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Thread poster: Raúl Casanova
Linguistic puzzle

Raúl Casanova  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 00:59
English to Spanish
Aug 19, 2010

Dear colleages,
I am starting this thread because of a puzzling equivalence of the English terms “layperson” and “secular” with Spanish terms “persona común”, “laico” and “secular”. It all started with a translation of an academic article titled “The Philosophical Fundaments of Darwinism”. The translation was performed as a translation exercise, and by confronting the translator’s version with the editor’s one, several doubts arose which went beyond the translation experience and into a linguistic discussion about the core meaning of the text. I am not asking for an arbitration (it is no necessary and this wouldn’t be the place to ask for it), but for the opinion of more matured linguists, in both languages, as an aid to find the real meaning. Here are the examples (changes in bold)
1) (Source text) To be sure there have been proponents of evolution before Darwin, beginning with Buffon, and even a well thought out theory of evolution by Jean Baptiste Lamarck, but all laypersons, and even almost all naturalists and philosophers still accepted a stable, constant world in 1859.
(Spanish translation)Para ser exactos, han habido proponentes de la evolución antes de Darwin, empezando por Buffon, e inclusive una bien pensada teoría de la evolución de Jean Baptiste Lamarck, pero toda persona laica y, más aún, casi todos los naturalistas y filósofos todavía aceptaban un mundo estable y constante en 1859.
(Editor corrections) Por cierto, han habido proponentes de la evolución antes de Darwin, empezando por Buffon, e inclusive una bien pensada teoría de la evolución de Jean Baptiste Lamarck, pero todas las personas comunes y, más aún, casi todos los naturalistas y filósofos todavía aceptaban un mundo estable y constante en 1859.
2) (Source text) Darwin’s revolutionary proposal was, thus, to replace the divinely-controlled world by a strictly secular world, run according to the natural laws.
(Spanish translation) La propuesta revolucionaria de Darwin fue, por lo tanto, reemplazar el mundo divinamente controlado por un mundo estrictamente secular, funcionando de acuerdo a leyes naturales.
(Editor corrections) La propuesta revolucionaria de Darwin fue, por lo tanto, reemplazar el mundo divinamente controlado por un mundo estrictamente laico, funcionando de acuerdo a leyes naturales.
3(Source text) He was responsible for the replacement of a world view based on Christian dogma by a strictly secular world view.
(Spanish translation) Él fue el responsable de la sustitución de una visión del mundo basada en el dogma cristiano por otra estrictamente secular.
(Editor corrections) Él fue el responsable de la sustitución de una visión del mundo basada en el dogma cristiano por otra estrictamente laica.
Thans in advance for your time and your comments.
Raúl


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 23:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sticking my neck out... Aug 19, 2010

I agree fully with both of the Editor’s corrections in item 1. ‘To be sure’ does not mean ‘Para ser exacto’. It means the same as ‘Of course…’ and merely suggests that the idea coming next in the sentence is (or should be…) obvious to reader: ‘Por supuesto…’, Evidentemente…’, or, as your Editor has suggested: ‘Por cierto…’.

‘Layperson’ is often used to refer to any non-specialist – the proverbial ‘man in the street’ or, as your Editor has suggested: ‘las personas comunas’.

Items 2) and 3) are a bit more complex, because they use ‘layperson’ in a different way, in a specifically faith-oriented sense.

It is my understanding that ‘secular’ (in both eng and esp) refers to the divergence of views between two religious standpoints. Lay/laico, on the other hand, distinguishes between ‘men of the cloth’ (ecclesiastics) and ‘laymen’, that is, people who are not ecclesiastics.

Since the argument over Darwin’s theory was between ‘ecclesiastics’, on the one hand, and Darwin considered as a non-ecclesiatic layman, on the other hand, and not between, say, between Catholics and Protestants, the most appropriate translation is ‘laico’. So, again, I support your Editor’s choice.

MediaMatrix


[Edited at 2010-08-20 01:34 GMT]


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:59
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
At least some points valid Aug 19, 2010

My 2p for what it's worth...

In (1), I must admit I certainly agree that To be sure doesn't really mean Para ser exactos. The intended meaning of this phrase is usually something like "admittedly", "Although it's true that...". (I'm not sure por cierto works that well either, mind...)

