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The UEAPTTS

Are you using software* in English? Then you don’t know the Unmarked English Accusative Problem of Translating Text* in Software. This is one of the numerous problems that made me* to stick to using software* in English, however most developers began to issue Hungarian translations* some 20 years ago.
  The problem is simple. English doesn’t mark the accusative*. In this article, I will append asterisks* to all the words that need the accusative* in Hungarian and in many other languages. Hungarian shows it* with a -t appended to the end of the word. As you can see, accusatives are required frequently. In many languages, people are using it* all the time. Actually, English does, too. The only difference is that is has no sign*, nothing shows it*, so native speakers aren’t aware of it.
  Where to look for accusatives in English? When there’s a verb and a noun, the verb is doing something* with the noun, and there is no other relation between them; relations are specified with prepositions. Let’s see some* of the cases appeared in this article so far.
  Using software*. Using what? The software*. The noun is belonging to the verb, but there’s no preposition. In Hungarian, we put it* in accusative: szoftvert használ.
  Know a problem*. Know what? The problem*. The case is the same, they are related but there’s no preposition. In Hungarian: ismer egy problémát.
  Made me*. In this case, English actually does mark the accusative*, changing from I to me. Unfortunately, this is the form used with prepositions, too: with me, for me, to me, so, you can’t tell accusative nouns* apart from the others by replacing them* with a pronoun.
  The problem is simple. No accusative: the verb “to be” doesn’t imply any accusative*, in any tense. In Hungarian: a probléma egyszerű.
  Doing something* – let’s see some*. Yes, pronouns take the accusative* naturally. In Hungarian: tesz valamit – lássunk néhányat.
  As you can see. No accusative: there’s a pronoun (“you”), but it isn’t the object of the verb (“see”), the pronoun is the active performer of the action. An accusative would appear only to another word, the object being seen. You see the house* – látod a házat.

Why do I call this problem* UEAPTTS? When translating a text* from English to Hungarian (or to any language that marks the accusative*), it’s normally no problem. We translate it* with adding the required accusative marks* or use other methods*, as the grammar requires it*.
  Except for software.
  When translating software*, in most cases, the strings are given in forms like “today is %1” – and when the program displays it*, it replaces the placeholder* with the appropriate word, e.g. Monday. In this case, it’s really easy to translate: “ma %1 van”.
  But with phrases containing accusatives*, it’s very complicated. You can’t add the accusative mark* to a placeholder like “%1 is eating %2” → “%1 eszik %2t”, because this would be rendered to nonsense, for example: Alice eszik kenyért. This is the results when the program takes the nouns* from a list of words in nominative (for example, because they’re used at other places, too), and there’s no separate list of accusative forms. The accusative of kenyér (bread) is kenyeret. And there can be no such separate list since this would require an extension* for the program itself, to handle it*, but translators can’t make such modifications*.
  Let’s see an example* from Facebook.
  “Person #1 felvette a(z) GroupName csoportba a következőt: Person #2.”
  Literally, “Person #1 took up into the group GroupName the following*: Person #2.”
  On English Facebook, this reads “Person #2 was added to GroupName by Person #1.” But many other forms would do (say, Person #1 added Person #2 to GroupName). In Hungarian, it’s impossible to find a way* to say “added X” without requiring an accusative* for the name. And we can’t turn names* into accusatives without a special conjugating subroutine, but translators aren’t allowed to expand programs*, of course. So, they are following. I mean, they write this*: “following: Person #2”, what’s very ugly, but it really doesn’t require an accusative* for the name. Következőt, this is in accusative, problem solved.
  You can notice another interesting feature*: “a(z)”. The definite article “the” has two forms* in Hungarian, just like the indefinite article in English: “a” and “an”, and the rule is the same, too: the shorter form before consonants, the longer one before vowels. A kutya – az ágy. But of course, the translators can’t add a subroutine* to handle this difference* either, so they write this*: “a(z)”. Ugly as well, but there’s no better way.
  There’s no easy solution for such problems. Maybe once developers invent a way* to add plugins* to handle translation issues*.


Láng Attila D., 2014.7.31.

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