CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound issues

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CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound issues

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:58 am

Here's the wikipedia article about it:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CamelCase

I have found that tihs might be useful for some Sanskrit Compounds, where meanings are ambiguous. For instance:

tathāgata, could be, Thus–ComeGone–One, or Thus ComeGone One, or Thus–ComeGone One.

bodhisattva, could be, Awakening-HeroBeing (which nicely also conceals the ambiguity around Bodhi- being Awakening as in process or as the state attained).

Looks nice to me, but maybe it's because I am attached to my own creation. If anyone has any comments on this idea feel free to share. Thanks.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Tom » Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:01 am

Zhen Li wrote:Here's the wikipedia article about it:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CamelCase

I have found that tihs might be useful for some Sanskrit Compounds, where meanings are ambiguous. For instance:

tathāgata, could be, Thus–ComeGone–One, or Thus ComeGone One, or Thus–ComeGone One.

bodhisattva, could be, Awakening-HeroBeing (which nicely also conceals the ambiguity around Bodhi- being Awakening as in process or as the state attained).

Looks nice to me, but maybe it's because I am attached to my own creation. If anyone has any comments on this idea feel free to share. Thanks.
:anjali:


This seems less about solving compound issues and more like hedging your bets on a translation.

The example of bodhisattva is not a compound issue but simply that the word sattva does not have an english equivalent which covers the same semantic range. This is a common translation problem, but I'm not sure mashing two English words together solves it.

It is true that sandhi (as in tathāgatha) can often cause ambiguity with regard to a compound's meaning. However, there is no reason to recreate this ambiguity in the English unless it is intended in the original Sanskrit, and then still this seems like an awkward solution.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:32 am

Yes, what I meant then was both a compound and semantic solution.

I think if you choose to use CamelCase for some terms like this, then the two definitions of the words must be functionally similar, and contextually relevant.

For instance, both Being and Hero are contextually relevant to the term bodhisattva, as the bodhisattva is described as saving beings and putting on armour as a warrior, but also as being a non-being, which is not satisfied by just saying non-hero. The ambiguity of being either sattva or satvan is very nice in this regard.

Similarly, the tathāgata is contextually and philosophically understood as both tathā gata and tathā agata. The tathāgata is described as not one who has gone, or come anywhere. The dual meaning also carries a nice lesson about dependent origination and relativity. The Chinese translation maintains the ambiguity well, and there's not an English term that does this, but clearly ComeGone does.

Where I think your criticism may apply well would be in a term like Dharma, where the three standard meanings of the term are functionally different enough from one another to be useless together. DoctrinePhenomena, would be asinine, since functionally they are not relevant to one another (at least on a basic level).
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Tom » Sun Feb 16, 2014 6:18 am

Zhen Li wrote:Yes, what I meant then was both a compound and semantic solution.

I think if you choose to use CamelCase for some terms like this, then the two definitions of the words must be functionally similar, and contextually relevant.


Okay, it still seems rather awkward to me but that is just my feeling.

Zhen Li wrote:For instance, both Being and Hero are contextually relevant to the term bodhisattva, as the bodhisattva is described as saving beings and putting on armour as a warrior, but also as being a non-being, which is not satisfied by just saying non-hero. The ambiguity of being either sattva or satvan is very nice in this regard..


Actually, the Tibetan སེམས་དཔའ་ can be translated as "hero" or "being", but does the Sanskrit "sattva" cover hero? If the word is sattva why also translate satvan?

If we try and build too much meaning and context into the translation of a term then I think it become problematic and you end up with weird translations. We should let commentaries and teachings do this work. Again just my opinion.

Zhen Li wrote:Similarly, the tathāgata is contextually and philosophically understood as both tathā gata and tathā agata. The tathāgata is described as not one who has gone, or come anywhere. The dual meaning also carries a nice lesson about dependent origination and relativity. The Chinese translation maintains the ambiguity well, and there's not an English term that does this, but clearly ComeGone does.


