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The function of language in addition to its use in daily conversations for the purpose of interacting with each other in the social context (interactional function) is communicating knowledge, skills and information (transactional function) which has been developed to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next. The desire for a more permanent record of what was known must have been the motivating factor for the development of marking and inscriptions and written language (Yule, 1985). If one considers the diversity of languages in the world on the one hand and the urgent need of having access to the knowledge and experience gained by other nations, on the other, they will be able to decipher how crucial the rule of translation in this process is, a process which will in turn serve the improvement of human civilization. Civilization, according to Britannica (2003) ultimate reference suite CD ROM, is a “relatively high level of cultural and technological development; specifically the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained”. A part of civilization and these ‘written records’ is obviously literature which according to the same encyclopedia is defined as:
A form of human expression; but not everything
expressed in words—even when organized and
written down—is counted as literature. Those
writings that are primarily informative—
technical, scholarly, journalistic—would be
excluded from the rank of literature by most,
though not all, critics. Certain forms of
writing, however, are universally regarded as
belonging to literature as an art. Individual
attempts within these forms are said to succeed
if they possess something called artistic merit
and to fail if they do not.
Poetry, in which these so called artistic merits are abundant, is one of the components of literature and consequently human civilization. Poetry and literature as a whole is one of the ways to get access to knowledge and experience gained by other nations and to know about their viewpoints towards different issues. As a result translation of poetry has always been the gist of many discussions over the translation issue. If we fail to translate poetry ‘properly’, i.e. if we cannot keep its artistic features in translation, it won’t be regarded as a poem and a part of literature any more.
A ‘good translator’ who is able to translate a piece of poetry ‘properly’ should have many skills one of which being mastery over the target and source language rhetorical categorizations. In this study attempts has been made to identify cases in which translators’ ignorance of the differences among rhetorical categorizations in English and Persian has lead to change of a figure of speech into a different one or loosing it as a whole, which results in loss of author’s intended meaning or effect. The study puts focus on an extract of Sepehri’s poems including two long and ten short ones translated by three of the most well-known translators of sepehri’s poems that is, Emami (2005) and Salami & Zahedi (2005).
In order to tackle the issue two of the most common figures of speech i.e. similes and personifications were selected. Attempts were made to identify these figures of speech in the Persian poems as well as their equivalents in the English translations. Then these figurative terms were thoroughly examined according to the rhetorical categorizations in both languages to find out whether the Persian similes and personifications have been translated as English similes and personifications respectively and to designate the problems emanating from ignoring the discrepancies among rhetorical categorizations in Persian and English.
2.1. In order to familiarize the reader with these categorizations, the definitions of simile and personification in both languages are mentioned below. Here, Newmark’s terminology for metaphors is used for description of similes because these two are closely related to each other.
2.1.1. Simile in English
Metaphor and simile as two figures of speech are used to compare things that are essentially unlike; they only differ in that in simile the comparison is expressed by the use of some word or phrase such as, ‘like, than, similar to, resembles or seems’ while in metaphor the comparison is implicit (Perrine, 1974). Newmark (1988) refers to the concept which is described as ‘object’, the concept to which the object is compared as ‘image’ and the grounds of comparison as ‘sense’.
2.1.2. Simile in Persian
In Persian, the concept which is compared to another concept is called ‘Moshabah/object’. The concept to which the ‘Moshabah/object’ is compared is called ‘Moshabahon Beh/image’. The grounds for the comparison are known as ‘Vajhe Shabah/sense’. Words such as ‘Mesle, manande/like, as’ are called ‘Adate Tashbih’ (Shamisa, 1995). It is worth noting that there was found no special term for the concept of ‘Adate Tashbih’ in English so in this article they will be called ‘similarity markers’.
In Persian, whenever the ‘Vajhe Shabah/sense’ and ‘Adate Tashbih/similarity marker’ of a simile are omitted, the simile is called ‘Tashbihe Baligh’ this deletion not only doesn’t change the simile into a metaphor but also adds to its value as a simile (Shamisa, 1995) as opposed to English where deletion of the ‘Adate Tashbih/similarity markers’ changes the simile into a metaphor (Perrine, 1974).
2.1.3. Personification in English
Personification is the ascription of characteristics of a human being to an animal, an object, or an idea. It is actually a kind of metaphor in which the comparison is implied and the figurative term of comparison is always a human being (Perrine, 1974).
2.1.4. Personification in Persian
In Persian, personification is called ‘Tashkhis’. It is a kind of ‘Esteare Maknie (a kind of metaphor in Persian)’ in which the attributions of a human or animal is given to a non-living thing:
As stated before,in EsteareMaknie,Moshabahon
Beh (image), which is not mentioned,is usually a
human being. Western rhetoricians call it
Personification… also, in this kind of
metaphor,sometimes the deleted Moshabahon Beh is
an animal, like ‘death’s jaws’. In such cases,
with forbearance, it is possible to regard the
figurative term as a Personification", (Shamisa,
1995, p. 64).
Considering English rhetorical definitions, some Persian personifications are not regarded as personifications in English; rather, they are ‘apostrophes’. The reason is that if in Persian, a non-living creature is addressed with the word ‘Ei/O’ as if it was a living creature, like in ‘Ei Damavand/O Damavand’, it is regarded as an ‘Esteare/metaphor’ as well as ‘Tashkhis/ personification’ (Shamisa 1995).The same thing in English is called ‘apostrophe’; ’it is Closely related to personification and consists in addressing someone absent or something nonhuman as if it was alive and present and could reply to what is being said’ (Perrine, 1974, p. 613).
