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Translation in medieval Europe

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1 Translation in medieval Europe
Lecture 3 Translation in medieval Europe

2 Translation in medieval Europe.
1. Translation in medieval England. 2. Translation in medieval Italy. 3. Translation in medieval Spain. 4. Translation in medieval France.

3 Translation in medieval England
Writing came to Anglo-Saxon England with the conversion to Christianity, which started in 597.

4 Translation in medieval England
Before King Alfred, literary activity was mostly in Latin. King Alfred was the most famous king of Wessex (871–99). He preserved sovereignty of the English crown in the time of Scandinavian invasion. King Alfred was a translator and the initiator of a policy of translation and vernacular education.

5 Translation in medieval England
Alfred began his project of translation with Gregory’s Pastoral Care, to educate and guide his bishops so that they could, in turn, educate the people.

6 Translation in medieval England
In his preface to Pope Gregory's Pastoral Care, Alfred writes about the importance of translation in general and particularly for his own people, who no longer understood Latin. He points out that the circulation of such work in English would encourage literacy and strengthen the English language.

7 Translation in medieval England
King Alfred’s preface to Pope Gregory's Pastoral Care – for self-study

8 Translation in medieval England
Alfred chose for translation books which in his opinion were most needful for all people to know, among them Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Augustine’s Soliloquies, and the first fifty Psalms. Alfred's Book of Laws, or Dooms, attempted to combine Mosaic law with Christian principles and old Germanic customs, so it contained a translation of Mosaic law.

9 Translation in medieval England
Alfred himself learned Latin when he was nearly 40. He translated sometimes word for word, sometimes freely, as he wrote himself in his prefaces, and to each of his translations he added his own commentary.

10 Translation in medieval England
The Benedictine monk Aelfric (955-?1010), Abbot of Eynsham (a monastery in Oxfordshire), translated Lives of the Saints and Homilies into Old English, accompanied by prefaces that set out his intention to make his language simple and clear for common people with very little education.

11 Translation in medieval England
Aelfric also began a paraphrase of parts of the Old Testament, but unwillingly, as he feared that its wider dissemination might lead the uneducated to believe that the practices of the Ancient Israelites were still acceptable for Christians.

12 Translation in medieval England
In the preface to his translation of Genesis Ælfric argues that biblical translation carries special risks both because of the divinely appointed nature of the text and because of the text’s significance for its Christian audience.

13 Translation in medieval England
In this preface, Ælfric attempts to show the danger of naively literal readings of the Bible. The surface narrative may be simple, he suggests, but it requires interpretation in light of the Old Testament’s anticipation of the New Testament. Linguistic sense (naked narrative) and ultimate meaning (spiritual meaning) are not the same.

14 Translation in medieval England
Ælfric’s Preface to his translation of Genesis – for self-study

15 Translation in medieval England
Aelfric was also the author of a Latin grammar and a Latin-English dictionary which was the first of its kind. Aelfric's translation of Grammar is considered the first vernacular Latin grammar in medieval Europe.

16 Translation in medieval England
Roger Bacon ( ), English philosopher, scientist and cleric

17 Translation in medieval England
According to Bacon, a translator should know thoroughly the language he is translating from, the language into which he is translating, and the subject of the book.

18 Translation in medieval England
De linguarum cognitio ("On the Knowledge of Languages) (1267) The Holy Scriptures have been translated from Greek and Hebrew and philosophy has been translated from Arabic as well from those two languages. Yet it is impossible to preserve the distinctive features of one language in another since even idiomatic expressions in the same language tend to differ among its speakers, as is obvious in French... What is considered correct among Picardians tends to fill the Burgundians with horror, and the Parisians too, because they are close to them. If this happens inside one language imagine the extent to which it happens between different languages.

19 Translation in medieval England
De linguarum cognitio ("On the Knowledge of Languages) (1267) Consequently, what is well said in one language, cannot possibly be transferred into another in the same way... Whoever knows a discipline, such as logic or any other, well and tries to translate it into his mother tongue will discover that mother tongue lacking in both substance and words. Therefore no reader of Latin will be able to understand the wisdom contained in philosophy and the Holy Scriptures as well as he should, unless he also knows the languages they have been translated from.

20 Translation in medieval England
John of Trevisa (1326–1412) was a scholar and translator of the Polychronicon of Ranulph Higden (1387) and the 19-volume treatise on natural sciences De Proprietatibus Rerum ("On the Properties of Things") (1398) of Bartholomew de Glanville.

