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Re: [norse_course] Re: bodhvarr translated

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  • Sarah Bowen
    Hi Xigung! Good to hear from you - you always come up with things that really make me think! And that is good because I am still only a beginner (started last
    Message 1 of 5 , May 28, 2003
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      Hi Xigung!

      Good to hear from you - you always come up with things that really make me
      think! And that is good because I am still only a beginner (started last
      Sept) and it's easy to rely on what my lecturers tell me and not take that
      closer look the way you do.

      Words are such fascinating things and so difficult to translate because
      there are different approaches. You mention the etymological approach:
      "láta" should be the same as English "to let". Well, I'm not sure the
      etymological route is necessarily the best way. It may work best for
      languages which are still sufficiently closely related to ON (such as
      mainland Scandinavian languages and possibly German). But on the whole I
      prefer to grasp the meaning of a word or phrase and translate that, even if
      it means moving away somewhat from the structure of the source language.

      Let me give you a couple of examples using "láta". Two are from modern
      Icelandic (which is more similar to ON than any other language) and two from
      Old Norse itself.

      The first is from a translation of Einar Áskell we read at college...
      "Einar Áskell lætur hundinn sækja spýtur, setjast á rassin og fleira og
      fleira" Here the context is of a boy giving a dog commands - go fetch! sit!
      etc etc. I don't think you could reasonably translate the verb "láta" with
      the English "let" - it would be something like 'he made the dog go fetch
      bits of wood, sit on his haunches and so on'. Or he told the dog, he
      ordered the dog, he had the dog go fetch etc.

      The second is from another children's book....
      "Mamma hafði meira að segja gleymt að láta Jón Bjarna bursta í sér tennurnar
      í kvöld". Again I don´t think the English word "let" is appropriate here.
      What child is eager that their parent should 'let' them brush their teeth at
      night!?!!

      These examples, like the Bodvar one, use láta + infinitive giving the
      meaning to cause something to be done or command to be done.

      Here's one from Hrafnkel's Saga near the beginning of ch. 4. "Þat er ráð
      mitt, at þú látir reka at hesta vára, ok búumsk heim." This is my advice,
      that you have our horses driven in and we make for home.

      And another from the same saga, at the beginning of ch.5.
      "Þorgeirr valði lið sitt ok lét sér fylgja fjóra tigu manna." Thorgeir
      picked his band and had 40 men go with him.

      I agree it would be nice if the structure of English were more similar to
      other Germanic languages and we could therefore stay closer to the structure
      of ON, but I don't think we can in this case. At least, not without losing
      something of the original meaning and making the English look 'translated'.

      As for "því", yes that's certainly a tricky little word in this context!!!
      Perhaps you're right, the original meaning did contain some element of
      comparison and so the dative was used.

      Lastly, you mention about
      "Kómusk þá fyrir Hrólf konung öll sannindi hér um"
      and you are right, the subject of the verb is "öll sannindi".
      Sannindi is a neuter plural noun and
      öll is the neuter plural form of 'allr'.

      The more I study language, the more fascinated I become by the variety of
      constructions languages use to express meaning. Sometimes there is a
      clearly recognisable overlap from one language to another, and sometimes
      there just isn't!!!

      Kveðja,
      Sarah.

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "xigung" <xigung@...>
      To: <norse_course@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Tuesday, May 27, 2003 7:53 PM
      Subject: [norse_course] Re: bodhvarr translated


      Hi Sarah!
      And thank you for your replies.
      I cannot help myself but take up a few of your points !
      Actually, the text is _full_ of small problems,
      problems that don't affect the over all meaning of
      the text, but are nevertheless vital if you want to
      be able to say that you understand the text.

      I pick out a few points that don't seem entirely
      clear to me. That means that I may be mistaken
      that there is a problem, but nevertheless, taking
      a closer look is always a god excercise.


      > ok vildu þeir láta drepa manninn.
      > and now they wanted to kill the man.
      > I think we need to get the sense of "láta" into the English here.
      > E.g. and they wanted to have the man killed.

      láta ought to be the same as English "to let", literally
      "they wanted to let kill the man", which is not good English.
      Somehow English wants to say it like
      "they wanted to let the man *be* killed".

      German syntax "Und wollten sie den Mann töten lassen",
      is more like Old Norse, except that German puts the
      verbs at the end of the sentence. Danish is also
      close to ON "og vilde de lade dræbe manden".
      But I think it is better Danish to say:
      "og vilde de lade manden dræbes", i.e. they use
      the passive 'dræbes'.

