How translations of Eclipse Phase deal with the "singular they"

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luizborges luizborges's picture
How translations of Eclipse Phase deal with the "singular they"

Given how gender fluid Eclipse Phase is, and how gendered languages in general just can't deal with that (not even the ones with neuter pronouns like german can really cope with that), how to properly transmit that notion of a neutral language in something like spanish or italian?

Any success or failure cases regarding that (either in EP or elsewhere)???

vicky_molokh vicky_molokh's picture
Avoid North Atlantic Bias Entirely

The very notion of conflating social and linguistic categories that unfortunately share the same name in English is very North-Atlantic-centric. If you look at other languages, e.g. East Slavics (picking these because I'm most familiar with them) there's no such conflation - people can freely says 'A Man in Black was looking for you; her name is John Smith' because 'Man in Black' is feminine in Ukrainian. Similarly, humans are he in Russian and she in Ukrainian; legal persons are it in Russian. And the native speakers don't bat an eye at this and don't see such structure as somehow wrong, contrast against how I've seen some Englishmen and Anglophones in general from all over the world react to it.

luizborges luizborges's picture
My point is more related to

My point is more related to inclusive language and gender fluidity. English can handle that easily with the singular they, the swedish got their neutral "hen" pronoun, and all is fine, but romance languages can't do such thing. They are primarily neuter is male by default, so when refering to an individual of unknow gender by a pronoum we have to use "he" even though it might be revelead to be a female, or even something else entirely...

vicky_molokh vicky_molokh's picture
And my point is that the very

And my point is that the very conception of *what inclusivity and fluidity are like* in this thread is very centric to (a) North Atlantic Cultures and (b) the English Language, and variations of the Anglophone conception thereof grafted onto other languages (such as Romance, Slavic, Semitic etc.).

I brought up East Slavic conceptions of fluidity, where you just use the pronouns, verbs, numerals and adjectives of whatever gender the word is. This way the same person can be a she when talked about as a human, a he when talked about as a specialist, and as it when talked about as a wonder (a somewhat affectionate reference). That's fluidity too, and it's been around for centuries; but somehow it gets overlooked, or seen as 'not the real' or 'not the right' way for a language to work. In contrast, the English vocabulary seems to be heavily biased in favour of one out of three genders, yet somehow Englishmen somehow overlook said lack of inclusivity, instead worrying about one of the two less-represented genders (out of the language's three and a half) being slightly more default than the other.

luizborges luizborges's picture
That is also the case with romance

I understood that, but that is not the gender fluidity I'm mentioning. In portuguese a person is female, and individual is male, and an studant can be both. So in the same sentence I can say: "He, the individual, was a very good person (both good and person are female here)".

In EP physical gender is fluid so some people could be female, male or neither, similar to our current male, female, and non-binary. That can be expressed in english easily with the "singular they" since there is no gender agreement with nouns and adjectives. Romance languages (like portuguese or spanish) not only have a genderless third person pronouns (both plural and singular are gendered), but also has noun and adjective agreement.

So the note on page 19 regarding sex and gender, and the use of they to fix that couldn't be done in one of the romance languages, there is no replacement or alternative to that note or to that genderless treatment of the book...

sysop sysop's picture
This sort of localization to

This sort of localization to the language is usually handled by the translators working with the language involved. The overall goal remains to support people's identities in whatever way the language and culture the book is being localized to handles that. Which means in some situations the note on pg 19 changes dramatically - and it's a case by case basis depending on the solution the language speakers themselves have come up with.

It's more understandable and *more polite* to use the solution that the people who speak the language you're working with came up with for solving this problem, instead of trying to force another language to solve the same problem the way your language does. Certainly more polite than acting like speakers of other languages are doing it 'wrong' on purpose and yelling at them about how their language goes about it.

In short: When in English - we use singular they. When in other languages - we use their solution.

---

Setting that aside - the English language has overloaded the meaning of the word 'gender' by calling the noun-case agreement feature of various languages 'genders'. So overall we should keep in mind that 'gender' doesn't mean the same thing in a linguistic context as it does in a social context.

That extra meaning isn't something we can do a whole lot about at this point. Prescriptive approaches just get a whole lot of push-back, and we don't have an English Academy like French does... So we are going to have to just *deal*.

If it helps I can suggest making a habit of saying "grammatical gender" to make the difference clear about which context you mean. About 25% of the world uses some form of noun-agreement (aka gender) system. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_gender

I fix broken things. If you need something fixed, mention it on the suggestions board.
I also sometimes speak as website administrator and/ moderator.

vicky_molokh vicky_molokh's picture
On Terminology

luizborges wrote:
I understood that, but that is not the gender fluidity I'm mentioning. In portuguese a person is female, and individual is male, and an studant can be both. So in the same sentence I can say: "He, the individual, was a very good person (both good and person are female here)".

