Textual Microcosms: A New Approach in Translation Studies

Interlinear translation – a bilingual genre that includes a text and its word-for-word ‘equivalents’ in translation written in alternating lines on a single page – has been practiced in diverse societies over many centuries, yet has been little studied. Because it prioritizes detail and precision, the interlinear translation paradigm tells us more than any other about the workings of translation and the unavoidable choices inherent in every translation act.

The study’s focus is on interlinear translations produced between the late 16th and 20th centuries in the Indonesian-Malay world, a historically and culturally linked region now encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, southern Thailand and the southern Philippines. One of the world’s most linguistically diverse regions, it has seen Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Christian, and Islamic textual traditions locally adopted and adapted over the centuries, often through the interlinear model.

Bringing together scholars and students from the fields of literature, translation studies, Islamic studies, art history, Asian studies, anthropology and linguistics this project will employ the interlinear text as a theoretical and methodological framework to study inter- and intra-cultural contacts, intersections and divergences. Approaching such texts as “textual microcosms,” it will explore a host of religious, intellectual, literary, artistic and linguistic processes and encounters as expressed and reflected on the interlinear page. It will also ask how, over time, interlinear translations helped shape pedagogical practices, educational institutions, and ideas about language.