Tag Archives: word order

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 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


‘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›

A Likely Translation Challenge

This is a cross-posting from the ZBB, as a note-to-self kind of thing.

Yāng minjisānas nilay.

‘He is a/the likely candidate.’
Yāng nilay minjisānas.

‘He likely is/will likely be a/the candidate.’

Neat-o. Except I need an easier word for “candidate”…

What do we see here? Well, we see difference in meaning through word order in action:

  1. Modifiers mostly follow their heads, so in the first case, where “likely” modifies the “candidate”, nilay follows accordingly.
  2. The second case is a little trickier, and I’m not quite sure about it. Ayeri has a zero copula which I’ve so far glossed as “Ø/COP” at the beginning of sentences, since this is the place verbs usually appear in. However, in the second example above I have what’s technically an adverb follow the agent NP. There are languages that use personal pronouns as copulas actually, e.g. Hebrew (cf. Payne 117), so could we argue here that yāng fulfills the role of the copula here? This demands further investigation!
  • Payne, Thomas E. Describing Morphosyntax: A Guide for Field Linguists. Cambridge: CUP, 1997. Print.
  • Prmysl. “TC: Likely.” Zompist BBoard. 6 Jun. 2011. Mark Rosenfelder, 2002. Web. 6 Jun. 2011.