I don't think the author means laypersons in a strictly religious sense here-- I think they mean more personas no especialistas, though it is slightly ambiguous. (Does lego work in your variety of Spanish to keep this ambiguity?)

In (2), I guess it depends on how you interpret secular in Spanish. The meaning in English is essentially "devoid of religion", "ignoring religion". According to the edition of the Pequeño Larousse I have in front of me, for example, secular is listed as being used to mean EITHER seglar (i.e. laico), OR in the stricter sense of "se dice del clero [...] que no vive sujeto a votos religiosos [...]". But I guess which interpretation is stronger may vary from speaker to speaker-- certainly the latter meaning isn't what is intended, so possibly the editor thought that laico avoided that ambiguity.


[Edited at 2010-08-19 23:36 GMT]


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Raúl Casanova  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 00:59
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Neil, for your contribution. Aug 20, 2010

In (1), “To be sure” translated as either “Para ser exactos” or “Por cierto” was not contended, it was taken as a matter o style. The tough point arrives with “laypersons”. I’m quoting translator and editor comments, without any contribution from myself, and I’m doing it in Spanish in order not to bias the discussion.

(Translator comment) "Para ser exacto" y "por cierto" serían expresiones equivalentes. Cuestión de estilo como tú dices. En cuanto a traducir "laypersons" como "personas comunes", cambia el sentido de la frase. La traducción correcta es "persona laica", por oposición a "persona religiosa". Hay que tener en cuenta que todo el artículo está referido a la interpretación laica de Darwin por oposición a la interpretación religiosa del origen del hombre.

(Editor comment) Justamente, usar “laico” es lo que cambia el sentido de la frase. El autor se está refiriendo al común de la gente, al no iniciado en el estudio de la naturaleza o la biología, sin consideración a su posible fe religiosa. Se refiere a personas que aceptaban pacíficamente la idea del mundo estable y constante. La idea del mundo perfecto obra del Creador, que se corresponde más con las personas creyentes que con los laicos (aunque en esa época probablemente la laicidad no estuviera relacionada con las teorías evolucionistas de Darwin).

Diccionario Merriam-Webster: “lay-man”: a member of the laity

De LDOCE: laity noun : the laity all the members of a religious group apart from the priests [↪ layman]
layman noun [countable] 1 someone who is not trained in a particular subject or type of work, especially when they are being compared with someone who is [≠ expert]:
To the layman (=laymen in general) all these plants look pretty similar.
If you don't understand what the doctor says, ask to have it explained in layman's terms (=in simple language).
2RR someone who is not a priest but is a member of a church
De Encarta: lay•man
1. somebody without specialist knowledge: somebody, especially a man, who is not trained or expert in a specific area
• a law book for the layman
2. nonordained person: somebody, especially a man, who does not belong to the clergy

Now in my personal opinion, “lego” could work as well.

In (2), I’m also quoting translator’s and editor’s viewpoints.

(Translator comment) Secular" y "laico" son sinónimos. No lo veo como un error de traducción en este caso, pero voy a respetar el término empleado por el autor.

(Editor comment)Secular(EN) y secular(ES) no son sinónimos, son “falsos amigos”. Te copio las definiciónes del “Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English” y de “Encarta
(LDOCE)
secular adjective
1R not connected with or controlled by a church or other religious authority: secular education our modern secular society
2RRC a secular priest lives among ordinary people, rather than with other priests in a monastery

(ENCARTA)
sec•u•lar adjective
1. not concerned with religion: not controlled by a religious body or concerned with religious or spiritual matters
• secular education
2. not religious: not religious or spiritual in nature
• secular music
3. not monastic: not belonging to a monastic order
• secular clergy
4. occurring once in century: occurring only once in the course of an age or century
• a secular change
5. ASTRONOMY GEOLOGY occurring over long period: taking place over an extremely or indefinitely long period of time
noun (plural sec•u•lars)
1. member of secular clergy: a member of the secular clergy
2. lay person: a member of the laity

(DRAE) secular. (Del lat. seculāris). adj. seglar. || 2. Que sucede o se repite cada siglo. || 3. Que dura un siglo, o desde hace siglos. || 4. Dicho de un sacerdote o del clero: Que vive en el siglo, a distinción del que vive en clausura. Apl. a pers., u. t. c. s. □ V. brazo ~, clero
laico, ca. (Del lat. laĭcus). adj. Que no tiene órdenes clericales. U. t. c. s. || 2. Independiente de cualquier organización o confesión religiosa. Estado laico. Enseñanza laica.

