Writings > Lexical Leavings


For a dictionary entry, I translated the sentence
Saitama Prefecture borders Tokyo on the north.
One of the editors asked if the meaning of my English wasn't the opposite of the Japanese; that is, he suggested that my English seemed to imply that Saitama Prefecture is south of Tokyo. (Saitama is in fact north of Tokyo.)

It turns out that the construction "X borders Y on the [compass direction]" is ambiguous, as shown by these citations from the Web:
William Henry and Isabella spent many happy summer holidays at Kenora, Ontario, which borders Manitoba on the East.

Saskatchewan is located in the middle of the western prairie provinces of Canada. It borders Manitoba on the east, Alberta on the west, the Northwest Territories on the north, and Montana and North Dakota on the south.

The United States borders Mexico on the north, while Guatemala and Belize are found on the southeast, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea on the east, and the Pacific Ocean on the west and south.

New Mexico is in the southwestern United States at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains. It borders Mexico on the south, Arizona on the west, Colorado on the north, Oklahoma on the east, and Texas on the east and southeast.
I changed my translation to "Saitama Prefecture is Tokyo's neighbor to the north."

(May 19, 2004)