Tathāgatha is not "thus-come-gone," but can be read as either "thus-come" or "thus-gone" due to the ambiguous vowel sandhi (as you dissolved above). If there is an authoritative Sanskrit commentary with a vigraha of tathāgatha which clearly demonstrates the ambiguity is intentional then I'd agree we should try and accommodate the two meanings in the translation. Is there such a text?

Still, for me camelcase would not be an option as "ComeGone" is not English. I would prefer to just spell out the two meanings.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 16, 2014 7:12 am

Well, CamelCase certainly is English, since it's used. The question is whether it works nicely in this case. Maybe it doesn't.

As regards your questions, yes there is ambiguity as regards whether bodhisattva was originally bodhisatvan or bodhisakta in the Prakrit. In the PP in 8000 Lines you can see a context in which it looks like Satvan may have been the usage in the original Prakrit, but the Sanskrit redactors went with Sattva. The ambiguity is also present in the Pali Bodhisatta as you can see in Buddhaghosa's commentaries.

And as regards the notion of tathāgatha not being "thus-come-gone," that's right. But just about every commentary points out that tathāgatha is not clearly either one or the other. If you say "Thus Come and Thus Gone One," that's not one term. That's using two terms. The one term in Sanskrit maintains the ambiguity. If you don't like the CamelCase accommodation of this ambiguity aesthetically then I guess it's probably not a good idea, since one of the most important things is nice readability. But Thus-ComeGone One is not the same as Thus-Come-Gone, that's separating the meanings. The intention here is not a question of getting a literal meaning of the text, and using a vigraha doesn't really solve anything in this regard. It's more about appreciating the subtleties of the language in translation, particularly for someone who doesn't know the primary language or have a commentary or a teacher to explain things to them.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Tom » Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:04 am

Zhen Li wrote:Well, CamelCase certainly is English, since it's used. The question is whether it works nicely in this case. Maybe it doesn't.

As regards your questions, yes there is ambiguity as regards whether bodhisattva was originally bodhisatvan or bodhisakta in the Prakrit. In the PP in 8000 Lines you can see a context in which it looks like Satvan may have been the usage in the original Prakrit, but the Sanskrit redactors went with Sattva. The ambiguity is also present in the Pali Bodhisatta as you can see in Buddhaghosa's commentaries.


But we don't want to translate Sanskrit texts by way of guessing at what the correct prakrit could have been.

Zhen Li wrote:And as regards the notion of tathāgatha not being "thus-come-gone," that's right. But just about every commentary points out that tathāgatha is not clearly either one or the other.


Excuse my ignorance but could you point me to a relevant Sanskrit commentary. I don't read much of this genre to be across this.

Zhen Li wrote:But Thus-ComeGone One is not the same as Thus-Come-Gone, that's separating the meanings. The intention here is not a question of getting a literal meaning of the text, and using a vigraha doesn't really solve anything in this regard.


The vigraha of a compound breaks it up so the intended meaning is clear and any ambiguity is resolved. If we have the vigraha of tathāgatha we would know if we should translate gatha, agatha or both.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:18 am

Tom, I am just telling you that if you get a vigraha of tathāgatha or any others of these terms you're not going to learn anything new. You realise that just about anyone can interpret a text whatever way they want and just write their own preferred vigraha? Sometimes they are garbage. And part of my point here is to have more innovation in interpretative translation of texts. It's not really a legal matter, it has more to do with aesthetics.

See Kajiyama Yuichi "On the Meanings of the Words Bodhisattva and Mahasattva in Prajñāpāramitā Literature," pp. 71-88, in Y. Kajiyama, Studies in Buddhist Philosophy (Selected Papers), ed. Mimaki Katsumi et al. Rinsen Book Co.: Kyoto. 1989.
But we don't want to translate Sanskrit texts by way of guessing at what the correct prakrit could have been.

Well, that's more or less how things worked into Tibetan and Chinese, not least Prakrit into Sanskrit.

