Translating in a “dead” language. More “freedom”. Thinking without thinking.

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Bochum-based philologist Prof Dr Reinhold Glei has figured out why Latin still turned up in many documents in the 17th to 19th centuries, even though it had not been a spoken language for a long time. During that period, Latin served as an instrument for translating languages that had hitherto been little known in Western culture.

Arabic, Chinese, Sanskrit: novel sentence structures in those languages posed a challenge to scholars in the Early Modern Period. Scholars recreated the foreign-language sentences with the aid of Latin, thus crafting a text upon which further analyses could be based. In doing so, translators didn’t have to conform to specific linguistic rules of the Latin language, because native speakers no longer existed who might have taken exception to an unusual syntax in Latin. “Had the foreign-language texts been translated into, for example, German, the translator would have been restricted by the respective grammatical structures. Using Latin, the translators had more freedom,” elaborates Glei.

Continue reading “Translating in a “dead” language. More “freedom”. Thinking without thinking.”

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