Tag Archives: focus

Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment

  • This article still receives rather a lot of views, so if you are seriously interested in what I wrote below, please read my reevaluation of Ayeri’s syntactic alignment (a preliminary version of chapter 5 of the Grammar). The article below neither properly reflects current Ayeri grammar nor relatively more recent academic research on Austronesian alignment.

In this article, a number of features of the Austronesian alignment will be discussed in hope to gain a better understanding about the difference between what David J. Peterson called the ‘conlang trigger system’ – of which Ayeri uses a variety – and the naturally occurring ‘trigger system’ of South-East Asia, namely the ‘Philippine’ or ‘Austronesian’ alignment which served as an inspiration for part of Ayeri’s grammar, albeit with some misunderstandings. In order to examine and test how Ayeri works with regards to the terms topic, focus, and subject and in how far it differs from Austronesian languages such as Tagalog, papers by Charles N. Li and Sandra A. Thompson, Paul R. Kroeger, and Paul Schachter were taken into consideration.

As the focus of this article is mainly on how Ayeri relates to the Austronesian alignment system, the language’s detailed way of assigning case to the different semantic roles as well as the details of its handling of morphologic case marking with regards to verb transitivity and the classic constituent-order typology will only be touched on superficially. Continue reading Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment

Imperial Messages III – “Ri kaytisyāng halinganley …”

This is the third 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

Durch Kopfnicken hat er die Richtigkeit des Gesagten bestätigt. (Kafka 1994, 281:5–6)

With a nod of his head he confirmed the accuracy of the messenger’s words. (Kafka 2011)

Ri kaytisyāng halinganley narānjas ninayana naban devona yana.

Interlinear glossing


‘With a wag of his head he confirmed the accuracy of the messenger’s words.’

Notes on translation

First of all, how to translate “nod”? As far as I know (though I cannot quote literature here), nodding your head in agreement is a European gesture that is not necessarily applicable to other cultures. I do not know how my fictional people will show agreement, so I translated “nod” with “swing”, which received an extended meaning for this purpose and may probably better be translated as “wag”. Another difficulty was the word “accuracy”. At first I had translated it with kalam ‘truth’, but using haling ‘exact’ seemed more suitable to extend with accurate. The dictionary in fact lists two words for ‘exact’: haling and tarika.

In terms of grammar and style, not much needs to be said. Participles cannot be marked for focus but instead need to be nominalized for this purpose, hence we get naban ‘wag’ rather than nabyam ‘wagging’.

  • 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›