Tag Archives: causatives

What I’ve been up to recently

There hasn’t been much going on here recently. This is mainly due to working on the research for my BA thesis at the moment. However, I’ve also done a little general information hunting on causative constructions on the side that will eventually result in a blog article discussing Ayeri’s way of handling these things in more detail. I touched on the topic briefly and tentatively already in a thread respectively on Conlang-L and the ZBB. Especially in the case of the ZBB thread, be aware that I’ve corrected myself multiple times in the course of it. And I’m still not quite sure if I’ve understood everything correctly, so if you’re knowledgeable about Tagalog et al.,1 don’t hesitate to contact me for correction. Both threads are basically only about syntactic ways of handling causative marking, but Ayeri definitely also has morphologic causative marking on verbs (e.g. kond- ‘eat’, kondisa- ‘feed’) as well as some lexical causatives (e.g. tenya- ‘die’, tomba- ‘kill’). Some more thoughts on that will likely go into the blog entry as well, of course.

  1. Ayeri’s case marking was originally inspired by a misunderstood and simplified version of that by way of lacking linguistic background knowledge at the time. I’ve kept coming back to it recently in order to compare and see where I’ve been “wrong”.

Imperial Messages IV – “Nay marin yenuya silvayana ikan …”

This is the fourth 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

Und vor der ganzen Zuschauerschaft seines Todes – alle hindernden Wände werden niedergebrochen und auf den weit und hoch sich schwingenden Freitreppen stehen im Ring die Großen des Reichs – vor allen diesen hat er den Boten abgefertigt. (Kafka 1994, 281:6–11)

And before the entire spectatorship of his death – all obstructing walls have been torn down and the great figures of the empire stand in a ring upon the broad, soaring exterior stairways – before all these he dispatched the messenger. (Kafka 2011)

Nay marin yenuya silvayana ikan tenyanena yana – manga adruran merengyeley-hen bidis nay ang manga bengyan nyānye tiga similena hicanya ling rivanya ehen, siya lingreng iray nay apan – sā tavya mayisa ya ninayāng marin enyaya-hen.

Interlinear glossing

Nay
and
marin
in_front_of
yenu-ya
group-LOC
silvaya-na
spectator-GEN
ikan
complete
tenyan-ena
death-GEN
yana
3SM.GEN
manga
PROG
adru-ran
destroy-3P.INAN
mereng-ye-ley=hen
wall-PL-P.INAN=all
bidis
obstructing
nay
and
ang
AF
manga
PROG
beng-yan
stand-3PM
nyān-ye
person-PL
tiga
honorable
simil-ena
country-GEN
hican-ya
circle-LOC
ling
top_of
rivan-ya
mountain-LOC
ehen,
stair,
si-ya
REL-LOC
ling-reng
ascend-3S.INAN
iray
high
nay
and
apan
wide
CAUF
tav-ya
become-3SM
mayisa
ready
ya
3SM.FOC
ninaya-ang
messenger-A
marin
in_front_of
enya-ya=hen.
everyone-LOC=all

‘And in front of the whole group of spectators of his death – all obstructing walls were being destroyed and the honorable persons of the country were standing in a circle on top of the mountain of stairs which ascended high and wide – in front of everyone of them he dispatched the messenger.’

Notes on translation

Few new words needed to be coined here: one is bidis ‘obstructing’, which I derived from the previously existing verb bidisa- ‘to block, obstruct’, which seems to be a causative derivation of the noun bidan ‘block’. Also, there was only a word for ‘stair in a staircase’ in the dictionary, ehen, but I discovered the lack of a regular way to derive sets of things. I left the word as ehen in the text, but made a compound with rivan ‘mountain’ as its head, since the setting Kafka describes reminds me strongly of Mayan pyramids or similar religious architecture with long and high-climbing stairs found in Asia. It should be noted that the compound is rivanehen ‘stair-mountain’ as an individual word, but the compound, headed by a noun, is regularly split after the the head for case marking: ling rivanya ehen ‘on top of the stair mountain’. Tiga ‘honorable’ was derived as an adjective from tigan ‘honor’.

One striking thing in the German text that has not been translated in the same way into English is the change to present tense in the parenthesis: the walls “werden niedergebrochen” (Kafka 1994, 281:8) in present tense, dynamic passive, while in English the walls “have been torn down” (Kafka 2011) in present perfect, stative passive, although the great ones “stehen” (Kafka 1994, 281:9) as well as they “stand” (Kafka 2011). Since Ayeri uses morphologic tense rather sparingly and does not employ an epic preterite like German and English do, I used the progressive marker manga to achieve a similar effect of immediacy.

