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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

“direct translation” of Orestes’ opening lines

If we reject the functional equivalence framework in favor of “direct translation”, what does that mean? What is a “direct translation” of Orestes’ opening lines going to look like?  I am not sure what direct translation of Attic Tragedy would look like. After a decade of reading numerous monographs on translation using an ostensive-inferential language model the implications for actual translation are not particularly obvious.  

Ὦ φίλτατ' ἀνδρῶν προσπόλων, ὥς μοι σαφῆ
σημεῖα φαίνεις ἐσθλὸς εἰς ἡμᾶς γεγώς·

Most faithful friend,
your loyalty is clear
your deeds prove it.   

The first casualty is word order. An attempt to mirror the surface structure would result in gibberish. But a lot more has changed here than simply word order. Nothing is said about Paedagogus being a servant προσπόλων. Two concepts φίλτατ' (most honored friend) and ἐσθλὸς (faithful) are blended somewhat. The recipients of the faithful service,  which are explicit in greek εἰς ἡμᾶς (to us), are left implicit in english. The notion that Paedagogus’ deeds prove his loyalty is imported. The text says μοι σαφῆ σημεῖα φαίνεις you made known to us [your loyalty] by a clear sign. [Not sure what to do with μοι for/to me and εἰς ἡμᾶς to us.]  

This translation doesn’t include urban street language idioms, however the wording is simple and direct and should be intelligible to people who learned english after childhood.

This translation provides no clues that culture background information is required. A foot note after “Most faithful friend” could explain the relationship between Paedagogus and Orestes.


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