Vagarthaviv Sampruktau Vagartha Pratipattaye
Jagatah Pitarau Vande Parvati Parameshwarau1
Inseparable as Word and Meaning Parvati and Lord Shiva are
Bless me, O cosmic parents, with the knowledge and use of that unity.
The invocational verse, the great Sanskrit dramatist Kalidâsa recites at the inception of his timeless epic Raghuvansham, states very succinctly what the Western civilization took centuries to cogitate and crystallize. The verse emphasizes the fact that Word (vak) is inextricably bound up with Meaning (arth) and any attempt at separating the two would lead to distortion, miscomprehension and miscommunication which is precisely what a translator audaciously sets out to do.
In his seminal treatise “The Diversity of Human Language - Construction and Its Influence on the Mental Development of Mankind” (1836) Wilhem Von Humboldt hypothesizes that languages tend to shape the thoughts of the people who use them. He remarks, “Man lived with objects [around him] mainly or rather – as feeling and action depend on the ideas which he entertains about the objects – exclusively in the way in which language presents them to him.”2 Language by adding meaning to the world of objects helps its users to make sense of the world in its own peculiar and restrictive way. Consequently, linguistic diversity across the world plays a significant part in the maintenance of corresponding differences and diversities in culture and mentality amongst the people of various regions. This idea was carried forward by Edward Sapir who firmly believed that languages are enmeshed in their cultural contexts and so the scientific study of language could not be separated from anthropology and psychology. In his view “No languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live, are distinct worlds, not merely the same worlds with different labels attached…we see and hear and otherwise...