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REQ: Latin translation for HPMOR

13 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 August 2011 10:20AM

If anyone can do non-wrong Latin, I could use a translation of the following for HPMOR.  The original is supposed to be circa 1200.

No rescuer hath the rescuer.
No Lord hath the champion,
no mother and no father,
only nothingness above.

Comments (52)

Comment author: lessdazed 23 August 2011 07:26:28AM *  15 points [-]

I would have entitled the post "REQ: Latin translations for HPMOR".

I thought the request was to translate the entire book until I clicked the link! A funny moment.

Did anyone else think that?

Comment author: Konkvistador 26 August 2011 05:47:09PM 0 points [-]

+1

Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 24 August 2011 12:27:09AM 0 points [-]

Me too.

Comment author: Dorikka 23 August 2011 10:43:18AM 0 points [-]

Moi.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 23 August 2011 08:18:45AM 0 points [-]

I did.

Comment author: Jem 22 August 2011 05:41:20PM *  23 points [-]

Okay, I'll stop lurking and register, if it will help get a new HPMOR out. Here is my translation:

non est salvatori salvator

neque victori Dominus

nec pater nec mater

modo nihilitas supera

I do have confidence in my translation, which I suppose is a tiny amount of evidence in its favor. The sense is very well preserved, and it has a rhythm that flows well (admittedly subjective). I did not fit it to a classical Latin poetic form such as a hexameter or elegaic couplet; I could do this as well but I doubt I could do it while leaving the sense strictly unchanged.

(note for fellow Latinists: the construction in the first two lines is the dative of possession, which I think is very nice for this metaphorical (as opposed to physical possession) sense of "hath")

Comment author: Jem 22 August 2011 05:56:56PM 8 points [-]

Hmm..."victor" probably isn't a good choice here, though. I didn't recognize the ambiguity in the English at first, until I read Dallas' translation. "Champion" in English can mean "winner" or "defender/fighter for a cause", and I went with "winner", but I think Dallas is correct in thinking that Eliezer wanted the "defender" meaning. In that case, make the second line

"nec defensori Dominus"

(propugnatori, as Dallas has it, also has roughly the same meaning (shades up the "fighting" connotation), but ugh, five syllables with a glottal stop; I'd keep it to prose)

Comment author: gjm 22 August 2011 08:53:37PM 2 points [-]

nec or neque?

Doesn't modo usually indicate a quantitative restriction? ("You're only allowed 10 of those", "he was only just alive", etc.) Note: I'm basing this on looking it up in Lewis&Short, not on genuine expertise of my own.

Where's the glottal stop in propugnatori? (Regardless, I like defensor.)

Comment author: Jem 22 August 2011 11:42:34PM *  7 points [-]

I went with nec because I liked the sound better with one syllable. Neque would work as well (as I understand it, the only difference is that neque slightly stresses that it is a conjuction).

As for modo/sola, I had sola but then changed it...both translations share the same issue, which is that the original English "only nothingness" doesn't quite work for me. "Only", to me, suggests that there's at least something. What do you think of the following sentences?

  • I listened at the window, but heard only nothing outside.
  • There were only zero eggs left in the carton.

My opinion is that those are ill-formed in the same way as "Only nothingness above"; all three would be better off without "only". Similarly, neither modo nor sola seem right when applied to nihilitas, and for the same reason: the nothingness isn't alone, it just...isn't. I guess my real suggestion here is to modify the English.

Thank you for making me do the research on the phonetics. I reached for a term that meant "that sound that a g makes when it's right before an n", and incorrectly came up with "glottal stop". Now I know that it's a "velar nasal", so I learned something today!

Comment author: gjm 23 August 2011 08:43:45AM 5 points [-]

Consider "I looked around me, and saw only empty space"; "I shouted and listened for an echo, but heard only silence"; "through one door I saw the familiar outside world; through the other, only the emptiness of space". "Nothingness" isn't quite the same as "nothing"; it means something more like "the appearance of nothing where you might have expected there to be something". (Perhaps that's why I thought inanitas (literally "emptiness") rather than nihilitas, but another reason is that I simply didn't think of nihilitas :-).)

