Accent marks on foreign words

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Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:39 pm

So, I recently visited Zagreb, where I saw a large statue of Josip Jelalcic, probably my favorite Croatian of all time. As soon as I could, I went home and made a facebook status update about this. I spelled the name as above, without the hatcheks over the two c's that a Croatian would spell "Jelalcic" with.

Another quizbowl player quickly chimed in and told me that if you google "Josip Jelalcic" without any hatcheks, the only results are quizbowl tournaments that I've written. Implicitly, this person seemed to be criticizing me for not using the hatcheks.

I told him that I always remove diacritical marks from foreign words when writing quizbowl questions. I wish to defend this practice now.

Some claim that putting diacritical marks in your question will help moderators with pronunciation. I think that it will have the opposite effect. Diacritical marks have a huge potential to confuse moderators. Most moderators will be familiar with, at most, one or two languages. Thus they probably won't know what a diacritical mark in an unfamiliar language does. Worse yet, they may misinterpret it. Somebody familiar with Spanish, where accent marks denote stress, could easily mispronounce a Hungarian word, where diacritical marks indicate vowel length and stress is always on the first syllable. Or, perhaps worst of all, the moderator may pause and attempt to figure out how to pronounce the word, only to both delay the game AND THEN mispronounce, stumble over, or even skip the word.

In a hypthetical world where Charles Meigs and Guy Tabachnick moderate every tournament, leaving native diacritical marks might be useful, but we don't live in that world.

However even in the magical world where all moderators know the orthography and phonology of every language, diacritical marks can still cause things to go terribly wrong.

It is impossible for a player to know the correct way to pronounce words in every single language. Thus, for at least some foreign words, players will memorize an Anglicized pronunciation of a word. Or, even if they strive to learn foreign pronunciations, they may learn an incorrect foreign pronounciation based. Thus, pronouncing a word the way a native would might confuse people. This is especially the case in Irish/Celtic mythology, where words are pronounced shocklingly different from how they are spelled.

Even if everyone in quizbowl knows every language, though, there are reasons to strip diacritical marks. They may cause formatting difficulties, especially when files are being moved between Macs and PCs, between MS Office and Open Office, between Google Docs and a flash drive, etc. And I know that at least one of the major online packet archives chokes on diacritical marks.

I guess the remaining argument is "we should show respect to foreign cultures by using their orthography". But there are clear limits to how respectful we can be of other cultures in our orthography. If we are disrespecting the Hungarians by not writing their names with accent marks, are we also disrespecting the Russians by writing "Prokofiev" in Latin script? Are we disrespecting Muslims by writing Koran tossups in English rather than Arabic? No, we're not, we're just making things convenient for an activity played entirely by English-speaking people in an English-speaking country. And if it is disrespectful, I'd argue that the respect we're showing these cultures by indicating that we think their stuff is important and should come up far outweighs any orthographical disrespect.

If you simply cannot live without your moderators pronouncing things in the native way, there is a much easier way to make that happen. Just use pronounciation guides. Write "Kadar" without any accent marks, and then write in brackets [KAA-daar].
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by theMoMA » Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:16 pm

I agree with everything Bruce wrote, though I would make the slight correction that parentheses are the correct way to indicate pronunciation guides in standard ACF formatting.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:43 pm

Yeah, I never found diacriticals to be all that useful. Someone might occasionally find them handy, but for the most part I think all they do is confuse readers.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Mon Aug 23, 2010 3:25 pm

Morraine Man wrote:if you google "Josip Jelalcic" without any hatcheks, the only results are quizbowl tournaments that I've written.
I don't think you need to include the accents, but I think the reason why the only results for "Josip Jelalcic" are questions you've written comes down to you spelling the word with two "l"s.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by rylltraka » Mon Aug 23, 2010 3:50 pm

I tend to excise such things for the sake of convenience. Butchering foreign words is an integral part of this pastime.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by jonpin » Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:28 pm

Hilltopper22 wrote:
Morraine Man wrote:if you google "Josip Jelalcic" without any hatcheks, the only results are quizbowl tournaments that I've written.
I don't think you need to include the accents, but I think the reason why the only results for "Josip Jelalcic" are questions you've written comes down to you spelling the word with two "l"s.
This is true. Google in fact suggests that you may mean "Josip Jelacic" which has no accents and yet produces 26 kiloresults.

