Monday, September 15, 2014

Romance Languages

It is instructive to see how LDS translators have handled the "neck" passages (Alma 22:32, Alma 63:5 and Ether 10:20) in the Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian versions of the Book of Mormon.
Portuguese Book of Mormon
Alma 22:32     pequeña lengua de tierra     (small tongue of land)
Alma 63:5       estrecha lengua de tierra     (narrow tongue of land)
Ether 10:20     estrecha lengua de tierra     (narrow tongue of land)

Alma 22:32     pequena faixa de terra         (small strip of land)
Alma 63:5       estreita faixa de terra           (narrow strip of land)
Ether 10:20     faixa estreita de terra           (narrow strip of land)

Alma 22:32     étroite bande de terre           (narrow strip of land)
Alma 63:5       langue étroite                       (narrow tongue)
Ether 10:20     langue étroite de terre          (narrow tongue of land)

Alma 22:32      stretta lingua di terra           (narrow tongue of land)
Alma 63:5        stretto istmo                         (narrow isthmus)
Ether 10:20      stretta striscia di terra          (narrow strip of land)

"Tongue of land" appears 6 times in this list, "strip of land" 5 times and "isthmus" once.

A "tongue" of land in any language generally means a peninsula projecting out from the mainland, although it is applied occasionally to an isthmus connecting two much larger land masses. The Oxford English Dictionary (online edition) defines the 13a sense of meaning for the word "tongue" as "a narrow strip of land, running out into the sea, or between two branches of a river, or two other lands." The OED entries for the word "strip" imply something long and narrow of uniform breadth. The 1b sense of meaning for the word "strip" is "a long narrow tract of territory, of land, wood, etc.) The OED also includes the curious and now rare English word "lingula" derived from classical Latin whose 3rd sense of meaning is "a small promontory, projection or tongue of land or rock."The OED entry for "isthmus" deriving from Greek through Latin is "a narrow portion of land, enclosed on each side by water, and connecting two larger bodies of land; a neck of land. Other terminology referenced in the OED include "narrow portions of land," "narrow slip of land," and "narrow passage of land."

The point of all this lexical gyration is that the romance language translators of the Book of Mormon tend toward a peninsular rather than an isthmian interpretation of the English term "narrow neck of land." This agrees precisely with the results we obtained by analyzing 115 necks of land known throughout the English-speaking world. See the blog article "Necks of Land." Our proposed Book of Mormon narrow neck of land, the long and slender Barra San Marcos along the Pacific coast of Chiapas, fits comfortably within this range of meaning.