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橙与苹果之比较观

更新时间:2015-11-17 20:20:56 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared?
橙与苹果之比较观

[Essay Question] How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? Possible answers involve, but are not limited to, statistics, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and philosophy. —Inspired by Florence Chan, Class of 2015.

(申请书命题)苹果与橙应当如何比较?答案可以涉及统计学、化学、物理系、语言学、哲学,但无须局限于此。——题目由2015届学生弗洛伦斯·陈(Florence Chen)启发

To compare two items is to analyze their similarities and differences. As for apple and orange, the comparison is straightforward: both words may serve as nouns, but only orange can be used as an adjective. (Say, my T-shirt is orange, and you have another T- shirt the color of an apple. But you just can’t say, "my T-shirt is apple.") Thus, the question is answered.

所谓比较,就是辨析其相似和不同之处。对于“苹果”(apple)和“橙”(orange)而言,这一比较非常直观——两者皆可作名词,而唯有“橙”亦可解作形容词(例如,我的T恤衫是橙的,你有另一件苹果颜色的T恤衫,但你却不能说“我的T恤衫是苹果的”)。答毕。

Still, it’s natural to ask why. Everyone knows what you’re talking about when you’re talking about either apples or oranges (well, technically everyone except the biologist, since apple refers to a genus rather than a species, and so does orange). Furthermore, when functioning as nouns, the two words have no morphosyntactic differences. Both are count nouns and may become plural by the morphological process of -s suffixation, (hence the wording of the original question). Both may serve as modifiers (apple pie, orange juice, etc.) as well as arguments of verbs (I eat apples, oranges taste delicious, etc.). In other words, you can replace all the apples with oranges in any text without ruining the sentence’s grammaticality.

但我们自然要刨根究底。当我们在谈论“苹果”时,所有人都知道我们在谈论什么,而“橙”也一样。(当然严格来说,生物学家可能尚无法确定,因为“苹果”和“橙”还有一个共同点:皆为属名,而非种名)。不仅如此,用作名词时,(英语中的)“apple”和“orange”不体现任何形态句法差异——可数,可以添加后缀-s表示复数(因而原文问了apples和oranges);两者都可以兼做修饰语(例如“苹果派”、“橙汁”)或是动词的论元(主语或宾语,例如“我吃苹果”“橙味美”)。换言之,在任何文本中,用“orange”一词取代“apple”,都不会使得句子违反语法。

Then, orange, wherefore art thou also an adjective? Why do you have an extra ability that your peer apple lacks? Since the adjective is more abstract (in terms of concreteness) than the noun, as anything the color of orange may be called orange even if it has nothing to do with an orange, our initial assumption may well be that oranges were deemed more general than apples. Oranges were in the majority, hence having enjoyed the privilege as the standard name of its color. Apples were not so well known, so even now it is merely itself and nothing else.

既然如此——粤若橙乎,缘何君亦可专述字之形容耶?为什么你有同伴苹果所不具备的能力呢?考虑到形容词在具体程度上比名词更为抽象:任何橙色的物体,即便与橙子毫无关联,也都可以用”橙“来描述。我们不禁假设,是否古人认为橙本身就比苹果更为普遍,更易获取,因而得以享受命名其颜色的殊荣,而当时苹果则鲜为人知,因此直至如今依旧仅可代表自己,别无他物。

This explanation sounds plausible at first. But after some consideration, we find it inconsistent with apple’s frequent appearances in idioms (such as apple of one’s eye) and classics (like the famous apple in the Garden of Eden). Everything seems to suggest the opposite, that apples were, and has always been, more popular than oranges. Ergo, we need a detailed analysis of historical semantic change of apple and orange to see how our ancestors perceived the two.

这一解释乍看之下颇为合理,但若细加考察,“apple”却在英文惯用语和各类经典中频频出现,例如表示掌上明珠的“apple of one’s eye”,或是伊甸园中著名的苹果形象。这一切似乎在暗示,恰恰相反,苹果才是一如既往更为大众化的水果。由是观之,为了探究先人究竟如何看待这两者,我们必须纵览历史,详细剖析“apple”和“orange”两词的语义演变。

We start off by looking up apple in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). After an extensive list of the word’s orthographic variations and cognates in different languages, the OED gave its first definition (A. 1. a.), what is known as apples today. The earliest example, written in Old English, dates back to the year of 885. The word orange, on the other hand, originated in English over one hundred years later, in 1044. So our assumption is formally proved wrong: apple has always been the more familiar and recognized one of the two. But that only strengthened our curiosity.

