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Quotes about Language and Translation

Here you will find a selection of quotes about language and translation.

Author Quote
Mona Baker Translators have to prove to themselves as to others that they are in control of what they do; that they do not just translate well because they have a “flair” for translation, but rather because, like other professionals, they have made a conscious effort to understand various aspects of their work.
Roland Barthes Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.
Walter Benjamin Any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot transmit anything but information–hence, something inessential. This is the hallmark of bad translations.
Jorge Luis Borges Translations are a partial and precious documentation of the changes the text suffers.
George Borrow Translation is at best an echo.
Lewis Carroll "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
Noam Chomsky Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied.
Noam Chomsky There are very deep and restrictive principles that determine the nature of human language and are rooted in the specific character of the human mind
Charles Darwin Language is an art, like brewing or baking.... It certainly is not a true instinct, for every language has to be learnt.
Ferdinand De Saussure Language furnishes the best proof that a law accepted by a community is a thing that is tolerated and not a rule to which all freely consent.
Ferdinand De Saussure Of all social institutions language is least amenable to initiative. It blends with the life of society, and the latter, inert by nature, is a prime conservative force.
Ferdinand de Saussure Written forms obscure our view of language. They are not so much a garment as a disguise.
Scott Delancey In its communicative function, language is a set of tools with which we attempt to guide another mind to create within itself a mental representation that approximates the one we have.
Ralph Waldo Emerson I do not hesitate to read. all good books in translations. What is really best in any book is translatable-any real insight or broad human sentiment.
John Felstiner Translation presents not merely a paradigm but the utmost case of engaged literary interpretation
Ferdinand de Saussure Written forms obscure our view of language. They are not so much a garment as a disguise.
Robert Frost Poetry is what is lost in translation.
Hans Georg Gadamer The process of translating comprises in its essence the whole secret of human understanding of the world and of social communication.
Paul Goodman The problem of translation is to retreat to a simpler tenor of one's own style and creatively adjust this to one's author.
Francis Grose Translators: sellers of old mended shoes and boots, between cobblers and shoemakers.
Edith Hamilton There are few efforts more conducive to humility than that of the translator trying to communicate an incommunicable beauty. Yet, unless we do try, something unique and never surpassed will cease to exist except in the libraries of a few inquisitive book

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