Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Obscure translation mysteries

Okay, someone explain something to me. Here is the Latin of the last line of Gaudium et spes #23.
Ad hanc vero communionem inter personas promovendam, Revelatio christiana magnum subsidium affert, simulque ad altiorem vitae socialis legum intelligentiam nos perducit quas Creator in natura spirituali ac morali hominis inscripsit.
Now, here is the English translation on the Vatican web page:
Christian revelation contributes greatly to the promotion of this communion between persons, and at the same time leads us to a deeper understanding of the laws of social life which the Creator has written into man's moral and spiritual nature.
Notice that the translator switched the order of "spiritual" and "moral" at the end of the sentence. Why? My guess: maybe it is because rhetorically Latin puts the most important term in a list first, but English puts the most important term last. Any Englishist/Latinist out there want to confirm my guess?


SMB said...

Hi Robert--I found this by accident while looking for something else. Nice blog.

I'm not sure that English prefers the second term for rhetorical emphasis in an 'x and y' construction, but in this case the rhythm of 'moral and spiritual nature' (x--x---x-) is superior to 'spiritual and moral nature' (x----x-x-).

Robert Gotcher said...

That would make sense if the text were to be recited. But in the case of Church documents, precision in meaning is more important than elegance.