Bible translation foundations – nouns and

This is a test. This is only a test. This is only a test about English. If this were an emergency, or a test about any other language, you would be notified. Please read the following paragraph:

My wife’s name is Elena. In 2000 Elena was bitten by a deer tick. Elena developed a rash on Elena’s arm unique to Lyme Disease. Blood tests would later show that Elena got four diseases from that single tick bite. Elena has been suffering from these diseases for years. Elena is no longer able to drive. Elena’s cognitive functions are impaired. Elena has a lot of pain. Elena feels tired all the time. Elena takes a lot of different medicines. So far, nothing has made Elena better but we still hope that Elena’s condition will improve someday. As Elena’s husband, it is difficult for me to watch Elena unable to live with so much pain and other physical and mental issues.

As far as I know, each of the sentences I just wrote is grammatical in English. But most compositions can be improved. What suggestions would you offer so that my paragraph would sound better to you?

13 thoughts on “Bible translation foundations – nouns and

  1. Bob MacDonald says:

    I once removed a deer tick from a dog’s ear – what a job!
    Here’s the record of the operation from the dog’s point of view

    They are holding my head
    Tweezers grasp the Animal’s body
    My limbs and trunk flay wildly
    They hold my body and my head
    I squirm
    The tweezers grab again
    Withdrawal will kill me

    The animal is out
    They say its teeth are still in it
    And no longer in me
    The pain diminishes
    I turn and kiss my holder
    What shall I do?
    Die or live in forgetfulness of that pain?

  2. Michael Nicholls says:

    5 months ago I pulled a tick out of my wife’s leg. She still has a spot on her leg. I also pulled 5 ticks out of my dog’s chin in one sitting.

    Other than pronouns, the other obvious thing is to let the sentences flow a bit more. In the middle of the paragraph it feels like a list of facts. Which is fine if you’re just listing facts.

  3. Rich Rhodes says:

    Most linguists now accept the view that language works by filling in nominal information to abstract entities that are more or less like pronouns rather than replacing information heavy nouns with pronouns. The crucial sentences that show it is hopeless to try and start with nouns are ones like this:

    The boy who earned it won the prize he wanted.

    Since the it in the phrase that modifies boy refers to the prize and the he in in the phrase that modifies prize refers to the boy and since both relative clauses are restrictive, there is no way to start with full noun phrases.

    The whole thing can get really complicated, but the basic idea is that you provide enough information to make it clear what you mean. (It’s all rather Gricean.) That means you put nouns near the beginning and let the pronouns appear elsewhere.

  4. Theophrastus says:

    Your original paragraph was not grammatical. This sentence is the worst offender (it has multiple problems, in fact):

    As Elena’s husband, it is difficult for me to watch Elena unable to live with so much pain and other physical and mental issues.

    If you wanted to improve the paragraph, I’d suggest condensing it and removing superfluous information for maximum emotional impact (this is not a translation, but a restatement to strengthen the impact of the paragraph):

    My wife Elena contracted multiple infections from a 2000 deer tick bite, leading to unrelenting pain, fatigue, impaired cognitive function, inability to drive, and no response to medication. It hurts to see her suffer.

    I hope she gets better soon.

  5. Carl W. Conrad says:

    The obvious offensive feature is the failure to use the feminine pronoun. What came to my mind immediately while reading this was how offensive to my ear was the liturgical revision of John 3:16 to “God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son so that whosoever believes in God’s son should not perish but have everlasting life.” I protested that this was not acceptable English and was told this was the way it had to be.

  6. jkgayle says:

    I confess that my very first response to reading your paragraph all the way through was Theophrastus’s wish: “I hope she gets better soon.” I could almost care less that you’ve dangled a modifier in your last sentence of your paragraph. But you did, didn’t you? You did that, Wayne.

