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Off topic: Do you know of a language that places surnames ahead of first names?
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

tweetie  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:53
English to Vietnamese
Off-topic of off-topic: name with no surname Nov 8, 2008

My boss is from Indonesia, and his name is only one word, without any surname. We dubbed him "The man with no surname".

 

Gianni Pastore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:53
Member (2007)
English to Italian
Legal docs Nov 8, 2008

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

I've seen the surname placed before the name quite often in Italian and French.


In Italy, in nearly all legal documents surname comes first. Also, our Social Security number/code starts with the letter of the surname (i.e.: PST GNN for Pastore Gianni)
G.


 

Dominique Durand  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:53
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
French - North of France (Valenciennes) Nov 8, 2008

In the area where I live (30 km south of Lille) it is quite common to refer to people who are not from the family with "surname + fisrt name" = neighbours, shopkeepers, colleagues.

For me (I am from Lyon) it is very strange so I asked first time I heard it and I was said that it is the normal way.

Usually "Surname + first "name " is used on official documents only


 

Marina Menendez  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 21:53
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
Surname, Name (MN) Nov 8, 2008

Hi ; )

Also in Argentina, when we fill in forms surnames are written first followed by name and, optionaly, middle name/middle initial.

HTH


 

Subbanna Varanasi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:53
Member (2008)
English to Telugu
+ ...
Telugu in India Nov 8, 2008

Telugu from South India. We place our family name first and then the first name.

The middle name rule does not apply but if it does, then we come to a situation, Because people sometimes have 4 middle names. One name might be given because the mother during pregnancy saw a god or goddess appearing in her dream, one name probably of the grandma or grandpa, (depending on the sex of the baby), the name of one god or goddess because the mother took a vow that if the baby is born health
... See more
Telugu from South India. We place our family name first and then the first name.

The middle name rule does not apply but if it does, then we come to a situation, Because people sometimes have 4 middle names. One name might be given because the mother during pregnancy saw a god or goddess appearing in her dream, one name probably of the grandma or grandpa, (depending on the sex of the baby), the name of one god or goddess because the mother took a vow that if the baby is born healthy and the pregnancy was smooth she would give that god or goddess name to the new born... it can go on and on

So, sometimes the name of a person looks more like a short story than a name (no disrepect meant)
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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:53
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Henrique, you are opening a can of worms! :D Nov 8, 2008

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

One Hungarian told me that if someone transliterated Phoenician hyeroglyphs, any Hungarian would be able to read and understand the resulting text. As this man spoke Portuguese (and another half a dozen languages he pretended to speak) sooo badly, I might have misunderstood him.


The fact that your acquaintance speaks poor Portuguese didn't keep him from speaking the truth - he was right! But this could lead us to a much more vast and highly contradicted topic. I have a book that exposes this subject in detail, and the linguist who wrote it exposes all possible arguments just short of proving that the ancestors of Hungarians originate from around Mesopotamia (it has already been proven that the early Huns looked pretty much like Mongols). It goes without saying that this theory, much like several others, is often contradicted (often for political reasons). Since none of this can be reasonably proven, I can only say that I like to believe that this is in fact the truth. Let me quote him:

Tibor E. Barath - The Early Hungarians - In the Light of Recent Historical Research (1983)

The next most important step in the elaboration of the orientalist conception was the extension of the field of investigation beyond Mesopotamia, to cover the whole Near East. It was indeed discovered that innumerable Magyar [note from Viktoria: Magyar means Hungarian in Hungarian] words were used, not only in Mesopotamia, but elsewhere too, in the B. C. times, especially in the Nile valley, as well as in Syria and in Anatolia. In these areas certain texts written with hyerogliphs or with Phoenician type characters, can be read in Hungarian. These surprising results definitely proved that the original home of the Hungarian speaking population was the entire Near East and also that Magyar was a primary language, from which many others originated.


It must also be added that the eminent Finnish linguist, Helmi Poukka (Helsinki) has made an important contribution to the subject with her "Hungarian-Finn-Egyptian word parallels". In her publication, she lists 1,045 identical Egypto-Hungarian words. This work was recently expanded into an important manuscrit of 307 pages.[/quote]

Although daring and unsubstantiated, this is a fascinating theory.

I know that virtually all countries place the surname ahead of the rest in forms and official documents, but that has nothing to do with usage, since it is always the surname that is used for documentation purposes. In Hungary, too, most forms ask for the surname first, but nobody would refer to someone they know by the given name first followed by the rest.

