Piet Van de Craen
Table of contents

One of the tasks of Hermes, the messenger god of the ancient Greeks, was to bring the gods’ messages to the mortals. In order to do this he was confronted with a double task: “[h]e had to understand and interpret for himself what the gods wanted to convey before he could proceed to translate, articulate, and explicate their intention to mortals” (Mueller-Vollmer 1985: 1). The Greek verb hermeneuein may be translated as ‘to interpret’ but, in fact, in ancient Greek the verb carried three meanings: “(1) to express aloud in words, that is, ‘to say’; (2) to explain, as in explaining a situation; and (3) to translate, as in the translation of a foreign tongue” (Palmer 1969: 13). Today, the hermeneutic enterprise in modern human and social sciences refers to the interpretation and understanding of written and spoken discourse as well as human behavior. It cuts across various disciplines, such as linguistics, literary analysis, philosophy, (social) psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and anthropology.

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