Translation and the challenges it poses

Cino

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You are right. When translating many of the languages I am sure one word cannot be translated into one word. BUT, words can be explained. The problem is these explanations will fill up the whole room. Imagine someone translated the Tipitaka into English and goes to explain. It will be a disaster. That is why most people I have come across all over the world make huge blunders. Maybe I should not say blunders.

Pali is the perfect example. I have never come across another language that is as concise as Pali. It's so concise, if you translate a paragraph into English, the direct translation will be the size of two paragraphs. For example. What does Buddha mean? If you translate it how would you translate it? It's actual meaning is "one whose Buddhi is settled in the highest place". So the difference between Buddhi and Buddha is just a syllable. That is called "Kombu". One vowel. That's it. Buddhi meaning intellect or intelligence.

The word "Vera" in Pali means "hatred". To negate the word Hatred or say something like "lack of hatred" all you have to do is put an "A" before the word. Avera. That means "lack of hatred". Now you might remember the saying in Buddhism from the Sutta Pitaka "hatred does not help negate hatred. Only love can help negate hatred". Now that is an English translation, and is very very famous. Maybe I have worded it wrong but the gist is the same everywhere. Do you note the blunder? Love is not the translation of Avera. It's such a big blunder. Huge. Translators have twisted it sideways.

Hm, not sure which passage you mean? Dhammapada Verse 5?

Na hi verena verāni, sammantīdha kudācanaṃ;
Averena ca sammanti, esa dhammo sanantano.

My stilted, mostly word-by-word translation:

Not, indeed, is hatred by hatred appeased here at any time;
By non-hatred it is appeased, this is the law, everlasting.

However, I don't see any blunder in the more conventional renderings like the Ven. Sujato's version:

For never is hatred settled by hate, it’s only settled by love: this is an eternal truth.

Can you point out which blunder you meant?
 

Firedragon

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Hm, not sure which passage you mean? Dhammapada Verse 5?



My stilted, mostly word-by-word translation:

Not, indeed, is hatred by hatred appeased here at any time;
By non-hatred it is appeased, this is the law, everlasting.

However, I don't see any blunder in the more conventional renderings like the Ven. Sujato's version:

For never is hatred settled by hate, it’s only settled by love: this is an eternal truth.

Can you point out which blunder you meant?

I have already spoken about the same thing. You just said "it’s only settled by love: this is an eternal truth."

I said Avera does not mean love. It's the wrong translation. I mean mindbogglingly wrong.

Anyway, since you know Pali, could you give the meanings of Vera, Veren, and Suvera, and Suveren?
 

Cino

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Read more slowly, I think you skipped over something.
 

Firedragon

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Read more slowly, I think you skipped over something.

Im sorry. I cant see what I skipped over. Apologies. Maybe you could show me what I skipped over.

Nevertheless, the blunder as I said is someone rendering averen as love. It's rather nonsensical. Wait. It's just nonsensical. ;)

Anyway, since you know Pali, could you give the meanings of Vera, Veren, and Suvera, and Suveren? I am trying to make you understand something.
 

Cino

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Im sorry. I cant see what I skipped over. Apologies. Maybe you could show me what I skipped over.

Attribution. The Ven. Sujato is not me.

Nevertheless, the blunder as I said is someone rendering averen as love. It's rather nonsensical. Wait. It's just nonsensical. ;)

Love is one of those words with a truly gigantic semantic field. It's not incompatible with "the negation, or opposite, of hatred".

Anyway, since you know Pali, could you give the meanings of Vera, Veren, and Suvera, and Suveren? I am trying to make you understand something.

I could, yes.

But you could also just drop the Socratic method and get to the point?
 

Firedragon

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@Cino

You know what? I didn't even realise this is a new thread you created. Fantastic. I hope there are others geeking out like you and will contribute.

We were discussing the Pali language. In Pali, there are certain issues I have seen a lot of people mistakenly understand due to their learning style. This is my opinion. And that poses a translation problem which is an ontological feature of the translator. In my opinion this could work both ways as in someone learning a language like arabic via English. When English is a natural language for a person he finds it difficult to understand that someone learning English through their language may have this same issue. When studying a language the difficult way of doing it is to study that particular language through that language itself. Which is very difficult and time consuming, but it's a better approach because the learning becomes more comprehensive and you learn to think from that language. Otherwise in translation what most do is impose our personalities and grooming derived from our language onto another language.

I remember once watching an Englishman and an Indian discussing a portion of the Hindu books or as some people in the west would refer to as Hindu mythology. The dialogue was something like the following.

