Monday, May 26, 2014

Translation: word-for-word and sense-for-sense

Richard Rolle of Hampole

In getting ready for my keynote address at the upcoming Seoul International Book Fair, I looked up the meaning of translation, and in the Oxford English Dictionary, I found the meaning of "translation" and the word's first occurrence in English with this meaning:
The action or process of turning from one language into another; also, the product of this; a version in a different language. a 1340 Hampole Psalter Prol., In Þe translacioun i folow Þe lettere als mykyll as i may. (OED, Vol. 2, 1971, 266b)
Wikipedia informs me that "Hampole" refers to Richard Rolle of Hampole, a wandering hermit who translated the Psalter, a collection of psalms from the Old Testament, from Latin into English, though the spelling is not quite our modern alphabet, and there's also that odd word "mykyll" (though some might recall it from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet), which means "much" (a word to which it is etymologically related).

Hampole is saying, "In the translation, I follow the letter as much as I may" -- in other words, literal translation, which I also have done with his words -- though he quickly adds:
And Þare i fynd na propire ynglis i folow Þe wit of Þe worde, swa Þat Þai Þhat sall red it Þaim Þare noght dred errynge.
Literally, this says, "And there I find no proper English, I follow the wit of the word so that they that shall read it, them there not dread erring." But here, the literal rendering fails us, so we ought to follow the "wit," i.e., the sense: "And where I find no proper English, I follow the sense of the word so that those who read it need not fear to err."

We thus see Hampole working with two implicit theories of translation: word-for-word and sense-for-sense. The former would never work between Korean and English!



At 12:50 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...


Dante versus Translators

At 3:19 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...


Jeffery Hodges

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