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Lesson 62
Translation 9


This is a Nativity story from Mary’s perspective, and is the first story ever written in Láadan. It was written, of course, by Suzette Haden Elgin. Reportedly, it was published in the Fall of 1982 in the journal Women and Language News; Suzette Haden Elgin states:

The story may well have been published in other places without my having been notified. It would be safe to use the Fall 1982 citation and to add the customary “Suzette has no information in her records on the publication history of this story.”

A few small grammatical errors have been corrected, so have fun sleuthing for them if you find this story elsewhere.

On the other hand, several archaic case endings and other forms remain un-updated; this is one of the older texts in respect of which the archaic forms have been presented throughout these lessons.

Vocabulary

éde

nevertheless

rathóo

non-guest: someone who comes to visit knowing perfectly well that they are intruding and causing difficulty [ra– (NON) + thóo (guest)]

wée

cry (of babies)

womil

livestock

womilá

shepherd [womil (livestock) + –á (DOER)]

Zheshu

Jesus of Nazareth [loanword]

Text

Wóoban Méri Batha

Bíide eríli wóoban with wemaneya wáa. Wóoban bi áwithid i ban bi zhath “Zheshu” áwithidedi wáa. Shi áwithid bith, i di bi eba bithodi, “Bíili, bre aril tháa ra áwithehóo, ébre aril míi le!”

Id—bishibenal—menosháad womilá menedebe i noline menedebe i wothidá nedebe wáa. Medi, “Bóo aril meláad len áwithideth oyinan lu.”

Bíide di with biyóodi, “Wulh hath áwitheláadewan! Methi ra bash i methi ra shal!”—i loláad bi ílhith. Izh di bi “Wil sha” zhonal: “Bóo mesháad nen i meláad.”

Yide áwithid Zheshu i lili be wi. Nawée be i náwée be. Éde benem mélhewith. Lith with “Raláadá menedebe!”

I lámála with áwithideth i náluth beth. Bíid mesháad hath i mesháad hath. Doól di with biyóodi, “Bóo melith nen woho! Bíi ril nen rathóo wi! Báa melothel nen radaleth? Bíi rilrili meloláad thul nenetha lhohoth.” I thib with i bel bi áwitheth i naya bi beth.

Bíide thi with zhath Méri wáa.

Suzette’s English Translation with Morpheme-by-Morpheme Analysis

Wóoban Méri Batha

Wóoban

GiveBirth

Méri

Mary

Batha

XLove1(Third person, singular, beloved) + POSSbirth

The Birth-Giving of Mary the Beloved


Bíide eríli wóoban with wemaneya wáa. Wóoban bi áwithid i ban bi zhath “Zheshu” áwithidedi wáa. Shi áwithid bith, i di bi eba bithodi, “Bíili, bre aril tháa ra áwithehóo, ébre aril míi le!”

Bíide

DECL + NARR

eríli

FARPAST

wóoban

GiveBirth

with

Person

wemaneya

Winter + TIME

wáa.

TRUSTED

Wóoban

GiveBirth

bi

XHon1

áwithid

INFANT + Person = Baby + MASC

i

And

ban

Give

bi

XHon1

zhath

Name + OBJ

“Zheshu”

Jesus

áwithidedi

Baby + MASC + GOAL

wáa.

TRUSTED

Shi

ToPlease

áwithid

Baby + MASC

bith,

XHon1 + OBJ

i

And

di

Speak

bi

XHon1

eba

Spouse

bithodi,

XHon1 + POSS + GOAL

“Bíili,

DECL + LOVE

bre

If…

aril

FUT

tháa

Thrive

ra

NEG

áwithehóo,

Baby + FOCUS

ébre

…Then

aril

FUT

míi

BeAmazed

le!”

I

Long ago, a woman gave birth in the wintertime. She had a baby boy, and she named him “Jesus.” The baby pleased her, and she said to her spouse, “If this baby doesn’t do well, I’ll be very surprised!”


