The origin of the word ترجمة
Thread poster: Mohammad Ghaffari

Mohammad Ghaffari  Identity Verified
Iran
Local time: 11:45
English to Farsi (Persian)
+ ...
May 24, 2016

Dear colleagues,

Do you know the origin of the word ترجمة? One of my instructors at university told me that it is originated from رجم بالغیب. It that true?


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Muhammad Atallah  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 10:15
Member (2009)
English to Arabic
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a wonderful explanation by Bahaa-Eddin M. Mazid May 24, 2016

The Arabic word tarjamah ترجمة can be confusing. The trilateral root r-j-m رجم has three basic senses: "stone, as a verb", "mark the tomb of someone" and "interpret, usually without enough evidence for the interpretation". From the third sense comes the Qur'anic expression rajman bil ghayb "رجما بالغيب", which appears in various translations as "guessing at the unseen", "doubtfully guessing at the unknown", "guessing at random" and "making conjectures at what is unknown" (USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts: The Noble Qur'an); from the second, comes the whole discipline of taraajim التراجم – "biographies", usually of dead people, and from the first comes the act of rajm "رجم" as a punishment for adultery or sex outside or without marriage and also as a symbolic ritual in the Hajj ("pilgrimage to Mecca") where Muslims "stone" Satan, who is typically described as "rajiim" رجيم ("worthy of stoning"/ "frequently stoned").

The only route the Arabic word ترجمة, meaning "translation", can take back to the trilateral root is through its third sense – "interpreting without enough evidence". Another possibility is that the root has undergone a semantic extension to also mean "to render some text or talk in a different language", where the word turjumaan "ترجمان" ("translator/ interpreter") comes from. The multiplicity of senses seems to be invoked in many contexts where it is difficult, and maybe undesirable, to embark on one specific sense. Thus, expressing one's feelings is also translating those feelings into words and other signs; interpreting or explaining a text is also translating it into a more accessible, sometimes less accessible, language; translating a text or interpreting a talk is also making an interpretation which may or may not be true; writing the biography of someone can also be seen as a translation of what is otherwise oral, scattered and unrecorded into a meaningful narrative where a lot of interpreting, linking and inferring goes on. Both "translation" and ترجمة seem to be far richer in denotations and connotations than indicated in this book so far.

Scholars fond of finding similarities between languages, and perhaps those who believe Arabic to be the Proto-language, may find it tempting to think of the word turjumaan "ترجمان" as identical with the word "dragoman" – which is quite a possibility. Lewis (2004) provides an important account of the history of interpreters, or dragomans, in the court of Ottoman Sultans – obviously, there were no "females" in the profession. Lewis suggests that a dragoman was not just a translator. He used to be a sort of go-between the foreign diplomats in the Ottoman capital Istanbul and the Ottoman government. There was a lot of politics and ideology in the profession: the very fact that Ottomans did not like to learn European languages and the view of Ottoman Turkish by Europeans as somehow un-learnable. More obvious cases of the politics and ideology in translation and interpreting are also provided by Lewis, e.g., dragomans' interventions in the correspondences between Queen Elizabeth of England and the Ottoman Sultan in the late 16th century.

(Mazid, B. M., Politics of Translation, Munich: LINCOM, 2007)


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Sorour
Local time: 09:15
Italian to Arabic
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انظر الرابط May 24, 2016

http://www.atinternational.org/forums/showthread.php?t=10

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Mohammad Ghaffari  Identity Verified
Iran
Local time: 11:45
English to Farsi (Persian)
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks May 24, 2016

Muhammad Atallah wrote:

The Arabic word tarjamah ترجمة can be confusing. The trilateral root r-j-m رجم has three basic senses: "stone, as a verb", "mark the tomb of someone" and "interpret, usually without enough evidence for the interpretation". From the third sense comes the Qur'anic expression rajman bil ghayb "رجما بالغيب", which appears in various translations as "guessing at the unseen", "doubtfully guessing at the unknown", "guessing at random" and "making conjectures at what is unknown" (USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts: The Noble Qur'an); from the second, comes the whole discipline of taraajim التراجم – "biographies", usually of dead people, and from the first comes the act of rajm "رجم" as a punishment for adultery or sex outside or without marriage and also as a symbolic ritual in the Hajj ("pilgrimage to Mecca") where Muslims "stone" Satan, who is typically described as "rajiim" رجيم ("worthy of stoning"/ "frequently stoned").

The only route the Arabic word ترجمة, meaning "translation", can take back to the trilateral root is through its third sense – "interpreting without enough evidence". Another possibility is that the root has undergone a semantic extension to also mean "to render some text or talk in a different language", where the word turjumaan "ترجمان" ("translator/ interpreter") comes from. The multiplicity of senses seems to be invoked in many contexts where it is difficult, and maybe undesirable, to embark on one specific sense. Thus, expressing one's feelings is also translating those feelings into words and other signs; interpreting or explaining a text is also translating it into a more accessible, sometimes less accessible, language; translating a text or interpreting a talk is also making an interpretation which may or may not be true; writing the biography of someone can also be seen as a translation of what is otherwise oral, scattered and unrecorded into a meaningful narrative where a lot of interpreting, linking and inferring goes on. Both "translation" and ترجمة seem to be far richer in denotations and connotations than indicated in this book so far.

Scholars fond of finding similarities between languages, and perhaps those who believe Arabic to be the Proto-language, may find it tempting to think of the word turjumaan "ترجمان" as identical with the word "dragoman" – which is quite a possibility. Lewis (2004) provides an important account of the history of interpreters, or dragomans, in the court of Ottoman Sultans – obviously, there were no "females" in the profession. Lewis suggests that a dragoman was not just a translator. He used to be a sort of go-between the foreign diplomats in the Ottoman capital Istanbul and the Ottoman government. There was a lot of politics and ideology in the profession: the very fact that Ottomans did not like to learn European languages and the view of Ottoman Turkish by Europeans as somehow un-learnable. More obvious cases of the politics and ideology in translation and interpreting are also provided by Lewis, e.g., dragomans' interventions in the correspondences between Queen Elizabeth of England and the Ottoman Sultan in the late 16th century.

(Mazid, B. M., Politics of Translation, Munich: LINCOM, 2007)


Thanks, محمد. Do you have access to this book? I wanted to cite this part in a research paper.


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Mohammad Ghaffari  Identity Verified
Iran
Local time: 11:45
English to Farsi (Persian)
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, but I don't know much Arabic May 24, 2016



And thank you سرور. Unfortunately, I don't know much Arabic.


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Muhammad Atallah  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 10:15
Member (2009)
English to Arabic
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Available on Amazon May 24, 2016

I don't have an electronic version of that book. However, it is available on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/Politics-Translations-Ideology-X-phemism-Translation/dp/3895868698


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gsaboft
Local time: 03:15
English to Bulgarian
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Actually, the root is much older than this May 24, 2016

I'm not sure why you're limiting interpretations of the root "trjm" just to Arabic - the root is, in fact, present in all ancient Semitic languages and came into Arabic likely through Sumerian or Akkadian.

See this thread (in English) for sources (scroll up for just the first dozen or so posts - the rest is off-topic).

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/sci.lang/2SOn7Ew4wz8


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