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Questions: s-genitive vs of-genitive; compound words
Thread poster: Peter Zhuang

Peter Zhuang  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:37
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Aug 20, 2014

Hello everyone,

I would to understand the current convention in the context of translation:

S-genitive and of-genitive
If a company is called Qwerty, which of the following options is preferable in your opinion (other alternatives are welcome too):

1. Qwerty's products
2. Products of Qwerty

Although a lot of information already exist on the internet, and both variants are equally valid grammatically, but I would like to gather opinions on the current preferred convention.

Compound words
My second question concerns compound words, for example, if I have to describe a capacitor found on a computer motherboard, how would you phrase it such that it sounds conventional to a native speaker. Similarly, any other suggestions are welcome too.

1. The computer motherboard capacitor
2. The Capacitor of a computer motherboard
3. The Capacitor on a computer motherboard

Thanks!


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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:37
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
1. Context; 2. Native speaker Aug 20, 2014

1. Like so many things in translation, the "correct" answer (or the knowledge that there isn't a single correct answer) depends on the context in which these terms occur.
In this specific case about the capacitor and the motherboard: all 3 of these choices imply that the motherboard has exactly one capacitor, which is very unlikely to be the case.

2. To produce a good translation, the translator must either
  • be a real native speaker of the target language, or
  • be a really excellent speaker and accepted as effecively a native speaker by "real" native speakers, or
  • be at least highly competent in the target language and have the translation checked by one of the above two types of "native" speaker
Oliver


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Peter Zhuang  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:37
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Life could have been so much easier! Aug 20, 2014

Oliver Walter wrote:

1. Like so many things in translation, the "correct" answer (or the knowledge that there isn't a single correct answer) depends on the context in which these terms occur.
In this specific case about the capacitor and the motherboard: all 3 of these choices imply that the motherboard has exactly one capacitor, which is very unlikely to be the case.

2. To produce a good translation, the translator must either
  • be a real native speaker of the target language, or
  • be a really excellent speaker and accepted as effecively a native speaker by "real" native speakers, or
  • be at least highly competent in the target language and have the translation checked by one of the above two types of "native" speaker
Oliver

Hello Oliver,

thanks for your response!

I am fully aware that there are no "correct answers" (life could have been so much easier!) My question is, how would a translator deal with long compound words (that might have sounded perfectly fine in the source language). Would they separate these compound words into smaller segments or translate the these as they are. What would be the current common practice?

Regardless of the applicability of the given example in real life situations, I am more interested to learn from the experience of other people.


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Marian Reed  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 03:37
English to French
+ ...
Altenative Aug 20, 2014

Hi Oliver,

Computer motherboards &/or capacitators are way beyond me, but as to your first question, I would say "Qwerty products", using Qwerty as an adjective, rather than a possessive.
Best regards,
Marian


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Eric Zink  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:37
Member (2012)
German to English
Use the apostrophe Aug 20, 2014

I would strongly recommend using the apostrophe-s possessive (or the adjective version descdribed in a previous post) unless there is a good reason not to, such as a construction that requires the noun in possessive to come at the end of a clause:

He is Qwerty's boss.

He is the boss of Qwerty, which experienced nearly 15% growth last year.

There are a number situations like this last, and I need to start making a lost of them. A relative clause is one of the most common, though.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 10:37
Chinese to English
Avoid "of" Aug 20, 2014

Hi Peter,

These are great questions, to which, as you say, there are no absolute answers. I do have one piece of advice, though: in general, the Chinese speakers I know tend to over-use the word "of" in exactly these situations. So I would advise you as a rule of thumb to think: First, is there any way other than "of"? Only use "of" in fixed phrases where you know it's right, or as a last resort.

To your specific questions:
1. I agree with Marion, my first option would be "Qwerty products". I find "Qwerty's products" to be acceptable but ugly; to my ear, "Products of Qwerty" would be incorrect as a title. Other options would be: Products made by/offered by Qwerty.

2. English doesn't like these big compound nouns, and you can often cut words out. In your example, I would cut out the word computer - it's superfluous, as motherboards are only found in computers.
Having got rid of the superfluous word, you have a few options:
Capacitor for a motherboard (component not yet installed)
Capacitor on a motherboard (installed component)
Capacitor from a motherboard (component which may have been installed in the past)
For me, "capacitor of a motherboard" is incorrect.

Unless your text refers to more than one capacitor, on the second mention you should reduce the noun phrase to just the bare noun "capacitor". If you have to distinguish between two different capacitors, you can retain "motherboard" in a compound noun "motherboard capacitor".


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 11:37
Japanese to English
+ ...
It depends on what you are translating Aug 20, 2014

I have translated engineering manuals which strictly forbade the use of the possessive apostrophe.

On the other hand, I have proofread translations of political reports done by non-natives who very heavily overuse the plural possessive apostrophe (the members' reports).

So the answer is the same as that to most questions in life: it depends.

J -> E runs into the same problem you describe, because in Japanese the particle の serves many functions, including the possessive apostrophe, the "of" possessive, simply making a noun describe another noun, etc. So you sometimes get a long sequence of nouns strung together with のs, and it takes some pondering to figure out the best way to turn that into natural English.


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Peter Zhuang  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:37
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you for the insights! Aug 20, 2014

Hello Marian, Eric and Phil,

firstly, thank you for your insights!

