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The principles that LA offers in order to direct the translation of liturgical texts fall within several groupings.6 Some of these more directly govern the procedure for organizing the work of translation, and need not concern us for long. For example, LA makes it clear that every translation of a liturgical text must work directly from the Latin original and not be a translation of a translation. For example, our vernacular Missal should not be a translation into English of the French or German translation from the Latin. The Instruction also sets out the norms for establishing the respective roles and responsibilities for those involved in the work of translation.
In regard to the principles in LA that are of interest to us today, I would identify three sets: (1) What I will call "global" or "over-arching" principles; these set out what we could think of, to use analogies, as the "architecture" or the "genetic structure" of sound translations of liturgical texts. (2) Principles about vocabulary or individual words. And (3) principles about syntax; that is, principles which govern how those clusters of words which are grouped into sentences and paragraphs to express states of affair should operate in the vernacular liturgical texts.
A. "Global" / "Over-Arching" Principles
Let me begin my remarks on what I am calling the "global" or "over-arching" principles found in LA, by offering what seems to me to be a fairly typical example:
Let me give you a sampling of a few more of the principles from the Instruction which fall into this "architectonic" or "genetic" set:
As you will have noted, the over-riding concern in this set of principles is accuracy.
B. Principles about Vocabulary
In the class or set of principles which governs the translators' choice of vocabulary, the aim of establishing a reverential or sacred tone in the vernacular text becomes much more prominent. However, this group of norms also aims to guide the translators toward the goal of accuracy.
Here are a couple of examples of principles which should control the translators' choice of words in order to express the sacredness of the liturgical texts:
Now, I want to offer a sampling of principles about vocabulary which help to ensure that the translation is accurate:
And in LA there is a sub-set of vocabulary principles which, when observed, will assist translators in reaching both aims: accuracy and reverence. For example:
C. Principles about Syntax or How Words are Linked
The words in a text almost never appear as a list of mere names. They come in sentences and in those chains of sentences which form paragraphs. We use words to relate things to one another and parts to wholes, in order to express states of affairs, "facts." And then we go on to relate these facts to one another. We use words to name discrete things, but we accomplish something even more significant with our words: we say how the things we name relate to each other. Since this sort of accomplishment – what we call "syntax" – is in the very nature of language, it is no surprise that the Instruction on translation offers principles not only about vocabulary but also about syntax – about how the states of affairs spoken of in the Latin original of the Roman Liturgy should be expressed in the vernacular translations.7
Here are two very detailed principles that give guidance to the work of translators:
It is apparent that the application of these principles in the work of translation will assist the translators in achieving a result that is both accurate and reverent, the two objectives which Cardinal Dulles said help to ensure that the vernacular liturgical text is a fit vehicle for the transmission of the revealed mysteries.
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