23 January 2012

Hyphens

In a previous post (here), I discussed word spacing in the local Malay newspaper, and I suggested that the occasional absence of spacing on some lines might arise because there is no sohpisticated software to implement automatic hyphenation in Malay.

This seems to be confirmed by the fact that unexpected hyphens sometimes occur in the middle of a line. For example, see this extract from an article on page 2 of the Media Permata of 24 January 2012, discussing a recent accident on the coastal highway in Brunei:A translation of this paragraph is:
This incident, which is estimated to be the biggest that has occurred for the past few years, occurred at approximately 7:00 in the evening. But the police are still investigating the cause of the incident.
Note that pernah ('has') and the second token of kejadian ('incident') are both suitably hyphenated, to ensure that the spacing on the line is good, and kira-kira ('approximately') is also hyphenated, as is usual for reduplicated words. But what is interesting is the spurious hyphenation in kebelakangan ('previous', 'past'). My assumption is that the journalist or editor inserted a hyphen to get the spacing right and then forgot to remove it when the text was changed so it was no longer necessary to break up the word. I believe that this would generally not occur in English newspapers, as hyphenation would be done automatically.

One other thing to notice about this paragraph is the repetition in Malay of berlaku ('occur'), which I have retained in the translation. Such repetition of lexical items is usually avoided in English, but it does not seem to be a problem in Malay. If I were to try and offer a better translation, I might replace one of the tokens of 'occurred' with another word, maybe 'happened'.

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