Translation Challenge: The Scientific Method

The other day, when I was reading io9, I came across an article about One of the World’s First Statements About the Scientific Method. The article is about a quote by Alhazen – Ibn al-Haytham, an Arab polymath of the 10th/11th cenutry –, the quotation from his book Doubts Concerning Ptolemy (Al-Shukūk ‛alā Baṭlamyūs). I don’t know how accurate the translation is, but I thought that it would still be nice as a Translation Challenge, so I’m basing the following translation off of this English translation, since I don’t know any Arabic. Unfortunately, there is no indication of the edition the translated passage is quoted from. According to a comment on the article by Bradley Steffens, the source of this quotation is the closing passage of his own book Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist. Contrary to what Steffens says in the comment, however, there is a critical translation of Alhazen’s book into English by Don L. Voss, published in 1985 as a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Chicago, but it doesn’t seem to be easily available outside of UChicago. Since I don’t have access to either book, I’m quoting this from the io9 article:1

The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration and not the sayings of human beings whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of of its content, attack it from every side. [H]e should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.

What struck me as challenging here is that this rather lengthy quotation consists of just three sentences with both a complex structure and interesting vocabulary that exceeds that of daily language, e.g. seeker after truth, the ancients, natural disposition, deficiency, investigate, … However, since I don’t like too complex sentences in Ayeri, I split the three sentences in the quote up into multiple sentences, which makes translation a bit easier. The first sentence especially also lends itself well to using anaphora and parallelism as a stylistic device. The English text also does that, but obscures it a little by using a lot of coordinated clauses in a single sentence.

Balang
Seek
kalam
truth
-maya
-AGTZ
-ang
-A
voy
NEG
nyān
person
-as
-P
si
REL
le
PT.INAN
sobisa
study
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
tahang
writing
-ye
-PL
-T
timbay
ancient
-an
-NMLZ
-ena
-GEN
nay
and
parona
trust
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
suhing
nature
-ya
-LOC
yana
3SG.M.GEN
nasyam.
according.to.

‘The truth-seeker is not a person who studies the writings of the ancient and trusts in them according to his nature.’

Adanya
That.one
-ang
-A
nāreng
rather
nyān
person
-as
-P
si
REL
sa
PT
birenya
doubt
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
paronān
trust
-T
yana
3SG.M.GEN
nay
and
sa
PT
nikang
question
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
adanya
that.one
-T
si
REL
sob
learn
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
ray.
3PL.INAN.INS.

‘He is rather a person who doubts his trust and questions what he learns from them.’

Adanya
That.one
-ang
-A
māy
AFF
nyān
person
-as
-P
si
REL
ya
LOCT
sitang=
self=
avan
subject
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
mandan
argumentation
-T
nay
and
pukatan
proof
-Ø,
-T,
nāroy
but.not
narān
word
-ya
-LOC
keynam
people
-ena
-GEN
=nama
=mere
si
REL
-GEN
-nā
-GEN
suhing
nature
-ang
-A
tan
3PL.M.GEN
deng
full
miran
kind
-ye
-PL
-ri
-INS
=hen
=all
sempay
perfect
-arya
-NEG
-na
-GEN
nay
and
sinka
flaw
-ye
-PL
-na.
-GEN.

‘He is a person who subjects himself to argumentation and proof, but not to the word of mere humans the nature of which is full of all kinds of imperfections and flaws.’

Dila
find.out
-yam
-PTCP
-an
-NMLZ
-ang
-A
kalam
truth
-ena
-GEN
bahalan
goal
-as
-P
ayon
man
-ena
-GEN
si
REL
le
PT.INAN
nivisa
investigate
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
tahang
writing
-ye
-GEN
-T
sobisaya
scholar
-ye
-PL
-na,
-GEN,
ruān
duty
-as
-P
yana
3SG.M.GEN
kada,
thus,
sa
PT
tav
become
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
kehin
enemy
-T
enya
everything
-na
-GEN
si
REL
laya
read
-yāng.
-3SG.M.A.

‘If finding out the truth is the goal of the man who investigates the writings of the scholars, his duty is thus for him to become the enemy of everything he reads.’

Na
GENT
pakua
apply
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
tenuban
reason
-as
-P
yana
3SG.M.GEN
terpeng
center
-yam
-DAT
nay
and
lito
margin
-yam
-DAT
erar
content
-T
nay
and
ang
AT
kongr
attack
-ya
-3SG.M.A
ray
side
-ena
-GEN
=hen.
=every.

‘He applies his reason to the center and the margin of the content and attacks it from every side.’

Ang
AT
mya
be.supposed.to
birenya
doubt
-ya
-3SG
-T
sitang=
self=
yās
3SG.M.P
naynay
as.well
ling
during
nivisān
investigation
-j
-PL
-ya
-LOC
yana,
3SG.M.GEN,
kadāre
so.that
ang
AT
mya
may
manang
avoid
-ya
-3SG
-T
tav
become
-yam
-PTCP
kimbisan
prey
-as
-P
adun
prejudice
-ena
-GEN
soyang
or
tataman
leniency
-ena.
-GEN.

‘He is to doubt himself as well during his investigations so that he may avoid becoming the prey of prejudice or leniency.’

The whole text:

4092-alhazenquote
Balangkalamayāng voy nyānas si le sobisayāng tahangye timbayanyena nay paronayāng suhingya yana nasyam. Adanyāng nāreng nyānas si sa birenyayāng paronān yana nay sa nikangyāng adanya si sobyāng ray. Adanyāng māy nyānas si ya sitang-avanyāng mandan nay pukatan, nāroy narānya keynamena-nama sinā suhingang tan deng miranyeri-hen sempāryana nay sinkayena. Dilayamanang kalamena bahalanas ayonena si le nivisayāng tahangye sobisayayena, ruānas yana kada, sa tavyāng kehin enyana si layayāng. Na pakuayāng tenubanas yana terpengyam nay litoyam erar nay ang kongrya rayena-hen. Ang mya birenyaya sitang-yās naynay ling nivisānjya yana, kadāre ang mya manangya tavyam kimbisanas adunena soyang tatamanena.

  • Added pretty scriptie and recording; fixed some errors and redundancies both in translation and in wording.
  1. I hope Mr. Steffens will excuse my lifting this passage from his book, here with proper attribution, though.

3 thoughts on “Translation Challenge: The Scientific Method

  1. This is a wonderful TC and I commend you for undertaking it. The results are impressive and aesthetically pleasing. Ayeri is perhaps the most euphonic conlang I have ever encountered. Kudos.

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