As I’m aiming to move into the capable level of using the Kovol language it’s time to get into working with longer texts. If I manage to go up a level during our next language test in a month or so I’ll be at the stage where I’ll need to do discourse analysis.

Discourse analysis is where we take monologues that are about 100 clauses long spoken in the Kovol language and we extensively chart all the grammar, connections and structure to answer a question like “how do you tell a story in the Kovol language”? Narrative texts are one of our genres, and so is hortatory.

Hortatory text is where you “talk strong” to change someone’s thinking or behaviour – and it’s an important genre for us because the NT epistles are hortatory land. The question is “how do you speak to build a convincing argument that changes someone’s mind?”.

Once we’ve mastered hortatory speech we could say “not a great idea to have a smoke on top of the fuel drums”

The real challenge with this is getting recordings of these texts that are long enough. We’re after 1 1/2 – 2 minutes of unbroken speech in the Kovol language…. and we don’t get too much of it. People tend to be on their best behaviour around us, so we’re not hearing people being told off a lot. “Hey you kids, you’re too noisy. Go away!” isn’t the 100 clauses we need 🙂

If there’s a big community meeting (kind of rare for us to witness) where a problem is being discussed these speeches can come up, but it’s still hard to catch them. Meetings can go for an hour or so and you never know when someone will drop a 2-minute speech; and even if you’re recording, the background noise of coughing and spluttering, squealing pigs and crying children makes it hard to make out the words.

I’ve had to resort to eliciting them… and that doesn’t always go well. “Pretend I’m so and so. Now talk to me and tell me off” often results in a confused speech that is often still too short and mixes up tenses and actors. Half way through, people can forget that they’re supposed to be talking to me and they switch to general descriptions of the problem and what happened so it becomes a narrative.

Millie helps out in a language session

I got a good one this week though and I thought I’d include it for your reading pleasure. Even this far into our language study the Kovol language feels so vague and ambiguous to me. So much is implicit and I feel like I can only understand if I already know what the story is. Have a read yourselves and see what you think:

teme undum nonn mohis bili mu obonn mohis yot eneng omboo onn ig tol ab ig poolulub mut etenim eb amb igu ongoo angee yam ig ennendinim eb amb igu ina wendinim eb amb igu ig tol ab minda minda nog wig eb amb igu umann oloo eb igu ogwa onn mohis utoo honn ogoo mohis utoo

onn omboo egee libot nom ilib hat oo ig ig hat oo endet Weli eeg mu esigond eb i enn teme undum eeg mu esigond eb i nomboo yogonong wenim eb nolot nom onnol tenn aga (agamb) ututub (ututsu) oboob yat onn utub hamung oo ig hogot teb (oboob) wondob (nog) nomoomung wondob hamung oo abagam bili nog noloomung neleb hamung oo onn mohis utub nog yat nog yat omoo om egee libot nom ilib bili tugoomung mu yogonong agamot aga

Weli wondob nom a nolot i enn undum teme undum nom endet wondob nom a nolot nala heb agamoomung om egee ig egee yamung om ig yogonong wala wolob yogonong wenim eb neleb mena ogoo neleb yong amb nom nala liboomung ig ilib aga igisisu om libot nom om mehamonn nom neleb ig obo minda nom hipoolulub nom a nolot nala egee liboomung om ilib agamb ogoo tolob om yat see ogoo libot nom

teme undum endet onn mohis bili wig onn mohis yot eneng omboo em onn mohis yogonong wolob ogoo mandoo ogot em i em see om em see om onn yogonong wala om enn om salib ham oo sibelig oboob i ham oo yobug hipundoo sibelig oboob enn higinim eb nolom neleb amom see om em nonn em

Weli ogoo amom nonn mu egee nog igisininn em enn teme undum bili om mehamonn mohis yot eneng obong yam omboo om logooneng em mohis bili oboob i em yogonong agamb i endet onn nonn ig hat wok (selenn) egee nang (noloomung) omboo meemee selenn angom nomboo em yogonong agamb i meemee oboob yog asa nyo nom nom yot tuguga yot tugub em mohis yot eneng obonn em oboogonn omboo em oo mehamonn nom mehamonn his nom mu egee hes sann ann amom endet amb i ham oo

