Sunday, March 10, 2019

Pondering the unfamiliarity of a concordant translation

What I wrote below about translation made me ask today whether anything is self-evident.

The American constitution begins with the idea that all men are created equal is 'self-evident'. We experience the heat and light of the sun as self-evident, but we no longer think the sun circles the earth. That is no longer self-evident.

I hear the music for the accents as self-evident. The shape and tonality of the music reveals the text like nothing else. But this brilliant recognition of the music behind the signs by Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura is almost off the radar since her death and the internet demise of her editor Jonathan Wheeler.

Her analysis meets the operational requirements of the law of requisite variety. It takes variety to absorb variety. This law is the basis for operations research, the principles underlying all that we take for granted in software these days. This law is a consequence of Occam's razor. It is futile to do with much what can be done with less.

How well do we deceive ourselves by our notion of self-evidence?

How important is the nuance of the words that we are used to in the English Bible? We are so used to words made famous from our familiarity with translations derived from the King James that we likely don't think about them.

What about words related to large areas of land devoid of regular vegetation? How many different words can we imagine for them?

How about wilderness, desert, steppe, plain, wasteland, and arid place.

Each of these is glossed in my reading from a separate Hebrew stem without overlap. These are my choices.

These stems are not all 1 to 1 mappings, some are 1 to many, but none is many to many.

ציה arid place (5), wild place (3)
חרב desert (99)
ישׁם wasteland (14)
מדבר wilderness (272)
ערב steppe (65)
שׁרון plain (6)

These glosses are many to many mappings in traditional translations.

ציה desert, wilderness
חרב desert
ישׁם desert, wilderness
מדבר wilderness, desert
ערב plain, desert, wilderness
and several other stems are also used for plain in translations dependent on familiar usage.

When the English words are mapped to multiple Hebrew stems like this, through the free use of English synonyms by traditional translators, it seems to belie the (self-evident?) function of words in a language to have a referent. We also lose information. I have not allowed this kind of freedom in my work. And I have enforced it with software, so it was not dependent on my memory.

If one were to develop a concert program related to fulfillment of promise, Isaiah 35:1 and 40:5 could be a part of it. Old and new music would be quite a contrast.

Wesley - the wilderness:
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them,
and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom like the rose.

Ancient music
Isaiah 35:1
Wilderness will sing for joy, and arid place,
and steppe will rejoice and flourish like a crocus.

Handel, Messiah, opening tenor recitative:
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the LORD. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Ancient music
Isaiah 40:3
The voice of one calling in the wilderness, Face the way of Yahweh.
Make a level place in the steppe, a highway for our God.

These juxtapositions are strange ...the words no longer resonate with traditional settings in English.


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