The fact that this post was brought on by this misinterpretation in no way renders it a bad idea.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by fleurdelivre » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:22 am

Morraine Man wrote:I guess the remaining argument is "we should show respect to foreign cultures by using their orthography". But there are clear limits to how respectful we can be of other cultures in our orthography. If we are disrespecting the Hungarians by not writing their names with accent marks, are we also disrespecting the Russians by writing "Prokofiev" in Latin script? Are we disrespecting Muslims by writing Koran tossups in English rather than Arabic? No, we're not, we're just making things convenient for an activity played entirely by English-speaking people in an English-speaking country. And if it is disrespectful, I'd argue that the respect we're showing these cultures by indicating that we think their stuff is important and should come up far outweighs any orthographical disrespect.

If you simply cannot live without your moderators pronouncing things in the native way, there is a much easier way to make that happen. Just use pronounciation guides. Write "Kadar" without any accent marks, and then write in brackets [KAA-daar].
I'm going to be the cranky voice of disagreement here for a moment - I sure don't know diacritics in East European languages, but when they're present, I tend to ask the Guy Tabachniks or the Charles Meigses about them and then learn things as a result of moderating quiz bowl. Maybe moderator education has never been the point of the game, but I can't ask questions about markings I don't know exist, now can I?
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:03 pm

jonpin wrote:
Hilltopper22 wrote:
Morraine Man wrote:if you google "Josip Jelalcic" without any hatcheks, the only results are quizbowl tournaments that I've written.
I don't think you need to include the accents, but I think the reason why the only results for "Josip Jelalcic" are questions you've written comes down to you spelling the word with two "l"s.
This is true. Google in fact suggests that you may mean "Josip Jelacic" which has no accents and yet produces 26 kiloresults.

The fact that this post was brought on by this misinterpretation in no way renders it a bad idea.
Well, as my username indicates, I'm pretty terrible at English spelling. Makes sense that I suck at Croatian spelling too. :)
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:29 pm

fleurdelivre wrote:I'm going to be the cranky voice of disagreement here for a moment - I sure don't know diacritics in East European languages, but when they're present, I tend to ask the Guy Tabachniks or the Charles Meigses about them and then learn things as a result of moderating quiz bowl. Maybe moderator education has never been the point of the game, but I can't ask questions about markings I don't know exist, now can I?
I think it's not so much a question of moderator education as simply a matter of not confusing less-experienced moderators.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:48 pm

Intellectually curious moderators could look the term up and learn about its accent marks then.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by AKKOLADE » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:52 pm

Morraine Man wrote:Intellectually curious moderators could look the term up and learn about its accent marks then.
When?
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:56 pm

Ronnie the Bear wrote:
Morraine Man wrote:Intellectually curious moderators could look the term up and learn about its accent marks then.
When?
After the tournament, at the same time that players look up clues they didn't know or answers they missed.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:59 pm

Morraine Man wrote:
Ronnie the Bear wrote:
Morraine Man wrote:Intellectually curious moderators could look the term up and learn about its accent marks then.
When?
After the tournament, at the same time that players look up clues they didn't know or answers they missed.
Are we seriously debating this?
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Sir Thopas » Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:15 pm

I tend to keep diacritics for mostly aesthetic purposes, but in general, you're right, of course. Also, if you want to put diacritics on some names, you probably have to go and look up every single name in a reliable, diacritic-retaining source, which is a pain.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Auroni » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:11 am

I also like keeping diacriticals for aesthetic purposes. I sort of disagree that they would confuse people when used on Spanish and French names, since people largely sort of know what they're doing when they pronounce those words anyway.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by mc1093alpha » Sat Sep 04, 2010 3:11 am

I agree this the sentiment that dialectic marks create more problems that solutions. There are already so many poor moderators (myself included) that dialectic marks are just far too annoying. Also, many people don't even know how to pronounce them, or do the thing where they say the same word over and over with variations of intonation that the whole clue becomes confusing.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by vetovian » Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:53 am

