6

Consider a basic example of the French word oui, and the English word we. Phonetically these words are pronounced identically (okay some French speakers may put emphasis on the oo sound in oui, but you know what I'm talking about)

Does anyone know if there are any 2 languages such that there is a sentence in language A and a sentence in language B, which when spoken sound identical?

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    it is common, such things occur everywhere. Enumerating these kind of homophony will take you a lifetime. – amegnunsen Dec 8 '18 at 21:59
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    @amegnunsen I don't wish for a list, just a few examples, nor do I want only the words that do. I mean entire meaningful sentences. I imagine this is not THAT common – Craig Dec 8 '18 at 22:52
  • The phonology of a sentence includes prosody that is different from a variety to another, apart from maybe imperative. This linguistic fact will complicate your research. – amegnunsen Dec 9 '18 at 7:19
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    There are good examples here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophonic_translation – fdb Dec 9 '18 at 13:39
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Since you only want a limited number of examples, I figure that one will do.

There is a known wordplay between an Italian sentence, and a somewhat contrived Latin sentence, which are spelled the same way except for punctuation and capitalization (which wasn't used in classical Latin, and excluding the fact that V and U weren't distinguished), and pronounced the same way if you use the pronunciation of Latin taught in Italy (classical pronunciation was different).

The Italian sentence is

I vitelli dei romani sono belli.

meaning "The Romans' calves are nice".

The Latin sentence would be

I, Vitelli, Dei Romani sono belli!

meaning "Go, o Vitellius, by the war call (sound) of the Roman God!".

  • Are they homophone or homograph? – amegnunsen Dec 9 '18 at 7:02
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    They are both... depending on how you write and pronounce them. Latin has been written and pronounced in different ways through ages and locations. Today in Italy, it's taught using what's termed the Ecclesiastical pronunciation, where it's pronounced almost the same as Italian, so with that pronunciation, the sentences are homophones — minus possible variations in dei and sono, which can be /dɛi/ (Latin) but /dei/ (Italian), and /sɔno/ (Latin) but /sono/ (Italian). This, however, is subject to regional variation. – LjL Dec 9 '18 at 16:28
8

One internet-famous example is between Japanese and Polish.

daisuki (大好き): I like [it, you, him…] a lot
daj suki: give [me] the bitches

Both are reasonably coherent sentences, if short. Without context, "I like you a lot" and "give me the bitches" are the most likely readings; suki means "bitches" as in "female dogs in heat" but also "overly domineering women" or "police vans".

  • Tempting to try to show cognancy. I started out wrong with Jp suki - like - *Ger gleich - just - Ger halt - hold - take - give - dai*. This stretched analogy came out the wrong end. It is "nicht haltbar" (un-tenn-able) to go a step further from daj to theo- (both dheh1-) *god - great - Jp dai. Bonus points because 好 goes back to a logograph of a female. "-ki" is a morpheme I have no clue about. Its sign き is simplified of Ch 幾 /*kəj/ "small". Slav "-ka" might well be diminuitive. I'm cherry picking a bit. Still, so cool. I just like it. – vectory Dec 13 '18 at 14:41
  • Cp. Romanian juisati (to like), Old Indian "juṣátē, jṓṣati ‘hat gern, findet Gefallen, genießt’, [...] lat. gustāre ‘kosten, genießen’, die auf eine gemeinsame Wurzel ie. *g̑eus [...]" [W. Pfeifer, cf. Kür], En choose Ger kosten (taste) versus En cost Ger Kosten Sp costa_quanta versus Lat ius PIE *h2yews En just versus En juice versus PIE *swe-~*su- sweet versus 幾 how_much ... Now if that isn't a trade related wanderwort I'll eat a broom (cp Latv suka - brush; either PIE *su- pig~bristly or *ku- needle versus 幾 fine). That's just to show how to go from like to just the long way around. – vectory Dec 13 '18 at 15:15
  • Later I looked for -wich (Sandwich, Schleswig). Due to Ger Kante (edge; cp. wedge) "in der Kante/Ecke" "in the vicinity" I found vic- PIE *weyk village. In the area of Angeln and Schleswig is Schwanse; didn't find an etymology but saw En sound Ger gesund PIE *sunt-, *swent- (vigorous, active, healthy) and Lat sono *sunt, *swen- (make a sound). Remember *su? What about vinland? Sweat, Schwitzer-Dütsch and the Saxonian Swiss? Swansee, Schwansee Schloss Neuschwanstein? Lat ius *h2yew- law is from *h2ey- vigor, like *swent- vigorous. Juice can mean power. Vigor is from *weg- lively. So swag, yo! – vectory Dec 13 '18 at 15:56
5

