Tag Archives: vocabulary

Markov-Chain Generator for Ayeri Words

Since I’m sometimes a little lazy to come up with new words, I wrote myself a little Python script which pulls a certain subset of words from the dictionary database I’m using and applies a Markov chain algorithm to it in order to generate new similar words. The script is sophisticated enough to filter out duplicates and some other undesirable outcomes. You can adapt the code shared below to your needs if you wish to.

See file on GitHub Gist

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.

Translation Challenge: The Scientific Method

The other day, when I was reading io9, I came across an article about One of the World’s First Statements About the Scientific Method. The article is about a quote by Alhazen – Ibn al-Haytham, an Arab polymath of the 10th/11th cenutry –, the quotation from his book Doubts Concerning Ptolemy (Al-Shukūk ‛alā Baṭlamyūs). I don’t know how accurate the translation is, but I thought that it would still be nice as a Translation Challenge, so I’m basing the following translation off of this English translation, since I don’t know any Arabic. Unfortunately, there is no indication of the edition the translated passage is quoted from. According to a comment on the article by Bradley Steffens, the source of this quotation is the closing passage of his own book Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist. Contrary to what Steffens says in the comment, however, there is a critical translation of Alhazen’s book into English by Don L. Voss, published in 1985 as a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Chicago, but it doesn’t seem to be easily available outside of UChicago. Since I don’t have access to either book, I’m quoting this from the io9 article:1

The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration and not the sayings of human beings whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of of its content, attack it from every side. [H]e should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.

What struck me as challenging here is that this rather lengthy quotation consists of just three sentences with both a complex structure and interesting vocabulary that exceeds that of daily language, e.g. seeker after truth, the ancients, natural disposition, deficiency, investigate, … However, since I don’t like too complex sentences in Ayeri, I split the three sentences in the quote up into multiple sentences, which makes translation a bit easier. The first sentence especially also lends itself well to using anaphora and parallelism as a stylistic device. The English text also does that, but obscures it a little by using a lot of coordinated clauses in a single sentence.

Balang
Seek
kalam
truth
-maya
-AGTZ
-ang
-A
voy
NEG
nyān
person
-as
-P
si
REL
le
PT.INAN
sobisa
study
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
tahang
writing
-ye
-PL
-T
timbay
ancient
-an
-NMLZ
-ena
-GEN
nay
and
parona
trust
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
suhing
nature
-ya
-LOC
yana
3SG.M.GEN
nasyam.
according.to.

‘The truth-seeker is not a person who studies the writings of the ancient and trusts in them according to his nature.’

Adanya
That.one
-ang
-A
nāreng
rather
nyān
person
-as
-P
si
REL
sa
PT
birenya
doubt
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
paronān
trust
-T
yana
3SG.M.GEN
nay
and
sa
PT
nikang
question
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
adanya
that.one
-T
si
REL
sob
learn
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
ray.
3PL.INAN.INS.

‘He is rather a person who doubts his trust and questions what he learns from them.’

Adanya
That.one
-ang
-A
māy
AFF
nyān
person
-as
-P
si
REL
ya
LOCT
sitang=
self=
avan
subject
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
mandan
argumentation
-T
nay
and
pukatan
proof
-Ø,
-T,
nāroy
but.not
narān
word
-ya
-LOC
keynam
people
-ena
-GEN
=nama
=mere
si
REL
-GEN
-nā
-GEN
suhing
nature
-ang
-A
tan
3PL.M.GEN
deng
full
miran
kind
-ye
-PL
-ri
-INS
=hen
=all
sempay
perfect
-arya
-NEG
-na
-GEN
nay
and
sinka
flaw
-ye
-PL
-na.
-GEN.

‘He is a person who subjects himself to argumentation and proof, but not to the word of mere humans the nature of which is full of all kinds of imperfections and flaws.’

Dila
find.out
-yam
-PTCP
-an
-NMLZ
-ang
-A
kalam
truth
-ena
-GEN
bahalan
goal
-as
-P
ayon
man
-ena
-GEN
si
REL
le
PT.INAN
nivisa
investigate
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
tahang
writing
-ye
-GEN
-T
sobisaya
scholar
-ye
-PL
-na,
-GEN,
ruān
duty
-as
-P
yana
3SG.M.GEN
kada,
thus,
sa
PT
tav
become
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
kehin
enemy
-T
enya
everything
-na
-GEN
si
REL
laya
read
-yāng.
-3SG.M.A.

