Comme Le Prevoit follows an interesting practice of designating subheadings a, b, c, etc. as separately numbered sections. This morning, we look at the process of building out from the “scientific” approach of textual study.
9. To discover the true meaning of a text, the translator must follow the scientific methods of textual study as used by experts. This part of the translator’s task is obvious. A few points may be added with reference to liturgical texts:
10. a. If need be, a critical text of the passage must first be established so that the translation can be done from the original or at least from the best available text.
The principle is laid down for referral to the best available text. This was somewhat set aside when the latest Lectionary went to the ca 398 AD Vulgate rather than the actual biblical languages.
11. b. Latin terms must be considered in the light of their uses-historical or cultural, Christian or liturgical. For example, the early Christian use of devotio differs from its use in classical or more modern times. The Latin oratio means in English not an oration (one of its senses in classical Latin) but a prayer—and this English word bears different meanings, such as prayer of praise or prayer in general or prayer of petition. Pius and pietas are very inadequately rendered in English as pious and piety. In one case the Latin salus may mean salvation in the theological sense; elsewhere it may mean safety, health (physical health or total health), or well-being. Sarx-caro is inadequately rendered in English as flesh. Doulos-servus and famula are inadequately rendered in English by slave, servant, handmaid. The force of an image or metaphor must also be considered, whether it is rare or common, living or worn out.
There is a realization of the complexity of definitions within Latin and target languages. As we know from English, some words like let or save bear the weight of many definitions, and context is all-important to determine if these words are the best choices to convey meaning. There’s always the possibility that an English turn of phrase will pop an unintended meaning into the head of the casual worshipper.
12. c. The translator must always keep in mind that the “unit of meaning” is not the individual word but the whole passage. The translator must therefore be careful that the translation is not so analytical that it exaggerates the importance of particular phrases while it obscures or weakens the meaning of the whole. Thus, in Latin, the piling up of ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilem may increase the sense of invocation. In other tongues, a succession of adjectives may actually weaken the force of the prayer. The same is true of beatissima Virgo or beata et gloriosa or the routine addition of sanctus or beatus to a saint’s name, or the too casual use of superlatives. Understatement in English is sometimes the more effective means of emphasis.
I remember hearing in grad school that a Far East language treats a three-fold repetition as sarcasm. When a proposal came along to alter “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus,” it was denied, though an entirely different meaning would be rendered into the regional vernacular.
13. d. To keep the correct signification, words and expressions must be used in their proper historical, social, and ritual meanings. Thus, in prayers for Lent, ieiunium now has the sense of lenten observance, both liturgical and ascetic; the meaning is not confined to abstinence from food. Tapeinos-humilis originally had “class” overtones not present in the English humble or even lowly. Many of the phrases of approach to the Almighty were originally adapted from forms of address to the Sovereign in the courts of Byzantium and Rome. It is necessary to study how far an attempt should be made to offer equivalents in modern English for such words as Quaesumus, dignare, clementissime, maiestas, and the like.