Id—bishibenal—menosháad womilá menedebe i noline menedebe i wothidá nedebe wáa. Medi, “Bóo aril meláad len áwithideth oyinan lu.”

Id

AndThen

—bishibenal—

BeSudden + MANN

menosháad

PL + FINISH + ComeGo = Arrive

womilá

Livestock + DOER = Shepherd

menedebe

#>5

i

And

noline

Angel

menedebe

#>5

i

And

wothidá

Wisdom + MASC + DOER

nedebe

#2-5

wáa.

TRUSTED

Medi,

PL + Speak

“Bóo

REQ

aril

FUT

meláad

PL + Perceive

len

We>5

áwithideth

Baby + MASC + OBJ

oyinan

Eye + INSTR

lu.”

Please

And then—suddenly—there arrived many shepherds, many angels, and several wise men. They said, “May we please see the baby?”


Bíide di with biyóodi, “Wulh hath áwitheláadewan! Methi ra bash i methi ra shal!”—i loláad bi ílhith. Izh di bi “Wil sha” zhonal: “Bóo mesháad nen i meláad.”

Bíide

DECL + NARR

di

Speak

with

Person

biyóodi,

XHon1 + REFLX + GOAL

“Wulh

SuchA… + PEJ

hath

Time

áwitheláadewan!

Baby + Perceive + PURP

Methi

PL + Have

ra

NEG

bash

CommonSense

i

And

methi

PL + Have

ra

NEG

shal!”

Manners

—i

And

loláad

PerceiveInt

bi

XHon1

ílhith.

Disgust + OBJ

Izh

But

di

Speak

bi

XHon1

“Wil

OPTV

sha”

Harmony

zhonal:

Sound + MANN = Aloud

“Bóo

REQ

mesháad

PL + ComeGo

nen

You>5

i

And

meláad.”

PL + Perceive

“What a horrible time for a baby-viewing!” the woman said to herself. “They have no common sense and no manners!”—and she was disgusted. But aloud she said, “Please, come and see.”


Yide áwithid Zheshu i lili be wi. Nawée be i náwée be. Éde benem mélhewith. Lith with “Raláadá menedebe!”

Yide

BeHungry

áwithid

Baby + Male

Zheshu

Jesus

i

And

lili

BeWet

be

X1

wi.

SELFEVID

Nawée

BEGIN + Cry

be

X1

i

And

náwée

CONT + Cry

be.

X1

Éde

Nevertheless

benem

Stay

mélhewith.

Crowd + PEJ

Lith

Think

with

Person

“Raláadá

NON + Perceive + DOER

menedebe!”

#>5

As would be obvious to any thinking person, the Baby Jesus was hungry and wet. He started crying, and he kept on crying. Nevertheless, the crowd stayed on. “What a lot of blind, deaf, dumb, thick-headed creatures!” the woman thought.


I lámála with áwithideth i náluth beth. Bíid mesháad hath i mesháad hath. Doól di with biyóodi, “Bóo melith nen woho! Bíi ril nen rathóo wi! Báa melothel nen radaleth? Bíi rilrili meloláad thul nenetha lhohoth.” I thib with i bel bi áwitheth i naya bi beth.

I

And

lámála

Caress

with

Person

áwithideth

Baby + MASC + OBJ

i

And

náluth

CONT + Rock

beth.

X1 + OBJ

Bíid

DECL+ ANGER

mesháad

PL + ComeGo

hath

Time

i

And

mesháad

PL + ComeGo

hath.

Time

Doól

AtLast

di

Speak

with

Person

biyóodi,

XHon1 + REFLX + GOAL

“Bóo

REQ

melith

PL + Think

nen

You>5

woho!

#All

Bíi

DECL

ril

PRES

nen

You>5

rathóo

NON + Guest + IDENT

wi!

SELFEVID

Báa

Q

melothel

PL + Know

nen

You>5

radaleth?

