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

Some Theoretical Underpinnings

According to Haspelmath’s classification, there are 9 groups of indefinite pronouns:2

SpecificKnown to speakerSK (1)
Unknown to speakerSU (2)
Non-specificIrrealis contextI/NS (3)
Negative polarityConditional protasisCOND (5)
Polar questionQU (4)
Standard of comparisonCOMP (8)
Indirect negationIN (6)
Direct negationDN (7)
Free choiceFC (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-):3

(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!
      Ang
      AT
      no
      want
      nara-ya
      talk-3SG.M
      arilinya.Ø
      someone.TOP
      vaya
      you.LOC
      lek-u
      guess-IMP
      sinya-ang!
      who-A

      ‘Somebody wanted to talk to you – guess who!’
    2. Le rua ningyang arilinya vayam.
      Le
      PT.INAN
      rua
      must
      ning-yang
      tell-1SG.A
      arilinya.Ø
      something.TOP
      vayam.
      you.DAT

      ‘I must tell you something.’
  2. Specific, unknown to speaker (SK):
    1. Le tangyang arilinya, nārya ming naroyyang, adareng sinyaley.
      Le
      PT.INAN
      tang-yang
      hear-1SG.A
      arilinya.Ø,
      something.TOP,
      nārya
      but
      ming
      can
      nara-oy-yang,
      say-NEG-1SG.A,
      ada-reng
      that-A.INAN
      sinya-ley.
      what-P.INAN

      ‘I heard something, but I can’t say what it was.’
    2. Ang pegaya arilinya pangisley nā!
      Ang
      AT
      pega-ya
      steal-3SG.M
      arilinya.Ø
      steal.TOP
      pangis-ley
      money-P.INAN
      my

      ‘Somebody stole my money!’
  3. Irrealis, non-specific (I/NS):
    1. Pinyan, prantu yāril palung.
      Pinyan,
      Please,
      prant-u
      ask-IMP
      yāril
      somewhere
      palung.
      different

      ‘Please ask somewhere else.’
    2. Intu arilinyaley kondanyam yām!4
      Int-u
      Buy-IMP
      arilinya-ley
      something-P.INAN
      kond-an-yam
      eat-NMLZ-DAT
      yām!
      me.DAT

      ‘Buy me something to eat!’
  4. Polar question (QU):
    1. Ang ningya arilinya vayam arilinyaley adanyana?
      Ang
      AT
      ning-ya
      tell-3SG.M
      arilinya.Ø
      anybody.TOP
      vayam
      you.DAT
      arilinya-ley
      anything-P.INAN
      adanya-na?
      that.one-GEN

      ‘Did anybody tell you anything about it?’
    2. Ang koronva arilinyaley edanyana?
      Ang
      AT
      koron-va.Ø
      know-you.TOP
      arilinya-ley
      something-P.INAN
      edanya-na
      this.one-GEN

      ‘Do you know something/anything about this?’
  5. Conditional protasis (COND):
    Le silvvāng arilinya, ningu yām adanyana!
    Le
    PT.INAN
    silv-vāng
    see-2SG.A
    arilinya.Ø,
    something.TOP,
    ning-u
    tell-IMP
    yām
    me.DAT
    adanya-na
    that.one-GEN

    ‘If you see something/someone, tell me about it!’
  6. Indirect negation (IN):
    Paronoyyang, ang koronya arilinya guratanley.
    Parona-oy-yang,
    Believe-NEG-1SG.A,
    ang
    AT
    koron-ya
    know-3SG.M
    arilinya.Ø
    anybody.TOP
    guratan-ley
    answer-P.INAN

    ‘I don’t think that anybody knows the answer.’
  7. Direct negation (DN):
    1. Ang koronya ranya guratanley.
      Ang
      AT
      koron-ya
      know-3SG.M
      ranya.Ø
      nobody.TOP
      guratan-ley
      answer-P.INAN

      ‘Nobody knows the answer.’
    2. Le koronyang ranya.
      Le
      PT.INAN
      koron-yang
      know-1SG.A
      ranya.Ø
      nothing.Ø

      ‘I know nothing/I don’t know anything.’
  8. Standard of comparison (COMP):
    1. Engara simingreng edaya ban yanen palung.
      Eng-ara
      be.more-3SG.INAN
      siming-reng
      weather
      edaya
      here
      ban
      good
      yanen
      anywhere
      palung
      else

      ‘The weather here is better than anywhere else.’
    2. Engyeng larau enyās palung.
      Eng-yeng
      be.more-she.A
      larau
      nice
      enya-as
      everyone-P
      palung
      else

      ‘She is nicer than anyone else.’
  9. Free choice (FC):
    Ang ming guraca enya eda-prantanley.
    Ang
    AT
    ming
    can
    gurat-ya
    answer-3SG.M
    enya.Ø
    anyone.TOP
    eda=prantan-ley
    this=question-P.INAN

    ‘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.

  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.
  2. This table copied from Hogan’s page, linked above.
  3. This table, too, is lifted from Hogan’s page.
  4. 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).

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 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.2,3

  • 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›.
  1. Hat tip to Steven Lytle for suggesting it.
  2. Also, please let me add that XƎTEX is pretty darn awesome.
  3. Updated with some corrections on Dec 11, 2014. See the diff on Github for changes.

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›