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Re: Online Sheli Poetry Translation

From:Jeffrey Henning <jeffrey@...>
Date:Wednesday, March 16, 2005, 3:52
David asked me to do a translation into Fith, and given all the help he has
provided me this past year helping edit submissions, I can't
refuse him!  But this is a sad, sad poem for a race of alien herbivores to

Teng limnh mwu
a breengh lo somnh nlienm vreemh e
ku bluunh shen zlumnh lo skingh byom lo vo dyem e
a ke spoem stum dzheen ronh lo sthingh kweemnh e.

limb-stump mast tree-stump
*plural shank of midair andante cut .
*singular container *swap without of rock ocean of it absorb .
*plural the predator horn brown *rotate of marketplace remove .

Fith poems, like Fith speeches, introduce words sentences before they are
used.  This poem begins ominously, "stump, mast, stump", where _teng_ is the
stump of a limb or tooth and _mwu_ is the stump of a tree.  These three
stark images of truncated objects color the rest of the poem.

Er, speaking of color, I had to translate "red" as "brown", because in my
interpretation of David's poem the red is the red of blood, but in that
context Fiths refer instead to brown, the color of dried blood.

Of course, Fith, as the language of aliens, divides its lexicon in odd ways.
For instance, there's no general word for "leg" or "limb", but there is one
for "shank" (the part of the leg from the knee to the ankle);  there's no
general word analogous to "glide", as in "glide through the ocean" so I
reached for "absorb" as an ironic alternative;  there's no general word for
"boat" either, let alone "barge", which led to the need to translate "barge"
as "container without a mast", which was a fortunate circumlocution, since
it provided me the initial image of the poem.

The words used:

a - plural marker
bluunh - container: something that holds things, especially for transport or
breengh - shank: the part of the human leg between the knee and the ankle
byom - ocean: a large body of water constituting a principal part of the
dyem - absorb, suck, imbibe, soak up, sop up, suck up, draw, take in, take
up: be able to take in, as of liquids
dzheen - brown
e - sentence marker
ke - definite article
ku - singular marker
kweemnh - remove, take, take away: remove something concrete, as by lifting,
pushing, taking off, etc.; or remove something abstract
limnh - mast: a vertical spar for supporting sails
lo - of
mwu - stump, tree stump: the base part of a tree that remains standing after
the tree has been felled
nlienm - andante: a moderately slow tempo (a walking pace)
ronh - *rotate (stack conjunction)
shen - *swap (stack conjunction)
skingh - rock, stone: a lump of hard consolidated mineral matter
somnh - midair: some point in the air; above ground level
spoem - predator, predatory animal: any animal that lives by preying on
other animals
sthingh - market, marketplace: the world of commercial activity where goods
and services are bought and sold
stum - horn, tusk
teng - stump: the part of a limb or tooth that remains after the rest is
vo - it (argument placeholder)
vreemh - cut: make an incision or separation
zlumnh - without, with no ..., lacking

A smoothed version:

"Tree stumps of shanks cut midair andante.  A container without a mast
absorbs a rock of the ocean.  Predators take the brown horns from the stumps
to the marketplaces."

Thanks, David!

Jeffrey Henning Webmaster

"At some point in the next century the number of invented languages will
probably overtake the number of surviving natural languages."
- Cullen Murphy in Atlantic Monthly (October, 1995)