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Doubt on doubt

Ben Souther
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First, let me get this straight:
This is in no way poking fun, belittling, or railing against anyone.
If you can read this, at all, your English is way ahead of my (name a language).

I'm curious about why people who's first language is Indian use the word "doubt" instead of the word "question".

Example: "I have a doubt about Java".

Is there some Indian to English software out there that uses doubt or is it from a translation dictionary?

To a native English speaker, the word doubt, has a negative connotation.
To say "I have a doubt about Tomcat" would usually mean "I'm not sure Tomcat is up to the task".



"Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)"
Doubt Doubt, v. i. imp. & p. p. Dou?ted; p. pr. & vb. n.
Doubting. OE. duten, douten, OF. duter, doter, douter, F.
douter, fr. L. dubitare; akin to dubius doubtful. See
Dubious.
1. To waver in opinion or judgment; to be in uncertainty as
to belief respecting anything; to hesitate in belief; to
be undecided as to the truth of the negative or the
affirmative proposition; to b e undetermined.

Even in matters divine, concerning some things, we
may lawfully doubt, and suspend our judgment.
--Hooker.

To try your love and make you doubt of mine.
--Dryden.

2. To suspect; to fear; to be apprehensive. Obs.

Syn: To waver; vacillate; fluctuate; hesitate; demur;
scruple; question.


Again, this is not a criticism, just a question.


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Max Habibi
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I have a feeling it's cultural. Perhaps suggesting doubt (which is a potential personal issue) is more polite then asking a question? Or maybe it's just the way that the Indian language leads thought: a doubt might be the more correct translation of the concept of 'question' we hold in the States? Or perhaps it's a literal translation of a common questioning phrase?

M


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Ernest Friedman-Hill
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  34

I recall a discussion of this topic in this very forum, not terribly long ago. The answer seemed to be that the words for "question" and "doubt" were simply the same word; there aren't two separate concepts.


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Gregg Bolinger
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    6

Originally posted by Ernest Friedman-Hill:
I recall a discussion of this topic in this very forum, not terribly long ago. The answer seemed to be that the words for "question" and "doubt" were simply the same word; there aren't two separate concepts.


That makes sense. To doubt something often times is to question it. "I doubt Tomcat's abilities" and "I question Tomcat's abilities" or "I have doubts about Ben's abilities" and "I question Ben's abilities". Basically the same thing. If you have doubts about something, don't you often times question that very thing?


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ammu vasanth
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You have a doubt when you half-know the answer;
You have a question when you don't know the answer at all.

It's as simple as that
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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  34

Ah. Now more of that prior thread is starting to come back to me.

The thing is that "I have a doubt about ..." is itself not idiomatic English. You can say

"I doubt that you are coming."
"I have some doubts about your integrity."
"That's rather doubtful."

But "I have a doubt about constructors" is never said, at least in American English, and so it sounds very odd to American ears. If someone says "I have a doubt about X", an American thinks "Well, sorry to hear that. Good luck with it!" A doubt is a private thing you struggle with, not a verbal request for help the way a question is. But if you say "I have a question about X", then the correct response is "Yes, what is it?"


'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

-- Lewis Caroll, "Through the Looking Glass"
[ March 15, 2005: Message edited by: Ernest Friedman-Hill ]
Jim Yingst
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I remember when I first read all these "doubts" expressed by Indians in these forums; I thought that Indians must be very insecure people. Now I just mentally replace "doubt" with "question", and it sounds normal to me. But it took a bit of mental adjustment for me at first.


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Arjunkumar Shastry
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Originally posted by Max Habibi:
Perhaps suggesting doubt (which is a potential personal issue) is more polite then asking a question?
M

Atleast in my mother tounge it is.Doubt and questions have their equivalents.When somebody says doubt in my langauge,it means person has some questions and asking politely.When sombody says question,it doesn't appear polite.



Namma Suvarna Karnataka
Jeroen Wenting
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OK, well now you know that in English it's almost the diametrical opposite of that (and not ever used in the way mainly Indian people seem to use it when conferring in English)

Where's Map? She's our linguistics expert I think?


42
Dave Lenton
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Originally posted by Ben Souther:
To a native English speaker, the word doubt, has a negative connotation.
To say "I have a doubt about Tomcat" would usually mean "I'm not sure Tomcat is up to the task".


