The Bulgarian of Moana

Yesterday my wife and I took our older daughter to see Moana ( Смелата Вайяна – Smelata Vayyana – Vaiyana the Brave). It was a great movie, my favorite since The Princess and the Frog, and I really enjoyed the translation. Here are a few highlights.

Пътували сме! – Patuvali sme! – “We (apparently) traveled!” This one comes after my favorite song in the movie (and perhaps of all time?) And it’s interesting in a couple of ways. Pat is cognate to English “path” and Russian “sputnik.” Patuvam is its verb form – “I travel.” The -li sme ending is a present participle (for plural subjects, sme is “we are”) that indicates that the speaker did not see an event, but inferred that it happened from evidence (which is why it’s called the inferential evidential mood). In English Moana might have said “We used to travel” or “We must have traveled” or just “we traveled” (I don’t know, I haven’t seen the English version yet), but in Bulgarian patuvali sme exactly indicates the extent of her certainty.

Пак заповядай – Pak zapovyaday – “You’re free to ask again.” In English, Maui says “You’re welcome,” which presented a problem for Bulgarian translators. The usual translations of “you’re welcome” is моля – molya – literally “I pray,” “I beg,” or “please” and за нищо – za nishto – “for nothing” (similar to French de rien). What the translators, chose, however, was zapovyaday, the singular imperative form of zapovyadam – “I command.” Zapovyaday (zapovyadayte if you’re being polite) is a formula you say when you give someone something, similar to douzo in Japanese or (sort of) “here you are” in English. If you’re in a restaurant in Bulgaria, your server might say “zapovyadayte Vi vino” or “here you are your wine” or literally “command-you your wine.” When you leave the restaurant, you might here “pak zapovyadayte” literally “again command-you” or “thank you, come again!” In English, Maui is being presumptuous by saying “you’re welcome” before Moana has a chance to say “thank you.” In Bulgarian, he’s even worse, saying “Feel free to ask for my help again” as he steals her boat.

Ще ме научиш да плавам. – Shte me nauchish da plavam. – “You will teach me to sail.” Shte means “will” (derived from a verb that meant “to want”) me means “me” as a direct object of the verb nauchish which is “toward/completely-learn-secondperson” (na-uchi-sh), da is “to,” and plavam is “I sail.” Plavam is interesting because it’s very similar to pluvam, which means “to swim.” In many other Slavic languages (Polish and Russian for example) “swim” and “sail” are expressed by the same word, but Bulgarian just barely distinguishes them. I predict that Tokelauan distinguishes the hell out of those words.


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