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Translatability of Language and Form: Middle Eastern Studies and ChatGPT
Scholars of Middle Eastern studies are bound to encounter the perils of translation in various ways. The majority of people living in the Middle East do not communicate in English, and many texts pertaining to the region are not originally written in English either. Along with Arabic, a language that has remained dominant there, texts have been composed in Turkish, Persian, Syriac, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. These languages belong to different groups with distinct histories and sensibilities that neither overlap with English nor accede to the sovereignty of a particular form of prose writing standardized with the formation of universities in twelfth-century Europe. As people in North America and other regions primarily access information about the Middle East through English, scholars face the responsibility of translating their understanding into English while adhering to a standardized form of scientific prose. This presents both the promise and perils of translation—highlighting the necessity and impossibility of capturing the essence of Middle Eastern languages and their varied forms, be it poetic or otherwise, in English. Given that North American scholarship on the Middle East significantly contributes to ChatGPT's dataset, the rise of this technology further amplifies the significance of this scholarship. This paper aims to delve into the challenges associated with translating Middle Eastern source texts and their unique linguistic forms into English. If ChatGPT is homogenizing language ontologies and standardizing our thought processes primarily based on an English-speaking episteme. In that case, it begs the question: to what extent is this outcome influenced by the translation efforts led by English-speaking scholars of the Middle East?
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Sub Area