‘If finding out the truth is the goal of the man who investigates the writings of the scholars, his duty is thus for him to become the enemy of everything he reads.’

Na
GENT
pakua
apply
-yāng
-3SG.M.A
tenuban
reason
-as
-P
yana
3SG.M.GEN
terpeng
center
-yam
-DAT
nay
and
lito
margin
-yam
-DAT
erar
content
-T
nay
and
ang
AT
kongr
attack
-ya
-3SG.M.A
ray
side
-ena
-GEN
=hen.
=every.

‘He applies his reason to the center and the margin of the content and attacks it from every side.’

Ang
AT
mya
be.supposed.to
birenya
doubt
-ya
-3SG
-T
sitang=
self=
yās
3SG.M.P
naynay
as.well
ling
during
nivisān
investigation
-j
-PL
-ya
-LOC
yana,
3SG.M.GEN,
kadāre
so.that
ang
AT
mya
may
manang
avoid
-ya
-3SG
-T
tav
become
-yam
-PTCP
kimbisan
prey
-as
-P
adun
prejudice
-ena
-GEN
soyang
or
tataman
leniency
-ena.
-GEN.

‘He is to doubt himself as well during his investigations so that he may avoid becoming the prey of prejudice or leniency.’

The whole text:

4092-alhazenquote
Balangkalamayāng voy nyānas si le sobisayāng tahangye timbayanyena nay paronayāng suhingya yana nasyam. Adanyāng nāreng nyānas si sa birenyayāng paronān yana nay sa nikangyāng adanya si sobyāng ray. Adanyāng māy nyānas si ya sitang-avanyāng mandan nay pukatan, nāroy narānya keynamena-nama sinā suhingang tan deng miranyeri-hen sempāryana nay sinkayena. Dilayamanang kalamena bahalanas ayonena si le nivisayāng tahangye sobisayayena, ruānas yana kada, sa tavyāng kehin enyana si layayāng. Na pakuayāng tenubanas yana terpengyam nay litoyam erar nay ang kongrya rayena-hen. Ang mya birenyaya sitang-yās naynay ling nivisānjya yana, kadāre ang mya manangya tavyam kimbisanas adunena soyang tatamanena.

  • Added pretty scriptie and recording; fixed some errors and redundancies both in translation and in wording.
  1. I hope Mr. Steffens will excuse my lifting this passage from his book, here with proper attribution, though.

Imperial Messages XV – Round-up (with video)

Background: “光绪皇帝大婚图.” [“Picture of the Wedding of Emperor Guangxu.”] Wikimedia Commons. (Published in the Public Domain; cropped and label added)
Background: “光绪皇帝大婚图,” Wikimedia Commons (Published in the Public Domain; cropped and label added)
This is really the last and conclusive posting in my series on translating the short story “Eine kaiserliche Botschaft” by Franz Kafka into Ayeri that I started on February 15. Below you can find the whole text again with the sentence numbers serving as links to the individual installments. You can download the whole thing as a PDF as well.

Also, you can still tell me how you liked this series, in case I decide to do something like this again. Now that it’s over it might make even more sense to ask. So far, one (1) person has participated. Thanks for your vote, man!

The full text

Budang lanyana iray

1 Yam turakaya lanyāng iray – da-ningrey – va, si kebay, avanaya dipakan, karano, si iyin marinya perinena desay iray nay si danguvāng mangasaha timangya kahu-vā: yam māy turakaya va pakas lanyāng iray budangas mangasara pinamya pang-vā yana. 2 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. 3 Ri kaytisyāng halinganley narānjas ninayana naban devona yana. 4 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. 5 Ang saraya edauyikan ninaya sasanyam: ayonang mico nay pisu tadoy – ri tiya itingley manga luga ikananya pinkasān tinuna patameng yana menanyam, tinuna nuveng yana palunganyam – 6 ang bidisaya arilinya itingley, ang mapaya ninaya hevenya yana sijya telbānley perin – saylingyāng kovaro naynay, ku-ranyāng palung. 7 Nārya ikananang kāryo-ing – ang tahoyyon midayanye tan litoley. 8 Ya sahongyāng simil apan, āh, ang nunaya ku-vipin nay ang pətangongva ankyu haruyamanas nanang megayena yana kunangya vana. 9 Da-yamva nārya, da-penyāng riayo – ya manga pastayāng tarela sangalye mitanena kong-vā – ang sēyraya tadoy adanyās – 10 nay viturongyāng, le gamarongyāng ranya – ang rua kotongya apanjam rivanley ehen – 11 nay viturongyāng, le gamarongyāng ranya – sa rua lugongyāng mandayye – nay pang mandayēa, samanas mitanyena si midaytong – nay ehenyeley nay mandayjas sayling – nay mitanas menikaneng – nay edāre manga luga pericanyēa samang – 12 nay ang pragongya panca manga agonan kunangyēa pang-vā ikan – nārya amangoyreng tadoy – ang yomongyo tarela ayromitan marin yāy, Terpeng Mavayena, sang nujyos deng idaseri avan sitang-yona. 13 Ang ming lugaya ranya – ang da-miraya nilarya-vā kayvo budangya nyānena tenya. — 14 Ang nedrasava nārya silvenoya vana nay ri sitang-tivāng budangas mangan tadayya si apanjo perinang.

