addressing one's or someone else's father humbly / respectfully in Japanese (父)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One important aspect of addressing someone else in one’s or someone else’s family is by selecting the correct word when referring to them. One way to do this is through the usage of an appropriate title within a conversation as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

When the speaker humbly refers to his or her father in the presence of respected interlocutor(s), chichi (父) is often used as in the case of Jacob’s sons referring to their father before Joseph (in Genesis 43:28). This form is very appropriately chosen as they refer to their father as “your servant” and bowed down before Joseph the prime minister.

In some conversations, archaic honorific forms for “father” are chosen that also contain chichi (父) and typically indicate a greater level of respect. These are o-chichi-ue (お父上) (only in Genesis 48:1), and chichi-gimi (父君) in few occasions (2 Samuel 10:3, 2 Samuel 13:5, and 1 Chronicles 19:3).

Yet another, ore often-used term is chichi-ue (父上) (see addressing one’s or someone else’s father respectfully in Japanese (父上)). An interesting contrast can be found in the message sent from Asa the king of Judah to Ben-hadad the king of Aram (1 Kings 15:19). In this utterance, commonly translated as “my father and your father” in English, Asa humbly refers to his father as chichi (父) but respectfully refers to Ben-hadad’s father as chichi-ue (父上). Similar contrasts can be found in 1 Kings 20:34 and 2 Chronicles 16:3 as well.

While chichi can carry this humbling effect in reference to the speaker’s father, in some types of dialogues/utterances such as in poetry, including prayers (e.g. Jesus teaching how to pray in Matthew 6:9) and proverbial teachings (e.g. “honor your father and mother” in Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16 et al.), chichi is used without the humbling effect.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

king

Some languages do not have a concept of kingship and therefore no immediate equivalent for the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin that is translated as “king” in English. Here are some (back-) translations:

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  • Piro: “a great one”
  • Highland Totonac: “the big boss”
  • Huichol: “the one who commanded” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Ekari: “the one who holds the country” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Una: weik sienyi: “big headman” (source: Kroneman 2004, p. 407)
  • Pass Valley Yali: “Big Man” (source: Daud Soesilo)
  • Ninia Yali: “big brother with the uplifted name” (source: Daud Soesilio in Noss 2007, p. 175)
  • Nyamwezi: mutemi: generic word for ruler, by specifying the city or nation it becomes clear what kind of ruler (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Ghomála’: Fo (“The word Fo refers to the paramount ruler in the kingdoms of West Cameroon. He holds administrative, political, and religious power over his own people, who are divided into two categories: princes (descendants of royalty) and servants (everyone else).” (Source: Michel Kenmogne in Theologizing in Context: An Example from the Study of a Ghomala’ Christian Hymn))

Faye Edgerton retells how the term in Navajo was determined:

“[This term was] easily expressed in the language of Biblical culture, which had kings and noblemen with their brilliant trappings and their position of honor and praise. But leadership among the Navajos is not accompanied by any such titles or distinctions of dress. Those most respected, especially in earlier days, were their headmen, who were the leaders in raids, and the shaman, who was able to serve the people by appealing for them to the gods, or by exorcising evil spirits. Neither of these made any outward show. Neither held his position by political intrigue or heredity. If the headman failed consistently in raids, he was superceded by a better warrior. If the shaman failed many times in his healing ceremonies, it was considered that he was making mistakes in the chants, or had lost favor with the gods, and another was sought. The term Navajos use for headman is derived from a verb meaning ‘to move the head from side to side as in making an oration.’ The headman must be a good orator, able to move the people to go to war, or to follow him in any important decision. This word is naat’áanii which now means ‘one who rules or bosses.’ It is employed now for a foreman or boss of any kind of labor, as well as for the chairman of the tribal council. So in order to show that the king is not just a common boss but the highest ruler, the word ‘aláahgo, which expresses the superlative degree, was put before naat’áanii, and so ‘aláahgo naat’áanii ‘anyone-more-than-being around-he-moves-his-head-the-one-who’ means ‘the highest ruler.’ Naat’áanii was used for governor as the context usually shows that the person was a ruler of a country or associated with kings.”

