Tinggian Inlaud Translation of the Gospel of Mark: The Start of a Journey

Pic1The journey metaphor is used many times to talk about an event that undergoes many stages. To start with, we say that life is a journey. In any journey, there is a destination. As far as the Philippine Bible Society is concerned, the destination of any attempt to supply the scripture needs is to have a Bible in the language of the people, thus a Tinggian Bible. The Tinggian Christians together with PBS have been on the road toward that goal. Today, Feb 24, 2015, marks the completion of the first part of the journey, the launching of the Tinggian Inlaud translation of the Gospel of Mark.
How did the journey start? It started with the relentless advocacy of Fr. Oscar Alunday , SVD, a Tinggian himself, specifically from the tribe or dialect of Vanao.
I remember how he expressed his frustration a number of times that his language Tinggian or Itneg, does not have a translation of the Bible. I found that strange because the Summer Institute of Linguistics is known to have completed at least 60 New Testaments in the Philippines, 28 of these in northern Luzon where Abra is located. So, as PBS prepared to go through the usual steps to determine the scripture needs, it gradually became obvious why the Tinggian language does not yet have a translation of the NT. Not one of the dialects of Tinggian is accepted as Standard Tinggian.
A Standard language or dialect is here defined as a variety of a language that is written, acceptable to the learned, not limited to any particular region and functions in a community as the appropriate norm for communication, in activities of social prestige and as a symbol of identity, pride and unity.
The Dilemma
In a Consultation in March 2010 held in Bangued, ten tribes or dialects were represented: Inlaud, Maeng, Moyadan, Adasen, Binungan, Masadiit, Vanao, Gubang, Mabaka, and Falatok. And all ten wanted a translation of their own. The fact that all wanted a translation of their own showed the lack of one dialect they can call as Standard Tinggian.
More than trying to explain why PBS cannot afford to support 10 translation projects, I strived to understand why there is no standard dialect of Tinggian. In my initial conversation with the different tribes, I asked them how often they get together in such a gathering as the Consultation, with the different tribes finding an opportunity to talk to each other. The first response I got was such, the Consultation they were in. In other words, there is not much opportunity to get together. I asked about Sundays when they might meet in churches. But I was told they usually had their own churches in their villages.
I continued my research from both available literature, maps and personal interviews about the terrain where Tinggian communities are found. All these sources speak of the natural ruggedness of the country and the long rainy season have had a strong influence in isolating the people in small groups. There are 21 mountains in Abra. The high mountains separating the narrow valleys , the lack of water transportation , and the difficulty of maintain trails have all tended to keep the people in small, separated communities.

Map of Abra showing natural barriers separating communities:
Map of Abra showing natural barriers separating communities:

 
The different tribes are separated from each other by means of rivers and mountains. The color ramp used is from green to yellow to pink. The green demarcates the floodplain and troughs between mountains where water flows. As the color lightens to yellow, and eventually pink, the land elevation increases. If not the rivers that overflow during the rainy season, the mountains have hindered interaction among the communities resulting in historical seclusion. Having been self-contained for a long time, Fr. Oscar Alunday thinks this is aggravated by an inherent resistance to integrate with others in order to maintain the uniqueness of the tribal culture and identity.
Translation Workshop in 2011
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The Workshop in 2011 provided training for all participants representing 9 dialects. PBS made it clear that it could not support more than one project. So, halfway through the workshop, the Tinggian participants themselves started citing Inlaud and Binungan as the best choices for the Mark translation.

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Inlaud and Binungan tribes at the 2011 Workshop

 

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Falatok tribe at the 2011 Workshop

 

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Maeng Tribe at the 2011 Workshop

Inlaud, spoken in 9 barangays, is the most widely spoken. In the course of a conversation when the discourse shifts to a chant, as in an Uggayam or Salidumay, the natural choice of dialect to use is Inlaud. These two factors make Inlaud stand out. However, the use of two dialects, Inlaud and Binungan, interfered with the natural flow and coherence of language which is important in translation. Therefore, it was decided later on that only Inlaud will be used in the translation of Mark. The translator who made the initial draft was Rey Calinap, an Inlaud, and the reviewer was Rose Brillantes, a Binungan.

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The translation work lasted almost two years, 2012-2014. Rey and Rose were both part-time.

 
Translation team: Rey Calinap and Rose Brillantes
Venues of training and translation checking were Bangued, PBS Manila, and PBS Baguio. Most of those trained in the first workshop in 2011 became the reviewers who gave their approval of the final draft in July 2014 in a Reviewers’ workshop in Bangued.

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Reviewers’ Training in Bangued, July 2014

 

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Reviewers’ Training in Bangued, July 2014

 
What next?
The title of this article is, The Start of a Journey. It is the hope of PBS and the Tinggian speaking churches that funds will be available to continue with the rest of the New Testament. This is the natural direction of any endeavor as one starts translating the Word of God, as PBS has done with the Gospel of Mark.
How About the Other Tinggian Dialects?
The Tinggian Inlaud Mark should be the best encouragement for the other dialects because it opens up the way leading to start their own translation. I asked the other dialects how much of Inlaud Mark is understood by them. And the response I always got was 90-99%. There is a very high percentage of comprehension among the dialects, especially Inlaud because of its prestige and its being spoken in barangays close to the center, Bangued.
If so desired, a Maeng speaker can do a Maeng version of the Inlaud Mark, by substituting the equivalent or corresponding Maeng words, sounds and other linguistic features for those found in the Inlaud translation. This is what we call an adaptation. The training is not very elaborate to familiarize a person wanting to do an adaptation for one dialect. Such a capability will enable and empower the other dialects of Tinggian to have a faithful translation as soon as a translation becomes available in Inlaud. PBS hopes that the other dialects will do an adaptation for their specific tribe.
Need for a working orthography
There is a need for a working orthography first in any language or dialect in order to stabilize any translation work. This is the reason why three of us from PBS (Jojee, Liz and Annie) had sessions with the different tribes or dialects in the afternoon of the launching.
Training in Orthography for the Tinggian tribes
The goal of the sessions was to develop the rules of orthography for that dialect. The sounds in the Tinggian dialects range from simple to the very complex, as influenced by another language such as Kalingga on Vanao and Falatok. PBS has to continue this dialogue with the different dialects.
The Tinggian Inlaud translation of the Gospel of Mark is a landmark translation project because of the presence of multiple dialects, none of which can be considered as a Standard dialect. This project highlights the need to apply sound linguistic principles in the area of Bible translation.
 
Written By Dr. Annicia H. Del Corro, Philippine Bible Society Translation Consultant
 
1 There is an NT in the Adasen dialect published by the New Tribes Mission. One Gospel was mentioned by Janice and Charles Walton in their 2003 Survey Report. Neither of these dialects is accepted by the majority to represent the Tinggian people.
2  In one of these, PBS partnered with SIL in producing the Ibanag New Testament. Ibanag is spoken in Cagayan province
 

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