Tag Archives: Language

Speak dialect, write english

I just had a discussion with a colleague  on the state of languages in Norway. Norway has two official languages bokmål and nynorsk, the first based on danish the second artificially created from dialects in the 19th century. Most people write bokmål whereas some 20% (my guesstimate) has nynorsk as their primary language in school. This said, the languages are quite close, and everyone can understand the other language.

So why not one written language? In the 60s it was tried to merge these into one written language called samnorsk. At the time it was not successful, and the merger failed. Since then however the languages have grown closer, and at the same time the use of English as a second language has become much more apparent. So why not try again?   

I’m a strong supporter of spoken dialects – and there are many of them in Norway (every valley has their own dialect). Because of this people are used to hear dialects constantly as well as swedish and other european languages. Dialects tells you where you’re from, and provide you with roots and belonging. With the globalization we are faced with the challenge that everything from children television to Internet are written in the most (read: affordable) language . In practice it means that english children TV series and movies are dubbed with Norwegian bokmål. The result is that children starts to speak a normalized bokmål that is quite far from their dialects. The result in a generation will be that we will loose the dialects and have one standardized Norwegian spoken language close to bokmål. At the same time everyone also gets to read and write english.

Globalization is inevitable and allows us all to speak together, however why should we loose our spoken dialects in the process. Wouldn’t it be  better if we all spoke our dialects (in addition to english as a second language) keeping our roots, and write english. We might lose our written languages (bokmål and nynorsk), but a written language is needed only to provide a common understanding – and english would be better in a globalized world anyway.

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Google using synonyms?

There are some talks these days in the blogsphere about Google adding synonyms in their search. Stemming – reducing the words you use to their base form or stem – they have had for a long time (e.g. run, running, runner resulting in the same result-set).

Using synonyms however is a much more complex task and relates to understanding the user’s intentions – including understanding more about the context the user is in. E.g. Port may be substituted by Gate, but also for Wine, and even more complex as we talk various languages into account – Gate in Norwegian also means Street. 

So are Google using synonyms as indicated in a few articles referencing an official Google Blog article? Not today from my understanding, but that they are looking into it as a central part of query understanding – for sure. And another Google Blog article explains this much clearer.

Personally, I also believe that their move into the browser market with Chrome positions Google to gather more information about the user’s context. Which is the real problem in current search solutions.