Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘elite language

“Why the Arab World is not free?” by Moustapha Safouan, (July 21, 2008)

The book “Why the Arab World is not free?” is highly important and a major manuscript to read leisurely.

Each chapter contains an idea or a concept that can be developed extensively to the benefit of our retrograded societies.

Safouan believes, as I do, that the main power that allowed monarchs and colonial occupiers to enslave entire people was the adoption of a special language for the elites in any society.  The elite language was necessarily different from the language spoken by the common people or vulgar language.

The specials languages, written by the religious hierarchies, the scribes, the scientists and medical professions, left the impression to the common people that they are surely inferior in knowledge and capability, and thus logically, they had to submit to the monarchs and elites and excuse their unequal treatments and wrong doings as not comparable to the standards of responsibilities among the common people.

This paragraph is of my own.

(The invention of writing, maybe originated from Kingdom of Sumer in southern Mesopotamia before the fourth millennia, answered to an intellectual logic for organizing the real life, mostly administrative in nature, and which include laws and accounting principles. The words didn’t represent images but sounds of the spoken language that meant an object of an idea or a relationship.  It seems that the invention of writing was not attributed to a divine origin but as a human responsibility.  The invention of writing was applied independently in various civilizations with different forms, but the common denominator was that a word represented a concept, and thus for the administrative scribes, things didn’t exist unless it was given a name in writing.)

The modern man can be said to stand up on its own around the year 1250 when universities in Europe were instituted independently of States or the Church.  These universities acquired power and graduated scholars that replaced the bishops in the interpretation of the scriptures and technicians in all fields that the States needed their services.  The Renaissance would not have existed without these hotbeds of education in Bologna (Italy), Paris, London and Tübingen (Germany).

There is no critical separation between religion and sciences for the transmission of education and culture to the next generations.

Copernicus was an influential priest in Poland; Kepler who studied theology at the University of Tübingen but was sent by his professors to teach mathematics at the University of Graz; Newton wrote more on theology and the Old Testament than on physics and mathematics.  Only Galileo might have collided with the Church, simply because he realized that sciences has taken a new paradigm, which is away from the Aristotelian system to the mathematical sciences based on algebraic equations and thinking.

The Islamic mathematicians such as Thabet Bin Kura, Al Khwarazmi, and Kashi have laid the foundations of algebra and shifted the center of mathematics from geometry to algebra, simply because the complex rules of heritage in the Moslem laws required complex computations.

There are two venues for translating manuscripts; either we assimilate the text to the culture, or we subordinate our mentality to the thinking of the original author.  If we adopt the first concept we are basically regurgitating our own prejudices and idiosyncrasies. The second method should be bound to express the main philosophical thinking of the language and be faithful to the author’s philosophy and intents.

The second method pre-suppose that the translator is very familiar with the culture of the original language, so that the readers assimilate varieties of ways of thinking and ways of life.

Obviously, in our dying traditional classical Arabic language, as well as societies, not many people are familiar with the classical Arabic for ideas to be communicated and disseminated.  At least, if the second method of translation in the popular verbal language is endeavored we might expect a better return for changing our mentality.

Classical Arabic has no adequate words for the terminology of political philosophy for many reasons.

For example, Republic or “res publica” which means public affairs or public cause is generally translated as common interest “al maslaha al 3amat” which defeats the core meaning and reduces the whole politics of the republic to varieties to interests.

Another concept of sovereignty which means the right of retaining the last decision is translated as “siyada” which connote domination of masters to slaves.

The concept of politic which is the adoption of a system on how to govern among the citizens is translated as “siyasa” the root base of “sasa” which means how to lead or to control.




May 2023

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