Yet More Fun With Translation…
“Discourse” refers to how a language organizes information when you talk or write longer stretches. For example a story is not simply a string of sentences coming one after another. You have to keep track of participants, props and locations in the story, clarify who says what to whom, show the logical connection between different statements, etc.
Which do you like better… #1 or #2? (If you said #2, you may stop reading now, ha ha.) But what’s different about these two versions? For one thing, it’s not natural to say “John” in every single sentence. Well, in Hebrew it would be. But in English, after the first instance, you can keep track of him by saying “he” and not sound so annoyingly redundant. Also, by adding “so,” it shows that his hunger was the reason for John’s whole “pizza warming incident.” And again, once you mention the pizza, it’s more natural to refer back to it as simply “it.” And lastly, you will notice that five short choppy sentences got combined into 2 longer, more complex sentences. That’s good English story telling, and it’s what an English-speaking reader needs in order to follow the story… and for the story to avoid sounding like a preschool primer!
Palawano has its own ways of performing all these discourse tasks, and let me tell you… the devices which Palawano uses are nothing like English.
Keeping dialogue straight… Palawano needs to have the equivalent of “he said,” in every single sentence (as long as “he” is still talking)! Otherwise, the listener assumes that the quote has ended. Bill said, “And so,” he said, “this makes the translation sound rather different. Because English,” he said, “doesn’t do this. In fact,” he said, “if you wrote English like this, it would,” he said, “drive us nuts!”
In tracking participants… English starts off with John, then switches to “he… his… him.” Palawano starts off with John (well, maybe Juan) then switches to…. nothing! Most sentences after that first introduction will say neither “Juan” nor “he.” Rather, a suffix on the verb shows that we’re still talking about Juan, and ’nuff said!
I didn’t mean to wax so grammatical on you here, but when you’re a translator, this is fascinating stuff. But it’s also vital. If we are to make the message of God’s word clear, we have to follow the structural rules of Palawano.
= Paul taught the believers about the Kingdom of God.
But in Palawano, to show that all the rest is background (and not the main focus), you front each piece with a pause after it (see all the commas). The “main point” comes last… in one concise, unbroken unit.
Now, of course you can write a long Palawano sentence to follow the same order of the English. Theoretically, at least. But it would not be clear. The pieces of the puzzle would be there, but some would be upside down, some would be backwards, and others would be overlapping so that parts were hidden. The main point of would be lost in the jumble. Very possibly, “grabbing a sandwich” would be understood to be the main point, since that clause came last.
And so you guys who are reading, now that you’ve read this, since you’ve learned a little more about what we face when doing translation, and as you notice that I’m fronting the background here, please pray for us that we will have wisdom to communicate God’s message clearly.