Babel's Tower

The Tower of Babel” is the fragment from the Old Testament (Genesis 11: 1–9) telling a story of separating a common language of all people into individual languages. This fragment is often used as a translation exercise or a language showcase for both real and constructed languages. This story especially suits situation with orcs of the Third Age (“they could not understand one another's orc-speech” – LOTR II, Book Three, Chapter III: The Uruk-hai) and with numerous incompatible fan's reconstructions of Black Speech.

The text is cited from “New King James” Bible version (1982):

1. Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.
2. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.
3. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.
4. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
5. But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
6. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.
7. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
8. So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
9. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

The first attempt to translate the story of Babel's Tower was made by Diego T. Guimarães (aka Ya'qūb 'Abd Al-Jabbār) for Omniglot site in Shadowlandian dialect (using early Nûrlâm prototype, Un4given's Orc analysis at Black Speech School forum).

Translation in Nûrlâm

I will not list all the words required to translate the text, except very specific ones. The following conventions were used to translate words alien to Middle-Earth (keeping the perfect version by Diego T. Guimarães)

Name Translation
LORD Instead of title, the name “Jehova/Yahweh/YHWH” transcribed as “Yahuah” is used
Babel,
Babylon
Bâbil
Shinar Shinâr, probably to avoid confusion with “shinar” = “without”

To add archaic flavour to the text, the following methods were used:

  • all modifiers are placed after the words they describe, including prepositions becoming postpositions, but except number “ash” = “one” and conjunctions
  • Explicit accusative case ending -ish except when followed by postpositions
  • The verb "to be" is always present, including the present tense
  • Verb–Subject–Object (VSO) word order (except state: “to be” + adjective/participle)
  • singular form of pronouns is used for plural pronouns too
  • lack of plural form in Nûrlâm will suit well the biblical pluralization of the name Elohim

Resulting translation:

Lug Bâbilob
Line Nûrlâm Gloss, back translation and comments
1 Zil brusuzâ uzgûk ash lâmish agh ash gashnurmish Now have-PST-3SG land=all one language-ACC and one speak-NZ.ABSTR-ACC
Now all the lands had one language and one speech.
2 Agh ghugshuzâ kusn mûlurmtabish ghânshah zamash tagimbuz ash uzgokish uzgumor Shinârob agh tafulguz zîgin And happen-PST-3SG.SBJ during road-ABSTR=3.GEN-ACC East=ELA that 3=find-PST one flatland-ACC land-DEF=INE Shinar-GEN and 3=dwell-PST that.place
And it happened during their journey from East that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and they dwelled there.
3 Zîgil tagashnuz ash iskûr, “Skât, gâkh krampat thlarish agh mazgatul girkharz”. Tabrusuz thlarish gundûr agh tabrusuz thûfish raukûr. That.time 3=say-PST one another-DAT, “Come, let's make-GERV brick-ACC and bake-GERV=3.OBJ care-ADV.” 3=have brick-ACC stone-DAT agh 3=have tar-ACC mortar-DAT
Then they said one to another, “Come, let's make bricks and bake them carefully.” They had brick for stone, and they had tar for mortar.
4 Agh tagashnuz, “Skât, gâkh tumbat îmirzi ash goish, agh ash lugish amashob kulâ dîlg nûtumor; gâkh krampat ash îzish îmûr, narkulat bûsnaga planarz thakumti uzgumobûk dazûr” And 3=say-PST, “Come, let's build-GERV self-INS one city-ACC, and one tower-ACC which-GEN be-3SG roof sky-DEF-INE; let's make-GERV one name-ACC self-DAT, NEG-be-GERV scatter-PTCP.PST.PASS broad-ADV face-DEF=over land-DEF-GEN=all 1-DAT
And they said, “Come, let us build (by) ourselves a city, and a tower whose roof is in the sky; let's make a name for ourselves, for us to be not scattered abroad over the face of the all the lands.”
5 Ap dhutuzâ Yahuah honat goish agh lugumish amash tumbuzû nond tarkob.1) But descend-PST-3SG Yehovah see-GERV city-ACC and tower-DEF-ACC which build-PST-3PL sons human-GEN
But Jehovah descended to see city and the tower which sons of men had built.
6 Agh gashnuzâ Yahuah, “Kogarz kulû tark-hai ash agh brusû ta ûk ash lâmish, agh kulâ za amash takrampuzîs; zilah narash kubâ falgûrz (tazûr) amashob takramputh. And say-PST-3SG Jehovah, “Truly, be.PRES-3PL human(s) one and have-3PL they all one language-ACC, and be.PRES-3SG this what 3=do-PST-begin; now-ELA nothing be.FUT-3SG possible (they-DAT) what-GEN 3=do-be.going.to”
And Jehovah said, “Truly humans are one and they all have one language, and this is what they began to do; hence(forth) nothing will be possible (for them) of what they are going to do.”
7 Skât, gâkh dhutat agh zîgin girzat lâmtabish, zârz tanarpâshub zâbrut gashnurmish ashob iskob”. Come, let's descend-GERV and there mess-GERV language=3.GEN-ACC, so.that 3=NEG-able-FUT understand-INF speak-NMLZ-ACC one-GEN another-GEN
Come, let's descend and there confuse their language, so that they will not be able to understand speech of one another's.“
8 Zârz bûsnuzâtul Yahuah planarz zîginah thakumti uzgumobûk, agh tapuzguz tumbut goish So scatter-PST-3SG-them Jehovah broad-ADV there-ELA face-DEF=over land-DEF-GEN=all, and 3=stop-PST build-INF city-ACC
So Jehovah scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the lands, and they stopped to build city.
9 Zîgilah kulâ Bâbil îztabish, taitaga Yahuahirzi amash girzuzâ lâmumish uzgumobûk zîgin; agh bûsnuzâtul planarz thakumti uzgumobûk zîginah That.time-ELA Babel be.PRES-3SG name=3.GEN-ACC, caused Jehovah-INS who mess-PST-3SG language-DEF-ACC lands-DEF-GEN=all there; and scatter-PST-3SG=3.OBJ broad-ADV face-DEF=over lands-DEF-GEN=all there-ELA
Thenceforth Babel is it's name,2) because of Jehovah, who messed the language of all the lands; and scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth from there.

This translation is not the only one correct, as there may be variations

1)
“nond tarkob” may be replaced with “tarknond”
2)
any other translation would be much longer and/or require to put Babel into some grammatical case, which I wanted to avoid, as this name occurs only once in the text
translations/babel_tower.txt · Last modified: 2022/11/28 19:27 by morgoth