Another common one is the distinction between the phrase "I don't care" in the USA and the same phrase in the UK. It seems as if "I don't care" is used in the USA in the same way as "I don't mind" is used in the UK. In the UK "I don't care" will seem a lot ruder than "I don't mind". The latter indicates that the speaker has no preference, where as the former indicates that the speaker has a condescending attitude towards the choice.

Again, this is not a criticism, just a question.

Or do you mean doubt?


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Ben Souther
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Originally posted by Arjunkumar Shastry:

Atleast in my mother tounge it is.Doubt and questions have their equivalents.When somebody says doubt in my langauge,it means person has some questions and asking politely.When sombody says question,it doesn't appear polite.



I had a feeling that there was more to it than a simple mix up.
Thank you.

BTW: I think I found a way to put it in a nutshell:
You ask a question
and you
express a doubt.
Jeroen Wenting
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P.S. Ben, the topic should have been called "doubt in doubt" to properly portray the incorrect use of the word 'in' when 'on' or 'about' is meant which seems to often coincide with the incorrect use of the word 'doubt'
Gregg Bolinger
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    6

A couple of relivent threads

http://www.coderanch.com/t/38138/md/Please-clear-me
http://www.coderanch.com/t/40930/md/Indians-even
Axel Janssen
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In german doubt (=Zweifel) has a profoundly negative connotation too.
Desperation is Verzweifelung.
I think at least in chilean spanish the term duda (=doubt) is sometimes used the indian way:
"Saca me una duda," (if I remember right) is literally "take away a doubt", and it means: "I have a question:"

Is it perhabs a neologism. Older people use it?
Or are there words in hindi or other indian languages which might sound similar?

Or maybe it has to do with religion. Christians there is one god, prophets write about him, he had given 10 laws to Moses and he sent his son to the people. You believe it or you have serious doubts about it.
Maybe in hindu context there does not exist something like "having serious doubts about existence of god" or it is very different. (just speculating. I know very little about what hinduism means).

[ March 17, 2005: Message edited by: Axel Janssen ]
[ March 17, 2005: Message edited by: Axel Janssen ]
peter wooster
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Doubt almost always has a negative meaning in languages derived from Latin, since it comes from the word dubitare to hesitate. Question has a more positive connotation coming from the word qu�rere (pp. qu�situs) to seek.
peter wooster
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Originally posted by Axel Janssen:
In german doubt (=Zweifel) has a profoundly negative connotation too.
Desperation is Verzweifelung.
...


Note that both the Latin and German words derive from the number 2. Zwei = 2, Duo = 2. The meaning of hesitation or indecision between two things is part of both words.
Axel Janssen
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@Peter
"Saca me una duda" does also have a binary connotation.
It initiates always a yes-or-no questions.
Sadanand Murthy
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Indians learn English as a 2nd language. In some schools English is taught from a very early grade, in others in a higher grade. The quality of English teachers varies from school to school. There is a very strong (strivt, actually) emphasis on learning grammar. However, many (perhaps most) can't think in English; they think in the Indian language that they are most comfortable with/in and then translate it into English. Over a period of time even this becomes second nature.

Since many (if not most) Indians tend to translate (to a large extent, literally), a phrase, sentence, statement,what have you, into English from the Indian language that they are most comfortable with/in. This leads to these types of questions (or doubts ).

That is also why you see statements like "gave a slap on my face" because that is the literal transalation from hindi (& perhaps other Indian languages, too).

That is also the reason for the missing auxiliary verbs in questions asked by Indians (ex: "why you did it" instead of "why did you do it?"). Hindi and other India languages don't have the concept of such auxiliary verbs. And, oh, in many instances, in Hindi and other India languages the order of subject, predicate & verb are not rigidly fixed as it is in English.

Besides, there is the cultural aspect to this. Certain phrases is US English have a different connotation in Indian (& UK) English. The "I don't care" example cited by Dave Lenton is one that I'd to contend with during my initial days in US.


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Ben Souther
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Originally posted by Gregg Bolinger:
A couple of relivent threads

http://www.coderanch.com/t/38138/md/Please-clear-me
http://www.coderanch.com/t/40930/md/Indians-even


Haha..
http://www.coderanch.com/t/38138/md/Please-clear-me
and this thread start off with almost identical prologues.


Whereas this site has a very international cast of characters and whereas the central topic, 'Java', tends to be discussed and practiced mainly in English I wonder if an "English Language" forum is called for.
peter wooster
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Originally posted by Ben Souther:
Haha..
http://www.coderanch.com/t/38138/md/Please-clear-me
and this thread start off with almost identical prologues.


Whereas this site has a very international cast of characters and whereas the central topic, 'Java', tends to be discussed and practiced mainly in English I wonder if an "English Language" forum is called for.


It's only natural that computer language experts should also be interested in natural languages.

There was a movement within the APL community to use natural language terminology to describe the language. They refer to variables as pronouns, constants as nouns, functions as verbs and operators (functions that take functions as arguments) as adverbs, and lines as sentences. Applying this approach to Java would be fun for the linguists, but make OOP even more opaque to the average procedural programmer.
Ben Souther
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Originally posted by peter wooster:


It's only natural that computer language experts should also be interested in natural languages.

Indeed


There was a movement within the APL community to use natural language terminology to describe the language. They refer to variables as pronouns, constants as nouns, functions as verbs and operators (functions that take functions as arguments) as adverbs, and lines as sentences. Applying this approach to Java would be fun for the linguists, but make OOP even more opaque to the average procedural programmer.

Interesting, but that's not what I meant.
I meant a forum to disucuss the English language and it's use in the context of a site like this or in an IT workplace.

I see a lot of people trying to get help in one language, "Java", but are weighed down by a lack of proficiency in another "English". It would certainly be helpful to be able to go to the English forum to help put together the question that you want to ask before going to the actual forum.
Sonny Gill
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It is Hinglish!

And similarily, you will find some really odd phrases in Singlish/Minglish, that is English as spoken in Singapore/Malaysia.

Example -

In a restaurant -

Drinks?
Order already.

Which could be translated as -
Would you like to order your drinks?
I have already ordered.

Another example (this one from http://www.talkingcock.com/html/lexec.php) -

"Eh, borrow me $5 today, tomorrow I return you, can or not?"
[ March 17, 2005: Message edited by: Sonny Gill ]

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Sadanand Murthy
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Originally posted by peter wooster:

They refer to variables as pronouns, constants as nouns, functions as verbs and operators (functions that take functions as arguments) as adverbs,


Adverbs? I thought we did away with those quite a while ago? At least here in US that appears to be the case, if you listen to anyone, anywhere; be it at work, at the gym, on the tv. No one, it seems, is even aware of this part of speech. Not even the National level newscasters. Most certainly not the local newscasters.

I cringe every time some tells me to drive safe.
[ March 18, 2005: Message edited by: Sadanand Murthy ]
kayal cox
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Reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes strip.

Calvin: Verbing weirds language!
Jeroen Wenting
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Originally posted by Sonny Gill:
Example -

In a restaurant -

Drinks?
Order already.

Which could be translated as -
Would you like to order your drinks?
I have already ordered.


hmm, I'd think it was more something like
"Can we get a drink?"
"I'm ready to take your order"
Axel Janssen
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Originally posted by Ben Souther:

I meant a forum to disucuss the English language and it's use in the context of a site like this or in an IT workplace.

Or we work together to build a new english language (English 2.0) with lots of new features and more i18n friendly.
We could refactor some of the gotchas of the gramatic to an easier design.
[ March 18, 2005: Message edited by: Axel Janssen ]
Ben Souther
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Jeroen Wenting
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the reverse is actually better. Replace both k and s with c. That way the alphabet gets easier as well as preventing spelling mistakes ('this used to be a c, is it a k or an s now...').
Jim Yingst
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Jeroen, that idea cuccc.
Jeroen Wenting
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come to think, it would cause way too much wear and tear on the c key on our keyboards. As it is the i key is already overstressed because of the frequent use of the letter as a variable (the new for loop should cut down on that though, I wonder if Sun would have introduced the thing had they realised it would reduce the sales of replacement keyboards ) .
Ben Souther
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Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
Jeroen, that idea cuccc.


How would you pronounce that?..
kusk, susk, kuks..?
Dave Lenton
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Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:
the reverse is actually better. Replace both k and s with c. That way the alphabet gets easier as well as preventing spelling mistakes ('this used to be a c, is it a k or an s now...').