      > "Því var næsta",
      > "very close"
      > This is a phrase or expression in ON and is translated in English
      as "very nearly so" or "almost".
      > For what it's worth, the grammar is
      > næsta - nearly (adverb)
      > því - (to) that (demonstrative pronoun in the dative)

      I believe því also has some other meanings, beside
      the pronoun. I recall reading about this once, and
      the conclusion was that the Danish "thi" is the same
      word. {An example from H.C. Andersen is: "Der var engang
      fem og tyve Tinsoldater, de vare alle Brødre, thi de vare
      fødte af en gammel Tinskee", from "The Tin Soldier"}

      But here in this example, "Því var næsta", I just don't
      know. Why a dative? If the pronoun was subject
      (i.e. "it was almost"), then the logic demands a nominative.

      The dictionary remarks that því is sometimes used as a
      reinforcer for comparatives. Also, about things temporal
      it says that því næst means "right after". A kind of
      explanation might be to read it in "pseudo-English"
      as "next after that"; then the dative would presumably
      derive from a suppressed preposition "after".

      Our phrase "Því var næsta" might then be read as
      "[it] was next to that" (where "next" stands for "close").


      > Kómusk þá fyrir Hrólf konung oll sannindi hér um. Hrólfr konungr
      sagði þat skyldu fjarri, at drepa skyldi manninn
      > They told the king how this had happened. When whole the truth had
      been revealed to the king he told them not to kill the man.
      > Again, you've conveyed the meaning but the English words do not
      stick very close to the original. More literally, it would be...
      >
      > Then all the truth about this came out before King Hrolf. King
      Hrolf said that by no means should they kill the man.

      Here I thought I saw a problem in what the subject of
      the verb 'koma' is. It has to be a plural, and it
      could be the people, as a plural group, who come
      to talk about it with the king. Fyrir should take
      accusative for the situation of a meeting, and this
      agrees with the accusative Hrolf. But the plural could
      also be sannendi. What does the adjective öll have to
      say about this? It can be plural neutrum nom/acc,
      but also singular feminine nom. The solution might
      be that "truth" (sannendi) is the plural that comes
      before the king. (which agrees with the translations)

      With best regards
      Xigung

      P.S. Keep your posts coming !








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    • xigung
      Hi Sarah ! Thank you for your letter. It may be that my English isn t up to par with yours, since my knowledge of English grammar is mostly by analogy with
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 2, 2003
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        Hi Sarah !
        Thank you for your letter.
        It may be that my English isn't up to par with yours,
        since my knowledge of English grammar is mostly by
        analogy with other languages. (I learned English
        by reading, writing, speaking and listening)
        I think you've had a very good formal training in the
        English language, and that is why you are better able
        than me to judge what is good English and what isn't.

        From the point of view of understanding Old Norse, or
        Icelandic, I do however not see it as a goal to be able
        to produce good English translations. Personally, for
        example, I dislike translations such as those by Byock,
        because sometimes they are too smooth and make you
        lose sight of grammatical details in the original text.
        (for readers who merely want to read the story, without
        comparing with the original ON text, they are, on the
        other hand, probably excellent).

        With respect to "láta", I see many translations by
        "let" in Zoëga's Íslenzk-Ensk Órðabók. My feeling
        is that "let" is a good word to describe what you
        let servants do. You don't "make" servants do chores,
        because that implies that you are behind them with
        a cane at all times. In reality relationships with
        servants are much more relaxed, and in the morning
        they come and ask you what they are going to do today,
        and then you say (for example): "Let's do the windows
        today". Or with a hunting dog, you release it from
        its leash and then you "let" it search for game.
        (a good hunting dog loves its work)
        The same thing with letting a dog fetch sticks.
        A good dog keeps returning, begging you to let
        it go on.

        But maybe my feeling for the word has become influenced
        by its usage in other languages. For example "Sie über-
        läßt die Kinder der Fürsorge der Großmutter" (she lets
        grandmother take care of the childeren - example from
        Duden) But I think sometimes German "lassen" is translated
        by English "to leave" (e.g. to leave behind).
        And so you are definitely right that one cannot always
        translate by strictly adhering to etymological principles.
        Nevertheless, when I have a choice (=when it is not
        wrong to do so), I prefer it for pedagogical reasons.

        As a footnote I'd like to add that "let" is often used
        in imperatives such as "let's do the dishes".

        Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary mentions the group
        of synonyms let, allow, permit, suffer, where the shared
        meaning element is "to neither forbid nor to prevent".
        After thinking about it, I'd say that the word definitely
        implies something that is relaxed.

        Let it be !
        :-)

        Best regards
        Xigung.