We don't really know the intended meaning of many of these terms, but in context many of them work along the lines of multiple meanings.

This is why I am proposing preserving some of the possible meanings or multiple-interpretations in each reading that would be present in such terms using CamelCase, where one term is more suitable than two.

If you don't like it then I guess it's not a good idea aesthetically. It's just a proposal I'd thought I'd share with people. If anyone has other suggestions or ideas about stuff like this, please let me know.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Tom » Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:18 am

Zhen Li wrote:Tom, I am just telling you that if you get a vigraha of tathāgatha or any others of these terms you're not going to learn anything new. You realise that just about anyone can interpret a text whatever way they want and just write their own preferred vigraha? Sometimes they are garbage. And part of my point here is to have more innovation in interpretative translation of texts. It's not really a legal matter, it has more to do with aesthetics.


I don't think you are getting my point. So I will leave it here.

Zhen Li wrote:
But we don't want to translate Sanskrit texts by way of guessing at what the correct prakrit could have been.

Well, that's more or less how things worked into Tibetan and Chinese, not least Prakrit into Sanskrit.


This simply is not true - but I will leave it here. I didn't mean to get into all this. You asked for comments and the idea of using camelCase to represent Sanskrit compounds captured my attention. However, it seems to me you are instead using them to try and better represent specific sanskrit words - that's cool, whatever works for you.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Kare » Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:58 am

Zhen Li wrote:tathāgata, could be, Thus–ComeGone–One, or Thus ComeGone One, or Thus–ComeGone One.



All these versions, reading the first element in the compound as tathā (thus), need some very fanciful interpretations that bring us rather close to the Department of Silly Walks (Monty Python).

There is another and much more plausible way of reading this compound. If we read the first element as tatha (truth, reality), and the seconde element as āgata (arrived), we get: The one who has arrived to truth (reality). And that would be an obviously descriptive title for the Buddha.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby longjie » Sun Feb 16, 2014 1:15 pm

CamelCase seems ambiguous to me. I didn't know what I was looking at when I first saw it.

I'm not sure exactly what the purpose of this would be (I would hope not to put in a finished translation). But in some intermediate form, this type of "syntactic sugar" might be helpful. For example:

Code: Select all
bodhisattva

    awakening-{being/hero}

tathagata

    thus-{come/gone}-one

Using the hyphens ensures that the reader understands that the translation is all of one term. Using the curly braces clearly delineates which are the possible alternatives.

Note: this post is not meant to endorse any particular interpretations of these two terms.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Tom » Sun Feb 16, 2014 2:03 pm

So it seems we should be translating tahtāgatha as "{thus/truth}-{gone/arrived}" ! :tongue:

Joking aside, Kare that is an interesting interpretation. Zhen Li suggests that most Sanskrit commentators seem to read it as both "thus-come" and "thus-gone" is that your understanding also?
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby dzogchungpa » Sun Feb 16, 2014 2:32 pm

Maybe it's better to leave terms like 'bodhisattva' and 'tathagata' untranslated and have a glossary which explains the issues involved in interpreting such terms. That would be my preference.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby anjali » Sun Feb 16, 2014 3:41 pm

Personally, I don't have a problem with picking a close translation--possibly literal, and then dealing with semantic overload in an appropriate glossary entry. Sometimes I've found the glossary of a translationed work as, or more, interesting and useful than the text itself!
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Soar » Sun Feb 16, 2014 4:00 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:Maybe it's better to leave terms like 'bodhisattva' and 'tathagata' untranslated and have a glossary which explains the issues involved in interpreting such terms. That would be my preference.


Which is what happens a lot anyway, and i think this is much much better than these strange translations which probably will never capture the original meaning, so if there is no good english translation then simply use the original. Also this encourages people to learn something from the original context and sources and also enriches the english language with new terms. So really I'm interested in what would the reasons for not doing it this way are?
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Kare » Sun Feb 16, 2014 4:49 pm

Tom wrote:So it seems we should be translating tahtāgatha as "{thus/truth}-{gone/arrived}" ! :tongue:

Joking aside, Kare that is an interesting interpretation. Zhen Li suggests that most Sanskrit commentators seem to read it as both "thus-come" and "thus-gone" is that your understanding also?