There is an entire work, named 'Mots d'heure: Gousses, Rames', qui est le réinterpretionde 'Mother Goose Rhymes' en français. Pas un traduction, mais phonétiquement transmogrifié à mots français qui, quand , pourrait entendus comme des sens anglais. One good examples is Jacques s'apprête (or Jack Sprat).

It's a bit of a stretch sometimes: the French doesn't always make the best sense, and it sounds like Anguish Languish (eg Ladle Rat Rotten Hut) versions in English. But there are several entire poems done in this manner.

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    If there are any other such works, especially between other pairs of languages not necessarily English, I'd be very interested. – Mitch Dec 17 '18 at 3:09
4

There is an old joke: 'What is the motto of the French Navy? "A l'eau, c'est l'heure!" ("to the water, it's time!" in French, but read similarly to "'Allo, sailor"). As tradition dictates, I'll get my coat...

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    That's 'allo sailor or on water there's happiness [luck] – vectory Dec 15 '18 at 18:54
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    Please edit your answer to explain the pun for better understanding how it answers the original question. – bytebuster Dec 15 '18 at 19:01
3

I've wondered this myself! I think you are probably right that it is quite uncommon for meaningful sentences in different languages to be completely homophonous, especially if you take the more restrictive definition of homophone which requires that the words differ in origin, in which case LjL's (impressive) example doesn't quite work (to the best of my knowledge).

My best effort:

Jerry, shut the door.

Cheri, je t'adore.

Unfortunately, I don't think those are close enough to be considered true homophones (and I don't know about the status of contractions as fair game.)

  • In my example, the Latin Romani and Vitelli have indeed the same origin as their Italian counterparts (Vitellius is a genuine personal name, but it does manage to derive from the word for "calf", funny as it seems). The other words in the sentence are genuine homophones. – LjL Dec 9 '18 at 16:31
  • @LjL how miserable to think that belli "war" and "good" could be related. War=Piece [Orwell] and war-games come to mind. Ger. Ballspiel means game of ball fig. to pass the ball "erwidern"; ambiguity between again/against, wieder/wider and re-/re- is curious. *d>*b is not exactly regular, is it, or at least not frequent!? Both belli may go back to PIE *dew but maybe tainted by duo (bi-?). duellum looks a bit like a diminuitive, might be a second root? Cynic! Whereas duonus has a regular PIE suffix. Belli is rather an autoantonym, not unrelated in sense. Still homophone of course. – vectory Dec 13 '18 at 16:37
  • @vectory to clarify, I didn't say or mean that those were related. Only Romani and Vitelli are related, to my knowledge, which I guess doesn't make it a completely "genuine" homophone sentence... I suspect those are pretty rare, though, at least without using a lot of leeway on the phonetics. – LjL Dec 14 '18 at 18:11
3

There are a couple of examples of homophonic English/Hindi sentences in Shashi Tharoor's book, The Great Indian Novel.

  • There was a cold day. → darwaza khol de. (Tr. Open the door.)
  • There was a banned crow. → darwaza band karo. (Tr. Close the door.)

With the right intonation, they sound pretty darn similar.

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