Tag Archives: modals

‘Locational’ Dative and Genitive with Prepositions

In the Grammar (§ 5.4) I mention something I dubbed ‘locational dative/genitive’, where instead of the locative case marker you would use the dative and genitive case marker respectively to indicate simple ‘to’ and ‘from’ – so basically, the dative is coupled with a lative meaning and the genitive with an ablative meaning, respectively:

Ang
AT
nimp-ye
run-3SF.T
māva-yam
mother-DAT
yena.
3SF.GEN

‘She runs to her mother.’

The example with the genitive that is currently in the grammar is not really locational at all, actually, now that I look at it. But anyway, lest I forget, here’s something I came across while translating something for myself today:

Yam
DATT
sarayan
go-3PM
ayonang
man-A
sam
two
manga
MOT
ling
top
natrang,
temple-T,
no
want
natratang.
pray-3PM.A.

‘Two men went up to the temple; they wanted to pray.’

In this case, it’s one of those ‘locational’ datives, but extended by a preposition unlike in the example from the Grammar above. Here, the preposition (manga) ling ‘(to the) top of’ does not trigger the locative case as usual, but the dative case. This is because with the locative, the phrase would imply that the two men were going literally to the top of the temple, that is, they end up standing on its roof. This is not the intended meaning, because they are only going up to the temple, that is, the temple is on a hill – Ayeri can’t distinguish ‘up’ from ‘to the top of’ just with the preposition. So, in order to differentiate going up to from going to the top of, the dative and the locative case are used respectively. The same works for ‘come down from X’:

saha-
come
manga
MOT
avan
bottom
X-na
X-GEN

as opposed to

saha-
come
manga
MOT
avan
bottom
X-ya
X-LOC

‘come to the bottom of X’.

Also, in the same translation challenge to myself, I discovered that it would make sense to allow div- ‘to stay’ to be used as a modal (ish), so that for example you can say diva bengyāng timangya ‘he remained standing at a distance’, as opposed to remaining seated at a distance. Now, what’s the difference between div(a)- ‘stay, remain’ and hang- ‘keep, hold; remain, stay’, though?!

Imperial Messages X – “… nay viturongyāng …”

This is the tenth 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

This is again a rather long passage, so I’ve split this into four parts, still to be published semi-weekly to stay on schedule. This is the second part.

[…]; und gelänge ihm dies, nichts wäre gewonnen; die Treppen hinab müßte er sich kämpfen; […] (Kafka 1994, 281:22–24)

[…]; and were he to succeed at this, nothing would be gained: he would have to fight his way down the steps; […]. (Kafka 2011)

[…] – nay viturongyāng, le gamarongyāng ranya – ang rua kotongya apanjam rivanley ehen – […]

Interlinear glossing

[…]
[…]
nay
and
vitur-ong-yāng,
succeed-IRR-3SM,
le
PF
gamar-ong-yāng
manage-IRR-3SM.A
ranya
nothing
ang
AF
rua
must
kot-ong-ya
toil-IRR-3S
apand-yam
descend-PTCP
rivan-ley
mountain-P.INAN
ehen
stair
[…]
[…]

‘[…]; and if he succeeded, he wouldn’t have managed anything; he would have to toil at descending the stair mountain; […]’

Notes on translation

Today’s bit had me thinking about how to translate “nichts wäre gewonnen” (Kafka 1994, 281:23) idiomatically rather than literally. The English translation with “gained” (Kafka 2011) instead of literal “won” is accurate: the idea behind this is that nothing would be achieved even by overcoming all the previously mentioned obstacles. Hence, I chose to translate this with gamar- ‘to manage’, which I stupidly did not give an example sentence for in the dictionary when I coined the word. Let us assume I intended it to mean ‘to achieve’ rather than ‘to conduct an enterprise’ originally.

Also, in order to translate “müsste er sich kämpfen” (Kafka 1994, 281:24), which I interpreted as toiling rather than literally fighting like in the English translation (cf. Kafka 2011), I brought myself to coin a word for that after all, although I chose to use pen- ‘to fight’ in the previous passage. The word kot- ‘to toil’ (with a causative derivation kotisa- ‘to torture’?) is derived from the word kotas ‘thorn, prick’, a relation I found not unreasonable.

The passage “ang rua kotongya apanjam” in the Ayeri translation is interesting in that it includes both ways Ayeri handles complement of verbs with verbs. Modal verbs are uninflected when they are not used as full verbs; instead, the content verb receives all inflection (this is the opposite of how German does it, by the way). For other verb-verb combinations, the second verb is marked with the participle/dative ending -yam and the noun phrase dependent of that second verb is usually in the patient case. In the above quotation, the content verb kot- ‘to toil’ is both modified by the modal rua ‘must’ (deviation from head-first order?) and complemented by apand- ‘to descend’.

  • 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›