Session 94: Ystafell 10
Translation in medieval Wales

Chair: Ann Parry Owen

Translational procedures in Rhamant Otuel

Luciana Cordo Russo
Instituto Multidisciplinario de Historia y Ciencias Humanas

The Middle Welsh translation of the Old French epic poem Otinel, known as Rhamant Otuel or Tale of Otuel, is the most understudied of the intervernacular translations that form part of the so-called ‘Charlemagne compilation’. This collection of tales also comprises renditions of two other French chansons de geste, namely, La chanson de Roland (Cân Rolant) and Pèlerinage de Charlemagne (Pererindod Siarlymaen), and of the Latin Historia de Vita Caroli Magni et Rotholandi (the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle) which serves as narrative arch for the majority of the texts in the eight medieval extant manuscripts. As part of a recently-begun and broader research project that will undertake a philological, literary, and socio-historical study of Otuel, this paper will analyse the translation of several stylistic and literary features that readily set this tale apart from the other intervernacular renditions. Otuel differs markedly in its treatment of terms of address and politeness, and of epic techniques such as battlefield insults and interjections.

This analysis will build on Cordo Russo's preliminary general study on Otuel, and recent previous literature on the Charlemagne compilation by Poppe, Petrovskaia and Rejhon. It will reveal to what degree Otuel follows traditional Middle Welsh narrative conventions such as those examined by Sioned Davies, and also how it innovates. Consideration will be given to the different ways in which some epic techniques are treated. These translational procedures will be compared to other findings from Middle Welsh translations, such as those of Poppe and Reck.

Beyond ‘word-for-word’: Gruffudd Bola (c.1270/80) and Robert Gwyn (c.1583/84) on translating into Welsh

Erich Poppe
Philipps-Universität Marburg

Gruffud Bola and Robert Gwyn stand out among medieval and early modern Welsh translators because they commented on their approaches to the translation into Welsh of Biblical and religious texts. My paper will analyse and compare their theoretical concepts, within their wider scholarly contexts, and exemplify their translational practice.

Gruffudd Bola explains in the introduction to his translation of the Athanasian Creed for Efa ferch Maredudd that he sometimes turned one word into the other and at other times gave the sense for the sense, namely when the former will not preserve ‘the proper nature of the [Welsh] language and the sense of the diction’. He argues within the established framework of a difference between word-for-word and sense-for-sense translations and hopes to achieve linguistic adequacy in the target language. About three centuries later, the question of an appropriate and effective translation of religious and Biblical texts, or passages, is taken up by Robert Gwyn in the preface to his tract Y Drych Kristnogawl (‘The Christian Mirror’). He positions strategies of translation in explicit relation to the intended audiences. Word-for-word translations are suitable for learned audiences, but may remain opaque for wider audiences with ‘little understanding’. Since he wants to reach these, he prefers a format of translation that will successfully communicate the meaning of the source text to his target audience. I will explore how he hopes to achieve this communicative adequacy and how it compares to the linguistic adequacy advocated by Gruffudd Bola.

Translational strategies in Perl mewn adfyd (1595)

Raphael Sackmann
Philipps-Universität Marburg

Although medieval Welsh translations from Latin are generally supposed to contain ample traces of the source texts’ syntactic, and lexical, features, those ‘traces’ could, as has been argued recently, as well be part of a specific literary register. Less is known about the language and register of, and possible traces of translation in, Early Modern Welsh texts translated from English, and my paper will therefore examine as an example the religious treatise Perl mewn adfyd, translated into Welsh by Huw Lewys (1562–1634) from Miles Coverdale’s A spyrytuall and moost precyouse pearle (1550), which itself is known to be a translation of Otto Werdmüller’s Ein Kleinot Von Trost und Hilf in allerley Trübsalen (1548). Comparing Perl mewn adfyd with its source text will provide clues about the conditions and circumstances which lead Lewys to choose, in certain cases, literal translation over a looser, but meaning-oriented one, or why and where he alternatively tended to implement ‘Welsh’ idiomatic devices when formulating his sentences, e.g. constructions with sef or with gwneuthur and a verbal noun. Relevant linguistic phenomena taken into account will also include word order in general, agreement of subject and verb, formation of relative clauses, and loanwords.