Linguistics and English Language

Language in context seminar

Speaker: Hephzibah Israel (School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures)

Title: Attending to Translation: Re-Translations and ‘Non’-translations in Religious Discourse

Abstract: My talk focuses on what translation studies can bring to the study of religious communities and their use of languages. A focus on translation is invaluable for studying the interdependence between linguistic transfers at the level of language use and conceptual shifts at the level of religious discourse. Referring to the way key Christian terminology travelled to colonial India through textual translations, I show how terms developed evaluative connotations both within and beyond the sacred context. I contrast terms that were readily translated and re-translated with those that were adopted without translation into Indian languages to suggest reasons for such apparent inconsistencies in language use. I give examples of the several names for god used in Tamil translations of the Bible and the effects these repeated name changes had on the Tamil communities that had converted to one of the Christian denominations. How did Tamil Christian communities respond to a god with strikingly different names? In contrast, the untranslated term ‘Protestant,’ mostly used in emerging nineteenth-century print journalism, served to link seemingly disparate conceptions of rationality and secular but ‘useful’ knowledges with a religious identity increasingly claimed by the Protestant Tamil community. Paying attention to translation and translation projects I argue brings to light shifting attitudes to religious registers and offers new ways to study the relationship between religious discourse and the construction of religious identities.


If you would like to suggest a speaker to us, have any ideas about possible themes that you think we should discuss, or would like to speak to us about presenting your own research (whether at MSc or PhD levels or beyond), you are warmly invited to contact either Johannes Woschitz or Stephen McNulty.

Johannes Woschitz

Stephen McNulty

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Language in context group


We hope to see you very soon!

Feb 06 2019 -

Language in context seminar

2019-02-06: Attending to Translation: Re-Translations and ‘Non’-translations in Religious Discourse

01M.469 Room 12 (Doorway 3), Medical School (Old Medical School), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG