Monthly Archives: October 2017

Another case of firstname ambiguity: ‘Noël’

Translation of the French word ‘Noël’ yields another case of ambiguity. For ‘Noël’ can translate:

  • either into Natali (Christmas, Christmas Day): the annual festival commemorating Jesus Christ’s birth
  • or into, identically, Natali (‘Noel‘): the firstname

Now it seems there is no case of disambiguation, since in either case, ‘Noël’ in French translates into Natali (Natali in sartinese and taravese variants; Natale in cismuntincu variant). But ambiguity lurks when one considers some sentences including ‘Noël’. Let us consider then the following sentence: ‘Je l’ai donné à Noël.’ Now it can be translated:

  • either into: L’aghju datu in Natali. (I gave it at Christmas.)
  • or into: L’aghju datu à Natali (I gave it to Noel.)

since French preposition ‘à’ translates differently in both cases. A phenomenon of the same nature occurs when one considers translation from French to English.

Interestingly, when the two ambiguous consecutive words are repeated, ambiguity vanishes. Since ‘Je l’ai donné à Noël à Noël.’ translates unambiguously into L’aghju datu à Natali in Natali (I gave it to Noel at Christmas.). For we can ignore the order: L’aghju datu in Natali à Natali (I gave it at Christmas to Noel.) amounts to the same. In this last case, the  translation is meaning-preserving.

The case of ‘Toussaint’

‘Toussaint’ is a special case for disambiguation. It can designate:

  • either the firstname ‘Toussaint’ (Toussaint in English) = Santu in Corsican language (masculine & singular proper noun)
  • or the feminine & singular (in French) proper noun that refers to the Christian festival. It translates into I Santi in Corsican, i.e. a masculine & plural proper noun (All Saint’s Day).

In the sample below, disambiguation between the cases of ‘Toussaint’ is made properly but ‘Erami à I Santi‘ should read: Erami in I Santi (We were at All Saint’s day).