Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bible Verses and Relative Clauses

One of my goals for 2011 is to memorize more verses from the Bible, so I've created my first trilingual set, with Garifuna, Spanish, and English for each of the 10 verses. For example:

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Juan 3:16 "Porque tanto amó Dios al mundo, que dio a su Hijo unigénito, para que todo el que cree en él no se pierda, sino que tenga vida eterna."

Huan 3:16 "Aba lasigirun Hesusu ariñaga: “Ladüga wéiriti hínsiñe gürigia ha ubouagubaña lun Bungiu darí lun lóunahani Liráü le ábanrügüti, lun lounwen luagu hafigoun, lun sun lan ha afiñerutiña luagu, meferidirun hamaamuga, gabagarirügü hamaamuga aban ibagari le magumuchaditi."

I have the bad habit of knowing how to paraphrase a verse and more-or-less where to find it in my Bible (that green highlighted section on the bottom right-hand side...). I would like to actually memorize complete verses with their respective references. I also have been teaching my Sunday school kids verses in Garifuna. Today they said Psalm 115:3 in front of the congregation, who gave them a rousing applause.

I use NIV (New International Version) for Spanish and English . You can see that the verse in Garifuna is considerably longer (!). Some language learning benefits from learning verses include:

  • Having the main idea in my head from English and Spanish, so even if I don't understand the little bits attached to words (affixes), I still get the gist of what they mean.
  • Learning discourse features (discourse is the study of texts or larger chunks of language), such as connector words ('but,' 'therefore,' 'because of,' etc.).
  • My favorite new learning focus: relative clauses (a relative clause is a phrase that modifies a noun, such as "my friend who lives in Honduras").

Relative clauses in Garifuna intimidated me, so I avoided focusing on them. But learning verses is helping me get a feel for how they work. For example, in John 3:16:

  • "gürigia ha ubouagubaña" means "people who are in the world"
  • "Liráü le ábanrügüti" means "son who was the only one"
  • "sun lan ha afiñerutiña luagu" means "all who believe in him"

I found this confusing at first because 'le' and 'ha' also function as demonstratives: 'gürigia ha' alone is 'these people' and 'halaü le' is 'this chair.' So the same function word acts as a complementizer to create a relative clause.

There are some details I still haven't clarified, but at least I'm getting the hang of the idea, so much so that I produced my first relative clause automatically the other day: 'this is the one that I'm going to do,' a moment of epiphany.

I have one other related tidbit to add, another eureka! moment while making coffee this morning:

'ideragubaadina' = 'you have helped me'

'bideragubadina' = 'you will help me'

In the first example, ideragua is the verb stem meaning 'help'; baa refers to second person singular past tense; dina is the first person singular object.

In the second word, the stem and object are the same, but the b- prefix refers to second person singular; -ba suffix is future tense.

I had been somewhat aware of this difference but finally was able to pinpoint and articulate it today, and my language helper confirmed I was right!

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