Tag Archives: adverbs

Imperial Messages XIII – “Ang ming lugaya ranya …”

This is the thirteenth posting in a series on the process of translating the short story “Eine kaiserliche Botschaft” by the Praguer writer Franz Kafka (*1883, †1924). The individual installments will go through the text mostly sentence by sentence, quoting from the German text as well as a translation of it into English. Following these quotations, I will discuss and comment on newly coined words and thoughts I had on grammar while doing the translation.

The text

Niemand dringt hier durch und gar mit der Botschaft eines Toten. — (Kafka 1994, 282:4–6)

Nobody reaches through here, least of all with a message from one who is dead. — (Kafka 2011)

Ang ming lugaya ranya – ang da-miraya nilarya-vā kayvo budangya nyānena tenya. —

Interlinear glossing

Ang
AF
ming
can
luga-ya
penetrate-3SM
ranya
nobody
ang
AF
da=mira-ya
so=do-3SM
nilarya=vā
improbable=SUP
kayvo
with
budang-ya
message-LOC
nyān-ena
person-GEN
tenya.
dead.

‘Nobody can penetrate here; he does so least probably with the message of a dead person.’

Notes on translation

This sentence may likely have caused me the most effort to translate in the whole series up to now. And not because I did not realize I already had a word that means ‘to penetrate’ at first, but because of the little word “gar” (Kafka 1994, 282:5), which may be translated into English as “even” in this context. The sense of the sentence is pretty clear, I think: having a message from a deceased person with you makes it even less likely you will find a way through. And after I tried hard to figure out a way to express “least” by means of the comparison verb varya- ‘to be the least’, only to find that it is unsuitable here because there is no comparison between A and B regarding a property C, I decided to go for the less complicated construction I used above, which uses the newly coined nilarya ‘improbable’ as an adverb, from nilay ‘probably’ (possibly derived sometime from nil- ‘to think’, but I forget), with our favorite superlative suffix -vā stacked on because adverbs can only be compared that way. I am not entirely happy with “da-miraya”, as for some reason I perceive this literal “do so” as terribly English-like, but I wanted to avoid repetition, and having no verb there at all felt awkward as well.

One grammatical feature of note here is that Ayeri distinguishes two meanings of “with” by means of different constructions. If the “with” entails the use of a tool, means, or the help of something or someone to accomplish the action, the constituent noun phrase will be in the instrumental case. If the “with” refers to accompaniment, however, like in “mit der Botschaft eines Toten” (Kafka 1994, 282:5–6; “with the message from one who is dead”, Kafka 2011) above, the preposition kayvo is used and the dependent noun phrase will be in the locative case, thus “kayvo budangya”.

  • Kafka, Franz. “Eine kaiserliche Botschaft.” Drucke zu Lebzeiten. By Franz Kafka. Eds. Wolf Kittler et al. Frankfurt a. M.: S. Fischer, 1994. 280–82. Print.
  • ———. “A Message from the Emperor.” Trans. by Mark Harman. NYRblog. The New York Review of Books, 1 Jul. 2011. Web. 9 Feb. 2012. ‹http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/jul/01/message-emperor-new-translation›

A Likely Translation Challenge

This is a cross-posting from the ZBB, as a note-to-self kind of thing.

Yāng minjisānas nilay.
Ø
COP
yāng
3SM.AGT
mindoy-isa-an-as
choose-CAU-NMLZ-PAT
nilay.
probable

‘He is a/the likely candidate.’
 
Yāng nilay minjisānas.
Ø
COP
yāng
3SM.AGT
nilay
probably
minjisān-as.
electee-PAT

‘He likely is/will likely be a/the candidate.’

Neat-o. Except I need an easier word for “candidate”…

What do we see here? Well, we see difference in meaning through word order in action:

  1. Modifiers mostly follow their heads, so in the first case, where “likely” modifies the “candidate”, nilay follows accordingly.
  2. The second case is a little trickier, and I’m not quite sure about it. Ayeri has a zero copula which I’ve so far glossed as “Ø/COP” at the beginning of sentences, since this is the place verbs usually appear in. However, in the second example above I have what’s technically an adverb follow the agent NP. There are languages that use personal pronouns as copulas actually, e.g. Hebrew (cf. Payne 117), so could we argue here that yāng fulfills the role of the copula here? This demands further investigation!
  • Payne, Thomas E. Describing Morphosyntax: A Guide for Field Linguists. Cambridge: CUP, 1997. Print.
  • Prmysl. “TC: Likely.” Zompist BBoard. 6 Jun. 2011. Mark Rosenfelder, 2002. Web. 6 Jun. 2011.