as numerous as the sand on the seashore

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “as numerous as the sand on the seashore” or “as numerous as the sand by the sea” in English is translated in Bauzi as “as many like the tree flowers of the jungle” (source: David Briley in Kroneman 2004, p. 539), in Afar translated as mari mangah arrooqih gide akkuk yeneeniih: “are as numerous as gravel” or loowo sinni: “not countable” (source: Loren Bliese), in Angal Heneng as “like the hairs on a dog” (Source: Deibler / Taylor 1977, p. 1077), and in Copainalá Zoque as “their number is like ants” (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.).

addressing God with informality

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.

As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theo-logical judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.

In these verses, in which humans address God, the informal, familiar pronoun is used that communicates closeness.

Voinov notes that “in the Tuvan Bible, God is only addressed with the informal pronoun. No exceptions. An interesting thing about this is that I’ve heard new Tuvan believers praying with the formal form to God until they are corrected by other Christians who tell them that God is close to us so we should address him with the informal pronoun. As a result, the informal pronoun is the only one that is used in praying to God among the Tuvan church.”

In Dutch translations, however, God is always addressed with the formal pronoun.