I'm against penalizing knowledge, even when it's the moderator's knowledge. Unless you're using diacritical marks that are so rare that some word processors might mess up the letter they're marking, it's nice to include them if you can. They might be distracting to many or most readers, but to help those readers, you should probably include a pronunciation guide anyway.
Morraine Man wrote: Write "Kadar" without any accent marks, and then write in brackets [KAA-daar].
I assume this is a reference to the Hungarian name Kádár. The trouble is that "a" and "á" are pronounced differently in Hungarian. If you have a reader who actually knows how to read the Hungarian alphabet (and didn't someone here announce that they were going to write up a quizbowl readers' guide to different alphabets?) then you might as well help them to give the correct pronunciation, by showing the word the way Hungarians write it; such a reader won't need the pronunciation guide then.
every time i refresh i have a new name wrote: I sort of disagree that they would confuse people when used on Spanish and French names, since people largely sort of know what they're doing when they pronounce those words anyway.
More to the point (maybe this is what you meant), lots of readers have studied Spanish and/or French and know what the diacritical marks mean in those languages. In our area, Mandarin Chinese is also popular, and if you're writing pinyin then it helps to include the diacritical marks for tones.
Morraine Man wrote: If we are disrespecting the Hungarians by not writing their names with accent marks, are we also disrespecting the Russians by writing "Prokofiev" in Latin script? Are we disrespecting Muslims by writing Koran tossups in English rather than Arabic? No, we're not, we're just making things convenient for an activity played entirely by English-speaking people in an English-speaking country.
I don't think it's necessary to include text in non-Roman-based alphabets, but there are standard systems of transliteration from alphabets such as Russian and Arabic.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Sir Thopas » Sat Sep 04, 2010 12:17 pm

vetovian wrote:I assume this is a reference to the Hungarian name Kádár. The trouble is that "a" and "á" are pronounced differently in Hungarian. If you have a reader who actually knows how to read the Hungarian alphabet (and didn't someone here announce that they were going to write up a quizbowl readers' guide to different alphabets?) then you might as well help them to give the correct pronunciation, by showing the word the way Hungarians write it; such a reader won't need the pronunciation guide then.
As someone who (a) speaks a nontrivial amount of Hungarian and (b) is a stickler for such matters, I'd be willing to settle for picking a sound somewhere between [ɑ] and [aː] for whatever <a> in Hungarian I encounter whose length I don't already know if it meant making things less daunting for the inexperienced ACF fall reader.

With that being said, if I were writing a tournament like CO, where I knew that the readers would be, in general, better and more capable at reading questions without stumbling, I might throw in the diacritics.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Edmund » Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:03 pm

This is an interesting discussion - as someone who can pronounce German and most Romance languages, I find the regular exclusion of accents from packets extremely difficult because I am faced with a bunch of non-English options on how to say a name but if I'm not familiar with the clue, I won't know which. So if the author has excluded accents, I am hampered in my best efforts to pass the clue on to the team, who, I would hope, would know how to pronounce French or German if they are expert in its literature, history, etc.

On the other hand with less well known languages such as Croatian, let alone seriously hard to pronounce languages like Arabic or Chinese, I can see the point that accents just get in the way.

All this said, I have always felt that some effort and ability to pronounce foreign words correctly is a hallmark of a good moderator. As a first-timer there, I found the consistent and total mispronunciation of foreign languages by some moderators at the ICT (although some others were excellent!) to be one of the most difficult aspects of that tournament.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat Oct 23, 2010 2:24 am

A quick reply before bed:

(1) It's remarkably easy to become an expert in the history of a country without knowing how to pronounce its words. This is especially true if you learn by reading books rather than by attending class. And by and large, most American quizbowl players get their knowledge from outside of the classroom -- i.e., from books (at least on the areas that are outside of the subject they study). So even for experts, I think your assumption that players will know the "correct" pronunciation is wrong.

(2) I think that moderators who are familiar with the pronunciation of multiple foreign languages are rare, especially at larger tournaments where any warm body will be pressed into service, or at tournaments hosted by small schools that will have the same problem. The massive size of ICT is probably why you had some questionable moderators there - it is by far the largest single college tournament in North America.

(3) If a writer thinks that a word's pronunciation will be crucial to whether or not teams understand, or if he thinks that the context won't give away the word's ethnicity to the moderator, that is a great time to put in a pronunciation guide. While my agenda is no less than the complete elimination of all accent marks from quizbowl, I am not against telling the moderator how to pronounce words!
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Important Bird Area » Sat Oct 23, 2010 2:32 am

Edmund wrote:As a first-timer there, I found the consistent and total mispronunciation of foreign languages by some moderators at the ICT (although some others were excellent!) to be one of the most difficult aspects of that tournament.
I would be very interested in hearing any details you could provide about this. (Were there specific words/languages that tripped up even our best staff?)
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Avram » Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:38 am

So the consensus is that we should write "Karel Capek" and hope that people say "Karel Chapek"? What about answer lines? How will you indicate to the moderator that "C" in the answer line might be pronounced quite differently than /s/ or /k/?

