For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copstone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything.
Babel Text: Genesis 11:1–9
As I, unfortunately, don’t know Hebrew, the Lemizh text is mainly translated from the revised Elberfelder Bibel, a German translation which, to my knowledge, is pretty faithful to the original. The literal translation contains selected links to the appropriate places in the tutorial. A fair number of remarks should provide further insights into the translation process.
The English text is from the public domain World English Bible, for want of a convincing translation into the English language. The Tetragrammaton is translated into English as ‘the Lord’ and into Lemizh as igcèd. (which seems fitting as Lemizh monotheism is distantly related to Judaism).
1 mÌ wùnxy ryú krijwrÌnty ryý jnÌU xnÌyn.
make-acc1 speak-partins-acc2 one-acc-ins3 ensemble-dat-word-partacc-acc2 one-acc-acc3 1/1-acc-ben2 earth-acc-partacc3.
One language (= means of speaking) and one lexicon (= ensemble of words) existed for all of the earthly ones.
The whole earth was of one language and of one speech.
This sentence contains a pragmatic narrowing of ‘all of the earthly ones’ to ‘all of the earthly ones together’ (like in ‘All the guests get a room ↣ All guests get one room together’).
2 là jàxaR prexnyÓr ràdja pxlÌjy gmilkÌar hinarè, RèRjg fÌar.
do-fact1 move-fact-temp2 front-nom-earth-acc-abl3 discover-fact-fact2 plain-acc-acc3 outside-cons-opposition-acc-loc4 Shinar-loc-nom5 live-ing1 PIIn−1-acc-loc2.
It happened, as they moved away from the east (= the front in Earth’s coordinate system), that they discovered a plain in Shinar; and they started to live there.
It happened, as they travelled east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they lived there.
The rules do not exclude the possibility of a first-level word in mid-sentence; and this seems an appropriate place for such a construction.
There is some dispute whether they travelled to the east or from the east.
3 wáx weRyneì <làxty dmankÌ jexàny styjgÌ fÌi>. mà màna dmykù zmyjúm màna qlypù dniÌum.
speak-fact1 PIn−1-nom-each-acc-not-nom-dat2a ‘want-fact-acc2 brick-partfact-acc3 bake-partfact-acc3 hard-acc-acc4 PIIn−1-acc-dat4’. make-fact1 make-partfact-fact2 brick-acc-ins3 stone-acc-qualins3 make-partfact-fact2 tar-acc-ins3 mortar-acc-qualins3.
They said to each other, ‘We want to make bricks and bake them hard’. They built with brick as if with stone, and they built with tar as if with mortar.
They said one to another, ‘Come, let’s make bricks, and burn them thoroughly’. They had brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.
‘Come’ is left untranslated in this and the following verses because its meaning is already covered by the modal verb ‘want’. Any additional word would sound redundant.
4 wàx <làxty tànjy veÚ pràngy gmilkÌir fplÌxe, jùty veí làul vyà jaxnàUl wyÒr xnàrir jnÌar>.
speak-fact1 ‘want-fact-acc2 city-partfact-acc3 PIn−2-nom-ben4 tower-partfact-acc3 outside-cons-opposition-acc-ill4 sky-acc-nom5 name-ins-acc3 PIn−2-nom-dat4 do-fact-mot3 PIn−2-acc-fact4 move-fact-not-fact-fin4 PIn−1-acc-abl5 earth-loc-ill5 1/1-acc-loc6’.
They said, ‘We want to make a city for ourselves and make a tower ending in the sky, [which is / shall be] the means for making a name for ourselves; in order that we do something other than scatter (move away from each other) to the whole surface of the earth’.
They said, ‘Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let’s make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth.’
‘in the sky’ is translated with an ‘inside’ construction because the sky is seen as a discrete entity (the place of God), and the agent-centered case (all) would not imply that the sky is reached.
Most Indo-European readers would interpret the idiom ‘let’s make ourselves a name’ as ‘let’s become well-known, let’s become famous’. Everlasting name meaning everlasting fame is already a Proto-Indo-European concept, and was probably their idea of immortality. I’d like to know what the idiom means in Hebrew. Taken literally, it might simply have been an act of constituting themselves as a nation.
5 jáx igcedÌ yfèr dmàtUl mÌe tynjÌ pryngÌ psrebcOÌce.
move-fact1 Lord-nom-acc2a up-acc-ela2 see-fact-fin2 make-acc-nom3 city-partacc-acc4 tower-partacc-acc4 father-nom-human-acc-nom4.