To Andras: I may not have expressed myself clearly. What I meant is that documents that are likely going to be read by foreigners, maybe even in a foreign language, automatically switch the naming order to have it comply with the 'normal' naming scheme. Hungarians seem to be wide open to this practice, even though it means being renamed, in a sense.

This is a very interesting discussion. It would seem that most cultures that use the Hungarian naming scheme are Asian, which in itself is very interesting. I wonder, however, about Bayern and the North of France... Could it be that these people have come into contact with Asian culture for some reason, long ago, and they have borrowed the naming scheme from those? Hungary is the most important producer of paprika, but had the Turks not invaded Hungary hundreds of years ago, there would probably be no paprika in Hungary. The same way, language and customs may have been influenced by foreigners, often leaving a deeply rooted tradition in place, the origins of which may have long since been forgotten. Some history-oriented insight would be useful here.

[Edited at 2008-11-08 23:50]


 

FarkasAndras  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:53
English to Hungarian
+ ...
- Nov 8, 2008

Gianni Pastore wrote:

In Italy, in nearly all legal documents surname comes first.


In forms, where you have separate boxes for each, or in actual text as well?
Say, in a contract, you would surely put Gianni Pastore and not the other way round, right?


Re: Hungarian

The name order is strictly language-dependant. When we write Hungarian text we put Hungarian names surname first, and in English etc texts the first name goes first. (Foreign names go first name first in Hungarian texts, respecting foreign traditions, and that usually even includes Japanese, even though they apparently share our name order. But that is not widely known here, and Japanese names often arrive here through English language sources... it is a huge mess. And then there are people with foreign names who are Hungarian or live here - there's a weird grey area.)

One thing is certain: we all find inverted Hungarian names VERY strange. (Side note: European Parliament texts translated into Hungarian must have the names first name first for the sake of some silly uniformity across languages... I struggle to do that.)


As to the Phoenician links, I am impressed by your interest in the history of such a small and distant nation/language. I'm VERY sceptical of most of that stuff though. The Egyptian relationship is surely bogus, and the Phoenician line doesn't seem very believable either.
If you look really hard and transliterate an ancient alphabet sufficiently liberally, you will find shared words...


As to paprika it's obviously from South America but the Turks may well have imported it here. We certainly have a lot of common history with Turkey. (The Turks conquered Hungary and spent a century and a half here, taking what they could and destroying what they couldn't.) So we do have a lot of Turkish words in our language, a couple of medieval Turkish buildings in the country and some cultural ties.
Now the two nations are sort of "friends". The Turks even seem to think that the whole medieval adventure was all fun and games and we too had a fun time under their rule... well, not exactly.


Jeez, that was long


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:53
English to Portuguese
+ ...
In memoriam
A pathway to confusion Nov 8, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
The fact that your acquaintance speaks poor Portuguese didn't keep him from speaking the truth - he was right!


Well, you never heard this one. I had many good friends in my teen years, classmates and others, whose parents were Hungarian. This one, specifically - he worked in the company that was my first job - excelled in speaking the worst Portuguese, English, German, and Swedish natives of each of these languages had ever heard.
I have been assured that I speak the #1 worst Polish on the face of planet Earth, possibly because this Hungarian guy never tried to speak Polish.

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
I know that virtually all countries place the surname ahead of the rest in forms and official documents, but that has nothing to do with usage, since it is always the surname that is used for documentation purposes. In Hungary, too, most forms ask for the surname first, but nobody would refer to someone they know by the surname first followed by the rest.


This same company had a very international staff in the mid-1970s. There were two Russian brothers. I saw their Brazilian IDs. One's name had been trans-lated/literated into Portuguese as Mozol Vesevolod, and the other's as Fedor Mozol. By the way, the latter was probably Fyodor, and "fedor" in Portuguese means "stench". Maybe a prank by some immigration officer. Only the fact of them being brothers led people here to realize which was name and surname.

As a sworn translator (EN-PT only, thank goodness), I am always very careful about that. Since we have several first names that serve both genders - e.g. Altair, Nadir, Allison, Dagmar, Ely, Leonor - and other rare ones that it's hard, even for a Brazilian, to guess the gender - e.g. Idathy, Jutahy, Jessé, Doracy, Aglair - I always add a Mr./Mrs whenever translating into English, especially when a document says "being grandparents on the mother's side ..." and two names follow. Better stay away from creating confusion in translation.

A cousin of mine has two sons. One was born in Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil. The other was born in Saint Paul, MN, USA. Now both are married, have their own families. But I'd bet that when they were younger, travelling together, anyone who saw their papers at once would think that "some translator certainly messed up things here".