“Pretty scripty” and recording

See the video on Youtube. A sound recording and artistic rendering of the text are available as well. Sound and video released under CC-BY-NC-SA license.

Conclusion

So what was gained from this experiment? For one, I’ve so far only ever translated texts into Ayeri without actually documenting choices and problems I’ve come across. Only the result counted. That way, however, especially questions about syntax, style, and pragmatic aspects of the language were left mostly undocumented. Forcing myself to document exactly those aspects of translating, left you, as the reader, as well as myself with an idea of what was going on in my head at the time of editing. And I think this is a good thing, even though translating this not too long text took ten times longer that usual. And fourteen times longer to publish, which was torture for impatient little me. I am still to finish writing the Grammar and don’t get anything done, sadly, but I hope that the thoughts and ideas written down in the individual parts of these series will add to the undertaking.

Speaking of stagnating grammar writing, the problem for me is that whenever I’m halfway through, I’ve usually changed enough that the whole thing needs to be reworked from the beginning, because examples need to be changed, or passages need to be rewritten to reflect the new decisions.

  • To do the concept of creative-commons licensing justice better, I have just uploaded the raw, spoken parts of the recording to my Soundcloud account as well. You can download them there.

Imperial Messages XIV – “Ang nedrasava nārya …”

This is the fourteenth 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

Du aber sitzt an Deinem Fenster und erträumst sie dir, wenn der Abend kommt. (Kafka 1994, 282:6–7)

You, however, sit at your window and dream of the message when evening comes. (Kafka 2011)

Ang nedrasava nārya silvenoya vana nay ri sitang-tivāng budangas mangan tadayya si apanjo perinang.

Interlinear glossing

Ang
AF
nedra-asa-va
sit-HAB-2S
nārya
though
silveno-ya
window-LOC
vana
2S.GEN
nay
and
ri
INSF
sitang=ti-vāng
self=create-2S.A
budang-as
message-P
mangan
dream
taday-ya
time-LOC
si
REL
apand-yo
descend-3SN
perin-ang.
sun-A.

‘You, though, sit at your window as usual and create the message yourself with a dream when the sun descends.’

Notes on translation

One interesting thing I can think of to comment on for this passage is the habit of both nārya ‘but’ and naynay ‘also’ to differ slightly in meaning depending on their position in the phrase. If nārya precedes the verb it works as a concessive adverb with a contrastive meaning – essentially, ‘but’. If it follows the verb like in case of today’s sentence, however, it has a stronger antithetical meaning: ‘however, though’. Similarly, naynay, literally ‘and-and’, preverbally has a meaning of ‘and also’, while postpositioned means something more like ‘furthermore, in addition to that’.

Note also that Ayeri does not like to introduce relative clauses with question pronouns like English does, which is exemplified here by how “wenn der Abend kommt” (Kafka 1994, 282:7; “when evening comes”, Kafka 2011) is relativized as a noun-phrase construction with the regular relative pronoun si connecting the attributive main clause: tadayya si ‹CLAUSE ‘time-LOC REL ‹CLAUSE›’.

A notable difference between the German and English translation in this sentence is that in German, the message is created by the recipient within a dream by and for themselves since the messenger won’t come (cf. Kafka 1994, 282:6–7), while in English, the message is merely dreamed about, as though it was general knowledge (Kafka 2011).

Other than that: We’re through! This was the last sentence in the text. On Saturday there’ll be a round-up, in spite of the Easter holidays.