The Lord moved from above to see the things [being] made – city and tower – by the children of humans.
The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built.
The object ‘the children of humans’ could be moved to the front of ‘city and tower’ to make it agentive and stick to the default word order, but keeping the accusative bracket together seemed more important. Furthermore, placing the unusual phrasing ‘children of humans’ last has a more striking effect.
6 wàx <dmatRàksy rìlny xpyfý rìlny wuxý tÌny lèRy. là vaèR gwìlta gwÌy lòyn.
speak-fact1 ‘see-fact-should-fact-acc2 one-partcons-acc3 people-acc-acc4 one-partcons-acc3 speak-ins-acc4 this-partacc-acc3 do-ing-acc4. do-fact1 PIn−2-fact-ing2 teach-cons-fact2 any-acc-acc3 do-ten-partacc4.
He said, ‘[One] should see that they have been made one people, and that one language has been made [for them], and that this [is only] the beginning of their deeds. From now on they can (= have been taught to) do whatever they intend to do.
The Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do.
Two modern German translations, both claiming to adhere strictly to the original text as it is reconstructed today, (the Einheitsübersetzung and the revised Elberfelder Bibel) say ‘… and this is [only] the beginning of their deeds’. The English version seems to be a translation from the Vulgate (‘… coeperuntque hoc facere’).
But what promise is contained in the last sentence …
7 làxt jànxy ilfkyír kàny qnàdy wuxí firàr gwiltnàil smáy viè wiè wàxu.>
want-fact1 move-partfact-acc2 up-cons-opposition-acc-ill3 opposition-partfact-acc2 order-fact-acc3 speak-ins-dat4 PIIn−1-ill-loc3 teach-cons-not-fact-cons3 mean-fact-acc4 PIn−2-dat-nom5a PIn−1-dat-nom5 speak-fact-ins5.’
I want to move to below and there confuse their language, so that they cannot (= so that they are ‘untaught’ to) convey meaning to each other by speaking.’
Come, let’s go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’
… and what a challenge in this verse!
8 jáx igcedèl tyèr wyÒr xnàrir jnyár tìRjyl.
move-fact1 Lord-nom-caus2a this-acc-ela2 PIn−1-acc-abl2 earth-loc-ill2 1/1-acc-loc3 city-egr-ctx2.
The Lord scattered them from there to the whole surface of the earth; and they stopped making the city.
So the Lord scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth. They stopped building the city.
9 jàt bablarÌ tyÒl qnadkánOl igcedè viàr wúxi jnÌe xnýyn, jànxOl vièr wyÒr xnàrir jnÌar.
name-fact1 Babel-loc-acc2 this-acc-psu2 order-fact-opposition-partfact-psu2 Lord-nom-nom3a PIn−2-dat-loc3 speak-ins-dat3 1/1-acc-nom4a earth-acc-partacc5 move-partfact-psu2 PIn−2-dat-ela3 PIn−1-acc-abl3 earth-loc-ill3 1/1-acc-loc4.
It was named Babel for this reason, because the Lord there confused the language of all of the earthly ones, and because he scattered them from there to the whole surface of the earth.
Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. From there, the Lord scattered them abroad on the surface of all the earth.
stedrÌc wàxy qìRfy xtrÌjy. The Legend of the Seventh Planet
legend-acc1 speak-fact-acc2 seven-egr-acc3 planet-acc-acc4.
This is a native Lemizh legend and a typical example of traditional Lemizh storytelling. The English translation is my own. The remarks should give insights into the subtleties of the original text that the translation cannot capture.
1 krÌj djnireì prilxpiljkÌaR. manÌ srunbÌn lynjÌn ynhwÌn fÌU.
ensemble-acc1 nomad-nom-dat2 front-cons-7/8-cons-opposition-acc-temp2. make-fact-not-acc1 write-partins-partacc2 house-partacc-partacc2 horse-partacc-partacc2 PIIn−1-acc-ben2.
There existed an ensemble of nomads a very long time ago. Neither writing nor houses nor horses existed for them.
A long time ago there was a tribe of nomads. They possessed neither writing nor houses nor horses.
This is a common temporal object in introductory sentences of legends and fairy tales. Other weighting numerals also occur in such formulas, e.g. jnÌ. ‘all’ for creation myths.
