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 theological 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.
Here, the crowd (or individuals within the crowd) addresses Jesus with the formal pronoun, expressing respect.
Following are a number of back-translations of John 9:19:
- Uma: “and they asked them: ‘Is it really true that this man is your child, whom you said had been blind since birth? What happened with the result that he can see?'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “Those leaders said to them, ‘Is this person your child? Is it true that he was born blind? Why on earth can he see now?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “and they asked them, they said, ‘Is this your child? Is it really true what is said that he is a blind person, that he was blind before he was born? Then how were his eyes cured?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “and asked them, ‘Is this your child whom you say was-born-with his blindness? If so, how then is it that he is able-to-see now?'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “On arrival, they questioned them saying, ‘What’s this, is this person your son and was he truly born blind? Well why today is he no longer blind?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “They were asked, ‘Is this your son here, this one of whom it is said was blind from the time he was born? How is it that his eyes are opened now?'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)