An increasing number and a wide variety of texts on Italian cultural heritage is available today, both Online and on paper, from tourist guidebooks to museum web sites, from art catalogues to critical essays. Provided in different languages, these works attempt to satisfy an international public increasingly demanding information on Italian cultural heritage. However, presently across Europe, there are no specific tools offered (dictionaries, reference materials on technical translations), nor specialised institutions which can train and support specialist translators, or other specialists involved in cultural tourism (tourist guides, tourist information centres’ or museums’ personnel, etc.) and that are able to convey such knowledge in appropriate ways.
Founded in 2013 under the aegis of the Department o f Languages, Literatures and Intercultural Studies at the University of Florence, the “Multilingual Cultural Heritage Lexis” Research Unit aims to fill the existing gap by promoting research, studies and activities on the lexis of diverse languages referring to Italian Cultural Heritage in Italian. Special emphasis is placed on the lexis referred to the city of Florence, considered the prime example of Italian ‘art city’.
The Research Unit is formed by university professors, lecturers and language teachers of the University of Florence who collaborate with colleagues from other universities and institutions in Italy and abroad. The first phase of the project consists of creating a website providing not only information on the activities of the Unit but also a dictionary in seven languages French, English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese. This will include lemmas with their meaning referred to Italian.
The lemmas derive from the databases including the keywords emerging from corpora of texts describing cultural heritage in the past and the present. Presently, two texts, which are considered representative of cultural heritage and of contemporary interpretation and are calendrically distant translations have been chosen: The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari, an international milestone for its description of Florentine cultural heritage during the Renaissance and Florence, and a bestseller tourist guidebook in Italy edited by Bonechi.
The Dictionary, under the form of Work in Progress, is based on lexical items in their original version and translations deriving from the databases forming comparable corpora . Also the selection of keywords, their translations and descriptions will derive from the same databases. A number of examples and citations will illustrate both, the difficulties encountered by frequent mistakes in the translating process of guide books, and the historical-cultural context of the same words and their designata.
In the first phase of the project, dictionary entries will be in two languages, i.e. from Italian to another language. In the second phase, links from each reference language to other target languages will be created. For the lexical analysis the following fields we will be considered:
- Common nouns relating to the arts.
- Proper nouns referring to Florence and its history (names of famous people, artists, benefactors, patrons, florentine politics..; names of places and streets, monuments, but also names of artworks, etc.)
- Florentine Realia (names of food – zuccotto, crostini – of festivities and of typical cultural activities – calcio storico, scoppio del carro, ...)
On the basis of a preliminary analysis of micro-structures presented in some of the major online monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, a prototype dictionary will be developed by Florence University Press (FUP) and will be consultable on line in Open Access.
Other tools are under development: the ‘Vasari encyclopedia’, etymological dictionary, parallel databases (presently for the translations of Vasari’s texts), concordances.