[INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations

Jason Birch letusconnect at hotmail.com
Wed Jun 6 16:52:54 UTC 2018

The assumption that the 'use of brackets confounds the non-specialist’ may not be true. Dominik’s blogpost was the outcome of a discussion we had at the University of Vienna in 2016. Afterwards I wondered for a while whether non-specialists were confused by this convention, and so have since asked several groups of yoga students whether the brackets were helpful or not. In feedback forms, each group has been in favour of keeping the brackets in the translations I provided to them.

If one is writing something for ‘non-specialists’ and is worried that the use of brackets will confuse them, perhaps, it is simply a matter of explaining (in a note) the reasons for their use.

Best wishes,


Jason Birch
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Hatha Yoga Project
SOAS University of London

Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2018 22:20:34 +0000
From: "Coseru, Christian" <CoseruC at cofc.edu<mailto:CoseruC at cofc.edu>>
To: "indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>" <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations
Message-ID: <FDB2893F-9D9E-459B-876D-5FA748BAE4DE at cofc.edu<mailto:FDB2893F-9D9E-459B-876D-5FA748BAE4DE at cofc.edu>>
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To follow up on Johannes Bronkhorst?s point about readership, it seems obvious that there are two broad categories of readers of translations from Sanskrit texts: Sanskritists and non-Sanskritists. Since the only way non-Sanskritists have access to Sanskrit texts is via translations in the language their are most fluent in (e.g., English, German, Japanese), the question becomes: should Sanskritists serve their own community or the reading academic community at large (to say nothing of the general public)?

Of course, in practice Sanskritists sever both demographics, but despite the good points about honesty, interpretive preferences, and purpose that Alex and Birgit raise, the use of square brackets confounds the non-specialists, and often makes the text a lot less inviting than it actually is. One might be tempted in this context to note that all translation is in some sense an interpretation since, as the late Luis O G?mez once quipped, the "only perfect translation that can be is the original itself."

One solution to this conundrum might be to adopt a two-tiered translation model, with a bracketed version for specialists and one without for the broader academic readership. In some respects, that two-tiered model exists already, which is why the issues was raise in the first place.

Christian Coseru

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