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Floating issues List
WEEKLY READINGS AND EXERCISES
29 Sept: Issues
6 Oct: A Semi-opaque process
13 Oct: Letter vs. Spirit
20 Oct: Comparing Translations
27 Oct: Process and Hermeneutics
3 Nov: Radical Translation
10 Nov: Linguistic Differences I
17 Nov: Linguistic Differences II
24 Nov: Traveling Will
1 Dec: Literary Considerations I
8 Dec: Literary Consdiderations II
13 Dec: Final Project Presentations
Assignments and Readings for Week 7, November 10
Linguistic Differences I
Read three articles from Benjamin Whorf's Language, Thought, and Reality: "An American Indian Model of the Universe," "The Relation of Thought and Behavior to Language," and "Language, Mind, and Reality" (since this material is copyright protected and I don't know how to do passwords, I can't put it on the web, but will email it to you). One important (and in many ways the simplest) point in Whorf's work is the idea that concepts do not match in different languages, and for us the important implication is that this confounds our attempts to translate. You should also read two other short articles in Schulte and Biguenet's Theories of Translation that bring up similar points: Roman Jakobson's "On Linguistic Aspects of Translation," pp. 144-151, and Henry Schogt's "Semantic Theory and Translation Theory," pp. 193-203.
After reading these materials, try your hand at two simple exercises, illustrating complementary or orthogonal aspects of the problem of non-matching vocabularies:
1) an analysis of a specialized vocabulary that has been borrowed from one of your other languages into English, or perhaps the other way around. Examples might be Japanese Buddhist terms in English, hip-hop terms in French or German, or biological terms in Chinese. Prepare a list of representative terms (need not be more than 4-5, and should not be more than 20 terms), and say how their meaning has changed as they have been borrowed.
2) an analysis of cognate words with different meanings in two related languages. You can start with Steiner's discussion of "false friends," and expand from there into thinking if there are systematic differences in ways in which cognate words are used, for example, in German and English or Chinese and Japanese (whether and in what sense Chinese and Japanese are "related" is something we may or may not get to; rest assured that I am aware that this is a problem).
Post your exercises by 8:30 a.m. on the day of class, Wednesday, Nov. 10. Use a separate conversation for each person's two exercises. This assignment will be graded.
We will first ask each person to go over her or his own vocabulary list and lead a discussion of its implications for translation, translatability, and the social context of translated language. I'm not sure whether it makes sense to go over the borrowing lists and the cognate lists together or separately; we'll see what we think after doing the exercises.
Before we leave, we will assign partners for next week's back-translation exercise.