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Capitalization of first letter in lines in poetry
Thread poster: Kathleen Shelly
Kathleen Shelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:39
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Oct 8, 2008

I was wondering. In English, it has been the custom, especially before the advent of modern poetry, to always capitalize the first letter in every line, whether or not it begins a sentence or not. In Spanish, this is not the case at all. What about German or Swedish?

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María Leticia Cazeneuve  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:39
English to Spanish
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Also in Spanish Oct 8, 2008

Hi Kathleen,

Apparently this was also the custom in Spanish... See what the RAE (DPD) says about it:

"3.5. Antes era costumbre, en los poemas, emplear la mayúscula al principio de cada verso, razón por la cual las letras de esta forma tomaron el nombre de «versales» (mayúsculas de imprenta). En la poesía moderna, esta costumbre está en desuso."

I'll check Martinez de Sousa's Ortografía y ortotipografía del español actual to see if it adds something interesting and I'll let you know.

Regards,
María Leticia


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Kathleen Shelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:39
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Oct 8, 2008

Thank you so much. This is rather interesting.

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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:39
English to French
+ ...
Also in French Oct 9, 2008

Le Bon Usage, Grévisse, par. 98 4°
Majuscule quelle que soit la nature du mot :
Traditionnellement, en poésie, au début de chaque vers ou de chaque verset.
Depuis la fin du XIXe siècle, cet usage n'est plus systématique, surtout dans les vers libres.

Seems similar too.


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Krzysztof Łesyk  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:39
Japanese to English
+ ...
Interesting indeed. Oct 9, 2008

I agree - it is a very interesting topic, especially when you consider translating a poem from a language that does not distinguish between capital and lowercase letters (Japanese or Chinese come to mind) into a language that does. Determining whether to capitalize or not might be a problem then, don't you think?

Let's say you translate a modern Chinese poem into English - would you capitalize the first letter in every line, following the "ancient" tradition, only capitalize the first letter in each sentence or get ultra-modern and use only lowercase?

Thank heavens I don't translate poetry and have no such problems...

[Edited at 2008-10-09 06:58]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:39
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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They capitalize them in Russian too Oct 9, 2008

At least, they do in the few books of Russian poetry I possess, both old and new. But I don't have many.

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Kathleen Shelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:39
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
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TOPIC STARTER
German poetry Oct 9, 2008

Can anyone tell me what the rule is in German? I have a Christmas carol to translate for a concert program, and I would like it to be correct.

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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:39
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
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Capitalization in poetry Oct 9, 2008

Kathleen Shelly wrote:

Can anyone tell me what the rule is in German? I have a Christmas carol to translate for a concert program, and I would like it to be correct.


Traditionally it's the same in German:

Denk’ ich an Deutschland in der Nacht,
Dann bin ich um den Schlaf gebracht.

Regards,
Gerard


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