numbers in Kombai

Many languages use a “body part tally system” where body parts function as numerals (see body part tally systems with a description). One such language is Kombai that uses a system that ends at the number 23 but can be extended. In cases where larger numbers need to be used, Indonesian loan words are used, otherwise traditional numbers are being used.

In Mark 8:19, where both “five” and “five thousand” is used, “five” is translated with ambalo-khu or “thumb/five” and “five thousand” is translated with the Indonesian loan word lima-ribu.

Source: Lourens de Vries in A survey of the history of Bible translation in Indonesia, Beekman Lecture 2013.

See also large numbers in Angguruk Yali and numbers in Ngalum.

amazed, astonished, marvel

The Greek that is translated as “astonished” or “amazed” or “marvel” in English is translated in Pwo Karen as “stand up very tall.” (In John 5:20, source: David Clark)

Elsewhere it is translated as “confusing the inside of the head” (Mende), “shiver in the liver” (Uduk, Laka), “to lose one’s heart” (Mískito, Tzotzil), “to shake” (Southern Bobo Madaré), “to be with mouth open” (Panao Huánuco Quechua) (source: Bratcher / Nida), “to stand with your mouth open” (Citak) (source: Stringer 2007, p. 120), “ceasing to think with the heart” (Bulu), or “surprise in the heart” (Yamba) (source for this and one above: W. Reyburn in The Bible Translator 1959, p. 1ff.).

In Mark 5:20 and elsewhere where the astonishment is a response to listening to Jesus, the translation is “listened quietly” in Central Tarahumara, “they forgot listening” (because they were so absorbed in what they heard that they forgot everything else) in San Miguel El Grande Mixtec, “it was considered very strange by them” in Tzeltal (source: Bratcher / Nida), “in glad amazement” (to distinguish it from other kinds of amazement) (Quetzaltepec Mixe) (source: Robert Bascom), or “breath evaporated” (Mairasi) (source: Enngavoter 2004).

In Western Dani astonishment is emphasized with direct speech. In Mark 1:22, for instance, it says: “Wi!” yinuk, pi wareegwaarak — “They were all amazed, saying ‘Oh'” (source: Lourens De Vries in The Bible Translator 1992, p. 333ff.)

See also amazed and astonished.

body part tally systems

“In body part tally systems, the names of certain body parts also function as numerals. Counting starts on the little finger of the left hand (number 1) which the speaker touches or holds in some way with the fingers of the right hand. Moving past ring finger (2), middle finger (3), and index finger (4) the speaker reaches the thumb (5), after which he or she climbs the left arm, usually starting with the wrist (6), then the lower arm (7), the elbow (8), the upper arm (9), and the shoulder (10). After the points on the hand and the points on the arm, points on the head (for example neck, ear, eye, nose and crown of the head) are used.

“The top of the head is generally the turning point of the system, and then counting continues down the opposite side of the body until the little finger of the right hand is reached. Many languages use a prefix meaning ‘other side’ for the body parts as they are named after the turning point. Although people know the distinction between right and left, and have terms in their languages for ‘right’ and ‘left’, these terms are not used in the counting system. In fact, the systems work just as well if the speaker starts on the right side; but since most people are right-handed, they normally begin counting on their left.

“After the full number of body parts has been reached (once right round from the little finger of the left hand to the little finger of the right hand), some languages seem to extend the system by adding a word like ‘again’ or ‘bring forth.’

“To illustrate this general outline of body part tally systems, I will describe the Korowai system in some detail. Korowai is spoken in the area between the upper Becking and [Pulau] rivers of south-east [West Papua], Indonesia. The Korowai body part number system starts as follows:

1 — senan — little finger
2 — senanafül — ring finger
3 — pinggu(lu)p — middle finger
4 — wayafül — index finger
5 — wayo — thumb
6 — gédun — wrist
7 — lafol — lower arm
8 — bonggup — elbow
9 — labul — upper arm
10 — main — shoulder
11 — khomofekholol — neck
12 — khotokhal — ear
13 — khabéan — head

“When khabéan ‘head’/’thirteen’ — is reached, counting on the right hand side of the body begins, with the word mén ‘other side’:

14 — mén-khotokhal — ear on the other side
15 — mén-khomofekholol — neck on the other side
16 — mén-main — the other shoulder
17 — mén-tabul — the other upper arm
18 — mén-mbonggup — — the other elbow
19 — mén-tafol — the other lower arm
20 — mén-nggédun — the other wrist
21 — mén-wayo — — the other thumb
22 — mén-wayafül — the other index finger
23 — mén-pinggu(lu)p — the other middle finger
24 — mén-senanafül — the other ring finger
25 — mén-sénan — the other little finger

“Some Korowai informants have told me that when 25 is reached, the highest number after one round, a speaker can continue counting by adding the prefix laifu ‘produce’ to the body part names and start again with the little finger of the left hand going up again to the turning point:

26 — laifu-sénan — produce-little finger
27 — laifu-senanafül — produce-ring finger
. . .
38 — laifu-khabéan — produce-head

“This would extend the body part system of Korowai to 38. However, I have never heard such extended numerals used outside discussion with informants.”

Source: Lourens de Vries in The Bible Translator 1998, p. 409ff.

See numbers in Ngalum, large numbers in Angguruk Yali, numbers in Kombai, and hundred sheep.

numbers in Ngalum

Many languages use a “body part tally system” where body parts function as numerals (see body part tally systems with a description). One such language is Ngalum that uses a system that ends at the number 27 but can be extended. To clarify, the Ngalum translators have in some cases combined the traditional system with a numeric system.

“60,” for instance is translated as deng lao topa bangupnen tep, 60 “round two add wrist like, 60′ (one round, or deng is 27 in Ngalum, so two rounds — lao — is 54, plus — topabangup, that is “wrist” or “six” makes 60).

Likewise for the numbers 30 and 100 in these verses.

Source: Lourens de Vries in A survey of the history of Bible translation in Indonesia, Beekman Lecture 2013.

See also large numbers in Angguruk Yali and numbers in Kombai.

large numbers in Angguruk Yali

Many languages use a “body part tally system” where body parts function as numerals (see body part tally systems with a description). One such language is Angguruk Yali which uses a system that ends at the number 27. To circumvent this limitation, the Angguruk Yali translators adopted a strategy where a large number is first indicated with an approximation via the traditional system, followed by the exact number according to Arabic numerals. For example, where in 2 Samuel 6:1 it says “thirty thousand” in the English translation, the Angguruk Yali says teng-teng angge 30.000 or “so many rounds [following the body part tally system] 30,000,” likewise, in Acts 27:37 where the number “two hundred seventy-six” is used, the Angguruk Yali translation says teng-teng angge 276 or “so many rounds 276,” or in John 6:10 teng-teng angge 5.000 for “five thousand.”

This strategy is used in all the verses referenced here.

Source: Lourens de Vries in The Bible Translator 1998, p. 409ff.

See also numbers in Ngalum and numbers in Kombai.