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Example of Discourse Improvements in Luke

We certainly haven’t got Luke’s gospel finished yet, but over the last few months Moses and Arams and then just Arams and I have been working through the whole of Luke’s gospel about 20 times or more looking at particular issues and tidying things up. I thought I’d give any interested people (geeks) an annotated taste of what has changed, and then I’ll explain why it matters.

[Edit: corrected an earlier version of this which had a typo]

Our participant tracking gave us confidence to dispense with unnecessary and misleading pronouns, using the Ishɛ subject index system instead. While English prose often likes short, sharp sentences, Ishɛ stories tend to flow together with many simple clauses joined in longer sentences. We found reasonable ways to mark paragraphs, starting with a time phrase or with an explicit pronoun or name but not normally requiring both. Studying the grammar in more detail helped flush out some letters which are really there in concept but which are elided in smooth speech. It actually can be more helpful to write all the sounds of words to aid their recognition and the production of the correct tone patterns for words, even if some vowels disappear. After all, tone never truly disappears even if vowels do.

A year ago we finally had enough evidence to throw out the long-resented Hausa borrowing amma. Several other legitimately Ishɛ conjunctions were being overused due to influence from Greek via English, and ultimately due to translators (and consultants) having a distinct lack of deep understanding about how clauses are joined and why in Ishɛ and in other languages.

Finally the translation had showed a tendency to introduce clunky time phrases where the original had a Greek participle, sometimes translated into English as ‘when’. This also would break up the flow of the narrative and imply that we already knew about certain things when in fact they were new parts of the story.

What difference does all this make? Well, as part of preparing Luke’s gospel for a community event in November, Arams is busy recording an audio version. We’ve done this before, but after all these revisions he reports that it’s easier to read than ever. That is at least in part because when we use the language normally and correctly, there’s less guess-work about what’s going on and you don’t actually need to scrutinise and puzzle through every single letter. That’s a good sign.

All of this work had been ‘consultant checked’ at some point in the past, but I always knew there were so many things we couldn’t possibly get to the bottom of before we took the Ishɛ discourse seriously. Rarely have we made a change that totally changes how people will understand the scripture, but what’s going to change is that it will be clearer and more coherent from the start, and that’s a very good thing.


If you want a taste, here’s Arams’ rough recording of Luke 1:

Acirka o oye

1 Aneke arɛarɛ ta letibɔɔ abin e iŋkɔɔ shi ta tɔkikɔɔ ni oshɔ̃ e te, 2 uyir e te she gõõ ni abom e imbɔɔ sha jɛ̃ ni aper ashu ka shaishi, a tuk oyei ni abɔk e te. 3 Ime in wɛjɛn ni in dosha adake kocak ka shaishi, a she aTiyofilus ni ime in letiwa oye e incee sho sheicee ni edotaa. 4 Ní iŋo u hwɛŋ ijii a abin e iŋo shu maa.

A hɛɛ uyire amati e iYohanna uner o ubaptisma

5 Ocu e iHiridus sha sho uɛɛre o uYahudiya, iFirist unyom a sho hum a gõõni iZakariya, a sho ni afirist e imbɔɔ sha wur ni imai a Abija. A hea ucɛi ni imai be iHaruna, ocok e iye o gõõni Alisebetu. 6 A sho aner e ijii ni enɛŋ o Ushe, a kõi ikpem o oye e iTɛŋgashe ni akele sha she. 7 A sheibɔɔ ni uŋwɛ̃, hɛre Alisebetu a sho ukpi, imbɔɔ a kɔ̃bɔɔ.

8 Unom unyom hum, iZakariya a na akpei icer e ifiristke e iye ni aɛi o Ushe, ni ocu e imbɔɔ sha ŋwɛhẽ iye, 9 ni uyir a alaada e icer a afirist, a tũ iye ní a nyi a kpoa uturare ni aɛi e Itɛŋgashe. 10 Ni ocu a kpoi o uturarei, uner shu hin u kõwãã ni odɛ̃ u na ashui o Ushe.11 Umeleka e Itɛŋgashe u ba u param u dɛ̃ɛ̃ ulo ni ubagadi a akpoi o uturare. 

12 IZakariya a jɛ̃ iye, a shok egbikpa, iwei i tara i durke. 13 Umelekai u hɛɛ ɛti, “U nehe a gõõi iwei aZakariya, Ushe u gõõ oshu e iŋo, ucɛ̃ e iŋo Alisebetu shá matiwa iŋo uŋwɛ. Iŋo shú tar ocok e iye o gõõni iYohanna. 14 A shá sho ubin a agwiri a akele ni ubin eshutik ni iŋo, aneke arɛarɛ shi ga sho ni agwiri a akele hɛre amati e iye. 15 Shá sho shu gɔŋ ni enɛŋɛ e Itɛŋgashe, a shina hwa adɛk shãhã ubin shu hĩã, Imara e Itan shí nyia ni iye ke eni e inyaai. 16 A shá mɛɛke aner e Isreila arɛarɛ a ba ni Itɛŋgashe Ushe e imbɔɔ. 17A shá yaa ihĩĩdẽ e Itɛŋgashe, ni imara ni atɛɛk e Iliya. Shá mɛɛk akele a antɛɛ a bakɔɔ ni aŋwɛ, a mɛɛk akele a andak a gõõi ihɛ a sho akom epeshik a aner e ijii, ní a gbeshihe aneke e imbɔɔ sha na ajɛpi a abai o Ushe.” 18 IZakariya ɛti, “Ime shí in kpea nine ni in hwɛŋ ishɔuhɔ no? Hɛre e ime ti in kɔ̃me, ucɛ̃ e ime ta tara kɔ̃i.” 19 Umelekai ɛti, “A sho ime iJibrailu, ume e iye ka dɛ̃ɛ̃ ni enɛŋɛ o Ushe, etukiwa ime ní in yea oyehane ni iŋo ni in tara in hɛɛwa oye sho banahane. 20 Incɛŋ shinu u dẽẽ ni u yea oye she unom e idẽhane shí tɔk, hɛre e iŋo shuhã u jẽhẽ iŋo ijii ni oye e ime, ɛti shó tɔki cee ni ocu e incee.”

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