II. A SHORT HISTORICAL OUTLINE OF EUROPEAN AND UKRAINIAN TRANSLATION



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II. A SHORT HISTORICAL OUTLINE OF EUROPEAN AND UKRAINIAN TRANSLATION



World translation in general and European translation in par­ticular has a long and praiseworthy tradition. Even the scarcity of documents available at the disposal of historians points to its inces­sant millenniums-long employment in international relations both in ancient China, India, in the Middle East (Assyria, Babylon) and Egypt. The earliest mention of translation used in viva voce goes back to approximately the year 3000 BC in ancient Egypt where the interpret­ers and later also reqular translators were employed to help in carrying on trade with the neighbouring country of Nubia. The dragomans had been employed to accompany the trade caravans and help in negotiating, selling and buying the necessary goods for Egypt. Also in those ancient times (2400 BC), the Assyrian emperor Sargon of the city of Akkada (Mesopotamia), is known to have circulated his order of the day translated into some languages of the subject coun­tries. The emperor boasted of his victories in an effort to intimidate his neighbours. In 2100 BC, Babylon translations are known to have been performed into some naighboring languages including, first of all, Egyptian. The city of Babylon in those times was a regular centre of polyglots where translations were accomplished in several languages. As far back as 1900 BC, in Babylon, there existed the first known bilingual (Sumerian-Akkadian) and multilingual (Sumerian-Akkadian-Hurritian-Ugaritian) dictionaries. In 1800 BC, in Assyria there was already something of a board of translators headed by the chief translator/interpreter, a certain Giki. The first trade agreement is known to have been signed in two languages between Egypt and its southern neighbour Nubia in 1200 BC.

Interpreters and translators of the Persian and Indian languages are known to have been employed in Europe in the fourth century BC by Alexander the Great (356-323), the emperor of Macedonia, during his military campaign against Persia and India. Romans in their numerous wars also employed interpreters/translators (especially during the Punic Wars with Carthage in the second and third centuries BC). Unfortunately, little or nothing is practically known about the employment of translation in state affairs in other European countries of those times, though translators/interpreters must certainly have been employed on the same occasions and with the same purposes


as in the Middle East. The inevitable employment of translation/inter­pretation was predetermined by the need to maintain intercommunal and international relations which always exist between different ethnic groups as well as between separate nations and their individual repre­sentatives.

The history of European translation, however, is known to have started as far back as 280 BC with the translation of some excerpts of The Holy Scriptures1. The real history of translation into European languages, however, is supposed to have begun in 250 BC in the Egyptian city of Alexandria which belonged to the great Greek em­pire. The local leaders of the Jewish community there decided to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew, which had once been their native tongue, but which was no longer understood, into ancient Greek, which became their spoken language. Tradition states that 72 learned Jews, each working separately, prepared during their translation in 70 days the Greek variant of the Hebrew original. When the translators met, according to that same tradition, their translations were found to be identical to each other in every word. In reality, however, the Septuagint (Latin for «seventy»), as this translation has been called since then, took in fact several hundreds of years to complete. Ac­cording to reliable historical sources2, various translators worked on the Septuagint after that, each having made his individual contribution to this fundamental document of Christianity in his national language. The bulk of the Septuagint is known today to have been a slavishly literal (word-for-word) translation of the original Jewish Scripture. Much later around 130 AD another Jewish translator, Aguila of Sinope, made one more slavishly literal translation of the Old Testament to replace the Septuagint.

There were also other Greek translations of the Old Testament, which are unfortunately lost to us today. Consequently, only the Septuagint can be subjected to a thorough analysis from the point of view of the principles, the method and the level of its literary transla­tion.

One of several available graphic examples of slavish literalism, i.e., of strict word-for-word translation both at the lexical/semantic and structural level, may be seen in the Old Slavonic translations of the Bible from the Kyivan Rus' period as well as during the succeed-

~ See: Josh McDowell and Stewart. The Bible. Here's Life Publishers, INC.San Bernardino, California 92402, 1983, p.49. 1 Op. cit., p. 75.


 



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ing centuries. This may easily be noticed even from the latest (1992 and 1997) Ukrainian publications of the Holy Scriptures. For example, in Genesis 10:8 «Куш же породивНімрода 13... А Міцраїм породивлудів, і анамів, і легавів, і невтухів, і патрусів, і каслухів ... 15 А Ханаан породивСидона, свого перворідного, та Хета ... Similarly in the Ukrainian Version of the Matthew's Gospel1: Авраам породивІсака, а Ісак породивЯкова, а Яків породивЮду й братів його. Юда ж породивФареса та Зару від Тамари. Фарес же породивЕсфома, а Есером породивАрама. Арам породивАмінадава, Амінадав породивНаасона ... (Chronicles, 1-46)2.