首先翻开《牛津英语词典》(Oxford English Dictionary)查证“apple”。在事无巨细罗列了该词的异体拼写以及其于各语言中的同根词后,《牛津词典》给出的第一条定义(A. 1. a)与我们现在所说的苹果毫无二致,最早的古英语例句可以追溯到公元885年,而“orange”一词直到一个世纪后的1044年才出现在英语中。至此,我们的假设正式宣告推翻:从古至今,“apple”一直更为人所熟知和注目。但这一发现无疑只是进一步激发了我们的好奇心。

A more careful reading of the OED offers us some helpful clues. In its definition A. 2. a., the OED describes apple as "[a]ny fruit, or similar vegetable production" and provides examples from as early as 1000. In a 1398 book written in Middle English that we can understand, the author mentioned "apples that ben closyd in an harde skynne," or what we today may call nuts. Comparing all the citations listed under the apple entry, we may conclude that apple used to have a much more general meaning, and it wasn’t until the 17th century that semantic narrowing started to preclude other fruits from being named apple.

继续仔细阅读《牛津词典》可以得到更多线索。对于“apple”一词,第二条定义(A. 2. a)描述为“任何水果,或类似的植物果实”,并附上了最早可追溯到11世纪的例句。一本1398年的书以(我们依然可以读懂的)中古英语提及了“apples that ben closyd in an harde skynne”(裹以坚壳之果)——这里让当代读者大惑不解的“apples”,的的确确就是我们如今所说的“坚果”。比照所有这些列在“apple”条目下的例证,可以发现,“apple”一词原先具有远更为广泛的外延,直到17世纪,语义窄化才禁止了其它水果被冠以“apple”之名。

That was poles apart from the case of orange. In fact, orange is so "special" that the OED includes a rare encyclopedic note suggesting that the fruit may have emerged in north India, as the word can be traced to a Sanskrit root. Despite its relatively late appearance in English, the word’s main meaning has never changed. Beginning in the 14th century, when apple was still a general term, orange naturally took on the extended adjectival sense, defined by the OED as "[o]f the colour of an orange."

而“orange”与之恰恰相反。其实,由于“orange”极为特殊,《牛津词典》甚至罕见地为其收录了一条百科注释,指出该词可追溯到的梵语词根,说明橙子可能源自印度北部。尽管其在英语中晚于“apple”出现,但这一词语的核心意义从未发生改变。自14世纪起,“orange”便自然而然被扩展为形容词使用,《牛津词典》将其定义为“橙之色”——而彼时的“apple”还仅仅是一个宽泛的概念。

So, contrary to our assumption, majority does not help one stand out. When a word has too general denotation to identify anything accurately, it somewhat loses its own attributes and its essential values. Eventually, during the process of artificial selection, English speakers had to narrow down the meaning of apple to the fruit of Eve, thereby refreshing the word’s beauty and liveliness.

所以说,与我们的假设相反,普遍并无助于突现自身。一个词语若是过于宽泛,无从准确辨认,也就失去了几分自有属性和内在价值。最终,“apple”经由英语使用者的人工选择,意义被限定为伊甸园所结的那种水果。这一词语的美丽和活力也由此重新迸发。

At the same time, orange has gained its special adjectival status because of its exclusivity. When we think of something orange, an orange is frequently, if not always, the first thing that comes to our mind. The fruit may not be native to the English-speaking areas, but the absorption of the word into English, like the introduction of the fruit to us, adds taste to our language and our life.

与此同时,“orange”之所以能收获其特殊的形容词地位,恰恰是由于其专一性。我们首先想到的橙色物体几乎总是柳橙本身。橙或许不原产于英语地区,但英语收获“orange”一词的过程,如同我们收获这一水果的过程一般,为我们的语言和生活增添了滋味。

Therefore, one needs to find and preserve the defining qualities, for each one is, and should be, beautifully unique. This applies to anyone in a diverse environment, such as a word in the diverse English lexicon, or us ourselves in this diverse world.

由此看来,应该寻找真正定义自己的特质,并加以坚守,因为任何多元环境下的每一个个体都具有美妙的独特性,也应当保留好这一份独特性。庞杂英语词库中的单词如是,纷繁世界中的我们亦然。

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