Maybe it's the linguist in me, but these things matter. We're not talking about small variants of a single sound, but rather about highly distinct sounds. The Czech č, and similarly the Polish/Croatian/etc ć and the Turkish ç. They all have about the same sound, but that sound is simply not associated with the letter "c" in English. If you're going to fold all these into the single symbol "C", you really should include pronunciation guides. Reinterpreting "č" as "c" is being lazy -- it would be much more accurate to write "Chapek" than "Capek", and the latter just isn't the author's name. Naively dropping symbols that aren't used in English is even more problematic than keeping them.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Edmund » Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:18 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
Edmund wrote:As a first-timer there, I found the consistent and total mispronunciation of foreign languages by some moderators at the ICT (although some others were excellent!) to be one of the most difficult aspects of that tournament.
I would be very interested in hearing any details you could provide about this. (Were there specific words/languages that tripped up even our best staff?)
I think French and German probably stood out the most because they're the languages whose names come up most and also those where I would expect some familiarity - Spanish was on the whole better as far as I recall which makes sense given how widely it's taught in the US. As I said, some moderators were excellent with their pronunciation; some were not. We were having to make the adjustment to listening to lots of varied American accents, too, which didn't necessarily help.

A particular example which ought not particularly reflect on the moderator in question was a moment in our 14th game that drove a mild-mannered colleague - both a historian and a decent linguist - to a tiredness-induced rage: this was the rendering of Clovis's victory site of Vouillé (vwee-YAY) as Vooley. Of course this is also a good example where the presence or absence of the acute accent doesn't really help, if you don't know how to pronounce French! Further specific examples escape me since this was all some months ago.

One of my greatest gripes in the UK is the inability of moderators to pronounce Italian, especially considering what an easy and regular language it is, pronunciation-wise. Italian of course looms large in opera tossups where, again, I would imagine that people who really know their arias will think of them aurally rather than on the page. Perhaps I am wrong.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:33 pm

I think you are expecting far too much baseline familiarity with foreign languages from the average reader. I would imagine the majority of high schools in America don't even teach German, for one thing, and most people only take one language to graduate school (usually Spanish).
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Susan » Sun Oct 24, 2010 8:07 pm

I hope that you told the control room at the ICT about the moderators that were having problems pronouncing foreign words (or that you'll consider doing so in the future). It's not unsportsmanlike or anything to give the people running the tournament a heads up that there's a problem with a staffer.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Oct 24, 2010 8:25 pm

Point 1: even well-read, otherwise competent people will often get the pronuciation only approximately right. Sorry that my vocal cords aren't sufficiently trained to make French words sound quite right; I don't care how many accent marks you put there, it won't help me.

Point 2: Any moderator that is confused by something like the pronunciation of Capek will be told that this is how it's pronounced. Assuming as I do that moderators are reasonable human beings, they will most likely accept the explanation. Anyway, even if you had an accent mark on there, why would they know how it's pronounced? They'd still have to take your word for it.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Avram » Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:30 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Point 2: Any moderator that is confused by something like the pronunciation of Capek will be told that this is how it's pronounced. Assuming as I do that moderators are reasonable human beings, they will most likely accept the explanation. Anyway, even if you had an accent mark on there, why would they know how it's pronounced? They'd still have to take your word for it.
These things aren't (always) accent marks. They're (often) letters. Distinct letters with distinct sounds, in many cases sounds that are represented quite differently in English. If you want to replace "č" with something, replace it with "ch". Replacing it with "c" is doing no less damage to the spelling and more damage to proper reading.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Sir Thopas » Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:52 am