Let's see if we can gather another opinion.


[Edited at 2010-08-20 02:12 GMT]


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:59
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Reaction to editor's comments Aug 20, 2010


Raúl Casanova wrote:
(Translator comment) "Para ser exacto" y "por cierto" serían expresiones equivalentes.


Raúl -- I'm slightly confused by this. To you, doesn't por cierto mean something different (more the equivalent of a propósito)? I guess it could vary from variety to variety of Spanish, so I'd actually be quite interested to know how you interpret it as somebody coming from Uruguay.


Raúl Casanova wrote:
Editor comment) Justamente, usar “laico” es lo que cambia el sentido de la frase. El autor se está refiriendo al común de la gente, al no iniciado en el estudio de la naturaleza o la biología, sin consideración a su posible fe religiosa.


Yes, I would agree this is the likely intended interpretation, though the English word layman does also have the slight religious connotation.


Raúl Casanova wrote:
(Translator comment) Secular" y "laico" son sinónimos. No lo veo como un error de traducción en este caso, pero voy a respetar el término empleado por el autor.

(Editor comment)Secular(EN) y secular(ES) no son sinónimos, son “falsos amigos”. Te copio las definiciónes del “Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English” y de “Encarta


So, reading the definitions, my understanding is that secular covers various meanings including the notion of English "secular" (this is meaning 1 seglar in the definition below), but also some other meanings, whereas laico is more restricted in meaning. In other words, secular and laico can be synonyms, but not necessarily[1]. In any case, I don't quite see why the editor is saying that secular is out and out wrong.

[1] For what it's worth, I asked my Mexican partner his instinctive reaction-- without showing him the dictionary definitions-- of whether this seemed a reasonable statement, and he agreed. But as I say, mileage surely varies between speakers and countries....


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InfoMarex
Ireland
Local time: 02:59
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The contrasts Aug 20, 2010

Dear Raúl,

Your topic caught my eye as my nieces are just back from the Galápogos.

Your problem here lies not so much in the translation as with the contrasts [which the Editor has mistakenly made] to be specified in the text, where the following - to my mind - arise - if the etymology of the terms is not understood:

1.
expert -v- lay
proponentes de la evolución [peritos] -v- toda persona laica
[Edited] Jean Baptiste Lamarck -v- personas comunes

2.
religious / divine / Christian -v- secular
mundo divinamente controlado -v- un mundo estrictamente secular
[Edited] mundo divinamente controlado -v- un mundo estrictamente laico

3.
dogma cristiano -v- otra estrictamente secular
[Edited} dogma cristiano -v- otra [visión] estrictamente laica.

I am in disagreement in all three cases with your editor. The first is that there is expertise -v- layman's language. I do not believe that lay persons are best translated as "the common people /personas comunes". The lay concept here is that of the non-expert person, not of the common person, as opposed to an uncommon one..

In 2, please remember the etymology of "secular" i.e. being in time [and space], as opposed to being of eternity. The editor's interpretation that the world is controlled by laity is wrong. Your translation is correct giving the contrast between a world controlled by God from eternity -v- a world in time and space.

In 3, the editor's interpretation is wrong. Being a lay person is not the contrast of being a Christian. I am a Christian lay person, i.e. I am not a priest or religious. Christian dogma [with an eye on eternity] is contrasted by dogma based in time and space, i.e. secular dogma.

Actually, Raúl, all that said. I thought your three translations were quite good.
Kind regards,

Michael J McCann


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Daniel Grau  Identity Verified
Argentina
English to Spanish
Creo que Raúl tiene razón Aug 20, 2010

El término inglés "layperson" tiene dos sentidos: puede referirse a (a) una persona religiosa no ordenada, o (b) una persona sin mayores conocimientos sobre un tema dado. Creo que este último es el significado del original, pues para concebir un mundo estable no es necesario tener creencias religiosas, y sí basta con saber poco del tema. No obstante, el término castellano "laico" está exclusivamente relacionado con la religión (significado (a) del inglés, http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltGUIBusUsual?TIPO_HTML=2&TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=laico ), en tanto que "profano" es quien carece de conocimientos y autoridad en una materia (significado (b) del inglés, http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltGUIBusUsual?TIPO_HTML=2&TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=profano ). Pero no todo está perdido: "lego" conlleva los dos sentidos: el religioso (sin órdenes clericales) y el de falta de información (http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltGUIBusUsual?TIPO_HTML=2&TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=lego ).

