A New Translation

In revisiting the grammar of Draványa I have resolved to start from pretty close to the ground. There are a small handful of core words that I want to retain unchanged, and a number of features that should be preserved, but basically all this is new conlang work seen through the lens of the other projects that I have worked on since embarking on the journey of Draványa many years ago. The great majority of the existing lexicon was filled out in the process of compiling Draványa titles for the 183(!) Emperors and Empresses of Arál Draván, so aside from changing those, and probably some proper names,

I have basic sentence and clause structure worked out, so the next logical step is to actually translate some stuff. Thankfully, I have much material that is notionally itself a translation from Draványa, so I will translate it back, and then back again to English so I can analyze the differences.

Let’s start with this sentence, an early excerpt from the dynastic history of Arál Draván:

He conquered the city-states which were neighbor to Dravá and dissolved the White Alliance, and great Dravá rose to hegemony under his guidance.

This is a typical example, and it’s no less than five clauses, two of which are subordinate. But by themselves there’s nothing terribly difficult here. So let’s break it up like this: (1) He conquered the city-states (1a, subordinate) which were neighbor to Dravá (2) and dissolved the White Alliance (3) (and) great Dravá rose to hegemony (3a, subordinate) under his guidance.

Each of the clauses can be broken down fairly easily. Draványa uses a somewhat flexible Verb-subject-object word order within main clauses, but an SVO order in subordinate clauses. So let’s take these one at a time.

Clause #1 is easy enough: (conquered)(he)(city-states) — Verb first, then subject, then object

Let’s tackle the verb. Draványa has four tenses: the present (the action is happening right now,) the imperfect (the action is ongoing,) the perfect (the action is completed) and the future (the action will happen after this moment.) This is historical material, so generally we’ll be using the Perfect tense.

Draványa is also an inflected language, meaning that the forms of words change to reflect their grammatical function. Each verb has a different form to reflect first, second or third person and singular or plural number. There are a number (at least three and there will likely be more) of standard conjugational forms as well as irregular verbs. There’s also three different moods, but all this is in the indicative so we get to ignore that for now.

So in the original there’s a word tavós meaning to seize or take control of in a rapid or rough manner. “To conquer” is as good a translation as any. In the indicative third person singular perfect tense this becomes tavoséka, “he conquered.”

Now the two nouns, one the subject (He) and the other the object (the city-states.) Because of the structure of the verb, the subject (a pronoun) is built in. So we only need the object, a direct object.

Nouns in Draványa have four possible cases: the Nominative (for the subjects of clauses,) the Accusative (for direct objects and to reflect motion toward,) the dative (for indirect objects, to reflect motion away from, or to indicate the instrument by which an action is accomplished,) and the Genitive (to show possession of or origin from. There’s also a vestigial Instrumental case which has mostly collapsed into the Dative, and a nearly extinct Locative case whose functions have been absorbed by the Nominative and Genitive, and which only appears in a few irregular words. Our indirect object will be in the Accusative.

“City-states” turns out to be somewhat tricky. There’s no analogous word in a culture which has been out of the era of such polities for four thousand years. But there is a word gháthe meaning a nation or discrete people without regard for size or population, and an adjective rés meaning small or petty. In Draványa adjectives are not inflected but as a result they must appear before the noun they modify. So rés gháthe, or rés ghathégu in the Accusative plural.

However, Draványa also features definite and indefinite articles, as well as a demonstrative form of the former which grammarians of English would call a determiner. (like “this” or “that.”) Unlike in English, the articles is never split from the noun, so our “the small nations” becomes rés dhugá ghathégu, “those other small nations.”

Our first clause therefore comes out as Tavoséka rés dhugá ghathégu.

Clause #2, “which were neighbor to Dravá,” is a subordinate clause: it modifies (main) clause #1 and could not stand alone as a sentence. Subordinate clauses follow the clause they modify and are indicated with a subordinate conjunction. And again, word order in subordinate clauses changes to SVO. The conjunction here is dír, meaning “that” or “those.”

There’s no subject in this clause, but there’s the verb “to be,” which is by the way irregular in every known language. It happens that the indicative, third person plural perfect form is degésha. So dír degésha. But “to be” isn’t the right verb here, and is an artifact of translation to and from English. The word we want is vílet meaning to be close to or accompany. So more accurately we have dír viletéke.

Dravá here is the direct object, so in the accusative that’s Dravága — the “to” is again an artifact of English and would be redundant here.

Our clause #2, then, is dír viletéke Dravága.

Main clauses are separated by a particle súd in the first such occurrence in a single sentence and súd shá in subsequent separations. This can be translated as “and” and “and also,” but this is not the same “and” that we would find in lists of grouped nouns like “butter and bread and cheese.”

Afterwards, clause #3, “and dissolved the White Alliance” is straightforward. The subject, again, is “he” (Zhómach,) inherited from the beginning of the sentence and not present here. The verb is “dissolved” while the direct object is “the White Alliance.”

The Draványa verb tanách means to rend, to break apart, to separate from the whole. The indicative perfect plural is tanachéka. The adjective belá refers to the color white, and the noun luráz is a pact or agreement — lurázeg in the singular Accusative.

Remembering that adjectives precede nouns but do not separate them from their articles, “dissolved the White Alliance” becomes tanachéka belá dhú lurázeg.

The fourth clause “(and) great Dravá rose to hegemony” could be a separate sentence but Draványa tends to chain them together. The subsequent “and” becomes súd shá.

Now for the first time we have a subject that’s not either implied or built into the verb form. That is, of course, Dravá, which is already in the Nominative. The adjective rán means potent, powerful or mighty (not necessarily large.)

The verb réshe meaning to increase in majesty or stature is what we’re looking for here. In the indicative perfect singular it’s reshék. In VSO order this becomes reshék rán Dravá.

Now for clause #5, “under his guidance,” which is also subordinate. The subordinate conjunction here is agór, meaning while or within the duration of.

Draványa uses both prepositions and postpositions. The postposition meaning “within or inside is áde, and as the name implies it occurs after the noun it modifies. That noun is fahún, meaning stewardship or guardianship. Ordinarily a direct object would appear in the Accusative, but what we mean to say is that Dravá in increased in might because of his rule, which puts it into the Dative as an instrumental. It’s singular and first declension so the form is fahúno.

In SVO order, (and again the subject is merely implied by context,) this becomes fahúno áde.

So here, again, is our original English version: “He conquered the city-states which were neighbor to Dravá and dissolved the White Alliance, and great Dravá rose to hegemony under his guidance.”

And now we can give the version in Draványa: Tavoséka rés dhugá ghathégu, dír viletéke Dravága, súd tanachéka belá dhú lurázeg, súd shá reshék rán Dravá, agór fahúno áde.

And finally, we can retranslate that back to English to get a rendering that’s both richer and more accurate: “He conquered the small nations that were near Dravá and broke the White Alliance, and also mighty Dravá grew in majesty by means of his rule.”

This was, I won’t lie, rather a lot of work and hard thought. But it was the simplest sentence in the first paragraph of the entry for the first ruler of Arál Draván. Hopefully the rest of the paragraph will be easier.


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