If nec and neque are semantically equivalent, then I agree with you in preferring nec defensori and neque victori on metrical grounds. If soter is acceptable Latin for saviour/rescuer, and if its (dubious) ablative is something like soteri -- neither of which I'd be too sure of! -- then "non est soteri soter. nec defensori dominus" is an improvement rhythmically. I think. I was never any good with Latin poetry.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 August 2011 06:11:57AM 4 points [-]

Modifying the English isn't unthinkable. What sounds right in Latin?

Comment author: Jem 23 August 2011 04:10:43PM *  5 points [-]

Here are some possibilities:

nulla res curans superna -> nothing above [i.e., in the heavens] that cares
nihil nisi stellae supernum -> nothing above but stars
nihil nisi inanitas supernum -> nothing above but the void (or, nothing above but emptiness)
nihilitas inanis superna -> an empty nothingness above (maybe too redundant?)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 August 2011 05:18:57PM 3 points [-]

"Nihilitas superna"?

Comment author: Jem 23 August 2011 06:55:03PM 4 points [-]

Yes, works great.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 August 2011 08:36:52PM 6 points [-]

Maybe I'm pushing my luck, but "Nihil supernum"?

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 16 January 2012 06:02:31PM 6 points [-]

As a reader, I'm glad you pushed your luck. While I don't know Latin well enough to comment on correctness, this version sounds the coolest.

Comment author: Jem 23 August 2011 09:06:19PM 4 points [-]

Yes, that's grammatical (as would be "nihilum supernum"). Those are closer to English "nothing" than "nothingness", and maybe too short to fit with the preceding lines, but I don't know if that's an issue.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 August 2011 11:27:45PM 4 points [-]

Thanks! Here for comparison is Google's translation:

Non habet soter salvator.
Vindex est dominus no,
nec mater nec pater,
modo nihil est.

If "Soter" or "Sotehr" means "savior", as I seem to recall from Aristoi, that might suit the meaning well; and if the first line makes sense grammatically, of which no clue hath I, it has a good ring. "Defensori" does sound closer to the intended meaning than "victori" or "vindex". And whether "modo nihil est" means at all the same thing as "modo nihilitas supera", I've likewise no clue but it sounds like the "above" part was left out. If it actually does convey the same meaning, it is more compact.

If this version works, it would have a powerful ring to it:

Non habet soter salvator.
Neque defensori dominus,
nec pater, nec mater,
modo nihil est.

But one suspects that what's actually needed is:

Non est salvatori salvator.
Neque defensori dominus,
nec pater, nec mater,
modo nihilitas supera.
Comment author: Jem 23 August 2011 12:28:12AM 6 points [-]

Yes, soter is a good word for savior. Google has the grammar wrong (it doesn't seem like it's even trying to decline, all the nouns were left as nominative). If you want to keep the parallelism you had in the English ("No X hath the X") it would need to be

Non est soteri soter

or

Non habet sotera soter

If you use the second, I guarantee you will get mail from well-meaning fans saying "You did that wrong! You need an accusative there, and Sotera isn't accusative!". Oddly, it is, though I would never have guessed without looking it up...apparently it was borrowed from Greek and didn't ever regularize; it kept on being declined as though it were Greek. I like the version with "est" way better anyway, and lines two and three would also need to be slightly different grammatically if you switch to "habet"

Comment author: NihilCredo 25 August 2011 08:33:23PM *  4 points [-]

I would be tempted to go with just "Nullus soter soteri", a more poetic construction that in English would be closer to "no saviour for the saviour", leaving verb 'est / there is' as implicit. This would also line up nicely with the following lines.

edit: also "salvator" seems a better match to the "rescuer" meaning of "saviour" than "soter".

Comment author: Cerberus 03 September 2011 02:14:32PM 1 point [-]

I vote for salvator, though I am not an expert in Mediaeval Latin. In classical Latin, at least, the Greek would be tacky. Both words sound rather Christian, but soter even more so than salvator.

I think modo is an improvement over solum.

Nihilitas sounds much weaker than nihil: I'd prefer the latter. We shouldn't think English: the -ness part doesn't need to be carried over. Then again, it is possible that nihilitas was a favourite word of 13th-century literature.

Comment author: ahel 10 March 2012 01:52:09PM 1 point [-]

ehm , man: Soter is ancient greek and it was used by medieval erudite scholar, yes, but to refer, in a more or less cryptic way, only to Jchrist.