Algo similar ocurre con "secular", que en inglés es más amplia que en castellano, pues puede referirse (a) a lo religioso y lo espiritual; y (b) a votos religiosos y reglas ecleciásticas. Para el texto dado, en referencia al mundo, diría que se trata del primer caso. Dado que el castellano "secular" tiene un sentido exclusivamente religioso (http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltGUIBusUsual?TIPO_HTML=2&TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=secular ), no parece ser un buen equivalente, pues le falta el sentido de lo meramente espiritual (más allá de que religión y espíritu estén relacionados, es posible ser espiritual sin ser religioso). El término buscado está más cerca, diría yo, de corresponder a "mundano" (http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltGUIBusUsual?TIPO_HTML=2&TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=mundano ) o a "terrenal" (http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltGUIBusUsual?TIPO_HTML=2&TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=terrenal ), o incluso a "temporal" (en el sentido de "secular y profano" recogido por el DRAE, http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltGUIBusUsual?TIPO_HTML=2&TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=temporal ). También tenemos "material", como opuesto de "espiritual" (http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltGUIBusUsual?TIPO_HTML=2&TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=material ). Una alternativa sería entonces utilizar más de un término: "mundo secular y material" o "mundo secular y no espiritual", pues no creo que haya un concepto que englobe ambas cosas.

Saludos,

Daniel


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Raúl Casanova  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 00:59
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
To be sure Aug 20, 2010

[quote]Neil Coffey wrote:
[Raúl -- I'm slightly confused by this. To you, doesn't por cierto mean something different (more the equivalent of a propósito)? I guess it could vary from variety to variety of Spanish, so I'd actually be quite interested to know how you interpret it as somebody coming from Uruguay.

Yes, it does mean something slightly different. But being an introductory part for the following sentence, it is not so critical. In fact, *To be sure* sounds quite ambiguous to me. It would literally translate as "Para estar seguro", but this translation makes no sense if attached to the following sentence. An aproximation could be *For sure* (translatable as "De seguro") which would convey the meaning and serve as an introduction too. Other possibilities would be "ciertamente" (back translated as *certainly*) but as a non native English speaker, my gut feeling is that it doesn't fit at the start of a sentence.
Best regards
Raúl




[Edited at 2010-08-20 15:02 GMT]


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Raúl Casanova  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 00:59
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
InfoMarex Aug 21, 2010

Dear Michael,
Thanks for your contribution. It despicts the point of view of a native English speaker, with experience in the philosophical and religion fields. It also somewhat confirms the interpretation I have made of the English source text, with the aid of several monolingual dictionaries.
However, when switching languages, I find that I can’t match every sense of language A with all the senses in language B, without due consideration to the context. And this is the case with layperson-layman. If I translate it as laico , I am saying 1) (Source text) To be sure there have been proponents of evolution before Darwin, beginning with Buffon, and even a well thought out theory of evolution by Jean Baptiste Lamarck, but all (religious but not ordained people/non religious people), and even almost all naturalists and philosophers still accepted a stable, constant world in 1859.
I agree that perhaps “personas communes” could be replaced by a better expression, as suggested by Neil (lego) or Daniel (profano), but in any case, “laico” in Spanish does not convey the meaning of “non-expert person”
In number 2), the term laico was used by the editor in sense 2 of the DRAE: independent of any religious organization or body, which corresponds with senses 1(not concerned with religion), and 2 (not religious) of secular in English.
The other way around, secular in English and secular in Spanish, as adjectives, have matching meanings in only two cases: occurring once in century, and occurring over long period.
In Spanish, secular doesn’t exist as a noun.
So far, and after readings all the posts, I think I haven't failed to understand the source text, but I took a different approach while making a choice of the right words.
This fora has been enlightening for me and I want to thank you again for your help.
Best regards
Raúl


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Raúl Casanova  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 00:59
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
MediaMatrix, Neil, Daniel Aug 21, 2010

I want to thank you all for your contributions, every piece of information and every suggestion has been of great help to solve the puzzle.
Best regards
Raúl


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