If we're talking language, IIRC the word is 'feminine' and 'masculine' (to distinguish from the other two commonly-conflated meanings).

luizborges wrote:
and the use of they to fix that couldn't be done in one of the romance languages, there is no replacement or alternative to that note or to that genderless treatment of the book...

The very choice of saying 'fix', unfortunately, softly implies that other languages are 'wrong'/'broken' for having their features work the way they do. Perhaps that's not the intent of the verb choice and I'm overreacting though.

sysop wrote:
Certainly more polite than acting like speakers of other languages are doing it 'wrong' on purpose and yelling at them about how their language goes about it.

Thanks! This is something that I've seen forgotten way too often. (And unfortunately most often by Anglophones, it seems.)

sysop wrote:
Setting that aside - the English language has overloaded the meaning of the word 'gender' by calling the noun-case agreement feature of various languages 'genders'. So overall we should keep in mind that 'gender' doesn't mean the same thing in a linguistic context as it does in a social context.
Isn't that the other way around?

First the was the word gender used to mean gender. Then a certain language beat up another language in a dark alley and rifled through its pockets, taking the word. Then deciding to use the word as an euphemism for sex. Then deciding to cause even more confusion by using the same word as an euphemism for a social construct/caste/etc. even though that totally doesn't help draw the distinction between the latter meaning and the former two?

sysop sysop's picture
Vicky. That note about

Vicky. That note about politeness also applies to you.

I fix broken things. If you need something fixed, mention it on the suggestions board.
I also sometimes speak as website administrator and/ moderator.

luizborges luizborges's picture
Firstly, sorry if I sounded

Firstly, sorry if I sounded impolite, that was definitely not my intention.

I will most likely be working with the publisher of an official translation and I'm analysing the contents before starting the translation. This matter is highly important because I want to honor the authors’ intention and also make something that will be enjoyable for the public.

Regarding the "in other languages - use their solution", there isn't one... :/
This is why I inquired here how other translations handled this issue, so that I can have every possible option checked before deciding. The target language has no choice but to deal with gendered nouns, pronouns and adjectives.

My current option is to replace the text in the note on page 19 to clear the intentions of the authors, and that the "masculine by default" (linguistically it is actually neuter by default, but most people have no concept of neuter elements in our language) is just a trait of the language, not to be confused with prejudice or any imposition of gender on an individual. I don't know if that is the best choice, thus I'm researching the subject to be as respectful as possible...

sysop sysop's picture
Hm - in that case, if you're

Hm - in that case, if you're planning to work with an official translation I would suggest talking to the publisher first then. They may already have an approach in mind. If they don't and they've left it in your hands - it may be worthwhile to look up publishers for other translations and ask them directly?

You may want to see if there's any other works out there that may have worked on translations from English to the language you're working on and see how they handle it? I think Altered Carbon has a lot of translations out there and the concept of sleeving comes from there. If not - then Altered Carbon's translation feature for the Netflix show might have some examples to start from?

So many languages are trying to figure out how to address this need all at the same time so there are a *lot* of possible solutions out there. Even in English - singular they is only one solution, neopronouns are also another way to address it.

You may also want to ask a queer rights organization for your target language for the latest suggestions. They're more likely to be up to date on the latest approaches and be able to help you with any explanation you want to include in pg 19.

I fix broken things. If you need something fixed, mention it on the suggestions board.
I also sometimes speak as website administrator and/ moderator.

luizborges luizborges's picture
I have been given freedom to

I have been given freedom to handle the translation, so it is my call. This is why I'm thoroughly researching the subject before I even start.

I asked around in the LGBTQ+ community and there are a few pronoun proposals, but those don't address gendered nouns and adjetives. Then there is another proposal that does handle nouns, but don't work with pronouns, have many exceptions and cannot address many cases (like pairs of masculine and feminine words with different roots). Those have all been rejected by the Academy and linguists in general due to their lack of coherence and usuability (some of those use symbols that cannot be spoken, or mangle words beyond recognition). I heard that similar proposals have also been rejected by l'Academie in France and with Spanish linguists . So, as far as I can tell, there is no inclusive language fix in romance languages that can be used right now.

I'm not aware of translations of EP to other languages, this was my main intent with this topic, find out about them, and how (if!?) the handled this issue. Did they just rewrote the note on page 19? If so, was that satisfactory?

