[INDOLOGY] Accuracy in translations

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Mon Jun 11 00:12:39 UTC 2018

I am concerned that the conversation seems to have turned to the idea of a
universal right way to translate.  Isn't this a mistake?  Several people in
this conversation have noted the point about translating differently for
different audiences.  And of course, we're all individuals ("I'm not!" :-)
So there can't possibly be uniformity across translations of the same
text.  Nor should we seek it, any more than we would require that a room
full of painters should produce the same painting of a bowl of fruit.

There is such a thing as error, and sometimes that accounts for very
different translations.  But setting that trivial case aside, there can
still be many good yet different translations that are appropriate to
different audiences and that are done by translators with different
backgrounds and propensities.


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:


On Sat, 9 Jun 2018 at 15:34, David and Nancy Reigle via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear Camillo,
> I think you have provided the only possible answer in our time: for a
> unified and unifying terminology use the Sanskrit terminology. It was long
> ago possible to have standardized translation terminology adopted in
> Tibetan by royal decree; this is not possible today in our highly
> individualistic age. Today we may use Sanskrit terms directly, as you
> suggest, or we may place them in parentheses after the translation term of
> our choice. It is even possible to put them in comprehensive glossaries.
> One way or the other, the Sanskrit terms themselves provide the only
> realistic option for a unifying terminology.
> Best regards,
> David Reigle
> Colorado, U.S.A.
> On Sat, Jun 9, 2018 at 3:37 AM, Camillo Formigatti <
> camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk> wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> This was an utterly fascinating discussion to read, I’ve learned a lot,
>> thank you!
>> If I may, I’d like to add my mustard to the discussion, pardon my two
>> cents, even if the discussion seems to have run out of steam. If I remember
>> correctly, no question was raised about the need to always try and
>> translate for instance Sanskrit philosophical terms, which seems to be a
>> given for all of us. The example from Chinese translations provided by
>> David Reigle is very interesting in this respect, because it is a much
>> needed call for a unified and unifying terminology. I believe that to a
>> certain extent we already have a unifying terminology, the Sanskrit
>> terminology.
>> Again, if I remember correctly from my times in high school and as an
>> undergraduate, no scholar of Classics or Theology has problems using the
>> term logos, for instance, to distinguish it from mythos, or physis to
>> distinguish from nomos, or even to use doxa. If we think of more recent
>> philosophical terms, the Cartesian res cogitans is even included in the
>> Merriam Webster dictionary—pretty much as Dharma. Why shouldn’t we then use
>> Sanskrit terms directly, and obviously provide them with explanations
>> either in the introduction or in notes? Sometimes I think we all suffer
>> from a strange syndrome, namely that we always have to justify our choices,
>> alas sometimes even our right to research, by trying to match specific
>> expectations that other colleagues in similar fields actually disregard. If
>> we always stay on the defensive, I fear that we will lose authority even in
>> our own field.
>> Best wishes,
>> Camillo
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