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Looking for a book about interpreting in medieval times.
Thread poster: Quibox

Quibox
Local time: 23:57
Polish to English
+ ...
May 15, 2012

Hello everyone!

Do you know any recommendable books describing the matter of interpreting in medieval times? I would really appreciate your help.

Thank you.


 

Gennady Lapardin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 01:57
Italian to Russian
+ ...
The first that comes to mind May 15, 2012

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toledo_School_of_Translators
There is an extensive bibliography at the foot of.
Those people were like today freelancers.
However, there were other more serious (my personal view) schools of translation, in Rome, Bologna, Paris, Constantinople, Egypt.

This one is interesting too http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_translations_of_the_12th_century

And this too (downloadable free pdf)
http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/705/1/LJC_THESIS_with_corrections_1.pdf?DDD36

Translation and Réécriture in the Middle Ages:
Rewriting Merlin in the French and Italian Vernacular Traditions

259 p/ the bibliography on the last 17 pages
hth.

[Edited at 2012-05-15 19:17 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-05-15 19:23 GMT]

Happy reading!

[Edited at 2012-05-15 19:48 GMT]


 

Aisha Maniar  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
Member (2003)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Interpreting or translation? May 15, 2012

I assume there is not much out there by way of interpreting theory or practice scholarship from more than a few decades ago. At most, you may find some anecdotes by travellers/writers about someone's good/poor effort at interpreting.
However, if you mean translation, I would add Baghdad to Gennady's list. In the Middle Ages (the Golden Age for some), Baghdad was a capital of culture and learning. I would suggest you look up "the Baghdad Translation Movement" and "Dar Al-Hikmah" (house of wisdom). In those days, knowledge from the Greeks and Romans was filtered through there and Toledo and of course, there is "knowledge" beyond those regions, so eastern "knowledge" was also translated (from Sanskrit, etc.).

[Edited at 2012-05-15 20:22 GMT]


 

Quibox
Local time: 23:57
Polish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Interpreting May 15, 2012

Thank you so far. The thing is that I need some info about interpreting, not translatingicon_smile.gif

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 06:57
Chinese to English
Maybe there wasn't any? May 16, 2012

A quick search turns up nothing, so I suddenly realised - back in the middle ages, late Latin was the common language of diplomacy. Maybe there was very little interpreting done at all, because everyone in Europe was speaking the same language.

 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
There probably was not any... May 16, 2012

Interpreting as a profession or standardised activity is very probably a rather modern thing. In the past, the only ones who travelled were rulers and wealthy people, master artisans, high-level clergymen, architects, or soldiers fighting a war in a distant place, while the populace in general lived and died in the same town or not far away from their place of birth.

Rulers and wealthy people had servants or vassals from different origins who helped them communicate with people from other places but had other duties as well. Other travellers probably managed quite well with no interpreter. As for cities, in medieval times there were artisans and providers of different services (bakeries, taverns, surgeons, scribes, and prostitutes being the most prominent ones, I would say), but I have never heard of a language service in such a setting.

We also have to take into account that in the Middle Ages time was very different to our own today. It would be extremely rare to go attend some business to a distant place and not stay for weeks or even months. In the Middle Ages, those who were used to travelling always had enough time on the move to learn the other language to a certain extent and would rarely need an interpreter to come across.

Interesting topic nevertheless!


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Everyone? May 16, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:
A quick search turns up nothing, so I suddenly realised - back in the middle ages, late Latin was the common language of diplomacy. Maybe there was very little interpreting done at all, because everyone in Europe was speaking the same language.

You probably mean everyone (and not even everyone) in a high position in society, in addition to clergymen. Clearly the populace spoke whatever common (Roman or not) language was customary where they lived and generally speaking had no or very little knowledge of Latin.

Education was non-existent apart from the sons of the very wealthy people... and I mean sons: daughters learned to play music, sing perhaps, embroider, and be virtuous, or ended up in a convent. Standardised common languages as we know them today did not exist. People simply spoke and wrote it the way they deemed best.

As a good reflection on what the situation was with languages in the Middle Ages, I strongly recommend Umberto Eco's Baudolino.

[Edited at 2012-05-16 07:40 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Golden Age? May 16, 2012

Aisha Maniar wrote:
In the Middle Ages (the Golden Age for some), Baghdad was a capital of culture and learning.

Well, maybe the people who think the Middle Ages was a golden age watched too many Hollywood movies. Let's face it: only very wealthy people across the world had some kind of healthy, comfortable lifestyle. All the rest of the population lived and died in the worst possible conditions, surrounded by disease, parasites, rats, dirt, wars, pain, and 14 hours a day of hard work. "Golden" hardly fits in that picture unless you were among the 0.0001% wealthy people.


