Do not shoot talk nothing at people that they made bad skin so they must receive heavy.
The title of this post is a back-translation from the the Goiniri Onnele language of Papua New Guinea. The phrase in question is from Luke 6:37, “Do not condemn.” Zephyr at ΑΓΑΠΗΣΕΙΣ is beginning a series of posts discussing his experience checking translations done in Papua New Guinea. What’s so fascinating about his articles is how Papua New Guinean languages are so different from Greek and require different strategies for communicating information. For example, Onnele verbs lack a true passive, require an object, and more which makes it impossible to say something like “lest you be condemned.” Instead you have to say something like, “lest others say that you should be accused for doing wrong.” While Onnele lacks a passive, I assume that the grammar has a way of backgrounding a subject in order to highlight an object which is one of the functions of passivization.
The term for sin is “bad skin.” Reading Zephyr’s posts reminds me why I got into Bible translation in the first place. Being forced to express Biblical ideas in another language forces you to see these ideas in new ways that are less tied to your native language. And in the process, Biblical concepts begin to impact culture in ways that were never possible when they only had access to the Scriptures in a trade language.
Zephyr has promised a long series if there is interest. Here are the first two posts: