[INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations

Andrew Ollett andrew.ollett at gmail.com
Tue Jun 5 23:38:06 UTC 2018

I have seen brackets used for lots of different things:

1. elements of meaning that are *presupposed* by the Sanskrit expression
and wouldn't otherwise make sense to English readers, e.g. "contact [with
the sense-faculties]" for saṁnikarṣa. "Contact" on its own won't convey a
specific enough meaning, unless the phrase "contact with the
sense-faculties" has been used in the same context. There are three types
of presupposition, as far as I can see:
 - 1a. lexical (saṁnikarṣa- basically means indriyasaṁnikarṣa-)
 - 1b. syntactic (a word syntactically requires another word that is not
expressed, e.g., the agent/patient of an absolute participle)
 - 1c. pragmatic (if "Manu" has been mentioned four verses previously, and
the word smr̥ti shows up, we can assume it's Manu's); most cases of
anaphoric parentheses (where the scholar replaces an "it" or a "that" with
its antecedent in parentheses) fall into this category.
2. elements of meaning that the Sanskrit language just does not encode in
the same way as European languages, e.g., instances where no agent is
expressed in the Sanskrit, but English either requires or prefers one.
 - 2a. brackets are often used to introduce specificity or individuation
that Sanskrit doesn't generally express, hence "their [own]," "every
[individual] word," etc.
3. expansions of a thought that has been expressed in an extremely
compressed way (e.g., a comparison is made between two things, but the
common property is omitted); cases of parenthetical paraphrase probably
fall into this category as well.
4. discursive and pragmatic shifts that are conventionalized in certain
genres (e.g., rendering nanu as "[One might object as follows:]")
5. bitextuality (the parentheses offer an alternative set of meanings for
the same text)

Others can probably add to this list. Case (3) is probably what Alex has in
mind, where texts like the Ślōkavārttika or Pramāṇavārttika just seem like
nonsense without such expansions, although my guess is that many such
expansions probably do "follow straightforwardly from the Sanskrit," and
probably belong more to case (1) or (2) than to case (3). Sanskrit drops
subject and object arguments all the time, and if we're not totally certain
of what the implicit argument is, we might as well be honest about it. But
whether that honesty has to involve parentheses is another question. The
use of parentheses for case (3) is completely arbitrary, in the sense that
one could use "speakers," or marginal notes, or some similar contrivance
(ditto for 5). In case (2), which is on reflection pretty similar to case
(1), I don't quite understand why parentheses are used for some cases of an
English element of meaning being merely "implicit" in the Sanskrit (e.g.,
particularity, contrast, sequence) and not others (e.g., definiteness or
indefiniteness), and overuse of these kinds of parentheses creates the
impression that one is reading first-year Sanskrit exams.

Most of the specific examples that have come up in this discussion don't
seem to require parentheses at all. I wonder if Professor Bronkhorst, for
instance, would have been happier if Cowell and Gough had simply omitted
"by us" than if they had put it in brackets. By the way, Indologists are
not the only people on earth to appreciate that texts are difficult,
subtle, allusive, that they have multiple interpretations, etc. But we do
seem to be the only people who communicate our knowledge and appreciation
of these facts by this particular typographic tick.

2018-06-06 0:33 GMT+02:00 Herman Tull via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info>:

> Birgit's point is one I have mulled over for several years now. To
> "translate" is to bring something from one language (place, context) into
> another. And, yes, that may require quite a lot of interpreting,
> "paraphrasing," etc. It is a unique art.
> But, underlying this is that, at least in my case (and I suspect this is
> true for many of us on this list), I was never trained in the art of
> translation. Language and linguistics, even history...yes, but not
> translation per se. When I "translate," I try to capture the original in my
> "translation," but is that "translating,"? Or, just an attempt to represent
> my historical-linguistic inquiries?
> An interesting (and fun) read that looks at some of these issues is
> O'Flaherty's (Doniger's) essay, "On Translating Sanskrit Myths" in Radice
> and Reynolds, The Translator's art: essays in honour of Betty Radice.
> Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1987.
> Herman Tull
> On Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 4:48 PM Birgit Kellner via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>> I find the positive reasons adduced by Alex also convincing. I am
>> wondering sometimes whether instead of the "translation without brackets"
>> approach it might not be better to begin devising a new genre, one that
>> does not announce itself as "translation", but more of a paraphrase or
>> interpretive rendering which somehow makes transparent (1) that someone
>> renders a Sanskrit text in another language (English or German or ...) and
>> thus follows the logic / narrative and terminology of the text and (2) that
>> interpretative work has gone into this rendering that makes it expressing
>> one among several perhaps equally possible interpretations. Perhaps the
>> problem is not one of how to translate, but that translation is overcharged
>> with too many different and divergent functions, and expectations.
>> I don't find Dominik's argument to the effect that using brackets in a
>> translation is premised on the assumption that the Sanskrit text is
>> incoherent particularly convincing. Authors of texts make assumptions about
>> what their audience knows, and expect them to fill in gaps. We are at a
>> historical distance from these authors, and which gaps to fill, and how, is
>> interpretative work we have to do, and (now going back to Alex' points
>> about intellectual honesty) it may be advisable to signal where more of
>> this work has been required, for instance, by brackets. This isn't a
>> question of incoherence, it is perhaps a question of recognizing a
>> legitimate multiplicity of different renderings.
>> Best regards, Birgit Kellner
>> Am 2018-06-05 um 21:19 schrieb Johannes Bronkhorst via INDOLOGY:
>> I tend to agree with Alex. Much depends on what readers the translation
>> is for. Since even professional Sanskritists may use translations to inform
>> themselves about texts that are not the focus of their research, these
>> texts better not misinform their readers.
>> A concrete example may clarify this. Cowell and Gough’s translation of
>> the *Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha* ends with the words:
>> “The system of Śaṅkara, which comes next in succession, and which is the
>> crest-gem of all systems, has been explained by us elsewhere; it is
>> therefore left untouched here.”
>> Editions of the *Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha* that were made after this
>> translation added a chapter on the “system of Śaṅkara” found in some
>> manuscripts. Subsequently, and perhaps partly because of this translation,
>> most scholars accepted that this final chapter had been composed by the
>> same author.
>> However, the Sanskrit translated by Cowell and Gough has nothing
>> corresponding to *by us*. It reads: *itaḥ paraṃ
>> sarvadarśanaśiromaṇibhūtaṃ śāṃkaradarśanam anyatra nirūpitam *(or:
>> *likhitam*) *ity atropekṣitaṃ*. And the question as to the authorship of
>> this chapter remains open. Cowell and Gough might have done their readers,
>> and scholarship, a favour by putting [by us] in brackets.
>> Johannes Bronkhorst
>> On 5 Jun 2018, at 20:16, Alex Watson via INDOLOGY <
>> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>> I found Dominik's list of reasons for using brackets incomplete /
>> one-sided.
>> I would include at least the two following positive reasons.
>> 1. While brackets may disrupt the flow for readers who are not also
>> looking at the Sanskrit, they are helpful for those who are comparing your
>> translation with the Sanskrit.  (Since translations of most Sanskrit
>> philosophical texts, especially the more technical ones, are extremely
>> difficult to understand without simultaneously looking at the Sanskrit, I
>> find the use of brackets in the translation of philosophical texts more
>> desirable than undesirable.)
>> 2. Intellectual honesty.  Use of brackets signals what follows
>> straightforwardly from the Sanskrit, and what is the result of addition or
>> interpretation on your part – which English etc. words correspond to
>> Sanskrit words, and what you have chosen to add in to complete the sense,
>> to disambiguate, or to make explicit to the reader what would have remained
>> obscure if you had just stuck to rendering the Sanskrit words.
>> Best
>> Alex
>> --
>> Alex Watson
>> Professor of Indian Philosophy
>> Head of Philosophy Department
>> Ashoka University
>> *https://ashokauniversity.academia.edu/AlexWatson
>> <https://ashokauniversity.academia.edu/AlexWatson>*
>> <http://www.aas-in-asia2018.com/>
>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>> From: Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com>
>>> To: Harry Spier <hspier.muktabodha at gmail.com>
>>> Cc: Indology <indology at list.indology.info>
>>> Bcc:
>>> Date: Sun, 3 Jun 2018 20:23:19 -0600
>>> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations
>>> Your question presses a big red button for me :-)  My thoughts are here
>>> <https://cikitsa.blogspot.com/2016/04/on-use-of-parentheses-in-translation.html>
>>> .
>>> --
>>> Professor Dominik Wujastyk
>>> <http://ualberta.academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>
>>> ​,​
>>> Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
>>> ​,​
>>> Department of History and Classics
>>> <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
>>> ​,​
>>> University of Alberta, Canada
>>> ​.​
>>> South Asia at the U of A:
>>> ​sas.ualberta.ca​
>>> ​​
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>> --
>> ----
>> Prof. Dr. Birgit Kellner
>> Director
>> Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
>> Austrian Academy of Sciences
>> Hollandstrasse 11-13/2
>> A-1020 Vienna
>> Austria
>> Phone: +43-(0)1-51581-6420
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