 

Quibox
Local time: 23:57
Polish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Rather an age of darkness May 16, 2012

Usually when we speak about Middle Ages we refer to it (in my surroundings) as a dark age, because of the reasons listed above.

 

Quibox
Local time: 23:57
Polish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What about contemporary history? May 16, 2012

Are there any sources, books, articles, essays, etc. that would comprise the matter of history of interpreting in 20th century. I managed to find just a few, which rather are not very helpful.

 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:57
Hebrew to English
Sanctity of the written word May 16, 2012

It's a shame you aren't interested in translation, since there is a good book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Translation-Theory-Practice-Historical-Reader/dp/0198712006/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1337153359&sr=8-11

Another thing you should remember is that until quite recently, the spoken word was never given the same reverence as the written word. It wouldn't have been an area worthy of study, investigation or scrutiny.

So, I'd wager that a medieval source dealing with interpreting is either non-existent or only made of up cursory, superficial observations.


 

BeaDeer  Identity Verified
English to Slovenian
+ ...
the history of language use in diplomacy May 16, 2012

Interpreting is tightly knit with the history of diplomacy, so you might wish to look for books on this topic.

A couple of suggestions to start with:
English Diplomatic Practice in the Middle Ages by Pierre Chaplais
Interpreters as Diplomats: a Diplomatic History of the Role of Interpreters by Ruth Roland


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 06:57
Chinese to English
Tomas: yes, Ty: no May 16, 2012

Tomas - you're right, I mean specifically in the realm of diplomacy, which is where you'd expect to find most interpreting happening, everyone would be rich and educated to some extent.

Though, I'm not sure you're right that ordinary people wouldn't know any Latin - remember the power of the church at that time, and masses were all in Latin. I'd be willing to bet that most people could scrape a few sentences together, if only some prayers.

Ty: For the middle ages, you may be right, but think of the ancient world. Aristotle on rhetoric? Cicero? And there was quite a lot on translation of the spoken word in the writing about plays - the comedies in particular. Roman writers talking about how the Greek comedies don't translate directly, but need adaptation.

But for the middle ages, I'm sure you're right that there was no systematic study.


 

Gennady Lapardin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 01:57
Italian to Russian
+ ...
Anecdotes about interpreting May 16, 2012

Only couple of anecdotes:
1. Intrigue of Byzantine Empress Maria of Antioch (a French speaker) against an interpreter of French into Greek (Aaron Isaakios) at the Imperial court. It is in the English translation of "O city" by Niketas Choniatēs [Choniates, Historia, 146-7; trans. Magoulias, O City of Byzantium, 83]

"While translating messages carried by envoys from the Western nations before the emperor, he [Aaron] perceived that they did not run counter to the emperor's wishes, and admonished the envoys that they were too quick to accede to the demand for payments, advising them not to concede so facilely, since the emperor would regard them with greater affection and they would be more highly esteemed by those who spoke their own language. The audience was concluded, leaving the emperor ignorant of Aaron's admonitions, these acts of insubordination concealed thanks to the use of a foreign tongue. The empress, a Latin by race who understood exactly what was said, pondered over the issues as they were set forth and disclosed everything to the emperor."

2. In 1157, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa held the Diet of Besançon. There, Cardinal Orlando Bandinelli (the future Pope Alexander III, then adviser of Pope Adrian IV) openly asserted before the Emperor that the Imperial dignity was a Papal beneficium, which incurred the wrath of the German princes.
The word "benefit," then, had a very specific meaning, because vassals were the ones who received benefits or fiefs from their lord. In effect, for him [Cardinal Orlando], the emperor received the Empire as a "benefit" (beneficium) of the Pope.
He [Cardinal Orlando] would have fallen on the spot under the battle-axe of his life-long foe, Otto of Wittelsbach, had Frederick not intervened.
Adrian IV, the Pope of English origin that crowned emperor Frederick I, clarified later, that the word had a more general sense: the Pope granted spiritual benefits, not fiefdoms.
* * *
The linguistic melting pot of that time (High M.A.) was Sicily (Arabs, Normans, Latins, Greeks, Catalans, etc.) It is very probable that in the historical descriptions of medieval Sicily (Norman Sicily), you will find necessary examples on the subject.

[Edited at 2012-05-16 10:46 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-05-16 11:44 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-05-16 16:21 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:57
Hebrew to English
Clarification May 16, 2012

I only meant the middle ages. No doubt the Greeks, Romans and other ancients had lots to say about it!

 
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