21 Translation in medieval England
Dialogue between a Lord and a Clerk upon Translation, from Trevisa’s Translation of Higden’s Polychronicon – for self-study

22 Translation in medieval England
Geoffrey Chaucer ( )

23 Translation in medieval England
After Norman Conquest of 1066, the official language of the country was French and Latin was the language of church and science. In the 14th century, however, English began to take its place as the official language. It was introduced into schools, courts and the parliament. Chaucer symbolized the re-establishment of English as a national language.

24 Translation in medieval England
Chaucer was familiar with classical and vernacular literature in at least three languages: Latin, French and Italian. He adapted many works from French, notably the Romaunt of the Rose. Chaucer also translated works by Ovid, Virgil and Boethius from Latin and Boccaccio from Italian. Chaucer translated freely, making additions where he thought necessary.

25 Translation in medieval England
For Chaucer, as for other early vernacular writers, there was an overlap between translation, compilation, rewriting and original authorship. Translation was understood as re-creation. Chaucer's metaphor of translation was ploughing old fields to produce new corn.

26 Translation in medieval England
Writing literature in English, Chaucer showed the artistic potential of his native language, rather than French or Latin. Even in his Treatise on the Astrolabe, a scientific essay, Chaucer made a deliberate choice to use English rather than Latin.

27 Translation in medieval England
Chaucer laid the foundations for narrative poetry and imported many genres into England, among them the ballade, the romance and the fabliau.

28 Translation in medieval Italy
The earliest written document in an Italian vernacular is a translation from Latin of a legal document required by the Longobard bureaucracy for estate ownership records: a judge of Capua, in 960, wrote down the formula in words other than those of standard Latin for the witnesses who evidently could no longer understand Latin.

29 Translation in medieval Italy
This type of translation continued for a long time and stopped only when administrative practices were completely taken over by the rising middle class. Day-to-day legal activities required a massive use of interpreting in order to convey to the people the complex content of laws written in Latin.

30 Translation in medieval Italy
In the 11th century numerous translations of medical works were done by Constantine the African ( ). He was a Muslim scholar from Tunisia whose translations of Arabic texts influenced European medical teaching for centuries.

31 Translation in medieval Italy
Constantine had knowledge of Greek, Babylonian and Indian medicine as well as Islamic. A book collector, he travelled to Salerno in Italy, possibly as early as Encouraged by the local archbishop, he began to translate his extensive collection of medical texts from Arabic into Latin. Over the next 20 years he continued to translate Arabic books and encyclopedias and taught medicine at the Salerno school. He also translated Arabic editions of Hippocrates and Galen, reintroducing their works to Europe.

32 Translation in medieval Italy
The first systematic written translations in the vernacular appeared towards the middle of the 13th century in the Law Schools in Bologna and Florence.

33 Translation in medieval Italy
Cicero's works were among the earliest examples of classical Latin texts translated into regional dialects with the intent of raising the quality of the vernacular through imitating Latin style and language patterns. This habit became very popular and produced numerous translations of rhetoric and philosophy texts.

34 Translation in medieval Italy
At the same time, entertainment literature such as the Arthurian legends and other narrative sources were translated from French into northern Italian dialects.

35 Translation in medieval Italy
Among the learned translators working in Italian universities there was a great awareness of the theoretical problems connected with translation. For example, Bartolomeo da San Concordio ( ) in his Teachings of the Ancients argues that "in listening and in reading we shall attend more to the meaning than to the words".

36 Translation in medieval Italy
Dante Alighieri ( ), following the accepted medieval notion, strongly asserted the impossibility of poetical translation. His Convivio ( ) contains the first Italian reference to the theory of translation: "Anything harmonized through the bond of the Muses cannot be transmuted from its idiom into another without losing all its sweetness and harmony".

37 Translation in medieval Italy
Dante himself often tried his hand at translating Latin or Provençal poets into the Florentine dialect for inclusion in his works. The same practice was followed by Boccaccio and Petrarch.

38 Translation in medieval Spain
In the 12th-13th centuries flourishing translation activity took place in Spain, mainly around Toledo.

39 Translation in medieval Spain
The so called School of Toledo played an important role in the transmission of knowledge to medieval Europe. The translation activity was centred on the philosophical and scientific works of the Greek and Arab world – in the fields of medicine, mathematics, astronomy and astrology, in particular.