Comment author: andreylosev 09 July 2013 11:22:55PM 0 points [-]

Would nemo also work in the first line instead of non?

Comment author: NihilCredo 25 August 2011 09:40:25PM *  4 points [-]

I'm going to offer my own translation, taking a few more liberties:

Nullus salvator salvatori,

nullus Dominus defensori,

neque pater nec mater,

solum insuper nihilum.

(Backslation: "No saviour for the saviour / no Lord for the champion / nor father or mother / only nothingness above". Switched "father" with "mother" because the 'kp' in "nec pater" sounds cacophonic to me. Note that "insuper" would NOT rhyme with "mater", since the "u" is short and thus the stress falls on the "i", which is why I put it in the middle of the line.)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 August 2011 03:22:11AM 2 points [-]

Note that "insuper" would NOT rhyme with "mater"

Latin poetry doesn't use rhyme anyway. It uses meter.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 26 August 2011 03:53:44AM *  8 points [-]

Latin poetry doesn't use rhyme anyway. It uses meter.

That's true for classical Latin poetry, but medieval Latin hymns are often rhymed.

Comment author: NihilCredo 26 August 2011 04:08:30AM 5 points [-]

Classical Latin poetry doesn't, but this is supposed to be from the Middle Ages when it was used in most secular works as well as many divine hymns.

Comment author: Jem 25 August 2011 10:16:45PM 1 point [-]

This is also very good. I like the choice of nullus. A couple of quibbles, the first of which I'm more sure about than the second:

  • neque can't be postpositive...it doesn't have the usual word order freedom, it needs to be before whatever it's negating and joining.

  • (less sure on this one) insuper is an adverb rather than an adjective, so it can't be used as a predicate for the noun nihilum. The public-domain dictionary I checked Lewis' An Elementary Latin Dictionary has it as a qualifier for the verb in all three of the citations it gives for the relevant sense.

Comment author: NihilCredo 25 August 2011 10:29:14PM *  0 points [-]
  • Neque: you're right about this one. I was sure I had seen 'neque nec' used contiguously, but I must have misremembered as I can't find an example of that. Fixed.

  • I know "insuper" is an adverb; it works here just like "above" (which is also an adverb) does in English, i.e. they predicate an implicit verb "est / to be". EDIT: Just to be safe, I quickly checked the medieval dictionary I linked before, and it has plenty of instances of 'insuper' with ellipses of the verb.

Comment author: Jem 25 August 2011 11:41:35PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the link, that's a very nice medieval resource. I agree now that insuper here is okay, there were a couple of uses very much like yours. Interestingly, it seems that in the majority of those medieval citations, insuper wasn't related to location or being used as an adverb at all...it was being used more often as a preposition (with accusative) meaning "beyond" or "in addition to".

Comment author: NihilCredo 26 August 2011 12:26:50AM *  0 points [-]

Yes, it works just like the prefix-less super: it can be either an adverb or a preposition, and in either role it can be meant physically ("over") or metaphorically ("moreover"). The difference between insuper and super is pretty subtle, but I *think* the former fits better for a more 'static' meaning.

It sucks having to rely on online resources though, that glossary is great for mass references but it's very lacking in proper dictionary entries. My paper dictionary is 2000km away, but tomorrow I'll stop at the library to borrow another.

Comment author: gwern 22 August 2011 03:56:45PM 3 points [-]

Francis Bacon was 1561-1626, so c. 1200 means a Latin poem is available to him. Prediction: it will be in his diary.

Comment author: MinibearRex 22 August 2011 04:06:15PM 6 points [-]

Harry got the diary of Roger Bacon, not Francis. Roger was born ~1214.

Comment author: gwern 22 August 2011 04:07:49PM 0 points [-]

Oops! This is not the first time I've gotten the two confused... In any event, c. 1200 is prior to either Bacon.

Comment author: Vaniver 22 August 2011 04:41:20PM 1 point [-]

I am mildly disappointed that you just specified "Bacon," and so the prediction is not trivially wrong.

Comment author: gwern 22 August 2011 06:08:22PM 0 points [-]

I'm not disappointed... and if I had, I'd just edit the prediction. No point in leaving it trivially wrong.

Comment author: gwern 01 September 2011 02:24:46AM 2 points [-]

Well, so much for that!

