Translation and colonialism

Authored by: Eric Cheyfitz , Alex Harmon

The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Politics

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138657564
eBook ISBN: 9781315621289
Adobe ISBN:


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In his ‘Prologue’ to Grammar of the Castilian Language, published in 1492 and dedicated to Queen Isabella of Spain, Antonio De Nebrija famously noted ‘that language was always the companion [compañera] of empire, and followed it such that together [junta mente] they began, grew, and flourished – and, later, together [junta mente] they fell’. Although Nebrija is not writing about translation as his central theme but about the rise and fall of classical kingdoms and their languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin) by way of focusing at the end of the ‘Prologue’ on the rise of the Spanish Empire and of its language, in connecting language and empire, he inevitably encounters the issue of translation:

after your Highness has put [metiesse] under her yoke many barbarous peoples and nations of alien languages [peregrinas lenguas], with defeat they would have [ternían] to receive the laws that the conqueror imposes on the conquered, and with them our language; then, through this my art they would be able to [podrían] come into the knowledge of it, as now we depend on the art of Latin grammar to learn Latin.

Armillas-Tiseyra 2016

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