daughter (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 of appropriate suffix title referred to as keishō (敬称) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017 by either using -san or –sama with the latter being the more formal title.

In most of these verses, the Hebrew that is translated as “daughter” in English is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as musume-san (娘さん), combining the word for “daughter” (musume) and the suffix title –san.

In three verses (Job 1:18, Mark 5:35, Luke 8:49), o-jyō-san (お嬢さん) is used. O-jyō-san has a slight higher register than musume-san and tends to also be used for young and unmarried girls.

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

See also son (Japanese honorifics).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Gen 24:23)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation both use the exclusive pronoun, excluding the woman.

complete verse (Genesis 24:23)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 24:23:

  • Kankanaey: “Then he said, ‘Who is your (sing.) father? Please also tell (me) if your (pl.) house has-space so-that that’s where- I and my companions -will-overnight.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “Then he said — ‘Whose daughter are you? Would your house have room for me and my men to stay the night?'” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “Then he asked Rebekah, ‘Whose child (are) you (sing.)? Is there a place at yours (pl.)/with you that we can-sleep tonight?'” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “Then he said, ‘Tell me whose daughter you are. Also, tell me, is there room in your father’s house for me and my men to sleep there tonight?'” (Source: Translation for Translators)

addressing one's or someone else's father respectfully in Japanese (父上)

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 (see addressing one’s father humbly / respectfully in Japanese (父)).

In some conversations, archaic honorific forms for “father” are chosen that also contain chichi (父) and typically indicate a greater level of respect. That includes chichi-ue (父上). An interesting contrast between the use of of chichi and chichi-ue can be found when there is a reference to “my father and your father.” The former is addressed with chichi and the latter with chichi-ue (for more see 1 Kings 15:19, 1 Kings 20:34, and 2 Chronicles 16:3 along with addressing one’s father humbly / respectfully in Japanese (父)).

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

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

Translation commentary on Genesis 24:23

Tell me whose daughter you are: since the follow-up question concerns her father, Good News Translation expresses the first as “Please tell me who your father is.” For languages that prefer direct speech, this may be expressed as “Please tell me. Who is your father?” The next question is asked before Rebekah can answer the first.

Is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge in?: us refers to the servant and others who have accompanied him on the journey, and so Good News Translation says “my men and me.” Lodge translates a form of a verb meaning to spend the night. The servant is speaking of a one-night’s stay, expecting to be able to depart the following day. In some languages this question is too abrupt and requires some statement to introduce the request for lodging; in one language, for example, the servant says “I and my men are looking for a place to sleep. Do you think we could come and stay at his house?”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Genesis. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1997. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

imperatives (kudasai / 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 Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

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