Comment author: [deleted] 22 August 2011 01:27:44PM 3 points [-]

I wonder: Is this because quid quid latine dictum sit, altum videtur?

Or, do you have some sort of sneakiness planned because of Rowling's use of pseudolatin for magical formulae and/or for prophecies? If so, I have a few guesses based on the current storyline, but that only makes me want to see what you have planned all the more.

I'm keeping an eye on you, EY. (But only because I've greatly enjoyed reading through HPMOR, and am eagerly awaiting the next update.)

Comment author: JoshuaZ 22 August 2011 03:12:18PM *  5 points [-]

quid quid latine dictum sit, altum videtur?

Nitpick: "quidquid" meaning whatever is one word not two words. While ancient Latin didn't have spacing between words, we can see that in this sort of context it was intended as a single word because Latin allows a lot of word order rearrangement and "quidquid" didn't get split up (as I understand that). "Quid" means "what" but "quidquid" means "whatever" or "anything".

And there's a disclaimer necessary here that I haven't taken Latin in a decade so I could be wrong but I don't think I am.

Comment author: Cerberus 03 September 2011 02:22:19PM 1 point [-]

I think I agree that quidquid cannot normally be split up; but is that reason enough to say it must be one word? The particle -que cannot normally be split up either, but it is split up occasionally in poetry, if I remember correctly. I think what constitutes a word and what doesn't is ultimately an unreclaimable quagmire, though in this case I'd certainly prefer quidquid over quid quid too.

Comment author: Emile 22 August 2011 03:41:29PM 1 point [-]

Interesting, I guess the French "quoique" and "quelque" ("whatever" and "some") are descendents of this formulation ("quoi", "que", and "quel" are also words of their own).

Comment author: ahel 10 March 2012 01:53:45PM 0 points [-]

He's right, as far as I studied.

Comment author: NihilCredo 25 August 2011 08:39:33PM 4 points [-]

It's because Latin was the default language of scholarship and 'high' literature in 13th century Muggle England, and given the importance of (mangled) Latin for spells this would presumably hold true for wizards as well.

Also, if the piece is from Roger Bacon's diary, he definitely wrote in Latin.

Comment author: novalis 23 August 2011 05:51:53PM 2 points [-]

Medieval Latin and classical Latin are somewhat different -- in particular, Medieval Latin tended to take on the flavor of whatever the native language of its author was. Most high schools teach classical Latin. So you want to make sure that you're getting a translation from a medievalist who also speaks Middle English.

Comment author: Dallas 22 August 2011 11:50:22AM 5 points [-]

My (admittedly unverified) guess, would be something like:

Salvator non salvatorem tenet. Propugnator non Dominum tenet, nec matrem patremneque, solum nil superum.

Comment author: gjm 22 August 2011 01:21:33PM *  8 points [-]

(My Latin is very rusty. Take all of what follows cum grano salis.)

Why tenet rather than habet? (I expect I'm revealing extreme ignorance here.)

"Nothing" isn't quite the same as "nothingness". Perhaps inanitas?

Literary Latin tends to be rather terse. I wonder about removing the verbs, producing something like: "salvator sine salvatore. propugnator sine dominum, sine matre, sine patre, supra solum inanitas." but that may be too far from Eliezer's English version.

[EDIT: I also wonder about "soter" rather than "salvator". It's not so common a word in Latin -- it's simply a transliteration from Greek -- but I think it sounds better :-). On the other hand, I don't know what they'd have used for its ablative.]

[EDIT: Wouldn't "salvator salvatorem non tenet" be better than "salvator non salvatorem tenet"?]

Comment author: dbaupp 23 August 2011 09:22:48AM 1 point [-]

Why tenet rather than habet?

My feeling with those words is that habet mostly refers to actual objects, in a mundane sense (e.g. "I have a fork"), while tenet is more of an abstract "have" (e.g. "I have a belief").

Comment author: gjm 23 August 2011 11:57:58AM 1 point [-]

That seems plausible. (I don't know enough to know whether it's correct.) I like Jem's dative construction better than either, I think.

Comment author: dbaupp 22 August 2011 11:53:36AM 1 point [-]

That seems to agree with the English.

And it's much better than the version I was trying to compose. Nice work!

Comment author: TobyBartels 01 September 2011 03:48:15AM 1 point [-]

I just came here from Chapter 75, and that Latin was awesome!