Tag Archives: words

Rhyming

As a means of poetry, I’ve so far only used syllable count.1 What about rhyming word stems, though? For example, karon ‘water, sea’ and beson ‘ship’ rhyme – /rɔn/ : /sɔn/. Could they still be considered to rhyme even if arbitrary suffixes were stacked on them (or not), e.g.:

Silvu
ˈsɪl.vu
see-IMP
See
​beson​​yeley,
ˌbe.sɔn.je.ˈlɛɪ
ship-PL-P.INAN
(the) ships,

Yam
jam
DATT
To₁
sarateng
ˌsa.ra.ˈtɛŋ
go-3P.INAN
they go
​karon​
ˈka.rɔn
sea.T
the sea₁

Mang
maŋ
MOTION
Down
avan
ˈa.van
bottom
 
​nongon​​ya.
nɔ.ˈŋɔn.ja
river-LOC
(a/the) river.

Or would that be too far-fetched? After all, in the case of beson and nongon, word stress shifts around wildly due to the added suffixes, which lessens the similarity in sound even further.2

I’ve so far avoided rhyming with suffixes because that wouldn’t really be too much of a challenge in terms of artificiality – it would be like using the same word twice to force a rhyme in English. On the other hand, it’s not like this wasn’t done in Latin (though post-Classical in that case), which prominently features suffixes as well. Though in the case of “O Fortuna,” the last syllable of a word stem is also taken into account, plus inflectional suffixes, creating a polysyllabic rhyme. Doing it this way would mean, though, that you’d have to make sure the rhyming words are inflected for the same grammatical categories, which in itself might be an interesting challenge as well.

On a completely unrelated side note, look what Miekko has been doing for the past three weeks: Miniature Conlangs.

  1. Exemplified in my take on Shelley’s poem Ozymandias and the LCC4 relay (PDF)
  2. Note that all lines contain six syllables at least!

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›

Imperial Messages VIII – “Ya sahongyāng simil apan …”

This is the eighth 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. Continue reading Imperial Messages VIII – “Ya sahongyāng simil apan …”

Imperial Messages VII – “Nārya ikananang kāryo-ing …”

This is the seventh 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

Aber die Menge ist so groß; ihre Wohnstätten nehmen kein Ende. (Kafka 1994, 281:16–17)

But the crowds are so vast; their dwellings know no bounds. (Kafka 2011)

Nārya ikananang kāryo-ing – ang tahoyyon midayanye tan litoley.

Interlinear glossing

Nārya
but
ikanan-ang
crowd-A
kāryo=ing
big=so
ang
AF
taha-oy-yon
have-NEG-3PN
midayan-ye
neighborhood-PL
tan
3PM.GEN
lito-ley.
border-P.INAN

‘But the crowd was so large; their neighborhoods had no boundaries.’

Notes on translation

After a long sentence now a very short one, and probably the one that is most typical of Kafka in the whole story by thematizing an unsurmountable task a single person is charged with, only to find themselves doomed to fail. No new words had to be coined here, and nothing of importance needs to be said about grammar. Except one thing: Ayeri distinguishes masculine, feminine, neuter, and inanimate in its third person pronouns. But how then should I handle groups of indeterminate or mixed gender? So far I’ve usually followed the French rule: default to masculine. Hence midayanye tan ‘their neighborhoods’ uses the masculine third person plural genitive pronoun. However, I seriously wonder how common defaulting to masculine is in languages that have gender if there also is a neuter/inanimate category.

  • It must be tahoyyon ‘have-NEG-3PN’ rather than tahayon ‘have-3PN’ to convey the intended sense of “don’t have.”
  • 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›