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THE LINGUISTIC AND TRANSLATION THEORY OF JUAN DE VALDÉS TODD J. SCHMID THE aim of this paper is to delineate the proto-linguistic and translation “theory” of Juan de Valdés, to contextualize the Valdesian project within the scheme of European Renaissance humanism, and to specifically consider his Diálogo de la lengua as a discourse on linguistics and translation, in light of the broader Valdesian canon. I. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS & BACKGROUND Juan de Valdés, 16th century Spanish humanist and expert on the linguistic question, is arguably the lesser known of the two brothers, Alfonso having a certain political status that Juan never shared. Yet we find in Juan a unique and remarkably relevant Renaissance figure whose influence is, at the very least, twofold: one religious and the other linguistic. While the emphasis of the present work is that of the latter , I will yet contend that the dialogue on language by no means constitutes a parenthesis in his religious canon. Indeed, the two Valdesian areas of interest are largely coeval, and moreover, we will see that the religious question for Valdés is very much contingent upon his linguistic theory and method. During Valdés’ formative stay in Italy, he found himself highly honored among the Italian humanists, being considered an expert of languages , including Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. He was summarily esteemed among his vibrant interlocutors in Rome for his conversant and enthusiastic personality. Indeed, Valdés himself was a notable archetype of Spanish (and consequently, Italian) humanism. 355 There was in Italy during the time a fundamental linguistic polemic – the “questione della lingua” or the language question (problem) – of extraordinary interest to the Spanish humanist: namely, a growing defense of a so-called vulgar Tuscan language as the linguistic standard. The Italian humanists were asking precisely the questions which fascinated Valdés. Should contemporary writers resort to the normative standard of language dating to the 14th century or to its modern form? Should the literary Italian language use the Tuscan dialect as its model or incorporate more broadly linguistic aspects from the whole of Italy? Valdés naturally sympathized with the “vulgar” cause, never content with Latin as the literary norm (indeed, Valdés’ own works opted for Castilian as the means of transmitting both his religious and linguistic writings). Valdés’ so-called heterodoxical religious views relied heavily upon a certain directness of textual interpretation, contingent therein upon a vulgar language of broader access. In Renaissance Italy, the Spanish language was already enjoying a high social status among the esteemed classes. Marcio , in an introductory discourse, explains this status: Y el señor Coriolano como buen cortesano quiriendo entenderla (porque, como veis, ya en Italia assí entre damas como entre cavalleros se tiene por gentileza y galanía saber hablar castellano), siempre hallávamos algo que notar en vuestras Cartas. (Valdés 119-20) Thus, there arises a fundamentally pragmatic catalyst for Valdés’ Diálogo , the result of inquiry on behalf of Italian humanists curiously interested in the details of the Castilian language. II. VALDÉS’ LINGUISTIC THEORY Having departed from the linguistic approach adopted by the Andalusian Antonio de Nebrija, Juan de Valdés considers the Castilian language in light of its autonomous independence from Latin and with respect to its own identity. In doing so, he affirms the self-sufficiency and linguistic independence of the Castilian language. As he writes: ...quando me pongo a scrivir en castellano no es mi intento conformarme con el latín, sino esplicar el conceto de mi ánimo, de tal manera que, si fuere posible, qualquier persona que entienda el castellano alcance bien lo que quiero dezir. (Valdés 184) 356 ROMANCE NOTES Indeed, in addition to his high esteem for the linguistic independence of Castilian, Valdés here manifests a more general linguistic theory that informs his writing: the homogeneity of languages. The doctrine is made most explicit, of course, in his Diálogo de la lengua. One particular passage is most commonly cited as the source of this doctrine: Y aun porque cada lengua tiene sus vocablos propios, y sus propias maneras de dezir, ay tanta dificultad en el traduzir bien de una lengua en...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-7599
Print ISSN
0035-7995
Pages
pp. 355-363
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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