A: So they were apes who went to conquer another country!
B: No no. In Sanskrit, Vanara does mean Ape, but it is not apes they are referring to.
A: But they are still apes.
B: No no. Though vanara means ape, it does not necessarily refer to apes.
A: That's nonsense. Apes are apes.
B: No no. Apes are not necessarily apes.

This is the gist of that conversation. Do you understand whats going on?

This problem is there in many languages. Especially in translation. Oh I sure wish someone like @RabbiO could give his two pence worth for us ardent students.
 

Firedragon

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Hm, not sure which passage you mean? Dhammapada Verse 5?

I am not sure how that reference works. But you are right, it's in Dhammapadapali, Yamakavaggo.
 
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Firedragon

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Not, indeed, is hatred by hatred appeased here at any time;
By non-hatred it is appeased, this is the law, everlasting.

This is a very good translation. I think this is professor Buddharakkhitha's translation. That's why it sounds so good.

But I don't know if it really provides the picture it's painting, but pretty good. It will still not make one understand what's actually being said.

Appease does not really replace Sammanthidha. Appease is like a satisfying or pacifying a person. Sammanthidha means to completely negate or if I may "cool down" hatred. Yet it's a pretty good one. I like it. Also I like his non-hatred rendition instead of "love". This love matter is a completely Christian type of rendition from a westerner of some sort. It is not Pali. In Pali, love is pem or pema. This verse is teaching a part of the abhi adhigamma type of madhyama prathipadha. Avera means "no hatred or zero hatred". That does not mean love which is absolutely against the linguistic value of the verse. No hatred does not translate to love because that is also against abhi adhigamma type of understanding of madhyama prathipadha portrayed here, and linguistically it's just wrong. Maybe it's difficult to explain.

So that's why I like Buddharakkhitha's translation. This is excellent.
 

Cino

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Glad you liked it, but it was just me, going word-by-word while staying within English grammar. If I got close to Ven. Buddharakkhita's result, that was just beginner's luck.

I do not consider that a translation, it is more of an interlinear gloss.

A translation needs to be understood within the cultural context of the target audience. Translating for a christian audience, it is legitimate to go the route of "non hatred" -> "friendliness" > "love", where love has many highly diverging connotations besides romantic love in the target culture.

But I tend to agree with you that "love" is a poor choice, the way the word might evoke pop culture first and foremost in a reader.

If the text in question is in some poetic meter, then there is the additional challenge to preserve it or find an adequate meter to express it in the target language.

Then there is word-play and intentional ambivalence to account for. In this verse, for example, there is a playful (or significant!?) dynamic between kudācanam and sanantano, the two words at the end of the two half verses, meaning "at any time" and "eternal". How to transport that? Is it a part of the message, or more of a mnemonic device, or a nice trick to tighten the poetry?
 

Cino

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Appease does not really replace Sammanthidha. Appease is like a satisfying or pacifying a person. Sammanthidha means to completely negate or if I may "cool down" hatred. Yet it's a pretty good one. I like it.

Actually, sammanthida is a contraction of two words, sammanti and idha, "to appease" (or to still, or cool down as you put it, which is a good one, I feel), and "here". Again, does the contraction just serve the poetic meter? Does it carry more significance?
 

Firedragon

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Actually, sammanthida is a contraction of two words, sammanti and idha, "to appease" (or to still, or cool down as you put it, which is a good one, I feel), and "here". Again, does the contraction just serve the poetic meter? Does it carry more significance?

What in the world are you talking about my friend?

What does samma mean? Just clarify from your understanding. And as I told you if there was a word to word translation, this is probably great. But still, I am surprised at your response.

Please tell me what Samma means in Pali.
 

Cino

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sammanti = to be appeased (v. 3rd person singular)

idha = here (adv.)

sammanti + idha > sammantīdha.

Pali has rules for such contractions. Conceptually similar things happen in languages like French (ce est -> c'est).
 

Cino

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The PTS has an online version of their Pāli-English dictionary. Might save you some time.

I can recommend grammars and primers for Pali, if you're genuinely interested.
 
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Firedragon

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sammanti = to be appeased (v. 3rd person singular)

idha = here (adv.)

sammanti + idha > sammantīdha.

Pali has rules for such contractions. Conceptually similar things happen in languages like French (ce est -> c'est).

See Cino. I asked you what Samma means. Sammanthi is a conjunction of both words. If you don't know you can just say so. No problem. But I can see you are not prepared for that and this might end up in some kind of unnecessary banter for no reason. So I will just go on and explain.