Weli onn mohis nom nog wolom wolob i amom su om em nom mohis yot eneng ogoo teninn em ogoo tolob em mohis bili om egee ebeninn em aba nononn nonn ig selenn egee ang ham nom em meemunum nom egee nug em meemee minda em meemee nom egee nug eb

mohis yot engeng om su om ogoo teninn em enn hobol endet egee amom nom egee angom

Kovol language

daughter you didn’t get a good husband this bad husband our houses break burn want talk ing he said so kill us want talk ing mother hit want talk ing our possessions finish want talk ing nothing create want ing he did this it’s time to give you a man (as in get a new husband)

this he (the bad husband) came up went he saw he saw us we didn’t give daughter to him as he wanted my daughter they didn’t give to me as wanted like that us fight want he did he has this behaviour we gave him daughter he took he went down him gave we saw our pig got hit we ate hit we saw chest good we made made we saw her man gave he went with he went with but he came up went up good we did not with us he was this happened

daughter hit this he did my daughter he hit he did this he did this look we stayed we went down us hit hit us hit want did food did angry talk this he did we came up we went up this happened we stayed he came up this work was done our bags cut this he did he did we came up went up stayed left he went down now he came up my

daughter your husband is not good your husband is bad your husband fights us he’s a man who goes around this is how it is now he fights with us this and I got up looked machete got looked grass knife got I cut want to do made I said

now daughter I give this talk you can’t stay with him my good daughter a bad husband we got so you need a good husband to stay with us like this you hard work we worked i talk about this hard work (the hard work of raising a child) he should stay with us (the new husband) something get give us (the good things from a new husband) we’ll eat (we’ll receive it) he’s done badly done badly you got a bad husband you got like this good things won’t come of this I said I said like this looked

daughter I’m angry with your husband angry I said today you will leave your bad husband leave you will get a good husband get like this our hard work we did looked pay for this we will eat something things something we eat want

bad husband you will leave today this talk I’ve said like this I said it

Literal English translation

Do you understand it? 😀 The big idea of it comes across simply enough I think, but there are some areas I didn’t get and had to ask about.
The Kovol language is full of coming and going. All stories have lots of coming and going and I still don’t know what’s happening here. There are a couple of times the son-in-law visited the family here in Kovol and a few where they went to his place on the coast. My mind tends to gloss over all the coming and going, as it doesn’t feel that important. It’s all background, but the language is so concrete that the coming and going are explicit whether it’s up or down and the speaker is maybe the only one who knows exactly the itinerary.

Alice is getting so big!

I also remember hearing it for the fist time and wondering “what’s their pig got to do with it?”. The story there is that they killed a pig to have a feast to be in harmony with their son in law, but that made him angry instead.

The part about hard work and eating was all new to me and needed quite a bit of questioning to get to the bottom of. The idea here is that the family have worked hard to raise their daughter and they are not getting paid back well for their work. They want a new husband who will look after their daughter well and have good behaviour towards them as a family. It’s the first time I’ve seen the word for money be used more generally as wages… and that tickles the backs of our minds for translation later 😀

So now with a story written down, it goes into storage until it’s time to properly analyse it. I’ll do 5 hortatory texts and look for things like

  • How are arguments built?
  • Where’s the climax?
  • How do you mark foreground and background?
  • How do you start and end?
  • How is the main point marked so it’s understood to be the main point?

Fingers crossed, when we get to do that, it unlocks things for us in our minds so that we can learn to communicate just like this 😀 In the meantime I’m on the lookout for 1 more hortatory text. Maybe I could get someone to say “Hey you missionary. Stop being so dumb. Be smart and understand our language faster”?


Lois S. · 17/02/2023 at 12:13 am

Sounds challenging! But you seem to have a good start.

Mandy Caley · 17/02/2023 at 2:48 am

Fingers crossed LOL
They do say ‘daughter’ a lot in the narrative eh?
Thanks Steve.

    SteveStanley · 17/02/2023 at 11:16 am

    Actually they use her name sometimes, but I changed it to daughter so it doesn’t come across that easily. 🙂

Nelvie Herr · 04/03/2023 at 4:05 am

Good job. So happy to hear how far you have come with such a difficult job. I’ll keep praying for more success in learning that language🙏Love Nana. HUGGS

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