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How does Ralph Waldo Emerson sound in Kawi?
In this collection of essays A. L. Becker develops a new approach to translation he calls modern philology, an approach that insists, beyond translation, on the sorting out of ambiguities and contexts of meaning. Becker describes how texts in Burmese, Javanese, and Malay differ profoundly from English in all the ways they have meaning: in the games they play, the worlds they constitute, the memories they evoke, and the silences they maintain. In each of these dimensions there are excesses and inadequacies of meaning that make a difference across languages.
Drawn from over three decades of studying, teaching, translating and writing about Southeast Asian languages and literatures, the essays collected here for the first time are particular accounts of Becker's experiences in attempting to translate into or out of Burmese, Javanese, and Malay a variety of texts. They describe such things as the building of a Javanese shadowplay, how a Sanskrit story about the language of animals has been used in Indonesia, and some of the profound semantic silences a translator faces in taking an anecdote by Gregory Bateson from English into Malay.
In linguistics, the essays emphasize important kinds of nonuniversality in all aspects of language and look toward a new theory of language grounded in American pragmatism. In anthropology, the essays demonstrate that much of culture can be described in terms of text-building strategies. And for the comparativist, whether in literature, history, rhetoric, music, or psychology, the essays provide a new array of tools of comparison across distant languages and cultures.
Part 1. Text Building in Javanese 21
Text Building, Epistemology, and Aesthetics in Javanese Shadow Theater 23
The Linguistics of Particularity: Interpreting Superordination in a Javanese Text 71
Binding Wild Words: Cohesion in Old Javanese Prose 89
with Thomas Hunter
Person in Kawi: Exploration of an Elementary Semantic Dimension 109
with I Gusti Ngurah Oka
Aridharma: Framing an Old Javanese Tale 137
Part 2. Some Burmese Figures 183
Biography of a Sentence: A Burmese Proverb 185
The Figure a Classifier Makes: Describing a Particular Burmese Classifier 211
The Elusive Figures of Burmese Grammar 231
Part 3. Learning Malay 259
The Figure a Sentence Makes: An Interpretation of a Classical Malay Sentence 261
Silence Across Languages 283
Part 4. Translating Emerson into Old Javanese 295
Beyond Translation: Esthetics and Language Description 297
On Emerson on Language 317
Part 5. Music and Language: Language and Music 331
Translating the Art of Music 333
A Musical Icon: Power and Meaning in Javanese Gamelan Music 349
with Judith Becker
Part 6. A Place for Particularity 365
Attunement; An Essay on Philology and Logophilia 369
Language in Particular: A Lecture 405
Part 7. Afterword 427
An Afterword: Apologia for the Essay 429