Samma means all or completely. It's Sammaa in pronunciation. Not Samma as in a short a pronunciation. Since we are typing in English it's difficult to show you but if you tell me which Pali script you know I can show you.

So which Pali script do you know?

The PTS has an online version of their Pāli-English dictionary. Might save you some time.

I can recommend grammars and primers for Pali, if you're genuinely interested.

Actually I am not interested but thanks for offering. I don't really follow English dictionaries when it comes to languages I know.

Thanks.
 

Cino

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See Cino. I asked you what Samma means. Sammanthi is a conjunction of both words. If you don't know you can just say so. No problem. But I can see you are not prepared for that and this might end up in some kind of unnecessary banter for no reason. So I will just go on and explain.
Yes, and the word "samma" (meaning "all" or "completely) simply does not occur in the verse we are discussing. The syllables "samma" in "sammantidha" have a very different etymology from the word "samma". In Sanskrit, they are two different "s" sounds even, which are collapsed into the same sound in Pali.

Samma means all or completely. It's Sammaa in pronunciation. Not Samma as in a short a pronunciation. Since we are typing in English it's difficult to show you but if you tell me which Pali script you know I can show you.

So which Pali script do you know?

Besides the PTS romanisation, I can decypher the Singhalese and Thai, in decreasing order of confidence :)
 

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Yes, and the word "samma" (meaning "all" or "completely) simply does not occur in the verse we are discussing. The syllables "samma" in "sammantidha" have a very different etymology from the word "samma". In Sanskrit, they are two different "s" sounds even, which are collapsed into the same sound in Pali.

It's not sanskrit. It's pali.

so when you refer to Idha as you mentioned are you referring to Sakngaka or Murthaja?

Besides the PTS romanisation, I can decypher the Singhalese and Thai, in decreasing order of confidence :)

That's bloody awesome.

So Is it Murthaja or Sakngaka Idha you are referring to?
 

Cino

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The non-retroflex "dha", ධ, without the little curl at the left. I hope I understood your question correctly?

Here is the CSCD Sinhalese transliteration of the verse (I am aware that the CSCD Sinhalese transliteration has problems, but I don't think they affect this verse):

න හි වෙරෙන වෙරානි, සම්‌මන්‌තීධ කුදාචනං;
අවෙරෙන ච සම්‌මන්‌ති, එස ධම්‌මො සනන්‌තනො.

You certainly sent me down a rabbit hole with this one. Good thing I am off work today! Thanks for the highly enjoyable geek-out. :)
 
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Cino

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It's not sanskrit. It's pali.
Well, the two languages are closely related, and there is a parallel verse in the "Patna Dhammapada", which is in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. Here is the verse from that text:

na hi vereṇa verāṇi
śāmantīha kadācanaṁ |
avereṇa tu śāmaṁti
esa dhaṁmo sanātano ||

I emphasized the word in question - the different 's' sound is transliterated by putting an accent on the "s".

Edit: here is a link to a nicely done Comparative Edition of the Dhammapada - containing the parallel verses from six different texts. (I am particularly interested in the Gandhari Dhammapada, since it is something of a "Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism" thing.)
 
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Firedragon

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Well, the two languages are closely related, and there is a parallel verse in the "Patna Dhammapada", which is in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. Here is the verse from that text:

na hi vereṇa verāṇi
śāmantīha kadācanaṁ |
avereṇa tu śāmaṁti
esa dhaṁmo sanātano ||

I emphasized the word in question - the different 's' sound is transliterated by putting an accent on the "s".

Edit: here is a link to a nicely done Comparative Edition of the Dhammapada - containing the parallel verses from six different texts. (I am particularly interested in the Gandhari Dhammapada, since it is something of a "Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism" thing.)

Cmon Cino. Haha. The languages are related, but not "closely related" Why do you make comments like this brother when you don't know either language that well? Yes yes. they are related. But that's not my question. We can discuss the same verse, in both languages. No problem. ANd you are making blunders that are irrevocable. It's absolutely absurd. We can discuss those mistakes later. In different topics, we could learn from eachother.

I asked you about your comment about this English transliteration you used as Idha. You gave a meaning from the website that was breaking down one translation. But I asked you if you are referring to Sakngaka or Murthaja. If you don't know that's not a problem, I will explain both, and I will explain it completely. Just say so brother. This is no debate thread because there is nothing to debate. All of us don't know all the languages in the world so there is no need to pretend whatsoever.

Sakngaka or Murthaja?
 
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