Verse 33

Just for fun, I decided to translate one of my favourite verses of the Tao Te Ching (a Taoist text). I have a book with a few different English translations, and the characters used in the ancient chinese text, with explanations about their shades of meaning and how they go together. So first, I translated my favourite English version into Esperanto, and then I produced a translation from the explanations of the chinese characters (Because my chinese is awful, and I know even less about more ancient forms of it!).

Turns out that (if I haven’t made grave errors), Esperanto can get much closer to the format of the original characters in a nice way, than English can.

So here’s what I got from translating the chinese characters directly:

Konante aliajn, oni inteligentas.
Konante sin, oni saĝas.

Venkante aliajn, oni fortas.
Venkante sin, oni ĉiopovas.

Forte alpaŝante vivon, oni ja akiras ion.
Kontentante pri sia vivo, oni ja akiras ĉion.

Dediĉante sin al sia vivejo, oni vivas longe.
Mortante tamen ne forgesote, oni ja vivas eterne.

So, making quite a literal English translation of this, you get:

In knowing others, one is intelligent.
In knowing oneself, one is wise.

In conquering others, one is strong.
In conquering oneself, one is all-powerful.

Approaching life forcefully, one surely gets something.
In being content in one’s life, one surely gets everything.

In being dedicated to one’s place, one lives long.
In dying but not being forgotten, on surely lives forever.

In my opinion, the English version in this style looks stunted and not flowing, it needs more gumpf to make it sound nice (I already had to add all those “in”s!). This is the style that the book I have goes for:

One who knows others is intelligent
One who knows onself is enlightened

And even here, most lines have to be prefixed with “one who”. It kinda helps it flow, and sometimes repetition is part of rhythm, but I think I’m beginning to prefer Esperanto here!

My Esperanto version is much closer to the ordering and use of the chinese characters than this English version (especially given that the Esperanto words mostly map one-to-one with the characters). I just found this interesting!

I also found the following interesting whilst translating:

  • ĉiopova = all-powerful, omnipotent. Literally “everything-able” or like “able to do everything”. I thought this was a nice construction. Not my own, I stumbled across it.
  • alpaŝi = to approach, to tackle, to deal with. “paŝi” means “to tread, to stride, to stalk”, and “al” means “to, toward”. I thought that was another neat construction to stumble across!

Some things I was unsure about:

  • I use “ejo” on the penultimate line. I use it because I’m not talking about any old place “loko”. I’m talking about the place one has in the world, ones own path through the universe. EDIT: changed to “vivejo” (vivo = life),see comments below. I love the idea of a “life-place”.
  • “Ne forgesote” = “not going to be forgotten, not being forgotten” on the last line. “Forgesi” = “to forget”. Here we want “to be forgotten” so we use a passive participle (-ot suffix rather than -ont), I’m sure of this. But I wasn’t sure if it should be “ne forgesate” = “not being forgotten” (present tense), however I felt that this implied that one need only not be forgotten in the present, whereas the true meaning is to never be forgotten, so future tense “ne forgesote”.Another alternative was “ne forgesiĝante” = “not becoming forgotten”, or “ne forgesiĝonte” = “not going to become forgotten. But after I thought of using the future tense “forgesote”, the “become” bit of these alternatives seemed to be unnecessary extra baggage.

An open question:

  • I use “Kontentante pri sia vivon…” = “Being content with one’s life…”. Could this be entirely replaced by “viv-kontentante” does that make sense? From the verb “vivkontenti” = “to be content with life, to be life-content”.Similarly, I use “Dediĉante sin al sia ejo” = “Dedicating oneself to one’s place”. Could I replace this with “Ej-dediĉante sin” = “place-dedicating oneself”.

Do comment if there are any errors! Or if you wish to ask about any of it.

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Adjectives and their Antics

Thought I’d talk a little of the frolicking of adjectives today!

This post relies on you knowing what I mean by “quality-like” roots,”action-like” root words and “thing-like” root words. Luckily, you can find out in my previous post.

So today’s post answers the question: what happens when you make a root word into an adjective using the “a” suffix? If you want more examples than I give, go to the the PMEG page on the topic, the page which is the inspiration and main reference of this post.

Starting with the simple case: quality-like roots. These roots already show description or quality, so adding the “a” usually just expresses that quality:

  • blua = blue (from blu- exressing quality of blue)
  • bona = good (from bon- expresses quality of good)
  • bela = beautiful

There are some infrequent exceptions. They normally depend on context, and most could understand them without having had to learn the exceptions beforehand:

  • stulta demando = a stupid question. The question itself cannot be acting stupid (as one may interpret something which is stulta), it is rather that the question was made through stupidity.
  • laŭta ĉambro = a loud room. The room isn’t being loud (the usual interpretation of laŭta), instead, the room is full of loudness (the things inside it are being loud).

What happens when the root is a thing-like root?

It means something related to the root, the thing. Somehow a description that is typical of the thing. This will be different depending on the context.

An example used on the PMEG page is “reĝa” from the thing-like root “reĝ-” (Therefore it’s inherently an ‘o’ word “reĝo” = “king”).

  • reĝa konduto = kingly/regal conduct. Behaviour in the manner of a king, with the qualities of a king.
  • reĝa persono = kingly person, royal person, person characterised by royality/kingliness.
  • reĝa palaco = royal/kingly palace, a king’s palace.

And when the roots are action-like? 

They show a meaning related to (characterised by) the action in question. They are similar to the present/past active participles in Esperanto (future posts!). Present active shows that an action is happening, and past active shows that it happened.

From help- (and its action “helpi” = “to help”):

  • helpa hundo = a helpful dog, a dog that’s helping.
  • helpa diro = a helpful statement, a statement that helped.

From nutr- (and its action “nutri” = “to nourish”):

  • nutra problemo = nutritional problem
  • nutra manĝaĵo = nourishing/nutritional food, food which nourishes.

Adjectives made from action-like roots can have an additional possible meaning. For example, given the examples above and the word “korekt-” (action-like root, “korekti” = “to correct”), extending the examples above:

  • korekta X

“X” should be something that corrects, or is characterised by correcting.

But it is often far more useful as something much closer to passive participles (future posts!), these are things which have received an action instead of dishing it out (active).

So here, X could also be something that is correct, or corrected!

Same goes for others to:

  • kompliki = to complicate
  • komplika X: X can be complicating or complicated!
  • veki = to wake
  • veka X: X can be waking or awoken.

This shows that the adjectival “a” can be a very general description, sometimes relying on context to disambiguate. If you need a specific meaning, and the context doesn’t make this clear, then you must turn to the more precise participles!