BTW: As a fan on languages, and artificial and constructed languages too, those issues always remind me of how many conlangs also have this problems, even the most popular of those (I'm looking at you Esperanto). In 1907 Ido (a fork of Esperanto) was created with nongendered nouns and pronouns in mind, the third person (singular and plural) is by default pan-gender, but can be expanded and defined as masculine, feminine or neuter if so desired, but it is not needed as pan-gender is the default. More than one hundred years ago grammatical gender was seem as problematic for people, and still our romance languages haven't even begin to figure something out to deal with that...

Kaworu Kaworu's picture
Hm... when I was working on

Hm... when I was working on my unfinished translation of EP1 into Polish, I have encountered this problem. And... hm...

Basically, I translated the box saying "singular they" and noted that there is (sadly) no possibility to reflect that in the language I was using. I mean, person is "she" in Polish, so is character, so I probably was using more feminine-words than translators of other languages, but such a thing as singular they does not exist in Polish.

A little explanation - Polish has 3 grammatical genders, feminine, masculine and neuter. So far so good. Just... we use neuter ("to") only to items or small children. It's okay to say "to dziecko płacze" ("this child is crying") or "to krzesło jest wygodne" ("this chair is comfy"), but saying about an adult person "to" would be offensive. In fact, I have heard once or twice people saying about non cis-gendered people "to coś" ("this something") and... oh man, this was truly offensive : <

Just, there is no grammatical category to call non-binary people in Polish. In fact, I believe this to be one of reasons why we do not hear about nb people as much as Westerners do.

PS. People always claim that "Polish is so expressionist, you do not need so many words from other languages, you are making a rubbish out of our national treasure". Yet the same people are - I am sure of that - not aware of such a thing an "non-binary" and cannot offer any way to call them in "this beautiful, rich, descriptive Polish language". Personally, I see how many things can be said in English and how many words can be joined in a beautiful union in contrast to Polish, which has many restrictions.

As a final note - I have no idea how they translated "Oathkeeper" from G.R.R Martin's books. It seems a very simple yet elegant word in English... and the only translation I can think of is "Dotrzymujący przysięgi" which is much longer, two-words construct that's not even half that cool.

And, kinda long, sorry ^_^


☝️ click for my Polter-page! UwU ☝️

luizborges luizborges's picture
Thanks for the input Kaworu,

Thanks for the input Kaworu, this is the kind of feedback I'm looking for. In Portuguese we don't have neuter as a gramatical gender (actually it exists but is "invisible" and so people don't know about it), but o thought about the same thing, person is feminine and I intend to use it a lot, character originally was feminine, but know it can also be seem as masculine with the same word form, so it doesn't help much.

I finished making a glossary of every relevant word or expression and it is around 500 terms. Now I'm just deciding how to deal with the more technical computer terms that aren't common in Portuguese, hacker, firewall, and backup are fine, fork, host and so on aren't. There are words used for those but they are ugly as hell. Then there are names of stuffs, I was planning on translating all the names (but keep some acronyms, like TITAN, MIND, VPN, PAN, etc) and the I looked at The Eye (i-rep) if I translate that (O Olho) then to i-rep doesn't match anymore, the closest I can get is adapting that and call it (A Íris, The Iris), not sure how to proceed, I asking around rpg players to gauge their reactions either way...

You mentioned that Polish is very expressive and don't use many loan words, how did you manage those technical terms in your translation? Did you translate everything? Are some of those common loan words in Polish, maybe hacker?

Kaworu Kaworu's picture
Hm, modern Polish knows quite

Hm, modern Polish knows quite a lot of foreign words. I mean, it's kind of hard to tell how much actually (I'm not a linguist), but we have words inspired by German ("dach", "ratusz" from Rathaus etc.) and to a lesser extend French vocabulary (from the age of the French, when they had colonies around the world). Modern Polish also has many words from English, obviously. We got haker, komputer (we just changed the word to express Polish pronunciation), laser etc. Basically words from modern science and technology. However, I do not think that the word "fork" is well-knows besides computing circles (I have used that because there is not really a way to "Polish" the idea, the closest we got is "kopia" (copy) and "modyfikacja" (modification), but... you know, they are not the same concepts.

In fact, I was using a lot of English words, even is just as names of things. I do not know if that was not a "cheap" course, but... we got "Internet" and not a Polish equivalent "Międzysieć" (in fact I have seen this word ONLY when explaining what Internet actually means and yes, it is a very awkward word) so I used that logic when keeping what I could not gracefully explain in Polish.