  • 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 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›

Imperial Messages XII – “… nay ang pragongya panca …”

This is the twelfth 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 last part of these four.

[…]; und stürzte er endlich aus dem äußersten Tor – aber niemals, niemals kann es geschehen – liegt erst die Residenzstadt vor ihm, die Mitte der Welt, hochgeschüttet voll ihres Bodensatzes. (Kafka 1994, 282:1–4)

[…]; and if he were to burst out at last through the outermost gate – but it can never, never happen – before him still lies the royal capital, the middle of the world, piled high in its sediment. (Kafka 2011)

[…] – nay ang pragongya panca manga agonan kunangyēa pang-vā ikan – nārya amangoyreng tadoy – ang yomongyo tarela ayromitan marin yāy, Terpeng Mavayena, sang nujyos deng idaseri avan sitang-yona.

Interlinear glossing

[…]
[…]
nay
and
ang
AF
prag-ong-ya
tumble-IRR-3SM
panca
finally
manga
MOT
agonan
out_of
kunang-ye-ea
door-PL-LOC
pang-vā
last
ikan
very
nārya
but
amang-oy-reng
happen-NEG-3S.INAN.A
tadoy
never
ang
AF
yoma-ong-yo
exist-IRR-3SN
tarela
still
ayron-mitan
city_residence
marin
in_front_of
yāy,
3SM.LOC,
Terpeng
Middle
Mavay-ena,
World-GEN,
si-ang
REL-A
nuj-yos
pour-3SN.P
deng
full
idas-eri
dirt-INS
avan
bottom
sitang=yona.
self=3SN.GEN.

‘[…]; and if he would finally tumble out of the very last gate – but this will never ever happen – still the residence city, the Center of the World, which has been poured full with its own sediment, would still be in front of him.’

Notes on translation

Words that had to be made here were prag- ‘to tumble’ – which is coincidence and not related to the German name of Kafka’s home town, Prague, since I wanted a word that sounded somehow tumbly to me – and idas ‘dirt’, which I derived from the adjective of the same shape and meaning. Kunangye is also taken to mean ‘gate’ here, not just plainly ‘doors’, which is the definition of kunang that is in the dictionary, to wit, the entry to a house. I’ve translated “die Mitte der Welt” (Kafka 282:3–4) as a title here, “Terpeng Mavayena”, which is used attributively, so that terpeng ‘middle’ is not inflected for case. As for grammar and style, I used a double negation for emphasis in “amangoyreng tadoy”, which I have never done before. However, I think it fits quite well here.

  • 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 XI – “… nay viturongyāng …”

This is the eleventh 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 third part.

[…] und gelänge ihm dies, nichts wäre gewonnen; die Höfe wären zu durchmessen; und nach den Höfen der zweite umschließende Palast; und wieder Treppen und Höfe; und wieder ein Palast; und so weiter durch Jahrtausende; […] (Kafka 1994, 281:24–282:1)

[…]; and were he to succeed at this, nothing would be gained: he would have to cross the courtyard and, after the courtyard, the second enclosing outer palace, and again stairways and courtyards, and again a palace, and so on through thousands of years; […]. (Kafka 2011)

[…] – nay viturongyāng, le gamarongyāng ranya – sa rua lugongyāng mandayye – nay pang mandayēa, samanas mitanyena si midaytong – nay ehenyeley nay mandayjas sayling – nay mitanas menikaneng – nay edāre manga luga pericanyēa samang – […]

Interlinear glossing

[…]
[…]
nay
and
vitur-ong-yāng,
succeed-IRR-3SM,
le
PF.INAN
gamar-ong-yāng
manage-IRR-3SM.A
ranya
nothing
sa
PF
rua
must
luga-ong-yāng
pass_through-IRR-3SM.A
manday-ye
court-PL
nay
and
pang
behind
manday-ye-ea,
court-PL-LOC,
sam-an-as
two-NMLZ-P
mitan-ye-na
palace-PL-GEN
si
REL
miday-tong
surround-3PN.A
nay
and
ehen-ye-ley
stair-PL-P.INAN
nay
and
manday-jas
court-PL.P
sayling
further
nay
and
mitan-as
palace-P
menikaneng
another
nay
and
edāre
this_way
manga
MOT
luga
among
perican-ye-ea
year-PL-LOC
samang
myriad
[…]
[…]

‘[…]; and if he succeeded, he wouldn’t have managed anything; through the courtyards he would have to pass; and beyond the courtyards, two palaces which surround it; and further stairs and courts; and another palace; and thus for myriads of years; […]’

Notes on translation

Today’s passage is an admittedly rather large chunk compared to earlier passages, but most of it is just an enumeration, which is not terribly difficult to deal with. No words needed to be coined or extended here.