No. Buddhaghosa lists several possible readings of tathāgata:

tathāgata = tathā (thus) + gata (gone) > Thus-gone
tathāgata = tathā (thus) + āgata (come, arrived) > Thus-come

For some strange reason most later commentators have got stuck with these two. They both demand rather equilibristic interpretations to give some meaning. But Buddhaghosa also lists this one:

tathāgata = tatha (truth, reality) + āgata (come, arrived) > The one who has arrived to the truth.

This latter reading gives a very straightforward and clear meaning. In my Norwegian translations of the pali and sankrit texts I always use (a Norwegian version of) this alternative.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:53 pm

Thanks for your feed back everyone, quite helpful.
Which is what happens a lot anyway, and i think this is much much better than these strange translations which probably will never capture the original meaning, so if there is no good english translation then simply use the original. Also this encourages people to learn something from the original context and sources and also enriches the english language with new terms. So really I'm interested in what would the reasons for not doing it this way are?

Just experimentation really.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby longjie » Sun Feb 16, 2014 11:25 pm

The Diamond Sutra gives hints that early Mahayana Buddhists also had similar interpretations of 'tathagata' (section 29):

Subhūti, if someone says that the Tathāgata comes, goes, sits, or lies down, then this person does not understand the meaning of my teachings. Why? The Tathāgata is one who neither comes nor goes anywhere, and for this reason is called the Tathāgata.
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Soar » Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:18 am

Zhen Li wrote:Thanks for your feed back everyone, quite helpful.
Which is what happens a lot anyway, and i think this is much much better than these strange translations which probably will never capture the original meaning, so if there is no good english translation then simply use the original. Also this encourages people to learn something from the original context and sources and also enriches the english language with new terms. So really I'm interested in what would the reasons for not doing it this way are?

Just experimentation really.


I see, well i like Awakening-HeroBeing :twothumbsup:
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:32 am

longjie wrote:The Diamond Sutra gives hints that early Mahayana Buddhists also had similar interpretations of 'tathagata' (section 29):

Subhūti, if someone says that the Tathāgata comes, goes, sits, or lies down, then this person does not understand the meaning of my teachings. Why? The Tathāgata is one who neither comes nor goes anywhere, and for this reason is called the Tathāgata.

Right, all sorts of Sutras use all sorts of plays on the many meanings of these terms, which is a beauty that is lost in translation. That was really my point, due to my poor ability to express myself I'm not sure if anyone else grasped that. :P
Soar wrote:I see, well i like Awakening-HeroBeing

It's pretty fun sounding. The thing about my translations is I often have an immense change of heart on fundamental philosophies with regards to translating such terms or not, and it's actually really easy to switch it over thanks to Word's lovely "find and replace" feature. :twothumbsup:
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Re: CamelCase as a possible solution to Sanskrit Compound is

Postby dzogchungpa » Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:53 am

Kare wrote:No. Buddhaghosa lists several possible readings of tathāgata:

tathāgata = tathā (thus) + gata (gone) > Thus-gone
tathāgata = tathā (thus) + āgata (come, arrived) > Thus-come

For some strange reason most later commentators have got stuck with these two. They both demand rather equilibristic interpretations to give some meaning. But Buddhaghosa also lists this one:

tathāgata = tatha (truth, reality) + āgata (come, arrived) > The one who has arrived to the truth.

This latter reading gives a very straightforward and clear meaning.

I don't know Pali or Sanskrit, but what you say sounds reasonable. Do you have any idea why this last reading is less common?
Edit: I thought a bit and I remembered that the Tibetan for tathagata is de bzhin gshegs pa, which seems to support the first reading, thus gone. Does anyone know how it was translated into Chinese?
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