After reading all the answers, I am inclined to use the company's name adjectivally, i.e. Qwerty products.

Interestingly, I did a google search for the form "products of Qwerty" for renowned companies like Apple, Samsung and Siemens, and the of-genitive appears in some form on their official website; however, I am beginning to think that this form reads clunkier than the adjectival form.

Phil, that is an interesting observation. I haven't noticed that before. This probably has something to do with the word 的 in the Chinese language to express ownership and association.

An extension to the second question: A capacitor is most likely a bad example. How would you express "oven heating element"? Would you choose:

1. heating element in baking oven
2. heating element of baking oven
3. baking oven heating element

Option three grates on my ears, option one could mean that the heating element is being baked, and option two sounds alright to me.

How about: Qwerty manufactures heating element for baking oven?


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Peter Zhuang  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:37
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
double post Aug 20, 2014

Sorry.

[Edited at 2014-08-20 15:18 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 10:37
Chinese to English
Still avoid "of" Aug 20, 2014

Peter Zhuang wrote:

An extension to the second question: A capacitor is most likely a bad example. How would you express "oven heating element"? Would you choose:

1. heating element in baking oven
2. heating element of baking oven
3. baking oven heating element

Option three grates on my ears, option one could mean that the heating element is being baked, and option two sounds alright to me.

How about: Qwerty manufactures heating element for baking oven?

The compound form, "baking oven heating element," would not be acceptable for me as a first mention, but might be an acceptable version the second time the element is mentioned in the text, when the reader already knows what it means.

I would still find (2) to be incorrect in almost all circumstances. In this context, introducing a company and its products, your last sentence is exactly what I'd choose, but don't forget your plurals:

Qwerty manufactures heating elements for baking ovens

If you just have a list, with no sentence for context, I still think you can drop the "oven". If the company is in the oven industry, its clients will know what the elements are for. If you need to specify, you could use parentheses:

Heating element (domestic oven)
Heating element (commercial bread oven)
etc.


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Eric Zink  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:37
Member (2012)
German to English
3!! Aug 20, 2014

I would take 3 (baking oven heating element) in virtually all circumstances unless there is some reason to believe it would be vague or ambiguous. I'm curious: do you have any idea why it grates?

And an entire user manual without apostrophe possessives? Yikes!


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 11:37
Japanese to English
+ ...
... Aug 20, 2014

Eric Zink wrote:

And an entire user manual without apostrophe possessives? Yikes!


Yes, it was allegedly because "not everyone reading it will be a native English speaker."

And it wasn't just one manual, it was in the company's style guide.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:37
French to English
+ ...
Some rules of thumb Aug 21, 2014

Peter Zhuang wrote:
If a company is called Qwerty, which of the following options is preferable in your opinion (other alternatives are welcome too):

1. Qwerty's products
2. Products of Qwerty


There are no simple clear-cut rules for choosing between the two constructions, and opinions will vary from speaker to speaker and context to context.

But a couple of rules of thumb:

- the 's construction tends to imply a 'close relationship' between the two constituents
- the 's construction also tends to be used if there is an "implied action" (indeed, this includes "producing" products: in your example, people would probably tend to say "Qwerty's products", all other things being equal);
- on the other hand, the "of" construction implies a more distant relationship, in particular a so-called "picture of" construction (as in "a picture of my father", "a scan of the document", "a professor of linguistics") or a a few arguably different but related structures (e.g. "a man of many words", "a word of caution");
- the "of" construction can also suggest more of a generality
- the "of" construction tends to be used to avoid 's with a syntactically complex constituent (the limit on complexity is something like "the guy next door's dog" in most cases; they'd probably say "products of companies such as Blippex" rather than "??companies such as Blippex's products")

Peter Zhuang wrote:
1. The computer motherboard capacitor
2. The Capacitor of a computer motherboard
3. The Capacitor on a computer motherboard


Again, there's no hard-and-fast rule: as a rule of thumb, you could maybe say that the compound tends to be used if it's common and easy to interpret.

On observation I would make in relation to your last point is that "of" tends not to be used in English to mean "occurring in a particular location on a given object". In such cases, a relevant preposition indicating location tends to be used. So, people would tend to say:

"The wheels on the bus" rather than "??The wheels of the bus"
"The capacitor on the motherboard" rather than "??The capacitor of the motherboard"
"The leaves on the trees" rather than "?The leaves of the trees"
"The water from the tap" rather than "*The water of the tap"
"The water in the ocean" rather than "??The water of the ocean"
...


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:37
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Oven heating elements Aug 21, 2014

Why baking oven? What else would you do in an oven?

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Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:37
Dutch to English
+ ...
compound nouns are difficult for native speakers too... Aug 21, 2014

There are no rules for compound nouns, they are 'created' daily according to common acceptance.
See http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/nouns4.php
If I am unsure, I just check what has the most G-hits and which is more appropriate for UK/US.

As for 's, I always use this where possible, unless it is to avoid another minefield where the subject is a noun other than a personal name and ends in s,
e.g. Babyliss

I prefer 'The headquarters of Babyliss' to 'Babyliss's headquarters or babyliss' headquarters'.


And Tina is quite right about the 'baking oven', that is a well weird bit of tautology!

[Edited at 2014-08-21 14:11 GMT]


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