 

Gianni Pastore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:53
Member (2007)
English to Italian
Nope Nov 8, 2008

FarkasAndras wrote:

Gianni Pastore wrote:

In Italy, in nearly all legal documents surname comes first.


In forms, where you have separate boxes for each, or in actual text as well?
Say, in a contract, you would surely put Gianni Pastore and not the other way round, right?



AFAIK, it is quite common to put surname first in all legal documents written by (say) a lawyer or a notary. I've checked (got plenty of them) my docs and my surname comes always first (either in normal printed or handwritten text). Same for boxes in forms, most of the time surname comes first. You can check this easily: try register yourself in any italian site and see what box they ask you to fill first. Chances are that 95% of the cases will be surname.

There's something peculiar in this. We (italians) tend to put surname first in every "official" occasion, whereas for "official" must be intended anything that has to do with bureaucracy, from simple postal payment slips to supermarket member's cards


 

juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:53
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Confusing? Nov 9, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
In Hungary, too, most forms ask for the surname first, but nobody would refer to someone they know by the surname first followed by the rest.


I see, you corrected it:

In Hungary, too, most forms ask for the surname first, but nobody would refer to someone they know by the given name first followed by the rest.


In Hungary the surname of their citizens always comes first, no matter what.
Foreign names are a problem, and it depends on the application and familiarity of the name.
In the old days they used to "Hungarianise" them: Verne Gyula (Jules Verne).
Nowadays they tend to stick to the original order of the name.

Referring to somebody you know works exactly the same way, the exception is when you only use one name or the other.
Kids, office colleagues, university mates may use the surname only when referring to each other, due to the number of Peters, Marias, etc.
Friends would always use the given name (or nickname) like everywhere else.
Again, if you have two friends of the same first name you could be talking about, you may use both names to clarify it, and the surname comes first: I am talking about Kovacs Peter, not Horvath Peter...


 

orientalhorizon  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:53
English to Chinese
+ ...
East Asia and part of South Asia affected by Chinese culture Nov 9, 2008

In China, Japan, korea and Vietnam, the surname or family name always comes first which is followed by the given name. Another interesting phenomenon is that, in China, when we talk about the address of a location, the country always comes first, then province, county or city, then street or road, then gate number, just the opposite to the mode in English, i.e., we go go from "big" to "small", while, in English, it's goes from "small" to "big".

 

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:53
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
This is exactly the kind of hint I was searching for Nov 9, 2008

orientalhorizon wrote:

Another interesting phenomenon is that, in China, when we talk about the address of a location, the country always comes first, then province, county or city, then street or road, then gate number, just the opposite to the mode in English, i.e., we go go from "big" to "small", while, in English, it's goes from "small" to "big".


Interesting indeed. Would you say that this is the general logic used in Asia when giving information that involves a hierarchy? That is, would people generally zoom in rather than extrapolate?

What I was mostly interested in when I posted this thread was the logic behind 'upside down' naming schemes. Could it be that people in Asia, when they are asked to say where they live, say something like "I live in China, more specifically in Beijing" rather than saying "I live in Beijing, in China"? Is there a reasoning behind this logic?

I was thinking. In some countries or regions, what is of import to people is the individual and not where they come from or which clan they are part of. In other places, it is more important to know which clan someone belongs to than the individual himself. This may - and probably does - influence the order in which given names and surnames are presented. Is that so in China as well?

To Juvera: yes, I corrected it after I realized I messed up. While in Hungary, it is common to designate people by their surnames (especially in male circles, since a given name is very personal and male pride probably keeps them from using given names so they don't seem too affectionate - this is my personal hypothesis), when both the surname and the given name are used, the surname always comes first. In my case, I am accustomed to Gimbe Viki.

I like the Verne Gyula example. Am I wrong to assume that this practice was around until the fifties and then the culture shifted slowly towards the modern practice of using the absolute name? It always gets on my nerves when people use Léonard De Vinci in French to refer to Leonardo Da Vinci. I have always considered that a name, although it doesn't describe a person, defines a person, and that it is rude to translate it or modify it in any way - to me, that is more or less changing a person's name, as though a person could be changed to suit our needs. I can understand that people modify names when they are hard to pronounce for the majority (and my Chinese clients all have Western given names, which I totally understand), but I fail to understand why a name should be translated when it can be used as is (that is, when it isn't hard to pronounce and is already written using the latin alphabet - like Leonardo Da Vinci).

