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OR --> AND?
Thread poster: Kevin Pfeiffer

Kevin Pfeiffer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:03
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
Aug 6, 2004

Hi,

In a phrase such as this one:
"Workers turning today to the technical production of transgenic organisms, hybrids, and other artefacts..." the original in German uses the conjunction OR instead of AND.

I often (as in this case) change this to AND, based simply on my own personal feel for the native language. For me (in an example such as this one) the meaning is the same for both: "Those turning to A or B or C (or any combination)..." but "AND" feels more natural.

I think this is because of the hypothetical nature of the construct (proper terminology fails me just now). And this is not always the case, but often.

Am I crazy? I'm curious to hear your comments regarding this.


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Kevin Pfeiffer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:03
Member (2004)
German to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Not the same as my example Aug 6, 2004

Tayfun Torunoglu wrote:
If it says
X is u,y AND Z
it might be different than
X is u,y OR z.


But your example is very different from the one I was referring to. You are giving statements, whereas I was referring to hypothetical conditions set up in a dependant clause.


Unless there is a strong justification(it may be used indifferently by writer of original* ) best is to follow the logic line.


The strong justification is, of course, to produce output that preserves the meaning AND sounds natural to native language speakers.

-Kevin

[Edited at 2004-08-06 21:09]


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pawlik  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:03
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Spanish to English
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spanish too Aug 6, 2004

I'm a little surprised by your problem, because it seems the wrong way round to me. I find "or" more natural in English in your example. In Spanish they use "and" where in English I would use "or". So by my reckoning, German follows the English usage, and Spanish follows yours. It certainly would be interesting to hear from others on this.

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Kevin Pfeiffer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:03
Member (2004)
German to English
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another opinion Aug 6, 2004

Hi Pawlik,

Thanks for your comments. Here is another one that I was sent privately. I'm posting it here (anon. because I've not asked permission) because I think the points (regarding singular/plural subject) the person makes are interesting. Of course the person agrees with me, but that certainly played no role in my decision.

-K

Someone writes:
German often uses "OR" where English would use "AND". I have always attributed this to differences in the culture and way of thinking rather than to differences in the meaning of the words. It is an interesting point, but I have never seen it discussed in any language book.

In your example: "Workers turning today to the technical production of transgenic organisms, hybrids, and other artefacts...", "OR" would make sense if each worker were considered individually. However if all the workers are considered together (which I think would usually be the case for English speakers), in English this calls for the use of "AND".  I don't know whether this is the reason for the difference in usage, but perhaps it has something to do with it.


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Kevin Pfeiffer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:03
Member (2004)
German to English
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A further thought Aug 6, 2004

Tayfun Torunoglu wrote:
If it says
X is u,y AND Z
it might be different than
X is u,y OR z.


Hi Tayfun,

I think I might have answered you too quickly. I've come up with perhaps a better and simpler example.

ENG: "The artists on the island use red, green, and white in their work."

GERMAN: "The artists on the island use red, green, or white in their work."

Both are grammatically correct in either language, I believe. Assuming that what is really meant here is that each artist is using one or more of these three colors (rather than only one of the three colors), then I believe that my example illustrates the difference I often see (or rather feel).

I checked my favourite English-language book on the subtleties of the German language (Martin Durrell's "On German"), but nothing on conjunctions.

It's possible that the native German speakers won't like this example; if so, I'll dig out some real-world examples.

-K


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Strict logic is often ignored outside of legal, philosophical or mathematical texts Aug 7, 2004

ENG: "The artists on the island use red, green, and white in their work."

GERMAN: "The artists on the island use red, green, or white in their work."
...
Assuming that what is really meant here is that each artist is using one or more of these three colors
...

I often see AND and OR used in a sense which is incompatible to their logical meaning.

While this would be nonexcusable in the legal professions, in western ("greek") philosophy and in mathematics (including programming), the logical meaning is often ignored in other areas, maybe because most people understand what is meant, nevertheless.

In these cases AND and OR are chosen according to the individual feeling and I don't think that this preference depends on whether the text is in English or German.

But maybe I am not the one to judge this preference, because I use to apply them logically, so I may have lost this "natural" feeling. Now the problem is: how do you find someone competent to answer your question? You may not ask: "Hey, who of you is using AND and OR in an illogical sense?"


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Kevin Pfeiffer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:03
Member (2004)
German to English
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XOR ? Aug 7, 2004

Harry_B wrote:

ENG: \"The artists on the island use red, green, and white in their work.\"

GERMAN: \"The artists on the island use red, green, or white in their work.\"
...
Assuming that what is really meant here is that each artist is using one or more of these three colors
...

I often see AND and OR used in a sense which is incompatible to their logical meaning.


Hi Harry,

Okay, but then you have to (please) tell us which one is the correct logical choice (assuming that artists here are not restricting themselves to only one of the three possible colors).

I\'m assuming that would be OR, but in translation I would probably change it to AND. I think that this might be because in such writing I treat OR in such lists as an exclusive OR (XOR I think that it is called in logic).

Perhaps it\'s this ambiguity (is it XOR - only one choice is possible at a time - or OR - one or more are possible) that causes the problem?

And, of course, is this a regionalism or simply an ingrained misuse on my part? Thanks for answering.


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Kevin Pfeiffer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:03
Member (2004)
German to English
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independent of language Aug 7, 2004

Harry_B wrote:
In these cases AND and OR are chosen according to the individual feeling and I don't think that this preference depends on whether the text is in English or German.