As far as syntax and grammar are concerned, I could have sworn that it should be mandayēa epang ‘court-PL-LOC after’, with a postposition, instead of (e)pang mandayēa ‘(after/)behind court-PL-LOC’ with a preposition, but even in my jumbled handwritten notes I could not find anything to that effect going as far back as 2007.

A grammatical intricacy that tripped me up was the last words of this passage, “durch Jahrtausende” (Kafka 1994, 282:1), respectively “through thousands of years” (Kafka 2011). For one, Ayeri counts in units of twelve, and the word for the third power of twelve is literally ‘ten-hundred’, which is rather uncatchy here. Since the next larger unit is the fourth power, or a myriad, I went for that term because ‘hundred’ felt too weak. In addition to this decision, Ayeri usually does not inflect nouns modified by numbers or measure adverbs for plural. Without plural inflection in “pericanyēa samang”, however, the noun phrase would simply mean “a myriad of years”, but not “myriads of years”, as is intended here. In order to take plural inflection, the numeral could be nominalized and then pluralized, so that you would get samanganyeley pericanyena ‘myriad-PL-P.INAN year-PL-GEN’, which is quite a mouthful and more similar to the construction used for ordinal numbers. Thus, I decided to keep the original order with the number as a modifier, but with the modified noun exceptionally pluralized.

  • 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 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›

Imperial Messages IX – “Da-yamva nārya …”

This is the ninth 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 first part.

Aber statt dessen, wie nutzlos müht er sich ab; immer noch zwängt er sich durch die Gemächer des innersten Palastes; niemals wird er sie überwinden; […]. (Kafka 1994, 281:20–22)

But instead, how uselessly he toils; he is still forcing his way through the chambers of the innermost palace; never will he overcome them; […]. (Kafka 2011)

Da-yamva nārya, da-penyāng riayo – ya manga pastayāng tarela sangalye mitanena kong-vā – ang sēyraya tadoy adanyās – […].

Interlinear glossing

Da-yamva
such=instead_of
nārya,
though,
da=pen-yāng
so=fight-3SM.A
riayo
useless
ya
LOCF
manga
PROG
pasta-yāng
squeeze-3SM.A
tarela
still
sangal-ye
room-PL
mitan-ena
palace-GEN
kong=vā
inside=SUPL
ang
AF
sə-eyra-ya
FUT-overcome-3SM
tadoy
never
adanya-as
that_one-P
[…].
[…].

‘Instead of this, though, how uselessly he fought; he was still squeezing through the rooms of the innermost palace; he would never overcome that/those; […].’

Notes on translation

In this passage, I only extended the meanings of some words, so for “abmühen” (Kafka 1994, 281:20), literally ‘to labor off’, I used pen- ‘to fight’, since that is also tedious in the long run. I was quite surprised I had a word for ‘useless’ actually that has nothing to do with the word for ‘useful’ that I could also find in the dictionary, merambay. I can’t explain how I came up with either of them in retrospective, since I can’t find any related words in the dictionary. Instead of “Gemächer” (Kafka 1994, 281:21), or “chambers” respectively (Kafka 2011), I simply translated sangalye ‘rooms’. Another vocabulary-related issue was “des innersten Palastes” (Kafka 1994, 281:21–22), respectively “of the innermost palace” (Kafka 2011), where I simply used the preposition for ‘inside’, kong, and added the superlative suffix -vā to it.

What is possibly of interest grammatically are the words preceded by the prefix da-, that is da-yamva ‘instead of that’ and da-penyāng ‘so/thus he fights’. This da- is related to the demonstrative prefixes eda- ‘this’ and ada- ‘that’ and together with verbs it assumes the meaning ‘so’ or ‘thus/in this way’, while it means ‘such’ generally. It appears in a compound with the postposition yamva ‘instead of’ here because that requires a prepositional object. I could have translated adaya yamva ‘that-LOC instead_of’, or raya yamva3S.INAN.LOC instead_of’, however I preferred the more concise expression at the beginning of the sentence here.

  • 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›