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Monday, March 21, 2011

Sanskrit and English translations

tatra, tad, tataḥ… are among the most common Sanskrit words. A Sanskrit sentence easily runs like that:
A is B and B is C. tataḥ A is C

A literal English translation, such as:
A is B and B is C. For that reason, A is C

runs the risk to make readers ask "Which reason? One mentioned before?".
On the contrary, a standard English translation of it could be rather:
A is B and B is C. For this reason, A is C.

In other words, in English "that" is by far less common than "this" and so are "in that case", "for that reason", etc. The latter are only used to contrast, for instance, that case with this case, that reason with this reason. To put it short: "this" is the standard, non-connoted form. "That" is the connoted one.
Should we then translate tatra, tad… with "this"…, unless a contrast is highlighted through them? What strategies do readers use? (Or: Do they think that my grasp of English is too poor in this case?)

As for translations in general, see here and here.
As for the translation of specific terms, see here and under the labels "Sanskrit" and "koṣa".

6 comments:

Dominik Wujastyk said...

I wouldn't necessarily use "this" or "that," bur rather a connective such as "so" or "therefore."

A is B, and B is C. So, A is C. (or, Therefore, A is C.).

I have no difficulty in understanding a coordinative sense from the ablative of the conjunctive adverb tataḥ.

Jayarava said...

Hi Elisa

Yes. I think you are right about the this/that distinction in English - you would use 'this' in those circumstances. But you might also say 'therefore' - which might be closer in meaning to tataḥ.

A = B, B = C therefore A = C.

'This' in Sanskrit would be idaṃ/etad. Yes? Is the ablative form of those ever used in the same way as tataḥ?

My understanding of when to use 'this' or 'that' is pretty vague - something to do with proximity in space or time I think (this is not unlike the distinction between 'tad' and 'idaṃ' - though I may be reading the Sanskrit distinction back into English). 'This here' vs 'that there'. 'This reason' that I have just set out here and now, or 'that reason' that someone else gave, somewhere else or at another time. 'For that reason' seems less intimate than 'for this reason'.

All these t- pronouns in English and Sanskrit are cognates I suddenly realise!

My Pāli texts don't seem to use this kind of logical construction very often.

elisa freschi said...

Jayarava, Dominik, thanks for the Native-Speaker-feedback.

Yes, tataḥ can be rendered as "therefore", but I was trying to make a more general point. For instance,
There is A. tasmin, there are B, C, D.
Would you translate it as:
There is A. In that, there are B, C, D.
Or not rather:
There is A. In it, there are B, C, D.

In other words, "this/it" in English are not connoted and are used for "the thing we are talking about", unless one wants to stress the fact that it is far away. On the other hand, in Sanskrit one uses tad unless one wants to stress the fact that it is something proximate or to oppose to something remote.

Jayarava said...

Hi Elisa

Coincidently I came across the form 'ito' in Pali today (= Skt. itaḥ) 'from this' connecting a premise and its conclusion - "the devas have that kind of faith" ito "dying, they are reborn [in heaven]".

I'm not sure I understand your tasmin example. But Probably one would just say something like "B, C, & D are in A." English has its own syntax, as Enzo would say :-)

But of your two examples I think I'd opt for:
There is A. In it are BCD.

It might be different for 'this is A' and 'that is A'. I presume you're suggesting that A exists, rather than saying that 'A is over there'.

I wish I knew why this was so, but I never was taught grammar, and everything I know about it comes from studying Sanskrit and Pali.

elisa freschi said...

Dear Jayarava,
thanks a lot for the Pāli reference. I would be glad if you could inform me in case you happen to notice evidences about the usage of 'this' and 'that' in Pāli, whether or not contradicting the Sanskrit usage I have sketched.
And yes, learning an ancient language is nice way to reflect on your own one!

Jayarava said...

Typical of the Pali I'm working on at the moment is this kind of construction.

There is A.
And what is A?
Here (idha) A is... blah blah...
This is called (ayaṃ vuccati) A.

(Pali 'vuccati' is the passive of 'vatti' = Sanskrit vakti, so the Sanskrit might be "ayaṃ vācyate".)

I'll try and keep track for a while and see what the proportion is like.

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