Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Chapter 3: The Letters from No One
Where a Vietnamese word has been borrowed from Chinese, the original Chinese characters are shown in parentheses.
传 chuán = 'transmit' or 'pass on'.
书 shū = 'book' or 'letter'.
Cóng tiān ér jiàng de xìnhán
天 tiān = 'heaven/sky'.
而 ér = grammatical particle, partnered with cóng
降 jiàng = 'descend'.
的 de = connecting particle
信函 xìnhán = formal word for 'letter'.
|The unexpected letters|
Shiranai hito kara no tegami
| 知らない shiranai = 'not know' (shiru
= 'to know').
人から hito kara = 'person' + 'from' = 'from a person'.
の no = connecting particle
手紙 tegami = 'letter'.
|Letters from an unknown person|
|Vietnamese||Những lá thư không xuất xứ||những
= plural marker for thư('letter').
lá = counter for letters, etc.
thư (書) = 'letter'.
không = 'not/no'.
xuất xứ (出處) = 'source'.
|Letters with no source|
'Letters from No One', believe it or not, can be difficult to translate into foreign languages. In English, if you say 'I got letters from no one' it usually means 'I got no letters'. But in this chapter, 'letters from no one' doesn't mean Harry got no letters (he got lots of them!); it's a witty way of saying that the letters came from somewhere unknown. Translators have to come up with ingenious ways of saying this.
The Mainland Chinese version ('owl message') is modelled on the concept of 'carrier pigeons', known (among things) as 传书鸽 chuánshū-gē 'transmit letter pigeon' in Chinese.
The Taiwanese version uses the expression 從天而降 cóng tiān ér jiàng, 'come down from the sky', which refers to something that occurs suddenly, unexpectedly, or with no apparent cause.
The Japanese and Vietnamese versions are more straightforward ways of expressing the concept.
(The page headers in the Vietnamese version give the slightly different title of Những bức thư không xuất xứ, where bức is an alternative to lá as a counter/classifier for letters.)