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Indography pp 85-104 | Cite as

Translation and Identity in the Dialogues in the English and Malaiane Languages

  • Melissa Walter
Chapter
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Part of the Signs of Race book series (SOR)

Abstract

In 1614, in London, Sir Thomas Smith, the “Governour of the East-India, Muscouia, Northwest Passages, Sommer Ilands Companies, and Treasurer for the first Colonie in Virginia,” “caused” the Dialogues in the English and Malaiane Languages, a language learning aid made up of side-by-side translations, “to be set forth in our English tongue.”1 Set primarily in Aceh, an important trading center and Islamic court in northern Sumatra, the Dialogues features conversations including “A German,” “An Indian,” and others, in side-by-side translation between English and Malay, with three additional dialogues at the end in English and “the Madagascar language.” “Indian” refers here to local people involved with the spice trade, whether in the Southeast Asian islands or in Madagascar. As a practical text for the learning of Malay, the Dialogues apparently portrays translation as a straightforward process of phrase-for-phrase substitution, one that makes Southeast Asia approachable and accessible to the English. But the implications of travel to Southeast Asia and translation between English and Malay are more complicated than simple appropriation, as they have the potential to decenter English meaning-making. In addition, the presence in the text of Dutch traders and Dutch language, as well as characters including a French-speaking family and Gujarati and Southeast Asian traders, complicate the construction of Indian and English identities in the Dialogues, undercutting the binary structure implied by the text’s two columns.

