Results of the TTTC!

Started by Toliman, June 01, 2022, 11:12:26 AM

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Results of the TTTC!
Posted on May 31, 2022 by Pawl

Kxì ma frapo,

Maw fpxamoa kintrr afpxamo mì tanlokxe oeyä, fula tsun lefkrra sìlenit tswiva' hìkrr ulte livawk nìmun lì'fyati awngeyä oeti 'eykefu nitram nìtxan.

To all who responded to the T3C (Teaser Trailer Translation Challenge), thanks so much! I was impressed and delighted—although not surprised—by the creativity, nuance, and linguistic sensitivity that went into your responses. Oeri leiu fìlì'fyaolo' lawnoltsim.

lawnoltsim (n., LAW.nol.tsim; colloquially, 'source of (great) joy'

Obviously there's no "correct answer" here, and the responses contained a lot of viable options. Although everyone had something useful to say, let me comment on a few things that particularly struck me.

Translation of "fortress"

Lots of good options. The most popular seemed to be the existing word zongtseng, which is glossed in the dictionary as 'safe place' or 'refuge.' That can certainly be the function of a fortress.

I'm not sure, though, that zongtseng fully conveys the idea of strength, of something impervious to attack. We can't know what was actually in Jake's mind, but as a former military guy, he may have been picturing "fortress" in its original sense in English, i.e., as a military fortification or stronghold, and using it metaphorically. With that in mind, I myself, like some of you as well, had come up with txurtseng—a place of strength, or as was mentioned in the comments, a bulwark. What we don't know is whether this concept already existed in Na'vi culture. Did the Omatikaya think of Kelutral as both a zongtseng and a txurtseng? Or were there other physical structures in their culture and experience that were more clearly txurtseng? Hard to say at this point.

Some other ideas I liked:

zongku (zong 'defend'+ kelku 'home')
kelhawn (kelku + hawnu 'protect, shelter' = 'house of protection')
hawntseng ('place of protection')
ekxakxemyo (ekxan 'barricade' + kxemyo 'wall')—nice, although a bit challenging to pronounce!
tìslan aseykxel (tìslan 'support' + seykxel 'confidently strong')
tìtxur ('strength')—the simplest of all, but it might very well be that "fortress" in the sense of a physical structure used metaphorically is an 'Rrta concept and not part of Na'vi thinking, in which case "strength" could best convey Jake's intent.

In the end, I'm going to add txurtseng to the dictionary, and reserve zongtseng for 'refuge':

txurtseng (n., TXUR.tseng) 'fortification, fortress, bulwark'

Translation of Jake's complete statement

I thought there were three main considerations here: Jake's statement should—

Be concise
Be idiomatic and true to the spirit of Na'vi
Have good rhythm, flow, and emphasis

(It's true that conciseness isn't a necessary requirement, and I appreciated the spirited defense of a wordier version. 🙂  But I think this is a case where less is more.)

There was broad agreement about how this should go, but also some interesting differences.

"I know one thing . . ."

The question here is whether "one thing" should be translated literally. For those who did it that way (I was among them—at first!), it comes out:

Omum oel (or: Oel omum—there's no difference) fì'ut a'aw (or: 'awa fì'ut) . . .

Why not just 'ut(i) a'aw, without the fì-? I don't believe we've had a hard and fast rule about this, but 'u 'thing' isn't used much by itself; instead, it usually has some modifier: fì'u, tsa'u, 'uo . . . So a more literal, although still idiomatic, English parallel would be, 'I know this one thing:'

However, what does "one thing" here really mean? Jake can't be saying he knows just one thing in his life! He may not be an intellectual giant, but his knowledge base is wider than that! Rather, he's saying: "I am completely certain of what I am about to say." That's why I really liked the suggestion to use the idiomatic Na'vi word nì'pxi, which is glossed as 'pointedly, especially, unambiguously.' That is, Omum oel fì'ut ni'pxi . . .

"Wherever we go . . ."

Most everyone realized this was a perfect place to use the conjunction ketsran, which means 'no matter': ketsran tsengne kivä . . .

Note that we use the subjunctive (-iv-) form of the verb with ketsran. It's like saying in English: "no matter where we may go."

Someone submitted a wordier structure that's perfectly grammatical: ketsrana tseng a kivä tsawne, which is closer to 'whatever place we may go to.' (Here ketsran is not a conjunction but an adjective.) But in the present context, I think the more concise version wins.

Related to the above construction, I was intrigued by the suggestion that ketsrana tseng 'whatever place' might contract to *ketsreng 'wherever.' Some parallels might be:

ketsrana tute 'whatever person' à *ketsrute ??? 'whoever'

ketsrana krr 'whatever time' à *ketskrr??? 'whenever'

ketsrana 'u 'whatever thing' à *ketsru ??? 'whatever'

These contractions, of course, aren't necessary. The question is, would they have arisen naturally, and if so, are they useful? I'd be interested in your thoughts about this!

"this family is our fortress."

Several of you noticed something important about how Na'vi likes to handle personal pronouns.

Here's an iconic sentence (well, part of a sentence) from American history, the last words of the Declaration of Independence (1776):

"[W]e mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." (It's interesting that English used to capitalize common nouns the way German does today!)

How would you translate that into Na'vi? In particular, what would you do with "we," "our," "our," and "our"? If you use ayoe once and ayoeyä three times, you'll get a grammatical but awkward and repetitive-sounding sentence. English gets away with this kind of repetition because English pronouns are so short and sweet. But personal pronouns in Na'vi are often two and three syllables.

Instead, idiomatic Na'vi does something different: It uses the topical to "set the stage," so to speak, in this case placing the whole sentence in the context "as for us . . ." Once that's established, the related personal pronouns can generally be omitted. So for Jake's statement, we need only say awngari once; after that, we don't need further pronouns for we and our:

Awngari ketsran tsengne kivä, fìsoaia lu txurtseng.

Finally, there was the question of what word would be the most impactful at the end, "family" or "fortress"? In English, Jake wound up with "fortress." But he could have said, ". . . our fortress is this family." Likewise, the Na'vi version could be either fìsoaia lu txurtseng or txurtseng lu fìsoaia. I'm not sure which one I like better. Part of the decision would rest on the prior context of the statement. Has Jake already mentioned soaia? If so, it's "old information," in which case the "new information" (txurtseng) is better at the end of the sentence.

Thank you all again for your ideas! If I didn't mention your particular contribution, it's not because I didn't value it. It's just that this post has already gotten longer than I anticipated.  🙂

One last thing: Regarding the question about the future of the Na'vi language, although I can't tell you anything specific about the upcoming movies, I'm happy to reassure you all that Na'vi will remain a vital part of the Avatar canon and the story world going forward.

Zusawkrr lì'fyayä leNa'vi leiu txur!