    And so my second response to reading your post all the way through is similar to my responses to reading something Noam Chomsky wrote, once upon a time:

    2.3 Second, the notion “grammatical” cannot be identified with “meaningful” or “significant” in any semantic sense. Sentences (1) and (2) are equally nonsensical, but any speaker of English will recognize that only the former is grammatical.

    (1) Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
    (2) Furiously sleep ideas green colorless.

    Similarly, there is no semantic reason to prefer (3) to (5) or (4) to (6), but only (3) and (4) are grammatical sentences of English.

    My response now is that you and Chomsky are playing with language in some brilliant ways. You’re making any of us speakers of English want to make deep structure declarations by way of, more or less, carefully articulated grammar rules. But there are things, as Ken Pike used to say, going on at levels above the sentence, above grammar.

    I still hold more firmly to my first response: I still hope Elena gets better soon. But I’d want to re-emphasize my second response in order to point to how your not quite “better” “sounding” English paragraph makes absolutely good sense in your blog post just as Chomsky’s not really grammatical sentences are part (and parcel) of his soundly written English paragraph.

  7. Michael Nicholls says:

    Theo wrote:
    Your original paragraph was not grammatical. This sentence is the worst offender (it has multiple problems, in fact):

    As Elena’s husband, it is difficult for me to watch Elena unable to live with so much pain and other physical and mental issues.

    What was ungrammatical about this sentence?

  8. Dru Brooke-Taylor says:

    How about the following? There’s two versions, one uncluttered so one can read through it at one sitting, and the other with some notes. I haven’t repeated a comment each time I have changed ‘Elena’ to a pronoun.

    I wish I knew how to make the comments appear in a different font, but I don’t know how to do that. So I have had to put the comments in brackets. I am sorry if it is a bit difficult to follow.

    You may disagree with some of my suggestions. Apart from the pronoun point, there are a number of place where to me, the original version does not adequately express the relationship between the successive statements. It uses the sort of constructions I might choose if I were a not very good second language speaker of English hoping to get by with no corrections from my teacher.

    The short sentences in the middle of the original work quite well with a few simple changes.

    “In 2000 my wife, Elena, was bitten by a deer tick. She developed the rash on her arm that indicates Lyme’s Disease. Blood tests would later show that she had contracted four diseases from that single tick bite. The result is that she has now been suffering from these diseases for some years. She can no longer drive. Her cognitive functions are impaired. She has a lot of pain and feels tired all the time. She also has to take a lot of different medicines. So far, nothing has made her better but we still hope that her condition will improve at some time. As her husband, it is difficult for me to watch her have to live with so much pain and to bear the other physical and mental issues.”

    Annotated version:-

    In 2000 my wife, Elena, (simplification. The important point isn’t that she’s called Elena but that she is your wife) was bitten by a deer tick. She (pronoun) developed the rash on her arm that indicates (changes here as ‘unique’ is not quite the right usage here) Lyme’s (I think Lyme was a person who discovered the disease) Disease. Blood tests would later show that she had contracted (more accurate verb, avoiding ‘got’ and better tense) four diseases from that single tick bite. The result is that she has now (changes to handle sequence more fluently) been suffering from these diseases for some years. She can no longer drive (simplification). Her cognitive functions are impaired. She has a lot of pain and feels tired all the time. She also has to take (more fluent construction to express better the linkage with the previous and following statements) a lot of different medicines. So far, nothing has made her better but we still hope that her condition will improve at some time (change from a regional idiom to more standard international English). As Elena’s husband, it is difficult for me to watch Elena have to live (apart from being clumsy, she isn’t unable to live. If she was unable to live she would be dead) with so much pain and to bear the (this needs another verb) other physical and mental issues.

  9. Mike Sangrey says:

    Dru, I like what you’ve done. I think you would make a good editor.

    And simply to clarify, Lyme disease received its name from Lyme Connecticut.

  10. adobe says:

    I nearly burst into audible laughter when I read: “Elena unable to live” because I too sensed that she must be dead. I enjoyed this test. Makes one thoughtful about the role of pronouns.

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