love (abstract noun) (Lamogai)

Dave Brunn reports this from the translation into Lamogai (see p. 143ff.):

“Many languages have very few abstract nouns. This means that the process of nominalization (where a verb or a word in another word class is turned into a noun) is rarely done or not done at all. When transitive verbs (verbs that require an object) have to be used to describe what in other languages can easily be said as a standalone noun, an object has to be defined.

“See the process of the translation of “love is patient” into Lamogai:

“In Lamogai, ‘love’ is always a verb (antoinɛ la pe oduk: ‘his insides go toward people’). Also, anytime we talk about love in the Lamogai language, we are required by the grammar to specify both who is doing the loving and whom they are loving. It is impossible to talk about love in Lamogai without including this information. Therefore, when we translated the statement ‘love is patient’ (1 Cor 13:4) into Lamogai, it was not quite as simple as translating it into English. The first question I had to ask in translating this verse was Who loves whom? There are three possibilities:

  • God loves people
  • People love God
  • People love people

“Obviously, the original meaning could include more than just one of these options. But in order to translate this verse into Lamogai, I had to decide which of these three possibilities is the primary focus. This type of translational choice cannot be taken lightly. As a translator, I had to thoroughly study the context and carefully weigh every option. There are two blanks that I needed to fill in here:

(who) love(s) (whom)

“Consider the first blank. ”Who is supposed to show love in this passage? The best way to figure this out is to look at the context. Let us read 1. Corinthians 13:1-3 (NET Bible):

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.

“Paul’s repeated use of the pronoun ‘I’ makes it clear that he is including himself in the exhortation of this passage. Obviously, Paul is a person, so it seems reasonable that we would fill in the first blank with the word people.

People love (whom)

“What about the second blank? Whom are we people supposed to love? Again, the answer is in the context. Here is what it says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NIV):

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

“When do we most often exorcise qualities like patience, kindness, boastfulness, pride and anger? It is usually in our relationship with other people. Therefore, it seems apparent from these verses that the second blank should be the same as the first. The main focus of this passage is on people loving people. Here is one possible way the phrase ‘love is patient’ could be translated into a language like Lamogai: ‘The person who loves people acts patiently toward people.’

“I realize that a rendering like this may bother some; but in many languages, the only alternative would be to translate this phrase in a way that would result in pure nonsense. God could have designed every language on earth to use abstract nouns in the same way Greek does, but he chose not to, so we must conclude that he allows us to use other means to convey his meaning.

“Obviously, this is only one of many places where Greek uses a noun to express the idea of love. Other verses may be even more difficult to translate than this one. For example, 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16 say, ‘God is love.’ A literal translation of this phrase into Lamogai would be something like, ‘God is his insides going toward.’ This literal statement sounds just as ridiculous in Lamogai as it does in English.

“As I wrestled with these and other complex translation issues, I was reminded of the eternal truth that God is sovereign, and nothing he does is random. God is the one who divinely inspired the phrases ‘love is patient’ and ‘God is love.’ Yet this same God created the Lamogai language (along with many other languages) in such a way that it cannot come remotely close to reflecting these phrases literally.”

See also love (abstract noun) (Tezoatlán Mixtec) and there is no fear in love.

patience, patient

The Greek terms that are translated as “patient” or “patience” are translated in a variety of ways.

Eugene Nida (1952, p. 130) gives some examples:

“Peace is the quality of the soul; patience is the behavior of the soul. The Aymara of Bolivia have described patience well by the phrase ‘a waiting heart.’

“The Ngäbere of Panama describe patience in more vivid terms. They say that it is ‘chasing down your temper.’ The impatient person lets his temper run away with him. Patience requires one to “chase down his temper” and get it under control [see also Mairasi down below].

“The Yucateco describe patience as ‘strength not to fall.’ This seems to include almost more than patience, but it is important to note that this Yucateco translation recognizes that impatience means ‘falling.’ For some of us, who tend to take a certain secret pride in our impatience—describing it as energetic drive—it might be well to recognize that impatience is failure, while patience is strength.

“The San Blas Kuna in Panama use a rather strange phrase to depict patience. They say ‘not caring what happens.’ But this is not meant as condoning foolhardy indifference to life and danger. It reflects a kind of reckless confidence in God, a confidence not bred of desperation but of utter reliance. The patient person is not concerned about what happens; he is willing to wait in confidence.”

In Mairasi, the phrase that is employed is “stop (our) anger” (source: Enggavoter 2004) and in Suki “slow careful thinking way” is used (source L. and E. Twyman in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 91ff.)

In Kwang an expression is used that directly translates as “carry one’s head.” (Source: Mark Vanderkooi right here)

In Q’anjob’al it is translated with the phrase “large stomach” (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff.).

See also Seat of the Mind / Seat of Emotions.

love (abstract noun) (Tezoatlán Mixtec)

In Tezoatlán Mixtec the passage in 1 Cor. 13:4-6 which lists what love is not, reads with a different emphasis because “love” cannot be translated as an abstract noun (see also love (abstract noun) (Lamogai)).

John Williams explains: “[Tezoatlán Mixtec] is like many languages of the world in that it does not have abstract nouns, and so the language requires a translation of love in its verb form. The verb ‘love’ requires a subject, as well as a direct object. Mixtec must state who is loving whom. The translation team at first thought it could be God loving us, but we saw that after saying love is patient, love is kind, the next eight statements say what love is not. So we determined the focus is more on how Christians should love other Christians. Looking at the immediate context of chapter 12 and 14, as well as the context of the rest of the book led us to conclude that 1 Corinthians 13 is not a love poem, but more of a rebuke to the Corinthians, showing how they were not loving one another. This fresh understanding, to me at least, came as a result of Mixtec requiring us to look at the passage through new eyes. If this chapter is read as a rebuke, and since so many verses in the previous chapters have ‘rebuke’ as the focus, when read in Mixtec, the entire book of 1 Corinthians sounds very much like a ‘severe’ letter (see 2 Cor. 2:4).”

This is how the Tezoatlán Mixtec translation reads back-translated into English:

“4 Us loving others is that we inwardly endure what they do, and that we live at peace/kindly with them. Our loving others is not that we envy them, and loving them is not that we boast in front of them, and it is not that we are proud before them, 5 and it is not that we treat them badly, and it is not that we are selfish with them, and it is not that we get angry with them, and it is not that we feel bitterness toward them, 6 and it is not that we are happy when they do wrong, for it is that we instead are happy when they do right.”

complete verse (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Following are a number of back-translations of 1 Corinthians 13:4:

  • Uma: “What is called [lit., said] loving other, [is] being patient and kind-hearted, not envious, not requesting-praise, not haughty [high-hearted].” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “If we (dual) love our (dual) companions, we (dual) don’t get easily angry with them and we are kind/merciful towards them; we (dual) are not jealous and we (dual) are not haughty (lit. tall liver) and are not proud.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “If our companions are precious in our (dual) breath, we can endure any kind of harmful things against us. We have great kindness; there’s no jealousy that is hidden in our breaths; we are not puffed up and we do not boast.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “The person who is characteristically-loving (henceforth rendered loving) is patient and helpful. He is not envious. Neither does he boast-about himself nor is proud (lit. make-high his body).” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “For really this valuing that I am referring to, it is meek/patient and kind/gracious. It is not envious, not boastful or arrogant.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Concerning the person who truly loves his fellow man, this is the person who patient with what he encounters. This is the person who is kind. This is the person who is not jealous. This is the person who doesn’t brag where he speaks.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)