A nifty feature of Ayeri comes into play in this sentence: usually, verbs have agreement in person and number with the agent of the clause, however, in “manga adruran merengyeley-hen bidis”, the verb adru- ‘to destroy’ has third person plural inanimate agreement (-ran), which refers to “merengyeley”, from mereng ‘wall’ + yePL’ + -leyP.INAN’, which is itself marked as a patient so that the clause does not contain an agent and thus is in passive voice.

What’s more, the German text has an adverbial clause right at the beginning of the sentence that is picked up again for emphasis after the parenthesis. However, usually Ayeri requires the verb phrase to come first, with the verb phrase here marked for location focus, since this seems like the prevalent perspective in the original. Still, for stylistic purposes, I think it might be better to keep the original structure, so that the constituent order of the sentence becomes marked in the face of this epic moment.

An issue I found problematic is that in the original, the circle of dignitaries is so strongly emphasized, while the structure in the last part of the sentence, “before all these he dispatched the messenger” (Kafka 2011) is translated in the most straightforward way by using a causative construction again (“sā tavya mayisa ya ninayāng”), thus the locative topic that should have been used must be replaced with the causative one out of syntactic constraints. I tried to compensate by overspecifying enya ‘everyone’ with the quantifier -hen ‘all’, which basically results in the meaning ‘all of them all’.

  • 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›

Imperial Messages II – “Sā sarayya ya ninayāng …”

This is the second 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

Den Boten hat er beim Bett niederknieen lassen und ihm die Botschaft ins Ohr zugeflüstert; so sehr war ihm an ihr gelegen, daß er sich sie noch ins Ohr wiedersagen ließ. (Kafka 1994, 281:2–5)

He bade the messenger kneel by his bed, and whispered the message in his ear. So greatly did he cherish it that he had him repeat it into his ear. (Kafka 2011)

Sā sarayya ya ninayāng pinamya nay ang naraya taran budangas tangya ninayana. Budangang kapo-ing padangyam sitang-yana, sā na-narayāng yos tangya yana bayhi.

Interlinear glossing

CAUF
saray-ya
bow-3SM
ya
3SM.FOC
ninaya-ang
messenger-A
pinam-ya
bed-LOC
nay
and
ang
AF
nara-ya
say-3SM
taran
quiet
budang-as
message-P
tang-ya
ears-LOC
ninaya-na.
messenger-GEN

‘He had the messenger bow at his bedside and quietly said the message into the messenger’s ears.’

Budang-ang
message-A
kapo=ing
important=so
padang-yam
heart-DAT
sitang=yana,
self=3SM.GEN,
CAUF
na~nara-yāng
again~say-3SM.A
yos
3SN.P
tang-ya
ears-LOC
yana
3SM.GEN
bayhi.
ruler

‘The message was so important to his own heart that the ruler had him say it again into his ears.’

Notes on translation

The only newly coined word here is ninaya, from nin- ‘to carry’ and -mayaAGTZ’: a messenger is literally a ‘carrier’, thus. I chose saray- ‘to bow’ instead of ‘kneel down’ because I did not like to derive a word from the existing expression for ‘knee’, that is, sirayila (lit. ‘foot bend’).

This paragraph contains a structure I’m struggling with every time I come across it even twice: causatives. There is theoretically no need for expressions like “have sth. done” or “let s.o. do sth” in Ayeri, since the same meaning can be expressed by marking the motivating constituent as a causer, which is distinct from the agent in this language. The construction demands that the causer be the topic of the sentence (CAUF for ‘causative focus’), while the entity forced to act is marked with the agent case according to its semantic role. The use of the reflexive morpheme sitang- ‘self, own’ in “padangyam sitang-yana” is for emphasis.

The decision to resolve the semi-colon of the German text (cf. Kafka 1994, 281:4) as a full stop was made for more or less stylistic reasons. The semi-colon certainly underlines the parallel structure of the two clauses, however, a full stop works just as well.

  • 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›

Alleged Beliefs

On my Twitter timeline, a link to an article by Katy Steinmetz at the TIME magazine’s website, titled “Elvish, Klingon and Esperanto—Why Do We Love To Invent Languages?”, came up several times this evening. In this article, Steinmetz interviews Michael Adams, professor of English at Indiana University, on conlanging. I left the following comment:

“Are invented languages better designed than natural languages?
— That’s what their inventors believe.”

Invented languages better than natural ones? Well, I suppose that’s an idealist view. They will probably never be as complex, for one, as natural languages if that’s your criterion of measuring quality. Natural languages grew and changed and diversified by means of being spoken by hundreds to billions of people over the course of millenia – a process which a single creator or even a group can never fully immitate – leaving us with a wealth of forms to explore and build our own languages on, and be it just for the love of tinkering. On the other hand, do invented languages need to be as complex as natural languages, being consciously modelled after existing languages, in order to be of good quality? Not necessarily, I think. It’s about exploring possibilities and watch how things work or play together. That’s why you build models in the first place.

