Tag Archives: comparison

Indefinite Pronouns in Ayeri

I think it was Miekko who pointed this out to me a whole while ago. There’s a long-decommissioned page by Apollo Hogan on which he summarizes bits on the typology of indefinite pronouns from the book Indefinite Pronouns by Martin Haspelmath.[1. My university’s Linguistics department library has a copy of the book, however, I don’t have it at hand now, so I’ll maybe add proper page references later. For the time being, I’ll rely on the information on Hogan’s page.]

Some Theoretical Underpinnings

According to Haspelmath’s classification, there are 9 groups of indefinite pronouns:[1. This table copied from Hogan’s page, linked above.]

Specific Known to speaker SK (1)
Unknown to speaker SU (2)
Non-specific Irrealis context I/NS (3)
Negative polarity Conditional protasis COND (5)
Polar question QU (4)
Standard of comparison COMP (8)
Indirect negation IN (6)
Direct negation DN (7)
Free choice FC (9)

What is interesting here is that languages form contiguous groups from these elements according to the item indices above. For example, English is indicated as 12345 (some-), 456789 (any-), 7 (no-); German is indicated as 123456 (etwas), 23456+89 (irgend-), 456+8 (je-), 6+89 (jemand-), 7 (n-):[1. This table, too, is lifted from Hogan’s page.]

(7) DN
(1) SK (2) SU (3) I/NS (4) QU (6) IN
(5) COND (8) COMP
(9) FC

A Little Survey of Ayeri

Let us now see how this translates into Ayeri. In the following, I will more or less faithfully translate and adapt some of the example sentences given on the website linked above, which are probably quoted straight from Haspelmath:

  1. Specific, known to speaker (SK):
    1. Ang no naraya arilinya vaya – leku sinyāng!
      [gloss]Ang no nara-ya arilinya.Ø vaya – lek-u sinya-ang!
      AT want talk-3SG.M someone.TOP you.LOC – guess-IMP who-A[/gloss]
      ‘Somebody wanted to talk to you – guess who!’
    2. Le rua ningyang arilinya vayam.
      [gloss]Le rua ning-yang arilinya.Ø vayam.
      PT.INAN must tell-1SG.A something.TOP you.DAT[/gloss]
      ‘I must tell you something.’
  2. Specific, unknown to speaker (SK):
    1. Le tangyang arilinya, nārya ming naroyyang, adareng sinyaley.
      [gloss]Le tang-yang arilinya.Ø, nārya ming nara-oy-yang, ada-reng sinya-ley.
      PT.INAN hear-1SG.A something.TOP, but can say-NEG-1SG.A, that-A.INAN what-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘I heard something, but I can’t say what it was.’
    2. Ang pegaya arilinya pangisley nā!
      [gloss]Ang pega-ya arilinya.Ø pangis-ley nā
      AT steal-3SG.M steal.TOP money-P.INAN my[/gloss]
      ‘Somebody stole my money!’
  3. Irrealis, non-specific (I/NS):
    1. Pinyan, prantu yāril palung.
      [gloss]Pinyan, prant-u yāril palung.
      Please, ask-IMP somewhere different[/gloss]
      ‘Please ask somewhere else.’
    2. Intu arilinyaley kondanyam yām![1. Not quite sure about the kondanyam part here, maybe better: Intu arilinyaley yām siley ming konjang ‘… which I can eat.’ (… REL-P.INAN can eat-1SG.A).]
      [gloss]Int-u arilinya-ley kond-an-yam yām!
      Buy-IMP something-P.INAN eat-NMLZ-DAT me.DAT[/gloss]
      ‘Buy me something to eat!’
  4. Polar question (QU):
    1. Ang ningya arilinya vayam arilinyaley adanyana?
      [gloss]Ang ning-ya arilinya.Ø vayam arilinya-ley adanya-na?
      AT tell-3SG.M anybody.TOP you.DAT anything-P.INAN that.one-GEN[/gloss]
      ‘Did anybody tell you anything about it?’
    2. Ang koronva arilinyaley edanyana?
      [gloss]Ang koron-va.Ø arilinya-ley edanya-na
      AT know-you.TOP something-P.INAN this.one-GEN[/gloss]
      ‘Do you know something/anything about this?’
  5. Conditional protasis (COND):
    Le silvvāng arilinya, ningu yām adanyana!
    [gloss]Le silv-vāng arilinya.Ø, ning-u yām adanya-na
    PT.INAN see-2SG.A something.TOP, tell-IMP me.DAT that.one-GEN[/gloss]
    ‘If you see something/someone, tell me about it!’
  6. Indirect negation (IN):
    Paronoyyang, ang koronya arilinya guratanley.
    [gloss]Parona-oy-yang, ang koron-ya arilinya.Ø guratan-ley
    Believe-NEG-1SG.A, AT know-3SG.M anybody.TOP answer-P.INAN[/gloss]
    ‘I don’t think that anybody knows the answer.’
  7. Direct negation (DN):
    1. Ang koronya ranya guratanley.
      [gloss]Ang koron-ya ranya.Ø guratan-ley
      AT know-3SG.M nobody.TOP answer-P.INAN[/gloss]
      ‘Nobody knows the answer.’
    2. Le koronyang ranya.
      [gloss]Le koron-yang ranya.Ø
      PT.INAN know-1SG.A nothing.Ø[/gloss]
      ‘I know nothing/I don’t know anything.’
  8. Standard of comparison (COMP):
    1. Engara simingreng edaya ban yanen palung.
      [gloss]Eng-ara siming-reng edaya ban yanen palung
      be.more-3SG.INAN weather here good anywhere else[/gloss]
      ‘The weather here is better than anywhere else.’
    2. Engyeng larau enyās palung.
      [gloss]Eng-yeng larau enya-as palung
      be.more-she.A nice everyone-P else[/gloss]
      ‘She is nicer than anyone else.’
  9. Free choice (FC):
    Ang ming guraca enya eda-prantanley.
    [gloss]Ang ming gurat-ya enya.Ø eda=prantan-ley
    AT can answer-3SG.M anyone.TOP this=question-P.INAN[/gloss]
    ‘Anyone can answer this question.’

