[INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations

Martin Gansten martingansten at gmail.com
Wed Jun 6 11:38:48 UTC 2018

Andrew Ollett wrote:

> 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.

I'm not sure if the last word is a typo for 'tic' or 'trick'. Either 
way, the practice is not confined to Indologists: in my particular area 
of specialization -- the history of astrology -- the use of (mostly 
square or pointed, but sometimes round) brackets to mark insertions is 
pretty much standard practice in translations from several languages 
(and, I would say, mostly for very good reasons, which is not to say 
that I haven't seen them misused). Just pulling a few volumes off my 
shelf/from my hard drive, I see that Burnett and al-Hamdi, Dykes, 
Pingree and Yano all use brackets in their translations from Arabic; 
Denningmann, Frommhold, Gramaglia, Heilen, Holden, Hübner, Knobloch and 
Schönberger, Lopilato, Riley and Schmidt, in translations from Greek; 
Dykes and Holden, in translations from Latin; etc. I'm sure there are 
many more examples.

The few translations of astrological texts that I have seen which 
consistently avoid using brackets -- such as Robbins's now somewhat 
dated translation (1940) of the Tetrabiblos -- are, largely for that 
reason, rather unreliable and must be treated with caution by anyone 
wishing to disentangle the actual content of the original from the 
(sometimes necessary) interpretations/interpolations of the translator.

Martin Gansten

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