And actually I’ve only now realized that the question was whether constructed languages are better in their design than natural languages, not just objectively better, as I assumed in my reply was the question. 😕 Certainly constructed languages are usually designed more consciously than natural languages, which underly an evolutionary process that’s at least partly blind (or even for the most part?). But whether design decisions by authors make constructed languages inherently better than natural ones I have doubts about. They’re the results of different processes, so it’s hard to compare.

However, just for fun and because of a couple of rather elaborate sentences and vocabulary that seemed challenging, I spent the 1½ hours after writing my comment translating the whole shebang into Ayeri, minus the quotation from the article at the beginning:

Sa
PFOC
engyon
exceed-3PN
narānjang
language-PL.A
vehisa
build-CAU
ban
good
narān
language
suhing?
natural?
Māy,
Well,
neprayang
suppose-1S.A
adareng
that-A.INAN
paranas
opinion-P
sempayyanena.
idealist-GEN.
Menanyam-ikan,
one-NMLZ-DAT=very,
sa
PFOC
kamatong
be_as_as-3PN
tadoy
never
kamya
complex
narān
language
suhing
natural
bata
if
ang
AFOC
perava
measure-2S
bananley
quality-P.INAN
ada-yenueri.
that=category-INST.
Ang
AFOC
nakasyon,
grow-3PN,
ang
AFOC
tilayon
change-3PN
nay
and
sa
PFOC
palungisayon
different-CAU-3PN
narānye
language-PL
suhing
natural
naramayari
speak-AGTZ-INST
menang
hundred
yonangya
billion-LOC
pesan
until
manga
MOT
ling
while
sinkyanyēa.
century-PL.LOC.
Adareng
That-A.INAN
macamley
process-P.INAN
si
REL
ang
AFOC
ming
can
kusangisaya
double-CAU-3SM
ikan
completely
tadoy
never
tianya
creator
kebay
single
soyang-nyama
or=even
yenu.
group.
Eng
AFOC.INAN
hapangisāra
rest-CAU-3S.INAN
eda-macam
this=process
mahaley
treasure-P.INAN
dahasyena
form-PL-GEN
dilānyam
explore-NMLZ-DAT
nay
and
ling
top
sinaya
REL-GEN-LOC
sa
PFOC
ming
can
vehnang
build-1P.A
narānye
language-PL
sitang-nana,
self=1P.GEN,
nārya-nama
CONC=just
cānyam
love-DAT
veha-veha.
build~DIM.
Palunganya,
Difference-LOC,
ang
AFOC
​ilta​
need
kamayon
be_as_as-3PN
kamya
complex
narānjas
language-PL.P
suhing
natural
bananyam
quality-DAT
ban
good
narānye
language-P
vehisa
build-CAU
sang
REL-A
ri
INSTFOC
vehtos
build-3SN.P
miran
way
narānyena
language-PL-GEN
suhing?
natural?
Paronyang,
Believe-1S.A,
adareng
that-A.INAN
rapōy.
necessary-NEG.
Ri
INSTFOC
ming
can
dilavāng
explore-2S.A
mimānjas
possibility-PL.P
narānvehyaman
language-build-PTCP-NMLZ
nay
and
ming
can
silvvāng
see-2S.A
miranyam
way-DAT
sirī
REL-DAT-INST
mirāra
function-3S.INAN
linyayereng
thing-PL-A.INAN
soyang
or
kayvteng
together-3P.INAN
sitanyaley.
each_other-P.INAN.
CAUFOC
tiavāng
create-2S.A
menanyam-ikan
one-NMLZ-DAT=very
kusangan-kusanganyeley
double~DIM-PL-P.INAN
eda-yaman.
this=reason.

Observations:

  • Causative marking on verbs and the resulting meaning is still nicely irregular: Sa palungisayon (PFOC different-CAU-3PN) is supposed to mean ‘they are differentiated’, while ang ming kusangisaya (AFOC can double-CAU-3SM) is supposed to be ‘they can copy/immitate’.
  • Reduplication is fun.
  • I think I’m going to allow concessive adverbials in sentence-initial position, like English does.
  • Numbers still are a bit odd for me to work with: menang yonangya pesan (12² 12⁸-LOC until) ‘hundred to billion’ as an attributive phrase, with yonangya, although not nominalized, marked for the locative case demanded by the postposition. If I did nominalize it, the resulting meaning would be ‘billionth’.
  • The question pronoun for ‘how, in which way’ (simin) should not be used as a relative pronoun, at least not in more formal language. Instead, use miran sirī (way REL-Ø-INST) ‘the way in which’, which is also how I arrived at simin.
  • Adams, Michael. Interview by Katy Steinmetz. “Elvish, Klingon and Esperanto—Why Do We Love To Invent Languages?” TIME. 2011. Time, Inc., 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.