English translators of the Bible have already for some centuries resorted to faithful sense-to-sense conveying of this and many other expressions. So they have managed to avoid these and several other literalisms of many Ukrainian (and Russian) Bible translators. Cf. Cush was the father(був батьком) of Nimrod... Mizraim was the fatherof the Ludities, Anamites Lehabites, Naphtuhites, Pathrusites, Casluhites ... Canaan was the fatherof Sidon his firstborn and of the Hittites... Similarly in Matthew's Gospel: Abraham was the fa­therof Isaac, Isaak the fatherof Jacob, Jacob the fatherof Judah and his brothers. (Matthew, 1 )3.

Much was translated in ancient times also from Greek into Egyptian and vice versa, and partly from Hebrew into Greek. The next best known translation of the Old Testament into Greek, but performed this time meaning-to-meaning/sense-to-sense, was accomplished by Simmachus in the second century BC.Later on, with the political, economic and military strengthening of the Roman Empire, more and more translations were performed from Greek into Latin. Moreover, much of the rich literature of all genres from ancient Rome has developed exclusively on the basis of translations from old Greek. This was started by the Roman-Greek scholar Livius Andronicus who made a very successful translation of Homer's poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey in 240 BC, and thus laid the beginning and the foundation for a rich Latin belles-lettres tradition. That first successful translation was followed by no less successful translations of Greek dramas made by two Roman men of letters who were also translators, namely, Naevius (270 - 201 BC) and Annius (239 -169 BC).

1 See: Біблія або Книги Святого Письма... Видання Місійного товариства «Нове
життя». Україна, Київ, 1992, р.9.

2 See: Новий Завіт (Проект). - Київ, Біблійні Товариства, 1997, р.7.

3 See: The Holy Bible. New International Version. Zondervan Publishing House -
Grand Rapids, Michigan (USA), 1984, p.521.


A significant contribution to Roman literature in general and to the theory of translation in particular was made by the outstanding statesman, orator and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), who brought into Latin the speeches of the most eloquent Greek orators Demosthenes (385? - 322 BC) and Aeschines (389-314 BC). Cicero became famous in the history of translation not only for his literary translations but also for his principles of the so-called «sense-to-sense» translation, which he theoretically grounded for translations of secular works. These principles appeared to have been in opposition to the principle of strict word-for-word translation employed by the translators of the Septuagint. Cicero held the view, and not without grounds, that the main aim of translators was to convey first of all the sense and the style of the source language work and not the meaning of separate words and their placement in the source language work/ passage. Cicero's principles of «sense-for-sense translation» were first accepted and employed by the outstanding Roman poet Horace (65-8 BC), who translated works from Greek into Latin. Horace, however, had understood and used Cicero's principles in his own, often unpredictable way: he would change the composition and content of the source language works that he translated. Moreover, he would introduce some ideas of his own, thus making the translated works unlike the originals. This way of free interpretation from the source language works in translation was accepted and further «developed» in the second century AD by Horace's adherent Apuleius (124 - ?), who would still more deliberately rearrange the ancient Greek originals altering them sometimes beyond recognition. This, perhaps, was the result of an attitude of benign neglect by the Romans towards the culture of the Greeks, which began to be absorbed by the stronger empire. The Roman translators following the practice of Horace, and still more of Apuleius, began systematically to omit all «insignificant» (in their judgement) passages, and incorporate some ideas and even whole stories of their own. The translators began introducing references to some noted figures. Such a kind of translation made the reader doubt whether the translated works belonged to a foreign author or were in fact an original work. This practice of Roman translators, that found its expression in a free treatment of secular source language works on the part of the most prominent Roman men of letters, little by little fostered an unrestricted freedom in translation, which began to dominate in all European literatures throughout the forthcoming centuries and during the Middle Ages. There were only a few examples


 



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of really faithful sense-to-sense translations after the afore-mentioned Greek translation of the Old Testament by Simmachus (second cen­tury BC) and its Latin translation by Hieronymus (340-420) in the fourth century AD.The latter demanded that translation should be performed not «word-for-word» but «sense-for-sense» (non verbum e verbo, sedsensum expremere de sensu). Unlike Cicero, who wanted to see in a translation the expressive means of the source language work well, Hieronymus saw the main objective of the translator first of all the faithful conveying of the content, the component parts, and the composition of the work under translation.

Often practised alongside written translation before Christian era and during the first centuries, was also the viva voce translation. Some theoretical principles of interpretation were already worked out by the then most famous men of letters. Among them was the mentioned above poet Horace who in his Ars Poetica (Poetic Art) pointed out the difference between the written translation and typical oral interpretation. He emphasized that the interpreter rendered the content of the source matter «as a speaker», i.e., without holding too closely to the style and artistic means of expression of the orator. Interpreters were, for a considerable time, employed before the Chris­tian era and afterwards in Palestinian synagogues where they sponta­neously (on sight) interpreted the Torah from Hebrew into Aramaic, which the Palestinians now freely understood.



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