[Edited at 2008-11-09 16:55]


 

Krzysztof Łesyk  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 09:53
Japanese to English
+ ...
Straying off topic, but... Nov 9, 2008

I'm curious Viktoria - what do you mean by Japanese writing system dying slowly? And while we're at it, I'm not sure if I correctly understand the fragment about Japanese writing system being unlike any other. Some parts of it (hiragana, katakana) might be considered unique, but the system itself was "imported" from China - even now we call kanji "Chinese characters" and the great majority of them (especially in isolation - multi-character compound words can be confusing at times) can be recogni... See more
I'm curious Viktoria - what do you mean by Japanese writing system dying slowly? And while we're at it, I'm not sure if I correctly understand the fragment about Japanese writing system being unlike any other. Some parts of it (hiragana, katakana) might be considered unique, but the system itself was "imported" from China - even now we call kanji "Chinese characters" and the great majority of them (especially in isolation - multi-character compound words can be confusing at times) can be recognized by Chinese people with no knowledge of Japanese language.

Also, another part unclear to me is the one about Japanese adopting the 'normal' standard in official document and formal communications. I have seen quite a number of official Japanese documents and not in a single one were the names listed before the surnames - to my knowledge, it is not acceptable. If you mean official/formal INTERNATIONAL documents, then yes, that would be true, but it's the matter of translation - Japanese names written in roman alphabet can indeed adhere to what you call 'normal' standard, but I have not seen a single instance of "first name, surname" notation when they're written in Japanese.

Actually, even foreigners' names are written in reverse order on official Japanese documents - according to my driver's license, bank passbook and all official documents, my name is ウエシク・クシシトフ (Łesyk Krzysztof).

Just thought I'd clear the confusion a bit with some first-hand information.

[Edited at 2008-11-09 23:45]
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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:53
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Pure Japanese versus modern day Japanese Nov 10, 2008

Krzysztof Łesyk wrote:

I'm curious Viktoria - what do you mean by Japanese writing system dying slowly? And while we're at it, I'm not sure if I correctly understand the fragment about Japanese writing system being unlike any other. Some parts of it (hiragana, katakana) might be considered unique, but the system itself was "imported" from China - even now we call kanji "Chinese characters" and the great majority of them (especially in isolation - multi-character compound words can be confusing at times) can be recognized by Chinese people with no knowledge of Japanese language.


What I mean by Japanese writing system is the writing system that is purely of Japanese origin. This would mean katakana and hiragana. Modern day Japanese writing isn't really Japanese, because many of the characters used are of Chinese origin. In that sense, Japanese as it is wrote is being forgotten. And with English being quite fashionable in Asia these days, I wouldn't be surprised if most Asian languages changed substantially over the next fifty years (it's been happening to French for a while now).

Krzysztof Łesyk wrote:
If you mean official/formal INTERNATIONAL documents, then yes, that would be true, but it's the matter of translation - Japanese names written in roman alphabet can indeed adhere to what you call 'normal' standard, but I have not seen a single instance of "first name, surname" notation when they're written in Japanese.


Yes, that is what I meant, the same way as is the case with the Hungarians. However, since Japanese characters are quite different from most alphabets, it is understandable that people prefer not to make a fuss about their names and simply adopt the 'normal' naming scheme when transliterating their names into Western alphabets.

By the way, I prefer to use 'normal' simply for the sake of simplicity. In fact, what is normal to me is the surname + given name scheme, whereas to most North Americans, that would be the abnormal scheme. I guess the majority inevitably makes the rules...

For me, it's Bond. Bond James.

[Edited at 2008-11-10 01:13]


 

Shirley Lao  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
"Top-down processing" versus "bottom-up processing" Nov 10, 2008

Some studies indicated that the Chinese people use the top-down approach relatively more than the bottom-up approach in processing information. Given that the bottom-up processing appears to be more important than the top-down processing in discriminating words at a phonetic level, this may suggest that the Chinese people utilize relatively more context than phonetic information in processing linguistic information [Page 44 of See more
Some studies indicated that the Chinese people use the top-down approach relatively more than the bottom-up approach in processing information. Given that the bottom-up processing appears to be more important than the top-down processing in discriminating words at a phonetic level, this may suggest that the Chinese people utilize relatively more context than phonetic information in processing linguistic information [Page 44 of http://books.google.com/books?id=UGr8CLAqxwMC&pg=PA44&lpg=PA44&dq=top%20down%20processing,%20chinese&source=web&ots=k9kl04ugRW&sig=pnJ-Yz0Jes0arFuL9uulfYJS7xY&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result

Such differences may arise possibly because (1) the Chinese language is a logographic language rather than a phonetic language (for example, most Romance languages); (2) the Chinese people process external information (not limited to linguistic information) in a different manner. You may refer to this abstract for some ideas http://www.fed.cuhk.edu.hk/en/aps/200700390004/0754.htm
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