Cultural Accommodation and the Idea of Translation

In: Oriens
Uwe Vagelpohl University of Warwick

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The translations produced in the course of the Greek-Arabic translation movement of the ninth to eleventh century amply document the struggles of generations of mostly Christian translators to render an extraordinarily wide range of Greek and Syriac source texts into Arabic. When dealing with material that relied on unavailable cultural background knowledge or was, for a variety of reasons, unacceptable to the translator or his audience, translational technique alone was of little help. With a variety of examples, this paper seeks to illustrate how the translator of Aristotle’s Rhetoric dealt with such situations, how his solutions influenced the reception and commentary tradition of this work and explores the implications for an understanding of translation beyond catchwords such as “literal,” “free” and “mistranslation.”

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