LINGUIST List 8.931

Thu Jun 26 1997

Sum: Language identification

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  1. Mark Mandel, Sum: 8.797 Language identification

Message 1: Sum: 8.797 Language identification

Date: Wed, 18 Jun 1997 20:11:18 -0500
From: Mark Mandel <Markdragonsys.com>
Subject: Sum: 8.797 Language identification

In LINGUIST #8.797 I asked:

> An acquaintance of my daughter's writes:
>
> ===================================
>
> Identify this language please?
>
> "Idolem urodo iatu a wi rot
> Ukufu kush onuoy nehawuoch
> Etia di ukoik ura nakurah
> Enadu yoimi nnesar urugem
> Eteako ich atak
> Ureatu tso oodah
> Amia wibo koro yonneie"
>
> I think I have a pretty good idea of what languages this is *not* (not
> a Romance language, not Germanic, not Slavic, not Chinese, Japanese,
> Vietnamese...). Also, if it translates to something really corny,
> lemme know so I can stop embarrassing myself every time I sing it.

I received replies from five people, four of whom offered
information.

Gregory F. Roberts <robertsggusun.georgetown.ed> and
Douglas Dee <Douglas.Deeus.coopers.com> pointed me to a Web site
maintained by Nora E. Stevens,
 www-personal.umich.edu/~nstevens/harukanaru.html ,
that shows the text and explains it as the reverse of

> Tori wa utai odoru melodi,
> Chouwa hen no shukufuku.
> Harukanaru kioku idaite,
> Meguru rasen ni mioyudane.
> Katachi o kaete--
> Hadoo o tsutaeru.
> Eien no yorokobi wa ima

Roberts adds:

> They are lyrics from a role playing game called the Final
> Fantasy by Squaresoft.

[And indeed, that is what the Web site is dedicated to. The main
page of the site
 http://www-personal.umich.edu/~nstevens/fflyrics.html
is titled

> Welcome to the Opera House
> Featuring the lyrics to the sweet melodies
> of the Final Fantasy series

and it gives lyrics in English, Japanese (Romaji), Portuguese,
Italian, French, and Saami, as well as many audio files of music
(without words).]

Leon A Serafim <serafimhawaii.edu> also recognized it as
"Japanese written in mirror image."

The fullest response came from Tomoyuki Kubo
<kubofukuoka-edu.ac.jp>, who kindly gave me permission to quote
this response:

> It is the Esenapaj language,
> which is the mirror image of Japanese,
> with different word boundaries.
>
> The mirror image of this language is;
>
> Tori wa utai odoru melodii *
> Chou wa hen'you no shukufuku *
> Harukanaru kioku idaite
> Meguru rasen ni mi o yudane *
> Katachi o kaete
> Hadoo o tsutaeru
> Eien no yorokobi wa ima


(Asterisks added.) Apart from punctuation, Kubo's reversal differs
from Stevens's (which Kubo did not appear to be aware of) in the
starred lines. I am inclined to prefer Kubo's analysis, which I
infer is native while Stevens credits several other people for
help with her translations.

[* Damn and blast Indo-European obligatory pronoun gender! Just
because I don't know whether Kubo is male or female, I have to
contort my syntax to avoid specifying it.]

None of the respondents attempted to translate the text. I took
Kubo's version to a Japanese co-worker, who shook her head over
it and chuckled. "It isn't really coherent sentences," she said
[approximately], "and in some places it's ambiguous. It could be a
joke on someone trying to be pompous, but it sounds about as
stupid as a lot of Japanese lyrics." Here is my transcription of
her translations:

 The bird sings and dances to the melody.
 Butterfly blesses the metamorphosis
 hoarding far memory
 entrusting the body to a spiraling helix
 changing shape
 transmit the wave [or "undulation"]
 eternal happiness is here

Thanks to all who replied!

 Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist : markdragonsys.com
 Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA : http://www.dragonsys.com/
 Personal home page: http://world.std.com/~mam/
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