A typological approach to word-order literalism as an indication of Saint Jerome's translation technique in the Vulgate
Despite the important role played by St. Jerome (331–420) in the history of translation, his own translations have suffered some neglect when it comes to detailed investigations of his theory and praxis. In particular, the distinction he espoused between his ordinary sense-for-sense mode of translating and the more literal mode he used when translating the Holy Scriptures – “where even the order of the words is a mystery” (Epistle 57.5.2; ubi et verborum ordo mysterium est) – has been overlooked or even denied by some scholars, often with the assumption that all of his translations were produced in a more or less sense-for-sense manner. Taking as a basis the relative independence of the criteria by which a translation may be considered literal, this study examines the single parameter of word order (highlighted by Jerome himself) through a broadly typological and even statistical approach, in order to test the thesis that within St. Jerome’s oeuvre, Scripture translation, as a genre, licenses different rules of language usage. The demonstration of a word-order literalism which employs an over-abundance of marked syntactic patterns in Jerome’s translations of selected Old Testament books gives an indication of one aspect of his translation technique in the Vulgate. Quantitative data were obtained from three separate corpora, representing the genres investigated for this study: (1) a sampling of St. Jerome’s original compositions (i.e., texts which are not translations), providing something of a control by which to accurately measure variations from his standard word orders; (2) a sampling of his non-scriptural translations; and (3) a sampling of his translations of Old Testament books included in the Vulgate. Within each of these three corpora, three aspects of word order are analyzed: (1) the collocation of genitives with the nouns they limit; (2) the collocation of demonstrative adjectives with their nouns; and (3) the placement of verbs in their clauses. Typological inconsistency and statistically significant variations in word order across corpora, as well as the actual degree of correspondence of the translations to the word orders of their source texts, are brought to bear on the thesis.