NON + Thing = Nothing + OBJ

Bíi

DECL

rilrili

HYPOTH

meloláad

PL + PerceiveInt

thul

Parent

nenetha

You>5 + POSSbirth

lhohoth.”

Shame + OBJ

I

And

thib

Stand

with

Person

i

And

bel

BringTake

bi

XHon1

áwitheth

Baby + OBJ

i

And

naya

CareFor

bi

XHon1

beth.

X1 + OBJ

And she held the baby close and rocked him. Time went by…. and more time went by. At last the woman said to herself, “All of you, please think! You’re not guests any longer, you’re nothing but trouble! Don’t you know anything? Your parents would be ashamed.” And she stood up and took the baby and took care of him.


Bíide eril thi with zhath Méri wáa.

Bíide

DECL + NARR

eril

PAST

thi

Have

with

Person

zhath

Name + OBJ

Méri

Mary

wáa.

TRUSTED

That woman’s name was Mary.

Suzette’s English Translation

The Birth-Giving of Mary the Beloved

Long ago, a woman gave birth in the wintertime. She had a baby boy, and she named him “Jesus.” The baby pleased her, and she said to her spouse, “If this baby doesn’t do well, I’ll be very surprised!”

And then—suddenly—there arrived many shepherds, many angels, and several wise men. They said, “May we please see the baby?”

“What a horrible time for a baby-viewing!” the woman said to herself. “They have no common sense and no manners!”—and she was disgusted. But aloud she said, “Please, come and see.”

As would be obvious to any thinking person, the Baby Jesus was hungry and wet. He started crying, and he kept on crying. Nevertheless, the crowd stayed on. “What a lot of blind, deaf, dumb, thick-headed creatures!” the woman thought.

And she held the baby close and rocked him. Time went by…. and more time went by. At last the woman said to herself, “All of you, please think! You’re not guests any longer, you’re nothing but trouble! Don’t you know anything? Your parents would be ashamed.” And she stood up and took the baby and took care of him.

That woman’s name was Mary.

Comments

There are several words Suzette Haden Elgin created for this story that demonstrate the flexible nature of Láadan word-building. These are all on-the-fly formations that would probably not be included in a dictionary.

First, “wulh” (what a horrible…) [wu (what a; such a) + –lh (PEJ)]. Usually, we’ve seen the pejorative affixes used directly on the thing that is being reviled; in this case, however, it’s attached to “wu” (such a…; what a…) to bring the pejorative to the situation rather than the noun that is being discussed.

Next, “wothidá” (wise man) [woth (wisdom) + –id (MASC) + –á (DOER)]. There’s an interesting commentary going on within the formation of this word. We’ve seen “wothá” (wise person; sage), and the step to “wotháhid” (male sage; wise man) is a natural one. However, in this word, Dr. Elgin has gone a different direction: she starts with “woth” (wisdom), then adds the masculine ending –id to give “wothid” (male wisdom; wisdom as perceived by men) and only then does she add the agentive suffix –á to give “wothidá” (doer of male wisdom)—a very different slant from the common English notion of “wise man.”

Next, “áwitheláad” (baby-viewing) [áwith (infant) + láad (perceive)].

Finally, mélhewith (crowd, pejorative) [méwith (crowd) + –lh– (PEJ)]. Do you remember, from when we were studying the pejorative, that the usual use for the pejorative infix is in creating new words? Well, this word makes use of the fact that “méwith” (crowd) is formed from “with” (person) with a variant of me– (plural in verbs; also used in forming nouns meaning “larger/more important”); Dr. Elgin simply inserted the pejorative infix between these two word-parts.

Regarding the word-part mé–: it has recently been defined as a collective-noun prefix. In words like “mébabí” (flock of birds) it stands for “flock;” in “méthili” (school of fish) it stands for “school;” and so on. This has the added benefit of regularizing “méwith” (crowd) as a collective form for people.

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