40 Translation in medieval Spain
In the 12th century, translations were essentially from Arabic to Latin, whereas in the 13th century they were from Arabic into the Spanish vernacular.

41 Translation in medieval Spain
The translators of that period radically changed the state of knowledge in the West. The Western world became acquainted with the Arabic system of numeration, algebra, the Ptolemaic world system, and an important body of Greek and Arabic medical knowledge.

42 Translation in medieval Spain
The translation activity of Toledo School took place in the situation of a striking imbalance between the state of knowledge in the source culture (Arab Spain) and the receiving culture (Spain of the Reconquest).

43 Translation in medieval Spain
In the 12th century it was essential for translators to be associated with the Church. Those who did not convert to Christianity were employed as mere intermediaries whose role was to provide an oral version of Arabic texts in the vernacular.

44 Translation in medieval Spain
The approach to translation – the extent to which it was constructive and creative - depended largely on the translator's position in the power structure. In the 12th c. translators acted on behalf of the Church. Latin as the language of the Church and of scholarship was chosen as the target language.

45 Translation in medieval Spain
The main task of the translators was to improve their own knowledge, not to communicate information.

46 Translation in medieval Spain
In the 13th century translators served a secular patron. The Castilian monarch Alfonso X ( ), a deeply religious patron of learning, exercised control over translation in his time.

47 Translation in medieval Spain
Translators adapted the texts they worked on. In the 12th c. formal changes were made in accordance with Latin conventions of presenting information. Certain historical and geographical references specific to the Arab tradition were considered irrelevant and were omitted. In the 13th c., changes in the text had to do with the important task of creating and defining terminology. The way in which translators approached original texts was influenced by the religious and political context and ill-defined concept of intellectual property.

48 Translation in medieval Spain
The difference between translation and creation is well seen in the works of Adelard of Bath, one of the best known Latin scholars of the time. His translations resembled rough versions, working documents intended for the translator himself or for specialists, probably students, while his own original works were more polished. Translation from Arabic into Latin was used by the scholars as a means to exchange information among themselves, rather than to popularize knowledge.

49 Translation in medieval Spain
Gerard of Cremona's Latin translation of the Arabic version of Ptolemy’s Almagest made in 1175 formed the basis for Western astronomy until the theories of Copernicus.

50 Translation in medieval Spain
Gerard of Cremona translated 87 books from the Arabic language, including Ptolemy's Almagest, Archimedes' On the Measurement of the Circle, Aristotle's On the Heavens, and Euclid's Elements of Geometry.

51 Translation in medieval Spain
In the 13th century, greater emphasis was placed on dissemination of knowledge. This was connected with changes in the practice of translation and its subdivision into separate functions (primary translators distinct from assistants, for example). Prefaces often emphasized the value of vernacular texts for the learned people.

52 Translation in medieval Spain
Thus, if in the 12th century the task of translators in Spain was to incorporate foreign knowledge into a Latin framework, in the 13th century they forged Spanish national culture on the basis of the storehouse of knowledge.

53 Translation in medieval France
The first translations into Old French did not appear until the 13th c. Before then, translation was carried out in Latin and mostly in monasteries. The first documents written in Old French are literal translations of Latin liturgical texts of the 9th c.

54 Translation in medieval France
Under the reign of King Charles V the Wise ( ), translation of classical works was actively encouraged. Charles V built a library in the Louvre and filled it with about 1,000 manuscripts; then he hired ten translators who were generously rewarded for their work.

55 Translation in medieval France
Latin versions of Aristotle's works were retranslated into French by the king's tutor and advisor Nicolas Oresme ( ), one of the main translators at the court of Charles V.

56 Translation in medieval France
Oresme produced several scientific translations and introduced hundreds of new terms into French. He also made interesting comments in the prefaces to his translations on such issues as the task of the translator, the need for accuracy and the introduction of new terms into the target language. He pointed out the role of Roman translators in the transmission of Greek knowledge and emphasized the benefits of making this knowledge accessible in French.

57 Translation in medieval France
Translators of scientific works into French not only created new words, they helped to popularize knowledge and make it accessible to readers. The neologisms were accompanied by glosses, or explanations. They also used the technique of word pairs in order to convey the full meaning of some Latin or Greek terms, e.g. sain et sauf 'safe and sound'.

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