EDIT: Oh, two more things, sometimes more about the Polish itself than this particular translation.

I do not know if you know books of Sanderson, but in Warbreaker there were beings know as "Returned" who vere "resurrected" people with great powess. This idea - "Returned" - is very basic, but when reading this book in English, I could not stop wondering "how the translator got that idea in Polish"? Maybe they could be called "Przywróceni"? Maybe, but I realized that after thinking and thinking. I mean, such basic concept and such big struggle thinking of a Polish equivalent.

Also, it was very hard - and none in the Polish RPG community could help me when asked - how to translate "Reclamationists" from EP into Polish. Polish word "reklamacja" is used when you bought something faulty and you wanna exchange your goodie for not-damaged one. There is not a similar word for talking about "getting back" something, like country or - in this case- Earth. The equivalent is "odzyskać" but the person from this verb would sound "Odzyskiwacz" or "Odzyskiwacze" in plural. Another very awkward word. So we settled with "Reklamatorzy" even if that does not necessarily make sense in Polish. Jet another not-so-complicated word that cannot be properly thought in Polish, I assume?

Also, we translated "Factors" as "Faktorzy". This does not sound so bad if we treat it as a proper noun to be translated, but if they got their name because they are merchants... calling an alien race "kupcy" would be somewhat... also weird?

As I said, I kinda envy English people, I read a lot of fantasy and RPGs and I see so many cool words created with such ease. Theoretically, you can combine also any Polish words as you please, but the results quite often arent aesthetically pleasant :/


☝️ click for my Polter-page! UwU ☝️

luizborges luizborges's picture
Yes, english seems to exhibit

Yes, english seems to exhibit quite a lot of freedom to create new words. The same is also not true of portuguese. For Reclaimers one choice is Reivindicadores, that I think matches the english meaning. For fork I was thinking of corruption of the verb that has the meaning of duplicate, but I might end up using fork (since it is defined in the glossary, it is not much trouble).

There is also backdoor, there is nothing similar in portuguese that isn't awful, so I will probably have to keep it, but that isn't defined in the glossary... :(

Translation is hard, because we have to gauge how much english they can tolerate, something that is very tiresome and prone to errors...

syberwasp syberwasp's picture
Much respect

To all you, all the respect to you. I can speak bad American English and your post make me think about my own language differently, and others differently too.

Poe

luizborges luizborges's picture
Hey syberwasp, every language

Hey syberwasp, every language has its quirks. It is something we just have to deal with it :D

Translation in general is easier, but RPG translations are very complicated, since we have game terminology that cannot clash with each other, and sometimes the original game uses 2-3 synonyms that in the target language means the same thing and we have no way of dealing with that. Or worst yet, when they have a word with different meaning depending on context that simply doesn't exist in the target language.

Take hardware for example. It doesn't exist in the target language, and in EP Hardware means 3 different things (at least to me, non-native english speaker):

1) Generic parts, devices, equipment.
2) The skill that handles dealing construction and repairing of technological stuff.
3) Wares for synthmorphs and bots.

The first one feels like anything fabricated, it probably could be replaced by device, gadget, part, component depending on the context without any worries.

The second feels a lot like what other systems call Engineering. There you have Robotics, Demolition, Vehicles, Weapons, etc. Feels a lot like fields of engineering to me, so maybe I could replace it with engineering without any problems.

The last one needs to be attached to an specific word, we don't have "ware" or similar suffix in the target language, so here I'm thinking about using something like -tron (taking the meaning of instrument/tool) or something else created just for the game. Now I can have biotron, cybertron, meshtron, nanotron, and something else to fill the hole of hardware. If we take the engineering route above, and since this skill is used to install hardwares I can take the prefix from that, and call it engitron (adapted in the target language of course).

Are those changes acceptable? What do you as a native english speaker thinks about that?

syberwasp syberwasp's picture
wish I could help you. I have

Wish I could help you. I have a fascination with linguistics, sen-text, alphabets and the like, i have two issue that make it difficult for me to really do anything with all that. i have an auditory possessing issue, and a speak impedimenta. So I have trouble hearing subtle differences, and even when I do I'm not really sure if I'm pronouncing them right.

I was stationed in Italy 3.5 years, tried to learn the Language but all the Italians I worked with told me to just stop as I was murdering their language.

And thanks to this pandemic I'm stuck trying to teach diphthongs to my 7 year old...I understand them, but I can't quite reach him on this one, he needs verbal examples.

But ignore me I'm rambling and not really helping.

Poe