to translate or not
|From:||dirk elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, May 2, 2001, 4:44|
On Tue, 1 May 2001, David Peterson wrote:
> In a message dated 5/1/01 2:06:59 PM, ira@REMPT.XS4ALL.NL writes:
> << Translating *anything* lengthy from the Bible (or modern-day
> political texts, or Kipling, for that matter) into Valdyan calls for
> many words for concepts that don't exist in Valdyan (the *concepts*
> don't exist, it's not just that I don't know the words yet) which
> will forever after be part of the Valdyan vocabulary, that is, of the
> culture. By translating something alien to the culture I've
> contaminated the culture by concepts alien to it, and I don't want
> that to happen so I take care only to translate things either neutral
> or fully compatible (like the Vlami story or the Draseléq play). >>
> Is it just me, or does this seem completely ridiculous?
I think it's just you. I understand completely what Irina is
saying, and I agree with her completely. A while ago, there was
a translation relay in which the passage made reference to some
Divine. I chose not to attempt the translation for much the same
reasons that Irina has given. To wit: 1) it would involve the
creation of too much vocabulary, 2) the vocabulary would be
placed in an incongruous setting since the ideas just weren't
available in the imagined culture, and 3) vocabulary, and the
concepts it represents, is just too hard to root out of a
language--made up or not (heck, I *still* haven't gotten rid of
otters from Tepa, even though they just don't belong).
Furthermore, my conlanging time is too precious to waste by
inventing vocabulary and constructions I'm going to get rid of
anyway once the exercise is over.
> First of all,
> it's just a translation exercize--just to see how the grammar works, et
There are better ways to demonstrate the workings of a grammar
than to engage in half-hearted and insincere translation
> Second, if you don't want those words to be in there, then simply
> delete them after you're done. It's just an e-mail, anyway. Or if you have
> to use scratch paper to figure things out, you can burn the paper and throw
> the ashes into the sea. I mean, contaminate the culture? You're creating
Why waste the time in the first place if you're just going to
throw it away when it's done? I'd rather do something
constructive instead, like take a nap.
> If it's others' opinions of or feelings towards this language and it's
> made up culture, then maybe you have something there, though I personally
> could not care whether or not the words really exist in your language or
> whether the very translation of these concepts would destroy the foundations
> of this faux culture.
This attitude shows remarkably little interest, in and respect
for the creation of others. If you're not interested in seeing
how others' languages work, then you really have no call to ask
them to do translation exercises or belittling them for not
> Heck, a couple of times when I've translated things
> for this list and I didn't have a word for whatever was being translated yet,
> I just made one up and had it function the same as any other word of that
> type would in whatever language I was doing at the time. So I really don't
> see how translating harms these non-real cultures over which one has complete
> control, or why one would get so defensive about it. If it's the Bible,
> political documents and Kipling you've got issues with, take it up with them.
You seem to have missed the point. I once attended a concert by
the King's Singers. One of the encores they performed was an
arrangement of the Beatles' "Can't buy me love" in the style of
an Elizabethan madrigal. It was fun to listen to but hardly
worth taking seriously--the elements were just too incongruous.
Similarly, attempting to translate a passage which doesn't fit
an imagined language or culture may be technically interesting,
but in the end it couldn't be taken seriously by the creator.
And it's the creator's opinion which ultimately matters.
Dirk Elzinga email@example.com
"The strong craving for a simple formula
has been the undoing of linguists." - Edward Sapir