It turns out that Ayeri merges all of (1) through (6) as arilinya ‘somebody, something’, has a separate (7) ranya ‘nobody, nothing’, and then also merges (8) and (9) as enya ‘anyone, everyone’. Among the dozen or so of natural languages cited as example types, Ayeri is thus closest to Catalan, given as 123456 (algun), 45678 (cap), 89 (qualsevol). What Ayeri doesn’t have, however, is an indefinite negative pronoun in the fashion of French personne or Catalan cap, since ranya can only be used for direct negation and arilinya is inspecific as to affirmative or negative expectation or reference. Comparing the results to the first table above, it should be clear that Ayeri lacks a polarity distinction in that negative polarity is not a distinct category but pronouns overlap with both negative and positive (or non-negative?) categories.

Translation Challenge: The Beginning of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”

Text in English

The text to be translated in this Translation Challenge is the initial passage of Tolstoy’s 1878 novel Anna Karenina.[1. Hat tip to Steven Lytle for suggesting it.] The Ayeri translation here follows the English one by Constance Garnett (1901), which can be found on Project Gutenberg.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys’ house. The wife had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with a French girl, who had been a governess in their family, and she had announced to her husband that she could not go on living in the same house with him. This position of affairs had now lasted three days, and not only the husband and wife themselves, but all the members of their family and household, were painfully conscious of it. Every person in the house felt that there was no sense in their living together, and that the stray people brought together by chance in any inn had more in common with one another than they, the members of the family and household of the Oblonskys. The wife did not leave her own room, the husband had not been at home for three days. The children ran wild all over the house; the English governess quarreled with the housekeeper, and wrote to a friend asking her to look out for a new situation for her; the man-cook had walked off the day before just at dinner time; the kitchen-maid, and the coachman had given warning. (Tolstoy 2013)

Ayeri translation

Translation Challenge: The Beginning of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"

Kamayon pandahajang-hen mino; minarya miraneri sitang-ton pandahāng-hen minarya.

Enyareng atauya kāryo nangaya pandahana Oblonski. Silvisaye sarisa envanang, ang manga miraya ayon yena cān-cānas layeri Kahani, seri ganvayās pandahaya ton, nay ang narisaye ayonyam yena, ang ming saylingoyye mitanyam nangaya kamo kayvo yāy. Eng manga yomāran eda-mineye luga bahisya kay, nay tong vakas ten pulengeri, sitang-tong-namoy ayonang nay envanang, nārya nasimayajang-hen pandahana nay nangānena ton naynay. Ang mayayo nyān-hen nangaya, ming tenubisoyrey, mitantong kadanya. Ang engyon vihyam miromānjas keynam si sa lancon kadanya apineri kondangaya, nasimayajas pandahana nay nangānena Oblonski. Ang saroyye envan sangalas yena, ang manga yomoyya ayon rangya ton luga bahisya kay. Sa senyon ganye nangaya-hen; ang ranye ganvaya Angli kayvo lomāyaya visam nay ang tahanye ledoyam, yam mya balangyeng pinyan yanoley gumo hiro ye; ang saraya ersaya bahisya sarisa pidimya tarika sirutayyānena; ang narisaton lomāya risang nay lantaya vapatanas ton.

More information

I also made a PDF containing interlinear glosses and commentary for this translation.[1. Also, please let me add that XƎTEX is pretty darn awesome.],[1. Updated with some corrections on Dec 11, 2014. See the diff on Github for changes.]

  • Plank, Frans, Thomas Mayer, Tatsiana Mayorava and Elena Filimonova, eds. The Universals Archive. 1998–2009. U Konstanz, 2009. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. ‹http://typo.uni-konstanz.de/archive/intro›.
  • Schachter, Paul. “The Subject in Philippine Languages: Topic, Actor, Actor-Topic, or None of the Above?” Subject and Topic. Ed. Charles N. Li. New York: Academic P, 1976. 493–518. Print.
  • Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Eds. David Brannan, David Widger and Andrew Sly. Trans. by Constance Garnett. Project Gutenberg. 11 Oct. 2014. Project Gutenberg, 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. ‹http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1399›.

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

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