grammaticality (was old/new translations)

Stephen H. Phillips phillips at
Wed Dec 13 18:27:21 UTC 1995

On Wed, 13 Dec 1995, Birgit Kellner wrote:

 But to explain better what I already tried to
> explain many times before, consider his example: 
> >mahati vAyau udbhUta-rUpa-abhAvasya, kusume
> >saurabhA-abhAvasya, guDe tiktatva-abhAvasya vA na
> >cakSur-AdinA grahaH, api tu yogya-anupalabdhyA so 'numIyate\ |
> >
> >Concerning air as a gross element (and not the atoms), there is an absence
> >of manifest color, but that is not grasped by the visual organ.  Rather, we 
> >know this through inference based on the fact that color is in no way 
> >perceived and that we would perceive it if it were present in air.  Similarly 
> >concerning an absence of a fragrance in a flower and the absence of bitter 
> >taste in sugar.  (CLASSICAL INDIAN METAPHYSICS, p. 261)

> The problems I see in that translation: 
> -       translating "there is an absence of manifest colour, but that..."
> misplaces the emphasis. The main statement of the original text is "the
> absence of manifest colour is not grasped by the visual organ". There is no
> initial statement propounding the EXISTENCE (or occurrence or whatever you
> choose to say) of manifest colour in air. Consequently, the rather
> artificial introduction "concerning..." becomes superfluous - "the absence
> air, when it is a gross element (and not when it has atomic form).."
> does the job. Also, the "concerning..." obliterates the fact that the
> original enumerates three cases with precisely the same syntactic form. 

Well, I did worry about this.  In fact, this is the only place that I
included a note to the effect that there is significant departure from 
the Sanskrit syntax, "more than is my usual practice." (CIM p. 365)  I 
used the word "Similarly" to try to restore the parallelism.
> -       Ignorant of the immediate context, it is hard to say whether the
> three cases (absence of manifest colour in air, fragrance in a flower and
> bitter taste in sugar) are located at the same level, or whether the first
> is in focus and the two other ones are only added as examples (the position
> of the "vA" would support the latter interpretation). If the latter
> possibility holds, the quoted translation obliterates the fact that the
> examples are interspersed in the main statement. "The absence of manifest
> colour...- just like the absence of fragrance... -" seems better to me, for
> it captures the rhetorical flow (yes!) of the argument. At any rate, I find
> it neither necessary, nor helpful, to move out the two other cases from the
> middle of the statements to its very end. This "moving" also results in an
> obvious violation of the original: AdinA (cakSurAdinA) is left untranslated,
> because "Adi" refers to smell and taste, which have, at this point, not yet
> been introduced in the translation. 
Yes, leaving AdinA untranslated is the most serious flaw, I think, here.  
But the moving I do think aids clarity and does reflect the author's 
emphasis, though of course establishing that would be a long story and we 
would have to look at a lot of the preceding text.

> -       "based on the fact that color is in no way perceived and that we
> would perceive it if it were present in air" is a nonsensical translation
> for "yogyanupalabdhyA". Obviously, the translator tried to clarify the
> concept "yogyAnupalabdhi" by inserting its presuppositions in the
> translation, but then, that's not a translation, but a clear-cut
> explanation/interpretation. Moreover, "yogyanupalabdhi" is a technical term,
> and this technicality should be preserved in the translation - explain the
> rest in foot-notes, if necessary. 

Surely it is not nonsensical.  I think my translation is rather precise.  
The term may be a technical term in that it is used by NaiyAyika-s often, 
but it is used in the sense of my translation.  Why should short-hand be 
preserved in a translation meant for students of philosophy?
> The problem of this translation, thus, is not that it insufficiently
> "mirrors" the syntax, as Stephen Phillips feared, but that it does not
> capture the progress of the argument and, in general, represents a
> commentarial re-phrasing rather than a genuine translation. 
I disagree.
> >Moreover, grammar is not quite so important as some would make out, in 
> >another way, too: people commonly understand ungrammatical constructions.  
> This is an altogether different understanding of "correct grammar" than the
> one M. Witzel applied: He referred to a "relational grammaticality", viz.,
> that the grammar of the translation shall not violate the grammar of the
> original. Searle et al., however, refer to grammaticality as a property of
> one, and only one language, not in relation to another - the sentence "you
> are my man" is grammatical in English, but not grammatically correct as a
> translation of the Vedic vocative _viira_. 

This may be largely true, but there may be some relevance, too.  The 
general point is that a translator operates within expectations and 
conditions set by the audience, and sometimes these override at least a 
too strict understanding of grammatical desiderata.  Still, probably some 
basic grammatical constraints cannot be overriden.

Stephen Phillips
Professor, Philosophy and Asian Studies
University of Texas at Austin


> From Peter at pwyz.RHEIN.DE 13 1995 Dec +0100 19:42:00
Date: 13 Dec 1995 19:42:00 +0100
From: Peter at pwyz.RHEIN.DE (Peter Wyzlic)
Subject: Exact dates of Koeppen and Guerinot
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Reply-To: Peter at pwyz.RHEIN.DE

Hello to all

My name is Karl-Heinz Golzio. As I am working to establish a personel  
list to the critical edition of Max Weber's study on Hinduism and  
Buddhism I want to know the exact bio-dates of Carl Friedrich Koeppen  
(supposed dates: 1806-1863), author of "Die Religion des Buddha" and  
the French Jainologist Armand Albert Guerinot (year of birth: 1872).

Thanks in advance.
K.-H. Golzio


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