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looking for materials on the notion of untranslatability
Thread poster: Mikołaj Kutrzuba

Mikołaj Kutrzuba
Poland
Local time: 08:26
English to Polish
+ ...
Apr 21, 2008

Hi,
I'm looking for materials describing the notion of untranslatability (i'm thinking of writing my MA Thesis on this topic). Has anyone dealt with this problem on a larger scale (a whole book devoted to it)? I need some good insight into the techniques used (both theory and practice), examples, comments.
Would be much obliged for authors/book titles. Maybe there are some particular aspects of untranslatability, that are worth focusing on? Any ideas are more than welcomed (at this time it's all bits and pieces, I'm looking for an inspiration).

thx,
MK


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kjmcguire
Netherlands
Local time: 08:26
Chinese to English
The only book I can think of... Apr 22, 2008

They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases by Howard Rheingold (see here).

The book is, as its title suggests, a light-hearted look at words and phrases from around the world which are deemed untranslatable. It's not the sort of text I would reference in an academic paper but maybe it'll inspire you to investigate further.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
is there such a thing? Apr 22, 2008

ZeroCool_m1 wrote:

Hi,
I'm looking for materials describing the notion of untranslatability (i'm thinking of writing my MA Thesis on this topic). Has anyone dealt with this problem on a larger scale (a whole book devoted to it)? I need some good insight into the techniques used (both theory and practice), examples, comments.
Would be much obliged for authors/book titles. Maybe there are some particular aspects of untranslatability, that are worth focusing on? Any ideas are more than welcomed (at this time it's all bits and pieces, I'm looking for an inspiration).

thx,
MK


I have a feeling that an entire book dedicated to the concept is unlikely, as anything can be translated, just that some things are more easily "transferred" than others. And even if we decided to use the source term, we'd translate around it in such a way as to convey it's meaning, or we'd gloss it or include it in a glossary.

Certain things are very culture-bound, and so very difficult to translate, for example, recipes. Well, not so much difficult, as difficult to translate elegantly.

Also songs, which are bound by the music too (e.g. the songs of Dylan, Lou Reed, Tom Waits ...). And poems, which are bound also by rhyme and metre.

I hope that gives you some idea:-)


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:26
Italian to English
+ ...
Old discussion here in Proz Apr 22, 2008

I'm not aware of any publications on the subject, but you'll find plenty of examples here:

http://www.proz.com/forum/lighter_side_of_trans_interp/79597-the_most_infuriating_word_to_translate_from_your_source_languages-.html

Oh, and a link to a link in that link came up with this:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4457805

[Edited at 2008-04-22 11:00]


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xxxPeter Manda
Local time: 02:26
German to English
+ ...
untranslatability Apr 22, 2008

start with the google search "kazuo ishiguro untranslatability" that should bring you good material as a starting point.

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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 01:26
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Le Bon Ton de Marot Apr 22, 2008

Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise Of The Music Of Language by Douglas R. Hofstadter.

In one sense, this book is all about translatability; what is translatable and what is not; what can be translated, and what is lost in translation. In a self-referent aside, the author explains why the book itself is likely untranslatable.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
"lost in translation" Apr 22, 2008

GoodWords wrote:

Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise Of The Music Of Language by Douglas R. Hofstadter.

In one sense, this book is all about translatability; what is translatable and what is not; what can be translated, and what is lost in translation. In a self-referent aside, the author explains why the book itself is likely untranslatable.


This is a good expression for referring to untranslatability problems, as I said, anything can in one way or another be translated, the big issue is what is lost:-)


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Thoth
German to English
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Joyce Apr 22, 2008

You will certainly find research on this topic if you go into bibliographies surrounding Finnegans Wake and Ulysses. Or read Introductions to translation (attempt)s.

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:26
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Untranslatability Apr 22, 2008

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untranslatability

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:26
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Le Ton Beau / Le Tombeau Apr 22, 2008

Yes, that is a great book. It is on my list for a second read. Even the title is untranslatable!

GoodWords wrote:

Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise Of The Music Of Language by Douglas R. Hofstadter.

In one sense, this book is all about translatability; what is translatable and what is not; what can be translated, and what is lost in translation. In a self-referent aside, the author explains why the book itself is likely untranslatable.


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Mark Oliver  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:26
Indonesian to English
+ ...
An academic source Apr 23, 2008

There is a book that explores this topic in some degree of depth:

"Beyond Translation: Essays toward a Modern Philology," by A. L. Becker, University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Dr. Becker is a professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of Michigan, and this book collects 16 of his previously published papers on the inadequacies and excesses of meaning in translated texts; the papers cover explorations of translations between "distant" languages (his background is in Burmese, Javanese, and Malay).

He discusses readily apparent "silences" existing between these languages and his native English; for example, the fact that Javanese utterances are written entirely without tense, while it is impossible to write an English sentence without tense -- since tense is silent in Javanese, it must necessarily be supplied by an English-speaking translator. It must be added that the silences work both ways: for example, English lacks the complexities of Javanese deixis, such that a Javanese translation of an English text must supplement this silence. In one paper, he takes a segment from Emerson's essay, "Nature," translates it into Kawi (Old Javanese), and explores the results in depth.

I hope this suggestion helps -- but it is a wonderful book in any case.


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