Avram wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Point 2: Any moderator that is confused by something like the pronunciation of Capek will be told that this is how it's pronounced. Assuming as I do that moderators are reasonable human beings, they will most likely accept the explanation. Anyway, even if you had an accent mark on there, why would they know how it's pronounced? They'd still have to take your word for it.
These things aren't (always) accent marks. They're (often) letters. Distinct letters with distinct sounds, in many cases sounds that are represented quite differently in English. If you want to replace "č" with something, replace it with "ch". Replacing it with "c" is doing no less damage to the spelling and more damage to proper reading.
They're certainly not considered indivisible units by, at least, native Czech and Hungarian speakers, who will frequently leave off even the diacritics not marking length in text messages and informal online communication.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Oct 25, 2010 11:10 am

Avram wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Point 2: Any moderator that is confused by something like the pronunciation of Capek will be told that this is how it's pronounced. Assuming as I do that moderators are reasonable human beings, they will most likely accept the explanation. Anyway, even if you had an accent mark on there, why would they know how it's pronounced? They'd still have to take your word for it.
These things aren't (always) accent marks. They're (often) letters. Distinct letters with distinct sounds, in many cases sounds that are represented quite differently in English. If you want to replace "č" with something, replace it with "ch". Replacing it with "c" is doing no less damage to the spelling and more damage to proper reading.
First of all, what Guy said. Second, this whole discussion is getting a bit ludicrous, as it always does.

Look, what do we want from moderators? We want them to be able to read questions with sufficiently accurate pronunciation that others understand what is being said. This obsession with micromanaging question text is absurd because if you actually take a moment to step outside the imaginary world where everyone knows what diacritics mean and how to perfectly render all sounds in their original language, you will see that the amount of benefit provided by these things is negligible. People who have been around quizbowl long enough to know the ins and outs of diacritical marks are going to know how to pronounce "Capek" and "Mallarme," anyway; they know this because they're reasonably well-educated people. Conversely, most people who don't know how these words are pronounced won't be helped by the marks anyway. I'll be damned if I know how to make sense of vowell marks in Arabic words. I don't have time to sit there and ponder whether that "a" should be long or short or what. Yes, the occasional Charles Meigs or Katy Peters will be slightly aided by this, but they'll probably make fine enough sense of it without the marks that it won't matter.

The endpoint being: I don't care whether or not you put these things in your questions. If you want to spend time hunting down special characters to make sure that the imaginary moderator who knows Czech pronunciation but doesn't know who Karel Capek is gets it right, that's your business. What I object to is the notion that lacking these marks is somehow an inexcusable omission on the part of the question writers. It's not, so stop getting all bent out of shape about it.

Frankly, this obsession with minutia irritates me because as an editor, I see too many questions come in which are just plain poorly written. At that stage, I don't care whether you've got diacritical marks or not. Plus, my time is too valuable to be spent hunting them down and putting them back into questions from which I might have deleted them during the editing process. If they're already there, they can stay, but given that priorities #1, 2, and 3 is to produce good, factually accurate questions, this issue is so insignificant that it should only be addressed by editors after everything else has been taken care of.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Oct 25, 2010 11:32 am

In this video, Jerry is Antoine Walker and the rest of this thread is Marcus Camby. This post is Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Sir Thopas » Mon Oct 25, 2010 1:31 pm

Ronnie the Bear wrote:In this video, Jerry is Antoine Walker and the rest of this thread is Marcus Camby. This post is Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
TO SE MŮŽE STOJÍ HORŠÍM!!
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by setht » Mon Oct 25, 2010 1:44 pm

I don't really care whether people include accent marks in their questions; pronunciation guides are much more useful in a game setting. The one possibly interesting innovation I've seen in this context (from some old MLK set, I think) is putting all pronunciation guides on separate lines before the question text. My impression is that this worked better for readers than having PGs in the question text.
Ronnie the Bear wrote:In this video, Jerry is Antoine Walker and the rest of this thread is Marcus Camby. This post is Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
If Jerry stands up and shimmies after a good buzz even once during MO, this thread will have been worth it.

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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Avram » Mon Oct 25, 2010 2:12 pm

Sir Thopas wrote:They're certainly not considered indivisible units by, at least, native Czech and Hungarian speakers, who will frequently leave off even the diacritics not marking length in text messages and informal online communication.
Length, yes. But the consonants have been, in my experience, more resilient. In general, I'm less concerned about the conflation of vowels than of consonants.

I agree with Jerry, however, that none of this is nearly as important as question accuracy and general good writing.

