That last sentence along with the title of this entire thread take me back to the early days of automated translation, which was heavily funded by the U.S. intelligence services. (During the early years of the Cold War, they were virtually obsessed with developing computer systems for real-time translation of Russian.) Noam Chomsky’s lectures use to refer to all sorts of delightful examples of ambiguity, such as this example using the word “tail”. When spoken aloud, it sounds like “tale”, so we could wonder what one would do with a story like this one.
LIkewise, consider “I used to be a fish book”. When written, we could use a hypen so that “fish-book” is a single entity—and the entire sentence becomes a very bizarre confession of a strange type of reincarnation. But if it is set apart with quotation marks, then it is easier to understand:
“I used to be a fish” book.
Yet, when either version is spoken aloud, comprehension becomes far more difficult and ambiguities persist. Yet, in the target language of the translation, the resulting rendering of each may be VERY different.
I just couldn’t help notice the ambiguities. (I get an extreme craving to add disambiguating punctuations.)
I Used to be a Fish book