Keywords

English Reader East India Company Material Flame Malay Language Dravidian Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    The Dialogues builds on an established history of published vocabularies and word books facilitating translation between Malay and European languages, including a Chinese/Malay dictionary and the vocabulary of Antonio Pigafetta, the latter published in French in 1525 and later reprinted in Samuel Purchas’s Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his pilgrimes (1625); see Donald Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, vol. 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 493. At present, closely related variants of Malay exist as official languages in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Singapore. Malay, an Austronesian language, is not to be confused with Malayalam, a Dravidian language of Southern India that is the official language of the state of Kerala. Although they are from separate language groups, both Malay and Malayalam have incorporated words from Sanskrit, and Malay has also been influenced by (among other languages) Tamil, a Dravidian language that is closely related to Malayalam. On connections between Tamil and Malay,Google Scholar
  2. see Asmah binte Haji Omar, “The Nature of Tamil Loanwords in Malay,” Proceedings of the First International Conference of Tamil Studies II (1966): 534–558.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    The Court Minutes of the EIC for January 1614 note, “A book of dialogues, heretofore translated into Latin by the Hollanders, and printed with the Malacca tongue, Mr. Hakluyt having now turned the Latin into English” (cited in Peter Mancall, Hakluyt’s Promise: An Elizabethan Obsession for an English America [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007], 283).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 8.
    On the EIC’s interest in protecting information collected by its factors, and on the tensions between publication and monopoly and between the corporate enterprise of the EIC and individual authorship, see Richmond Barbour, The Third Voyage Journals: Writing and Performance in the London East India Company: 1607–1610 (New York: Palgrave, 2009), 20–23. The company’s interest was more in the information and the cargo brought back by a certain voyage than in the survival or perspective of any particular voyager, a dynamic that the mariners “understood” and at times “resisted” (22). On the crucial role of writing in the actual conduct of a voyage as well as in promoting colonialism and planning and conducting future voyages,Google Scholar
  5. see Mary Fuller, Voyages in Print: English Travel to America, 1576–1624 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), especially 1–15.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    See Barbara Sebek, “After My Humble Dutie Remembered’: Factors and/versus Merchants,” in Emissaries in Early Modern Literature and Culture: Mediation, Transmission, Traffic, 1550–1700, ed. Brinda Charry and Gitanjali Shahani (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009), 113–128. Chaudhuri also notes, “When the East India Company allowed its servants the freedom to engage in private trade, an uncomfortable divergence appeared at once between the interest of the Company and that of its employees. The VOC kept a tighter control over its servants” (The English East India Company, 90).Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    For more on how these and other dialogues conceptualize the learner of Malay, see Anthea Fraser Gupta, “The Imagined Learner of Malay,” in Bilingualism: Beyond Basic Principles. Festschrift in honour of Hugo Baetens Beardsmore, ed. Jean-Marc Dewaele, Alex Housen, and Li Wei (Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters, 2003), 141–173.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    On the establishment of the EIC as a joint-stock company and the company’s need to portray its credibility to investors, see Philip Lawson, The East India Company: A History (Harlow: Longman, 1993), 18–23, and Chaudhuri, The English East India Company. Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    On discourse as commodity, see Alexandra Halasz, The Marketplace of Print: Pamphlets and the Public Sphere in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 18.
    On English and Dutch religious affiliation and commercial competition and cooperation, see Christian Billing, “The Dutch Diaspora in English Comedy: 1598 to 1618,” in Transnational Exchange in Early Modern Theater, ed. Robert Henke and Eric Nicholson (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008), 119–140;Google Scholar
  11. Andrew Fleck, “Marking Difference and National Identity in Dekker’s Shoemaker’s Holiday, SEL 46, no. 2 (2006): 349–670;Google Scholar
  12. and Marianne Montgomery, “Listening to the Emissary in Middleton’s No Wit, No Help Like a Woman’s,” in Emissaries in Early Modern Literature and Culture: Mediation, Transmission, Traffic, 1550–1700, ed. Brinda Charry and Gitanjali Shahani (Farnham, UK: Ashgate 2009), 193–203.Google Scholar
  13. Also Julia Gasper, The Dragon and the Dove: The Plays of Thomas Dekker (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990),Google Scholar
  14. and David Ormrod, The Dutch in London: The Influence of an Immigrant Community 1550–1800 (London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1973), 6. Michael Neill also discusses the conflict between “Dutch influence at court” and Samuel Purchas’s competitive anti-Dutch rhetoric in Purchas his Pilgrimes (“Material Flames,” Renaissance Drama 28 [1997]: 106). The turning point for English control in Southeast Asia was probably the “Massacre of Amboyna,” February 1623, but there had been serious encounters with the Dutch from 1615 (Neill, “Material Flames,” 107).Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    This is the title of a classic history of Dutch trade by C. R. Boxer. On the cultural and economic power of the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, see also Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  16. 20.
    Lisa Jardine, Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland’s Glory (New York: Harper Press, 2008) discusses the blending of these two cultures in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    See Fleck, “Ick verstaw you niet”: Performing Foreign Tongues on the Early Modern English Stage.” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England: An Annual Gathering of Research, Criticism and Reviews 20 (2007): 204–221.Google Scholar
  18. 27.
    For an example and discussion of interlineal translation, see Nikolaus Henkel, “Printed School Texts: Types of Bilingual Presentation in Incunabula,” Renaissance Studies 9, no. 2 (1995): 212–227, 213. For perspectives on the “freedom” of side-by-side translation,CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. see Daniel Wakelin, “Possibilities for Reading: Classical Translations in Parallel Texts ca. 1520–1558,” Studies in Philology 105, no. 4 (2008): 463–486, 483. For contemporary discussion of how to use parallel text dialogues for teaching Latin, see also John Brinsley, Ludus Literarius or the Grammar Schools (London, 1612), 217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 28.
    Thomas Wilson, The Arte of Rhetorique, sig. Oir, quoted in Jane Donawerth, Shakespeare and the Sixteenth-Century Study of Language (Urbana: Universit y of Illinois Press, 1984), 116.Google Scholar
  21. 29.
    Dialogues, 43. Lombard, Le “Spraeck Ende Woord-Boek” de Frederick de Houtman, 8. For a historical overview of the general problem of learning words for culturally specific things (known as “realia”), see Louis Kelly, 25 Centuries of Language Teaching, (Rowley, MA: Newbury, 1969), 13. On realia in the early modern North American context, see Kevin Boettcher in this volume.Google Scholar
  22. 36.
    Carla Mazzio, Inarticulate Renaissance: Language Trouble in an Age of Eloquence (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 3.Google Scholar
  23. 38.
    My source for this fascinating information, as well as for the translation, which is given at more length in her article, is Su Fang Ng, “Global Renaissance,” Comparative Literature 58, no. 4 (2006): 293–312, 303. The term “treacherous” is from Tome Pires, quoted by Ng. The Sejarah Melayu was composed in the 1530s and revised in the early 1600s.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 44.
    On the theatrical performance of Englishness in celebration of Accession Day in the Spice Islands, see Neill, Putting History to the Question, 301, and Ania Loomba, “Break Her Will and Bruise No Bone, Sir,” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 2, no. 1 (2002): 68–108, 98.Google Scholar
  25. 46.
    For a now-classic account of resistance to dominant interpretations, see James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  26. 51.
    Armusia’s fear of conversion recalls the fear portrayed in the Odyssey of being transformed into a pig by Circe (another island princess) via lust; such bodily metamorphosis is also described as translation by Shakespeare’s Peter Quince who, confronted with an ass’s head topping his fellow-actor’s body, says, “Bless thee, Bottom… thou art translated” (Stephen Greenblatt et al, ed., A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 3.1.105, The Norton Shakespeare, 2nd ed. [New York: Norton, 2008]). Indeed, for “translate,” the Oxford English Dictionary lists “transfer, transport” as an equally early meaning to “change to a different language while retaining the sense.” “Change in form, appearance, or substance” is not far behind. From its early days, the word has united physical travel with shifts in language and physical metamorphosis in its semantic field (Oxford English Dictionary Online, 2nd ed., 1989, http://www.oed.com/. Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1914). On the “embarrassing… hyperbole” of Armusia’s anti-conversion rant, see Gordon McMullan, The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher (Amherst: University of Massachussets Press, 1994), 235.Google Scholar
  27. 52.
    R. C. Simonini, Fr., ed., Second Frutes (1591), (Gainesville: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1953).Google Scholar

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© Jonathan Gil Harris 2012

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  • Melissa Walter

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