I was typing, I had no soft copy -- just the book....

# Gé van Gasteren on Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:14 PM:

Which are "the four questions"?

# Michael S. Kaplan on Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:19 PM:

What do you mean? The passover thing?

I didn't do the actual questions -- there is more info on them via that link and of course in the book.

# Gé van Gasteren on Friday, December 14, 2007 7:58 AM:

I really start to feel like an alien... is it so self-evident to you?

I meant the four questions that the title "300 Ways to Ask The Four Questions: From Zulu to Abkhaz" refers to. I have no idea what they could be or why they are more important than all others.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Friday, December 14, 2007 9:06 AM:

An alien? No, not at all!

On Passover (a Jewish holiday), part of the Seder (the ritual meal eaten at it) includes having the youngest person ask four (used to be five) questions about the night, asking about five things that happen that night at that meal which do not happen the rest of the year....

The book is basically showing the questions used in this part of the ritual, as they are asked throughout the world.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Friday, December 14, 2007 5:10 PM:

But in any case, I apologize for the [unintended] MOT assumptions I made here.... :-(


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