The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, November 01, 2019

November is already upon us and that can mean only three things

Thanksgiving is in the air. It's time for National Novel Writing Month. And it's time for National Novem Generation Month. I was dreading this.

I thought I had no ideas for NaNoGenMo this year, but I checked my NaNoGenMo ideas folder and oh look! I do have some notes for 2019. Oh. It only has one line in it: “Translate a book into Toki Pona.”

Well. There it is. Translate a book into Toki Pona (which literally translated means “talk good”).

It should be simple, right? Toki Pona only has at most 120 words. How hard can that be?

Let's take a look at some Toki Pona:

mama pi mi mute o, sina lon sewi kon.
nimi sina li sewi.
ma sina o kama.
jan o pali e wile sina lon sewi kon en lon ma.
o pana e moku pi tenpo suno ni tawa mi mute.
o weka e pali ike mi. sama la mi weka e pali ike pi jan ante.
o lawa ala e mi tawa ike.
o lawa e mi tan ike.
tenpo ali la sina jo e ma e wawa e pona.

That happens to be the Lord's Prayer, which appears twice in the Bible (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4). Let's translate it back and see what I might be in for.

What follows will be:

So without further ado …

mama pi mi mute o, sina lon sewi kon.
parent of many [command], you at high air.
Our Father which art in heaven, (Ma 6:9)
Our Father which art in heaven, (Lk 11:2)

nimi sina li sewi.
name you [predicate] high.
Hallowed be thy name. (Ma 6:9)
Hallowed be thy name. (Lk 11:2)

ma sina o kama.
land you [command] come.
Thy kingdom come, (Ma 6:10)
Thy kingdom come, (Lk 11:2)

jan o pali e wile sina lon sewi kon en lon ma.
person [command] do [object] want you at high air [and] at land.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Ma 6:10)
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. (Lk 11:2)

o pana e moku pi tenpo suno ni tawa mi mute.
[command] give [object] eat of time sun this to me many.
Give us this day our daily bread. (Ma 6:11)
Give us day by day our daily bread. (Lk 11:3)

o weka e pali ike mi.
[command] away [object] do bad me.
And forgive us our debts, (Ma 6:12)
And forgive us our sins; (Lk 11:4)

sama la mi weka e pali ike pi jan ante.
same [context] me away [object] do person different.
as we forgive our debtors. (Ma 6:12)
for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. (Lk 11:4)

o lawa ala e mi tawa ike.
[command] head no [object] me to bad.
And lead us not into temptation, (Ma 6:13)
And lead us not into temptation, (Lk 11:4)

o lawa e mi tan ike.
[command] head [object] me from bad.
but deliver us from evil: (Ma 6:13)
but deliver us from evil. (Lk 11:4)

tenpo ali la sina jo e ma e wawa e pona.
time all [context] you have land [object] strong [object] good.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. (Ma 6:13)
(not in Luke 11)

Amen. (Ma 6:12)
(not in Luke 11)

Um … okay … perhaps I better come up with a better idea.

The 5,000 translations of “mama pi me mute”

I found a much better dictionary for Toki Pona than the one I was using. This dictionary even includes the parts of speech, which could prove useful if I decide to generate a grammatically correct novel of 50,000 Toki Pona words for National Novel Generation Month.

As I was wrangling the new dictionary into a machine-usable format, it struck me that I could just generate a series of translations of the Lord's Prayer (since I have a copy of it in Toki Pona) by using the different meanings of each word. For example, the first word in the prayer, mama, has the following meanings:

Since my initial translation was quite limited. I set about just translating the opening line, “mama pi mi mute o, sina lon sewi kon” using the new dictionary, and got the following:

NOUN parent, ancestor; creator, originator; caretaker, sustainer
NOUN I, me, we, us
ADJECTIVE many, a lot, more, much, several, very
NOUN quantity
PARTICLE hey! O! (vocative or imperative)
NOUN you
PREPOSITION located at, present at, real, true, existing
NOUN area above, highest part, something elevated
ADJECTIVE awe-inspiring, divine, sacred, supernatural
NOUN air, breath; essence, spirit; hidden reality, unseen agent

A more “literary” literal translation would probably be “Creator of we many, O! You existing divine air.” Or as a form of poetic English, ”Creator of us, residing in the divine air.” Pretty cool stuff. And as it turns out, there're enough variations in just the opening line to create enough translations to fulfill the 50,000 word requirement. I could certainly stop here and claim success, but I may just end up playing around with this a bit more.

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