2.2. Translation of similes
In the selected poems 86 similes were found a great number of which turned out to be ‘Tashbihe Baligh’ and others were ordinary similes in which the ‘Adate Tashbih/similarity marker’ was not deleted. Below there are some examples for each of the two cases (in all of which T1 stands for Emami’s translation and T2 stands for that of Salami & Zahedi):
2.2.1. The following similes are examples of the ordinary ones in which the ‘Adate Tashbih/similarity marker’ is mentioned. No problem was detected in translations of these similes regarding the rhetorical categorizations in Persian and English, i.e. they were all translated as English similes.
Ka’be am mesle nasim miravad bagh be bagh
T1: My Kaaba travels like a breeze from one garden to the next
T2: Like a breeze, my Ka’aba wafts from orchard to orchard
Here ‘Kaaba’ is likened to ‘Nasim/breeze’.
Madhamire shab andaame to ra mesle yek ghateye avadh be khod jadhb konand
T1: The psalms of the night will lure your body like a song
T2: And the nocturnal Psalters absorb your limbs like a ballad
‘Andaam/limbs’ is likened to ‘ghateye avadh/ a song’.
2.2.2. The following are examples of similes which are regarded as ‘Tashbihe Baligh’ in Persian. It was revealed that in all cases these similes have been translated as English metaphors:
T1: Minute’s dewdrops
T2: The dews of minutes
In T1, an ’s has been added to the word ‘minute’; as a result, the meaning has completely changed, because in the Persian poem ‘daghayegh/minutes’ are compared to ‘shabnam/dewdrops’. Besides, using ’s for minute is not grammatically correct and this is not a personification as well. It could be translated as: minutes like dewdrops.
Shahparakhaye enteshare havas
T1: Butterflies scattering the senses
T2: Butterflies of transmitting senses
In T1 ‘shahparakha/butterflies’ has been given the agent rule. While this is a 'Tashbihe Baligh' in which ‘butterflies’ is the image. In the second translation, it has been translated as a metaphor as well. It could be translated as a simile to, for example: 'scattering senses, like butterflies'
Chinie nadhoke tanhayi
T1: The thin shell of my loneliness
T2: The fragile china of my solitude
‘Tanhayi/loneliness’ has been likened to ‘chinie nadhok/fragile china’; it could be translated as a simile to: ‘my solitude which resembles fragile china’
Sibe sorkhe khorshid
T1: The red apples of the sun
T2: The red apple of the sun
In this simile 'Khorshid/sun' is likened to 'Sibe Sorkh/red apple'. In both translations, it has been translated as a metaphor. Another point is that in T1 by adding s the simile is lost and it has been changed into a possessive structure so that it comes to mind that it refers to the sunlight or something like that. This simile could be translated as: 'sun, like a red apple'.
Sadafe sarde sokuun
T1: Cold shells of inertia
T2: The cold, motionless shells
'Sokoun/repose' is likened to 'Sadafe Sard/cold shell'. In T2 both 'Sard' and 'Sokoun/repose' have been regarded as adjectives for ‘Sadaf/shell’, as a result, the simile is totally lost. It could be rendered as 'repose, as a cold shell'.
2.3. Translation of personifications:
There were found 134 personifications in the selected poems. The only problem regarding the rhetorical differences of the two languages was that of the case of apostrophe. There were only two examples for Persian personifications, which are regarded as English apostrophes. No semantic problems were detected regarding their translations. The only problem seems to lie in the fact that they are, per se, different rhetorical categories in Persian and English. It seems that nothing can be done to solve this problem. However, in order to illustrate the point and make the distinction clear, they are mentioned here.
Ei soruude sobhe vedaha
T1: O morning chant of the Vedas!
T2: Oh, morning hymns of “Vedas”
Ei tamame derakhtane zeite khake felestin
T1: And you, all olive trees of the land of Palestine
T2: O, all olive trees of Palestine
The findings of this study revealed that a major source of mistake/difficulty in translation of Persian modern poetry is ignoring the discrepancies among rhetorical categorizations in Persian and English; this may result in changing the figurative term to a different one or loosing it as a whole. In some cases one figurative term may be regarded as something in Persian while, if translated literally, it will be regarded as quite another one in English; an example is the case of Persian ‘Tashbihe Baligh’ in which there is an implicit element to be made explicit (i.e. ‘Adate Tashbih/Similarity markers’) in the target text so that one can translate it as an English simile; otherwise it will be translated as an English metaphor. Still there are other cases like that of apostrophes in which nothing can be done because on the one hand there is no implicit element here to be made explicit and on the other this does not deteriorate the process of a ‘proper’ translation.
However If the translator ignores these definitions and categorizations in both source and target language, they cannot convey the writer’s intended meaning or effect properly.
It is worth noting that few studies have been carried out on translation of figurative language in Sepehri’s poems and that still much work remains to be done on the issue with focus on other figurative terms and/or translated versions of these poems.
-Encyclopedia Britannica UltimateReference Suite
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Tehran: Sokhan Publishers.
-Newmark, P. (1988). Approaches to Translation.
Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall.
-Perrine, L. (1974). Literature, structure, sound
and sense. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
- Salami, I & Zahedi, A. (2004). The water’s
footfall, selected poems. Tehran:Zabankadeh
-Shamisa, C. (1995). Figurative Language & rhetoric.
Tehran: Ferdous publications.
-Yule, George. 1996. The Study of Language.
Cambridge: Cambridge university press.