Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ludskanov in Italian

This post is a continuation of the preceding one. Please read the other one first.

After A.L.’s death in 1976, his book on translation theory fell into oblivion except in Bulgaria, where it was republished and his memory was kept alive by his student and assistant Elena Paskaleva; and in Leipzig, where he’d been lecturing and the German translation was a textbook. There were several reasons for the neglect:

1. There was no English translation. Contrary to what some people might think, translation studies specialists are as dependent on translations as other people.

2. There was an excellent German translation, but it was made and published in East Germany when Europe was still divided. The French translation was in A.L.’s own imperfect French - and you know how picky the French are about their language; furthermore it was execrably printed. Even in intellectual spheres, appearances do count.

3. As time wore on, the parts of the book that had to do with computing went further and further out of date. A.L. foresaw this, and told me that future translators would have to update it. And then, around 1990, research on machine translation took a whole new direction.

4. Interest in the connections between translation and semiotics became focussed on literary and cultural semiotics, which were not A.L.‘s interest.

But now A.L.’s book and its ideas have been given new life. After the long neglect, an Italian translation has unexpectedly appeared. It was done from the French version by a team, and edited by Bruno Osimo, an enterprising and discerning teacher of translation and translation theory at the University of Milan and elsewhere in Italy (more about him at

He’s dealt with the problem of updating the computer science parts of the book by the simplest and most drastic method possible: he’s cut most of them out. As he says himself:
This is not a complete and unabridged translation of the 1967 work, which had 160 pages. Some chapters that were all about machine translation have been left out entirely… The other chapters have undergone editing so as to remove the technicalities of the most ’cybernetic’ aspects of the book; they would not mean much today to people who are interested in translation. [Cybernetic, in A.L.’s usage, conformed to the East European concept that computer science was a branch of cybernetics.] Altogether, the text has been reduced by about two fifths.
Compared with the revised Bulgarian edition and the German translation, the reduction is even more drastic. In the same spirit of reader-oriented translation,
The original Bulgarian contained a great many [quasi-mathematical] symbols and formulae. Here such abbreviations, etc., have been eliminated in order to make the text more readable.
Gone too are the many footnotes, and with them the passage about ‘intuitive’ translators that I cited at the beginning of the preceding post.

Never mind. The essential Ludskanov is there. It’s good to see the book in print again and made available to another generation. Perhaps somebody will be guided by Osimo’s editing to finally produce an English version.

The book is nicely printed, and at 10 euros it’s a bargain.

To be concluded.

References (see also the preceding post)

Aleksandar Lûdskanov. Un approccio semiotico alla traduzione. Dalla prospettiva informatica alla scienza traduttiva. Italian translation by Vanessa Albertocchi, Gaia d'Alò, Emilia de Candia, Francesca Picerno, Luca Revelant, Valeria Sanguinetti, Elisa Scarmagnani and Maura Zampieri from the French translation. Edited by Bruno Osimo. Milan: Hoepli, 2008. xix, 76 p.

Aleksander Lyudskanov. Prevezhdat chovekt i machinata. Revised and expanded edition, edited by Elena Paskaleva, with a preface by the eminent Bulgarian linguist Miroslav Yanakiev. Sofia: Narodna Kultura, 1980.

Elena Paskaleva. Alexander Ljudskanov. In W. J. Hutchins (ed.), Early Years in Machine Translation: Memoirs and Biographies of Pioneers, Amsterdam, Benjamins, 2000. pp. 361-376. For fast reading, go to, although there are a few pages missing.

Alexander Ljudskanov. Mensch und Maschine als Übersetzer. German translation by Gert Jäger and Hilmar Walter of the Karl-Marx University, Leipzig, from a greatly expanded source text. Halle: Niemeyer, 1972 / Munich: Hueber, 1973. 260 p. A.L. much preferred this translation to his own French one.

There's also a Polish translation. Osimo says he couldn't trace it, but it's in the catalogue of the National Library of Poland.


  1. The polish translation has been translated by Naumow Aleksander and Leski Kazimierz, the polish title: "Tłumaczy człowiek i maszyna cyfrowa", printed ty Wydawnictwo Naukowo-Techniczne in Warsaw, 1973. Thank you very much for sharing so much information on your blog! It's the best source on the Internet when one is searching for information on natural translation.

  2. You got a really useful blog I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me.

    English to French Canadian Translation & Canadian French Translation