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The comma and/or the waw
Thread poster: Hikmat Faraj
Hikmat Faraj  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:15
English to Arabic
+ ...
Jan 24, 2009

Greetings everybody,

I am in the process of reviewing Arabic translations of English documents with a heavy use of commas in linking between words. They range in number of words from 5 upto 10+.

According to Arabic grammar and writing texbooks, we do not use the comma to link between words; we use waw al-'atif.

My question is, in a string of a large number of words, do we still use waw al-'atif or do we follow the English and use a comma, saving the waw till the last word? To me it doesn't sound like Arabic when you don't use the waw. It sounds like literal translation.

Any input would be highly appreciated.

Salamaat,

Hikmat


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zkt  Identity Verified
Lebanon
Local time: 20:15
English to Arabic
+ ...
waw Jan 24, 2009

Hello Hikmat,

I have seen this english style in many arabic texts but when it comes to texts I translate I always use the waw, no matter how long the list is.


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:15
English to Arabic
+ ...
Agree with both of you... Jan 24, 2009

unless the author is avoiding the waws to achieve a particular literary style.

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Hikmat Faraj  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:15
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
the waw Jan 24, 2009

Thank you so much for responding so fast. I agree with you; it even sounds better.

Hikmat

zkt wrote:

Hello Hikmat,

I have seen this english style in many arabic texts but when it comes to texts I translate I always use the waw, no matter how long the list is.


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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
+ ...
Please provide examples Jan 24, 2009

It is difficult to address the question because it hovers in the stratosphere of generalities with not a single example to illustrate the point.

If you are referring to the use of comma in a series, as in "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,"
then there is no harm in using commas, but two points must be kept in mind:

1. They are not necessary.

2. Even if you use commas, the conjunction is still necessary.

Example:

الخيل والليل والبـيداء تعرفني
والسـيف والرمح والقرطاس والقلم

الخيل، والليل، والبـيداء تعرفني
والسـيف، والرمح، والقرطاس، والقلم

Both of these are correct. It would be incorrect to drop the conjunction in a series in Arabic.

I hope this addresses your point. If not, please provide examples.


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Hikmat Faraj  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:15
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Author Jan 24, 2009

Nesrin wrote:

unless the author is avoiding the waws to achieve a particular literary style.


Author is trying to apply a rule he was taught in an Arabic translation course.

Hikmat


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Hikmat Faraj  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:15
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Examples Jan 24, 2009

Here is a typical example:

"The government of Sri Lanka produced documents that listed its employees, laborers, soldiers, teachers, professors, scholars and priests."

thanks,

Hikmat


Fuad Yahya wrote:

It is difficult to address the question because it hovers in the stratosphere of generalities with not a single example to illustrate the point.

If you are referring to the use of comma in a series, as in "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,"
then there is no harm in using commas, but two points must be kept in mind:

1. They are not necessary.

2. Even if you use commas, the conjunction is still necessary.

Example:

الخيل والليل والبـيداء تعرفني
والسـيف والرمح والقرطاس والقلم

الخيل، والليل، والبـيداء تعرفني
والسـيف، والرمح، والقرطاس، والقلم

Both of these are correct. It would be incorrect to drop the conjunction in a series in Arabic.

I hope this addresses your point. If not, please provide examples.


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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
+ ...
Thank you for the example Jan 24, 2009

Hikmat Faraj wrote:

Here is a typical example:

"The government of Sri Lanka produced documents that listed its employees, laborers, soldiers, teachers, professors, scholars and priests."

thanks,

Hikmat




You did not provide the translation of this sentence, but if the translator separated all items in the series with commas and used the conjunction only before the last item ("priests"), the resulting text would be non-standard Arabic. You can use the commas if you like, but the conjunction must be used before each item in the series, except the first.

If you decide to use commas, one more issue needs to be taken care of. No space should separates the comma from the previous item, but one space must be inserted after the comma (before the conjunction).


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Hikmat Faraj  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:15
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you very much for your complete answer Jan 24, 2009

Fuad Yahya wrote:

Hikmat Faraj wrote:

Here is a typical example:

"The government of Sri Lanka produced documents that listed its employees, laborers, soldiers, teachers, professors, scholars and priests."

thanks,

Hikmat




You did not provide the translation of this sentence, but if the translator separated all items in the series with commas and used the conjunction only before the last item ("priests"), the resulting text would be non-standard Arabic. You can use the commas if you like, but the conjunction must be used before each item in the series, except the first.

If you decide to use commas, one more issue needs to be taken care of. No space should separates the comma from the previous item, but one space must be inserted after the comma (before the conjunction).


Alf shukr for your answer. Sorry, I should have provided the translated text, which follows the source in that he used commas, but no conjunction except before the last word.

I agree the conjunction is indispensible, whether using commas or not.

On an another note, your mention of inserting a space prior to the comma is quite common in translations i am coming across. I do not for the life of me know why translators are doing this. In MS Word it can be globally edited out via find/replace, as Word recongizes space as a character. Unfortunately it is not the case in other editors.

Best

Hikmat


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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
+ ...
It is a font problem Jan 25, 2009

Hikmat Faraj wrote:

On an another note, your mention of inserting a space prior to the comma is quite common in translations i am coming across. I do not for the life of me know why translators are doing this. In MS Word it can be globally edited out via find/replace, as Word recongizes space as a character. Unfortunately it is not the case in other editors.

Best

Hikmat


I believe the main reason why many people insert a space before a comma or a period in Arabic is that they use the wrong font. They mostly use the default font, which, in MS Word, is typically Arial or Times New Roman, both of which are very crude imitations of Arabic. When you use either one of these fonts or any font included in MS Office, except Traditional Arabic, you get visually poor results. Punctuation marks are barely visible in these fonts, so people resort to inserting a space before the punctuation mark to make it visible. In fact, these fonts are so curde that even see the letter ALIF is barely visible when it is followed by a LAM, as in the definite article. They are too close to each other.

There are good reasons why people do not use Traditional Arabic, which is the only font in the MS Office package that bears any reasonable resemblance to Arabic. These reasons include:

- It is not the default font, and switching to a font other than the default font is a hassle.

- Most translators can hardly tell the difference.

- Using Traditional Arabic requires adjustments in font size and line spacing in order to produce a document that closely mirrors the original English document. Very briefly, Traditional Arabic has built-in extra line space, which may require squeezing in by about 10%.

- Traditional Arabic is tied up in intellectual rights issues. For example, you cannot embed the font in a PDF file. You have to go through a complicated procedure to create a PDF file from a Word file containing Arabic text in Traditional Arabic font. Even if you learn to overcome the issue, your clients may hate to deal with it, and even if the client agrees to got through process of acclimatizing to Traditional Arabic, the general public (for which the PDF file is disseminated) may still have problems.

For these reasons, many translators prefer to use the default font, and they try to overcome the visual impoverishment in the default font by inserting a space in the wrong place.


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