The Not Yet Stomached Maria

I’m guessing you are perplexed… literally confused by my Subject Heading. Literally “literally,” in fact, since that is a phrase translated literally back into English from Palawano. It’s from Scripture, from Luke 2:21. Here’s a literal rendering of the Palawano translation back into English:
     Arrival of eight day already the age of baby that,
     caused to be circumcised by parents his.
     And caused to be named they of Jesus
     like just of instruction of angel to Maria,
     the not yet stomached Maria.
Clear? Imagine how it might be if the content wasn’t a Bible verse you were already familiar with! Of course, even this is not truly literal, because contrary to what most people think, that’s actually impossible. Many of the Palawano words simply cannot be “translated” into English. I’m talking about the little grammatical connective words that don’t have a concrete definition.
So some of those words like “of” and “the” in the verse above, aren’t really “of” and “the.” There’s no such thing in Palawano. But this is the closest I can do, just to give you the flavor. And that bit about “caused to be named,” that’s all one word in Palawano! it’s the word ngaran (“name”) with a causative prefix on it.
English starts this verse off with “When” in most versions. In Palawano, our word for “when” (which also means “which,” by the way), is not used in this manner! Without getting technical, I’ll just saw that we only use the word embe for questions. So what’s up with the noun “arrival”?! That’s how we say “when” something happened. “Its arrival” is used to mean “when it came to pass.” Now, before you say that’s too weird, remember that in English, we can say, “When the time came.” Came… arrived… not too far off, huh?! But Palawano doesn’t use “arrive” as a verb; they say “arrival.” Works just fine for them, in fact.
And what about “stomached”? I’m sure you can guess (and those of you with no y chromosomes can really relate to this, I’m guessing). In Palawano, to say “got pregnant,” you take the word beteng (“stomach”) and make a verb of it: negbeteng (“stomached”)! Pretty good description, actually. That’s to get pregnant. To be pregnant, you say, “stomaching.”
This is actually a pretty simple verse. You can imagine how much more difficult it is to translate more complex passages. Because you see, if Palawano is that different than English (and Greek… or anything European), it takes quite a bit of reworking to get the meaning from the original into Palawano.
Believe it or not, a literal translation of the English into Palawano would sound just a weird and incomprehensible to them as a literal translation of Palawano sounds to us!
So please keep praying for us here as we labor to put God’s Word…. the meaning, God’s full and wonderful message to mankind, into clear and understandable Palawano.


About billdavisthoughts

From San Diego, CA. I've been a missionary and Bible translator in the Philippines for over 30 years and have travelled as a language learning consultant to 15 countries. I play piano and guitar. I write, read voraciously and love to work on word puzzles. Married for 35 years, we have two daughters and two grandchildren.
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