(Source: Faye Edgerton in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 25ff. )

See also king (Japanese honorifics).

Japanese benefactives (goran)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of a benefactive construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

Here, goran (ご覧) or “see/behold/look” is used in combination with kudasaru (くださる), a respectful form of the benefactive kureru (くれる). A benefactive reflects the good will of the giver or the gratitude of a recipient of the favor. To convey this connotation, English translation needs to employ a phrase such as “for me (my sake)” or “for you (your sake).”

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

Japanese benefactives (yō ni shite)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of a benefactive construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

Here, yō ni shite (ようにして) or “do so (so that) / make it like” is used in combination with kudasaru (くださる), a respectful form of the benefactive kureru (くれる). A benefactive reflects the good will of the giver or the gratitude of a recipient of the favor. To convey this connotation, English translation needs to employ a phrase such as “for me (my sake)” or “for you (your sake).”

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

Translation commentary on 1 Kings 15:19

Let there be a league between me and you, as between my father and your father: The Hebrew text does not have a verb at the beginning of this verse. It reads literally “A covenant between me and you, between my father and your father.” Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation both supply a verb in the form of a request that there be an alliance between Asa and Benhadad. It is possible, however, to supply a verb in the present tense. Compare New American Bible: “There is a treaty between you and me, as there was between your father and my father” (similarly La Bible Pléiade, Osty-Trinquet, Anchor Bible, Moffatt). If this second interpretation is followed, then Asa is simply reminding Benhadad of an existing alliance, which existed also between their fathers Abijah and Tabrimmon, and he is asking Benhadad to honor it by acting to help him in his battle against the king of Israel.

Part of the difficulty in interpreting and translating this verse comes from the fact that such a treaty between Abijah and Tabrimmon is not known from any other source. If such a treaty existed and the writer of 1 Kings did not mention it while discussing Abijah’s reign, then it is possible that a treaty already existed between Asa and Benhadad also, which the writer has not mentioned. Either interpretation is possible. If the first interpretation is chosen, some languages will have difficulty translating Let there be …. In such cases it will be possible to translate “I propose a treaty…” or “I want us to agree to….” Compare also “Let us renew the treaty that existed between your father and my father” (New Living Translation).

Behold, I am sending to you a present of silver and gold …: The word behold focuses attention on the presentation of the gift. If the receptor language has such a focusing device, it will be appropriate to use it here. Otherwise it may be omitted as in the majority of modern language versions.

King Asa of Judah sends a present to the king of Syria, in hopes that he will end his alliance with the king of Israel and attack Israel from the north. This would cause the king of Israel to withdraw his troops from their invasion of Judah.

The Hebrew noun translated present is rendered “bribe” by Anchor Bible, but this is not recommended. Most translations of this verse say either “present” (Revised Standard Version/New Revised Standard Version, Good News Translation, Revised English Bible, New American Bible) or “gift” (New International Version, New Jerusalem Bible, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh). Since this verse reports the words of King Asa, it does not seem likely that he would use the word “bribe” when speaking to Benhadad. But Anchor Bible translates the Hebrew noun here as “bribe,” claiming that the word “bribe” represents the perspective of the author of 1 Kings, who did not approve of what King Asa did.

Go, break your league with Baasha: The Hebrew verb translated go functions here much like the verb “arise” often functions, that is, to indicate preparation for action (see the discussion on Hebrew serial verbs in “Translating 1–2 Kings,” pages 15-16).

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on 1-2 Kings, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2008. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

behold / look / see (Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way to do this is through the usage (or a lack) of an honorific prefix as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017. When the referent is God or a person or persons to be greatly honored, the honorific prefix go- (御 or ご) can be used, as in go-ran (ご覧), a combination of “behold / see” (ran) and the honorific prefix go-.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

See also