The inner accusative of the pronoun refers to the tribe (the ensemble) as opposed to the individual nomads, which are in the dative. This sets the stage for treating them as a collective until verse 6 inclusively.
2 cOacjnìl tmÌil. jnàgc smèa prÌal jnyé vàbvy lunuÌ ùyl mÌu fplyxár tÌaR.
human-fact-1/1-cons1 but-acc-cons2. curious-fact1 mean-nom-fact2 front-acc-aff3 1/1-acc-nom4 interest-fact-acc3 do-ins-not-ins-acc4 PIIn-ins-ctx4 make-acc-ins5 sky-acc-loc6 this-acc-temp5.
But they had been made completely human. They were curious, which means, (a fact) in front of all, that they were interested in the useless; which [i.e. useless] the things in the sky were [to them] at the time.
But they were truly human. They were curious; this means, above all, that they took interest in the useless, for the celestial objects were of no use to them yet.
3 dmát feì sxnenzè ihkène. jìlt krijmynqxì xtrÌnji swyhÌ jÌxy fplyxòr cOycÌm xnàrorm.
see-fact1 PIIn−1-nom-dat2a sun-partnom-nom2 moon-partnom-nom2. name-cons1 ensemble-dat-star-partacc-dat2 planet-partacc-dat2 six-acc-acc3 move-acc-acc3 sky-acc-sce4 human-acc-qualacc4 earth-loc-qualsce4.
They looked at the Sun and the Moon. They had named the ensembles of stars and the six planets that moved in the sky like the humans on the surface of the earth.
They looked at the Sun and the Moon. They had named the constellations and the six planets moving across the sky like the humans across the earth.
The relative pronoun referring to the main predicate of the previous sentence (i.e. ‘the curious ones’) has the function of making our nomads agentive in this sentence.
The scenic, being an agent-centered case, indirectly marks the planets as the agents of moving and so foreshadows their personification in the next sentence. It contrasts with verse 2, which has the sky in the locative.
4 dmìlt OnkrÌnty cryÌ rèhy esfàsy sxnyzdmýi, usrÌny xacgèsty jnÌen, frekrÌnfy riljdcÌwby pqèby, djeipysrÌndy psrèby Rècem, djistnÌnty jÌxy zanÌa djilvfmlýyR, niftnyjtmÌny krUltlìy zùe gÌjda.
see-cons1 Hermes-partacc-acc2 1/4-acc-acc3 like-nom-acc3 hide-fact-acc4 sun-acc-3/4-acc-dat5 Aphrodite-partacc-acc2 light-fact-most-nom-acc3 1/1-acc-partnom4 Ares-partacc-acc2 red-cons-1/8-acc-acc3 angry-nom-acc4 Zeus-partacc-acc2 father-nom-acc3 monarch-nom-qualnom4 Kronos-partacc-acc2 move-acc-acc3 PIn−3-fact-not-acc-fact4 week-cons-several-acc-dur5 Poseidon-acc-but-partacc-acc2 hunt-fin-do-dat-acc3 PIn−3-ins-nom4 good-acc-fact5.
They had seen the image of little Mercury, who liked to hide in a lot of sunlight; that of Venus, who shone most of all; reddish, angry Mars; monarch-like father Jupiter; Saturn, whom they did not see moving for weeks; and even Uranus, which had been caught by their good eyes.
They knew dim Mercury, who liked to hide in the glare of the Sun; Venus, the brightest of all; reddish and angry Mars; majestic father Jupiter; Saturn, who seemed to stand still for weeks; and even Uranus had been caught by their keen eyes.
The descriptions of the planets/gods are intentionally phrased so that they are separated by commas, nicely structuring the long sentence.
An interesting bit of Lemizh grammar is the two relative pronouns referring to the main predicate ‘see’; one, in the negating compound, denoting that they didn’t see Saturn moving for weeks (translated as ‘seem’); and the other, referring to the tool of their seeing the planets (i.e. their eyes), as well as qualifying their seeing as good with a non-bracket adjective.
5 xtrÌj swyhý stedrÌc wàxy qìrfy.
planet-acc1 six-acc-acc2 legend-acc1 speak-fact-acc2 seven-ill-acc3.
Six planets; and a legend speaking of a seventh.
Six planets, and the legend of a seventh.
This sentence contains is a spatial ordinal, while the title of the legend has a temporal ordinal.