Yes, maybe you are right that it is language-independent and I only see this through the process of translation. But this leaves me with a conundrum similar to the "who/whom" problem, where one is sometimes caught between following the rulebook, which sometimes leads to overcorrection and stilted language and doing what feels right, which may simply be (more or less) wrong!


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:03
Spanish to English
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Spanish too Aug 7, 2004

Almost invariabley, an OR in Spanish is better translated as an AN, especially in lists.

But Spanish also defies mathematical logic in its double negatives. In maths minus + minus = plus, but in ES, a double negative is a negative as in "NO tengo NADA que decir" (lit. I doN'T have NOTHING to say).


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:03
Spanish to English
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Reply re Pawlik's comment Aug 7, 2004

pawlik wrote:

I'm a little surprised by your problem, because it seems the wrong way round to me. I find "or" more natural in English in your example. In Spanish they use "and" where in English I would use "or". So by my reckoning, German follows the English usage, and Spanish follows yours. It certainly would be interesting to hear from others on this.



I would agree, as we assume that the workers work in one of the three areas, not all three......... Yet when you think about it, both would be acceptable, depends on whether you view the workers as a whole or as three different sets, and that's an inherent ambiguity in that we have only one kind of plural to represent both perspectives.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
The assumption decides Aug 7, 2004

Hi Kevin,

Now we have 2-3 different assumptions which are not quite equivalent:
1) that each artist is using one or more of these three colors.
2) that artists here are not restricting themselves to only one of the three possible colors.
3) that 1) and 2) should apply together.

"The artists on the island use red, green, AND white in their work."
"The artists on the island use red, green, OR white in their work."

Which one is the correct logical choice?
Answers:
Based on assumption 1)
that each artist is using one or more of these three colors:

OR is correct, because it is given in (or can be derived from) the assumption.

AND is incorrect, because it implies that all of the 3 colors are really used, although it may happen - according to the assumption - that one of the colors is not used by any artist.

Based on assumption 2):
that artists here are not restricting themselves to only one of the three possible colors.

Same as case 1): they still may restrict themselves to only two of the three possible colors.

Based on assumption 3):

Same as case 1): they still may restrict themselves to only two of the three possible colors, so the AND would state more than the assumption contains.

I'm assuming that would be OR, but in translation I would probably change it to AND.

If you may understand "using colors" in the sense of "potentially using colors" you may use AND, but that's another case no. 4)...

I think that this might be because in such writing I treat OR in such lists as an exclusive OR (XOR I think that it is called in logic).

Strictly speaking, if an XOR is meant it should be indicated by using "either..or" (at least in German it should be "entweder..oder").

HTH,
Harry

[Edited at 2004-08-07 11:12]


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buchfink
German to English
The grammar of a language can have its own logic Aug 7, 2004

> Yes, maybe you are right that it is language-independent
As Ailish points out, the grammar of a language can have its own logic (e.g. what would be considered logical in Spanish might not be considered logical in English).

> Strictly speaking, if an XOR is meant it should be indicated by using "either..or" (at least in German it should be "entweder..oder").
In fact I think that, in English, XOR tends to be implied without having to use "either...or".

> "The artists on the island use red, green, or white in their work."
I would say that, in English, this seems to imply that each artist uses only one colour.

> "The artists on the island use red, green, and white in their work."
I would say that, in English, here "the artists" are being considered as a group, and it is not specified how many colours are used by each artist.

In Harry's analysis (if I understand it correctly) it seems as if a non-exclusive "OR" is considered to be the default, with the artists being considered as individuals. However, in English, I think the default is generally to regard "OR" as exclusive, and to consider entities as a group.

This is a very interesting question, since different logical assumptions can of course lead to misunderstandings. In any case, natural languages certainly do not always use the same logic as computer languages, for instance.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Interesting indeed :-) Aug 7, 2004

buchfink wrote:
However, in English, I think the default is generally to regard "OR" as exclusive, and to consider entities as a group.

Luckily we can often tell from the context which type of OR ist meant.
But if we cannot tell it from the context, the default meaning is applied.

I can imagine contracts loosing nearly all of their values because OR and XOR are confused in the translation.

Now I wonder why in all programming languages which I know - and which are all based on English - the OR (the "binary" OR as well as the "logical" OR) has the (German?) inclusive meaning and not the (English?) exclusive one?

Is it because you drive on the left hand side?
(a joke)

[Edited at 2004-08-07 17:04]


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:03
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
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Similar discussion Aug 8, 2004

Hello Kevin,

I started a similar discussion not too long ago on the same point. Here it is:

http://www.proz.com/kudoz/750674?float=1


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 18:03
English to Spanish
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In fact, 'nadie' was not born as a 'negative' pronoun Aug 9, 2004

Ailish Maher wrote:

But Spanish also defies mathematical logic in its double negatives.

.. but in ES, a double negative is a negative as in "NO tengo NADA que decir" (lit. I doN'T have NOTHING to say).




I also used to think that "no vino nadie" was a double negative as both the words "no" and "nadie" carry a negative meaning (at least these days...). However, etimology says something different and explains the 'apparent' double negative.

If we trace back the meaning of the word "nadie" (from Latin 'nati', "those who were born") we can see that there is no double negative: "no vino nadie" would, in fact, mean: "those who were born did not come" ('those who were born' is not a negative at all).

The meaning of 'nadie' changed as time went by to reach the negative connotation it has in the present. The same applies to 'nada' (nothing, from 'nati' in Latin, 'cosas nacidas')

As usual, etimology is a key to understand many things of our language/s.

Au


More on "nadie" and "nada" in my posting below:

http://www.proz.com/post/153038#153038


[Edited at 2004-08-09 05:48]


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