SuttaCentral

AN 7:36 A Friend

Today I translated this sutta. While consulting the translation made by Ven. @sujato I noticed a minor inconsistency which should be corrected, I guess.

“Mendicants, you should associate with a friend who has seven factors. What seven? They give what is hard to give. They do what is hard to do. They endure what is hard to endure. They reveal their secrets to you. They keep your secrets. They don’t abandon you in times of trouble. They don’t look down on you in times of loss. You should associate with a friend who has these seven factors."

Except the first sentence, for some reason the rest was translated with plural “They”, although Pali text and the title say it should be singular “He”.

Metta to All

6 Likes

I believe it has to do with Ajahn @sujato willing to make non gender specific in his translation the pronoun referring to the gender neutral term friend.
If you translate as he you are misrepresenting the gender of the noun in Pali.
I understand that, just like in latin languages, in Pali nouns have default genders, but not necessarily writing it in such default gender means the original meaning of the message was narrow in the sense a friend could only be a man, and not a woman.
:anjal:

9 Likes

I understand your point, but it sounds a little bit odd to me if in the sentence there is a singular “friend” and in the next one “they”. Anyway, I’m not a native speaker. So, I guess, I missed something.

Have a nice day :pray:

7 Likes

Yes indeed, as Gabriel pointed out I use the singular they commonly.

It’s one of those things that you find all the time in spoken English, but still pokes out a little in formal written contexts. (As is the “third person you” which I used in the previous sentence!) Times are changing, though!

8 Likes

The adoption of a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun has been discussed by feminists and linguistic scholars for over fifty years, since the arrival of Second-Wave Feminism in the West. The basic problem was that English traditionally used “he” in sex-indeterminate situations and implicitly excluded women as unimportant/irrelevant. To address this unfairness in writing some people started to use “S/He”. This looks a bit clunky in writing and doesn’t work at all in speech. So overgeneralising the plural gender-neutral ‘they’ and using it with singular reference often feels like an easier fit.

Various alternatives exist for avoiding ‘they’ and also avoiding the implied stigmatisation of women, see for example this advice for learners of English and this style sheet for academic lawyers. There are also scholarly articles such as those listed here.

6 Likes

If I may I’d like to add that Sanskrit and therefore Pali do not have personal pronouns, so use the demonstrative pronouns tad ‘that’ and yad ‘which’ instead. Therefore besides gender issues, I think it is more in keeping with the original text to render personal pronouns as neutral or non gender specific.

Kind regards Ani

5 Likes