The idea that bothers me is that it might be best to avoid using diacritical marks. No, you don't need to go through and track down the standard romanizations of Arabic to write good quizbowl questions. But the active omission of diacritical marks serves only to cultivate the incorrect impression that everything boils down to English and its 26 letters. At the very least, if you are omitting diacritical marks and you know it, you should be careful to check whether a pronunciation guide is justified.

[The illusion of equvalence to English is a problem that is only exacerbating in the case of omitted diacriticals; the Czech and Turkish uses of "c" ([ts] and [j], respectively) are at least as surprising to the unexpecting reader.]
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Oct 25, 2010 2:16 pm

Avram wrote:The idea that bothers me is that it might be best to avoid using diacritical marks. No, you don't need to go through and track down the standard romanizations of Arabic to write good quizbowl questions. But the active omission of diacritical marks serves only to cultivate the incorrect impression that everything boils down to English and its 26 letters. At the very least, if you are omitting diacritical marks and you know it, you should be careful to check whether a pronunciation guide is justified.
As I stated in my original post, I think that there are some good reasons to actively strip out diacritical marks.

In English, it does all boil down to English and its 26 letters, and the quizbowl tournaments discussed on this forum are held in English, moderated by English speakers, and often written or archived in text formats that were created for English.

Certainly, nobody in this thread opposes the increased use of pronunciation guides.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Oct 25, 2010 5:39 pm

Avram wrote:The idea that bothers me is that it might be best to avoid using diacritical marks. No, you don't need to go through and track down the standard romanizations of Arabic to write good quizbowl questions. But the active omission of diacritical marks serves only to cultivate the incorrect impression that everything boils down to English and its 26 letters. At the very least, if you are omitting diacritical marks and you know it, you should be careful to check whether a pronunciation guide is justified.
Since we're writing in English, avoiding diacriticals is the norm. If you want them, you have to actively insert them into your text because they're not on the keyboard. That takes a lot of time, time that in 99% of cases is better spent doing other things. Again, if you want them and you feel like you can easily put them in, go nuts. I personally find them more confusing for the simple reason that for someone not raised speaking a language that has diacriticals, they are just visual distractors and often make it hard to actually read the word.

edit: on a moment's reflection, I can imagine a similar thread where a hypothetical math/science person argues that we should write formulas using actual mathematical notation. Certainly anyone with a mathematics background will know how to read such a thing, but for the majority of moderators it would be clearly counterproductive. Diacriticals are the same: they're moderately useful to a small group of people who know how to interpret them but are either useless or detrimental to people who don't.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by theMoMA » Mon Oct 25, 2010 7:00 pm

grapesmoker wrote:edit: on a moment's reflection, I can imagine a similar thread where a hypothetical math/science person argues that we should write formulas using actual mathematical notation. Certainly anyone with a mathematics background will know how to read such a thing, but for the majority of moderators it would be clearly counterproductive. Diacriticals are the same: they're moderately useful to a small group of people who know how to interpret them but are either useless or detrimental to people who don't.
I'd say that this is pretty much dead on. Writing out things in a way that's readable to moderators is extremely important. I even like to do things like write John XXIII (the twenty-third) or to write a long chemical name as acetyl-salicylic acid or stuff like that if I really think it's going to be confusing.
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Re: Accent marks on foreign words

Post by Edmund » Tue Oct 26, 2010 8:52 am

grapesmoker wrote:edit: on a moment's reflection, I can imagine a similar thread where a hypothetical math/science person argues that we should write formulas using actual mathematical notation. Certainly anyone with a mathematics background will know how to read such a thing, but for the majority of moderators it would be clearly counterproductive. Diacriticals are the same: they're moderately useful to a small group of people who know how to interpret them but are either useless or detrimental to people who don't.
This is a very good point. Of course, rendering equations in plain English certainly does not guarantee that they will be read in a meaningful manner for an actual mathematician / scientist, just as with foreign languages for a familiar speaker. I can see there are no easy answers here - this will be a problem of sorts as long as the game is played, so it's certainly sensible to discuss ways to mitigate it.
myamphigory wrote:I hope that you told the control room at the ICT about the moderators that were having problems pronouncing foreign words (or that you'll consider doing so in the future). It's not unsportsmanlike or anything to give the people running the tournament a heads up that there's a problem with a staffer.
I didn't do this because in the larger context of the tournament it would have struck me as churlish. On the other hand if this sort of feedback may be seen as constructive I will certainly consider doing so on another occasion.
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