Multilingual Videodictionary of Sign Languages + Lacan-quote

Listening this morning to the great Barbara Cassin — author of a magnificent Dictionary of Untranslatables and more recently of Eloge de la Traduction: Compliquer l’universel — talking about translation on France Culture, I heard her mentioning a video about sign languages by Nurith Aviv & Emmanuelle Laborit,  called Signer en langues /Signing in Languages that was part of an exhibition on translation Cassin curated at the Marseilles Mucem-Musée des civilisations et de la Méditerranée. Couldn’t resist posting it here: it is an absolute delight. A bit earlier Cassin in the France Culture program (you can listen to it here) had quoted one of her favorite Jacques Lacan lines, which I’ll try to translate into English, always a gageure (a word that when I typed it in French my automatic corrector immediately corrected-translated into gauge, which of course any translation also is…), i.e. a challenge with Lacan-language: “A language among others, is nothing more than the integral of the equivocations that its history has permitted to persist in it.”

“Ambivalences” could have been an quicker English word for the French “equivocations”, but ambiguous, as it implies a double, two, i.e. an either/or, when here we need the multiplex exactly. What I translated as “permitted to persist” is “a laissé subsister” in French. I could have used the equivalent(?) English verb “subsist” in its meaning of “survive,” but here I wanted to ever so slightly inflect/subvert Lacan’s meaning by using the more active “persist.” The “laissé/permitted” verb defining the action of history feels a bit passive to me in both languages, because I sense that those equivocations are not just barely surviving, but are the active ingredients that feed the life of the language (not so much as roots, but as being part of the rhizomatic life of language). And thus we can move forward to the original of the Lacan quote: “Une langue entre autres n’est rien de plus que l’intégrale des équivoques que son histoire y a laissé subsister.”

Enjoy the video:

 

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