        P.S. I believe that Old Norse nautical terminology sometimes
        spoke about 'láta síga', which I read as "to let down"
        or "to let glide". It is nature's forces that permit a
        ship to move. But a helmsman may steer it by cooperating
        with them (from the sagas):

        "Þá lét hann kalla skip frá skipi að menn skyldu síga
        láta seglin og heldur seint en svipta af handrifi og var svo gert."

        "Þá lét Vagn undan síga og lágu skipin sem í fyrstu höfðu legið."

        The nights were clear, so that both ships sailed night and day;
        until one day, towards the time the day turns to shorten, Karle
        and his people took up the land near an island, let down the sail,
        cast anchor, and waited until the slack-tide set in, for there was
        a strong rost before them.

        He hailed from ship to ship the orders to let the sails gently sink,
        and to unship the booms and outriggers, which was done. When
        Erling saw this he calls out to his people, and orders them to
        get on more sail. "Ye see," says he, "that their sails are
        diminishing, and they are getting fast away from our sight." He
        took the reef out of the sails of his ship, and outsailed all the
        others immediately; for Erling was very eager in his pursuit of
        King Olaf.








        --- In norse_course@yahoogroups.com, "Sarah Bowen" <bowensli@f...>
        wrote:
        > Hi Xigung!
        >
        > Good to hear from you - you always come up with things that really
        make me
        > think! And that is good because I am still only a beginner
        (started last
        > Sept) and it's easy to rely on what my lecturers tell me and not
        take that
        > closer look the way you do.
        >
        > Words are such fascinating things and so difficult to translate
        because
        > there are different approaches. You mention the etymological
        approach:
        > "láta" should be the same as English "to let". Well, I'm not sure
        the
        > etymological route is necessarily the best way. It may work best
        for
        > languages which are still sufficiently closely related to ON (such
        as
        > mainland Scandinavian languages and possibly German). But on the
        whole I
        > prefer to grasp the meaning of a word or phrase and translate that,
        even if
        > it means moving away somewhat from the structure of the source
        language.
        >
        > Let me give you a couple of examples using "láta". Two are from
        modern
        > Icelandic (which is more similar to ON than any other language) and
        two from
        > Old Norse itself.
        >
        > The first is from a translation of Einar Áskell we read at
        college...
        > "Einar Áskell lætur hundinn sækja spýtur, setjast á rassin og
        fleira og
        > fleira" Here the context is of a boy giving a dog commands - go
        fetch! sit!
        > etc etc. I don't think you could reasonably translate the
        verb "láta" with
        > the English "let" - it would be something like 'he made the dog go
        fetch
        > bits of wood, sit on his haunches and so on'. Or he told the dog,
        he
        > ordered the dog, he had the dog go fetch etc.
        >
        > The second is from another children's book....
        > "Mamma hafði meira að segja gleymt að láta Jón Bjarna bursta í sér
        tennurnar
        > í kvöld". Again I don´t think the English word "let" is
        appropriate here.
        > What child is eager that their parent should 'let' them brush their
        teeth at
        > night!?!!
        >
        > These examples, like the Bodvar one, use láta + infinitive giving
        the
        > meaning to cause something to be done or command to be done.
        >
        > Here's one from Hrafnkel's Saga near the beginning of ch. 4. "Þat
        er ráð
        > mitt, at þú látir reka at hesta vára, ok búumsk heim." This is my
        advice,
        > that you have our horses driven in and we make for home.
        >
        > And another from the same saga, at the beginning of ch.5.
        > "Þorgeirr valði lið sitt ok lét sér fylgja fjóra tigu manna."
        Thorgeir
        > picked his band and had 40 men go with him.
        >
        > I agree it would be nice if the structure of English were more
        similar to
        > other Germanic languages and we could therefore stay closer to the
        structure
        > of ON, but I don't think we can in this case. At least, not
        without losing
        > something of the original meaning and making the English
        look 'translated'.
        >
        > As for "því", yes that's certainly a tricky little word in this
        context!!!
        > Perhaps you're right, the original meaning did contain some element
        of
        > comparison and so the dative was used.
        >
        > Lastly, you mention about
        > "Kómusk þá fyrir Hrólf konung öll sannindi hér um"
        > and you are right, the subject of the verb is "öll sannindi".
        > Sannindi is a neuter plural noun and
        > öll is the neuter plural form of 'allr'.
        >
        > The more I study language, the more fascinated I become by the
        variety of
        > constructions languages use to express meaning. Sometimes there is
        a
        > clearly recognisable overlap from one language to another, and
        sometimes
        > there just isn't!!!
        >
        > Kveðja,
        > Sarah.
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