Translated commentaries can sound very clunky. While I work often with Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava texts, I’ve read enough Yoga, Nyāya, Mīmāṃsā, etc. to know that there are some basic techniques that commentators use when commenting on root texts (sūtra, śruti, smṛti, etc.), and that these techniques don’t always facilitate translation into English, German, etc. (for more discussion, see Tubb and Bose’s Scholastic Sanskrit). In commentating, commentators often do:
- the glossing of words in the root text (e.g. providing definitions and various meanings of a Sanskrit word with other Sanskrit words),
- the elaboration or expansion on a passage by inserting entire paragraphs, sentences or phrases in between words, verses, sūtras, etc. from a root text,
- the quotation of other relevant verses, sūtras, etc. within the commentary on a particular passage to show to illuminate meaning, continuity, etc.,
- the quotation of a previous commentator, either to agree or disagree with him.
In a few of my publications I’ve started to develop a technique for making translations less clunky, and my best shot at it is this. When translating, you change the typeface to reflect what the commentator is doing with a particular word/phrase/sentence:
Bold-italics – quotes from śruti, smṛti, sūtra, mūla, etc.
Italics – quotes from commentary or independent texts
Bold – words that are glossed from śruti, smṛti, sūtra, mūla, etc.
Italics-underline –comments on commentary
I’ve tried to use these various forms of typeface to indicate to the reader of a translation what a commentators is doing. It allows the reader to see when a commentator is elaborating on the meaning of the root text, on a scriptural passage, a previous commentators, and it does so simply by changing the typeface.
What do you think of this technique?