6 dnilscrìl bvyrgcynÌn xUxtrÌnyn prilkÌaR Otìlil skmynìln jÌnsiln. dnilscìlwb ráxpy qìlfi. fÒl gwiltnìlOl dmàty fOpysryfÌ nÌu.
certain-cons-1/4-cons1 Persephone-partacc-partacc2 comet-partacc-partacc2 front-cons-opposition-acc-temp3 year-cons-cons4 256-partacc-partcons5 4096-partacc-partcons5. certain-cons-1/8-cons1 pull-fact-acc2 seven-cons-dat3a. PIIn−1-psu1 teach-cons-not-cons-psu2 see-fact-acc3 FatherChristmas-acc-acc4 not-acc-ins4.
Maybe it had been [the minor planet] Vesta, or a comet 256 or 4096 years earlier. Maybe (still more uncertain) it had been the pull to the seven-ness [agentive dat]. The reason for saying this is something other than being able to (= someone having been taught) to see the image of Neptune without a means [in addition to the eye].
Maybe it had been the minor planet Vesta, or a comet centuries or millennia earlier. Maybe it was the attraction of the number seven. For Neptune is invisible to the naked eye.
‘256 or 4096 years’ is a rather unusual bracket inversion, necessary because of the ‘or’ conjunction of the two numerals.
7 rÌ cryÌR qìzgy gwiltnìly Ràjgy dmatnìe qìrfy.
one-acc1 1/4-acc-dur2 think-dat-acc2 teach-cons-not-cons-acc3 live-fact-acc4 see-fact-not-dat-nom5 seven-ill-acc6.
There existed a young one who thought to themself-dat that they could not (= had not been taught) [another neg-raising] to live not seeing the image of the seventh [planet].
One youngster thought to himself that he could not live without seeing the seventh planet.
The Lemizh text does not specify our hero’s sex. I have only respected this in the literal translation because singular ‘they’ starts to sound pretty awkward after a few repetitions; and also because it obscures the fact that the story is about one of the nomads.
8 là xánska matniè ytfÌyR dmyý fplyxór dyxtnanà màna prilcrynÌr iltÌncdyr.
do-fact1 search-partfact-fact2 sleep-fact-not-dat-nom3a night-acc-dur3 3/4-acc-acc4 sky-acc-sce3 must-acc-not-partfact-fact2 make-partfact-fact2 front-cons-1/4-partacc-ext3 PIIn-cons-more-partacc-ext3.
They, who did not sleep, searched for many nights in the sky, and did not do what they must (= the content of having to to), and were made thin and more so.
He lay awake searching the sky for many nights, neglected his duties, and became thinner and thinner.
His lack of sleep is a consequence of his search, so that we would expect a consecutive object, as discussed in the chapter on explanatory relative clauses. However, having an explicit nominative is more elegant in this situation because it allows us to mark it as agentive without the need for a pronoun.
9 dmàt ytfÌaR ryý mìlnoR xnyì prilkyár mìlnoR xtrÌnji khrextý menqxì prÌar zìe, fplÌnxe fywýr dánske xtryjè sxnezì xnÌne.
see-fact1 night-acc-temp2 one-acc-acc3 make-partcons-eps2 earth-acc-dat3 front-cons-opposition-acc-loc3 make-partcons-eps2 planet-partacc-dat3 loop-nom-acc4 star-partnom-dat3 front-acc-loc3 PIn−3-dat-nom4 sky-partacc-nom2 far-acc-ext3 circle-partfact-nom2 planet-acc-nom3a sun-nom-dat3 earth-partacc-nom3.
They saw one night, while they had made the earthly [things] behind and the looping planets and the stars in front of them, the sky extending outwards and the planets circling the Sun, among them the Earth.
And one night, lying with the Earth behind his back, and with the looping planets and the stars above him, he saw the depth of the sky and the planets circling the Sun, and among them the Earth.
Here the construction of the verb ‘see’ changes back to the nominative, which has hitherto only been used for the Sun and Moon in verse 3.
The reference object of ‘in front’, referring back to our hero, isn’t strictly necessary for conveying the sentence’s meaning. Its purpose is to induce a comma, inserting a short pause before the final revelation.
The ‘earthly things’ behind our hero refer to the Earth (which normally has an inner locative, not an accusative) as well as to the, well, mundaneness of everything terrestrial. The last word of the sentence echoes this usage – but with quite a different connotation – avoiding the modern word for the planet Earth.