I heard an article somewhere talking about how a person who was learning English could get confused by the multiple sounds that some letters had. It pointed out how a person may think that "fish" could be spelled "Ghot". "Gh" from "tough", "o" from "women" and "t" from "fraction".

IIRC English has the most words and the highest percentage of irregular verbs of any mainstream language.

Turkish apparently has only one irregular verb, and some constructed languages such as Esperanto have none.
Jeroen Wenting
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Read something about European integration, how languages will over time evolve to become one pan-European language.
The example provided had all languages become German rather quickly
Axel Janssen
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Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:

The example provided had all languages become German rather quickly

at least that way my mother language is going to survive.
With current birth rates (me included) this appears far from assured.

Might be, that the very same people who predict that all europe will speak german are complaining about immigrants from turkey don't know the language of their host country properly. Doesn't convince me very much.
I am often a bit shocked about the quality of texts written by not few germans themselves, for example in trouble ticket systems. Or today I was at a police station and the police officer and me had to write down a protocol. She was nice, but in the end I wrote the text. Another 5 years and cable tv and 50% of the verbs are going to be disposed.
Jeroen Wenting
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it's the same in the Netherlands. Last month (or maybe it was january) a teacher was sued by some parents for marking SMS shorthand as incorrect in a Dutch language test.
Neither the parents nor their children understood why such use was incorrect and thought the teacher was on a personal crusade against them (the teacher was white, the kids were black, the complaint of course was discrimination).

Luckily the judge did know his language and threw out the case.
Rick Beaver
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Quoted from a web site I found

"Having chosen English as the preferred language in the EEC (now officially the European Union, or EU), the European Parliament has commissioned a feasibility study in ways of improving efficiency in communications between Government departments.

European officials have often pointed out that English spelling is unnecessary difficult; for example: cough, plough, rough, through and thorough. What is clearly needed is a phased programme of changes to iron out these anomalies. The programme would, of course, be administered by a committee staff at top level by participating nations.

In the first year, for example, the committee would suggest using 's' instead of the soft 'c'. Sertainly, sivil servants in all sities would resieve this news with joy. Then the hard 'c' could be replaced by 'k' sinse both letters are pronounsed alike. Not only would this klear up konfusion in the minds of klerikal workers, but typewriters kould be made with one less letter.

There would be growing enthusiasm when in the sekond year, it was anounsed that the troublesome 'ph' would henseforth be written 'f'. This would make words like 'fotograf' twenty persent shorter in print.

In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments would enkourage the removal of double letters which have always been a deterent to akurate speling.

We would al agre that the horible mes of silent 'e's in the languag is disgrasful. Therefor we kould drop thes and kontinu to read and writ as though nothing had hapend. By this tim it would be four years sins the skem began and peopl would be reseptive to steps sutsh as replasing 'th' by 'z'. Perhaps zen ze funktion of 'w' kould be taken on by 'v', vitsh is, after al, half a 'w'.

Shortly after zis, ze unesesary 'o' kould be dropd from words kontaining 'ou'. Similar arguments vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

Kontinuing zis proses yer after yer, ve vud eventuli hav a reli sensibl riten styl. After tventi yers zer vud be no mor trubls, difikultis and evrivun vud fin it ezi tu understand ech ozer. Ze drems of the Guvermnt vud finali hav kum tru."


ph34r my 133t j4v4 h4><0r1ng sk177z
Mehul Sanghvi
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At times it really surprises me as to why would the same letter in a script (Latin) be pronounced differently in different situations.
like in Jalopy and Jalapeno..!

In any of the Indian scripts (Brahmi) every constant will always be pronounced the same way in any situation. This is one of the changes thats really difficult to grasp for people for whom English is 2nd or 3rd language.
Jeroen Wenting
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Rick, the last part reads frighteningly much like the current standard of writing of many schoolchildren...
Are you sure there's no secret plan in place to get this spelling kickstarted by brainwashing the young through their mobile phones?
Rick Beaver
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Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:
Rick, the last part reads frighteningly much like the current standard of writing of many schoolchildren...
Are you sure there's no secret plan in place to get this spelling kickstarted by brainwashing the young through their mobile phones?



i thnk u r right m8. all the kids i no luv 2 rite like this in txt msgs.
Marilyn de Queiroz
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  10
'J' is pronounced differently in French and Spanish and German (although German is not a derivative of Latin)


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