Techniques used in translating English phrasal verbs into Farsi: the case of Lord of the Flies and Three Farsi translations
Copyright © ProZ.com, 1999-2019. All rights reserved.
By: Mahtab Hosseini, A Faculty Member of Islamic Azad University- Doroud Branch- Iran
The present study intends to investigate English phrasal verbs from the point of view of their translation into Farsi, and examine any possible loss of features originally attached to the use of them. Three main purposes are followed in this study: identifying the translation methods used by three Persian translators while dealing with English phrasal verbs; pinpointing those properties of phrasal verbs that tend to get lost in the process of translation; and specifying the reasons for any possible loss of the characteristic features of English phrasal verbs. The basic assumption of this study is that most English phrasal verbs are translated into Farsi compound verbs, and that the idiomatic and pragmatic meanings are the most probable properties of phrasal verbs that may get lost in the process of translation. Also, this study posits that the loss of features can be traced to two sources: translator's lack of linguistic knowledge or differences between the lexical systems of English and Farsi.
Key Terms: phrasal verbs, compound verbs, lexical verbs, original characteristics,
Phrasal verbs (the combination of lexical verbs and adverbial particles) are frequently-used elements in English, especially in modern English. These elements possess quite a number of linguistic properties that make their accurate translation into other languages a difficult task. As a result of possessing all these features, English phrasal verbs are often regarded as special elements from the point of view of translation. These linguistic features involve semantic, syntactic, stylistic, register and pragmatic features such as transparent/idiomatic meanings, collocation with a wide range of words, occurrence in a special level of informality along with various register and pragmatic meanings.
These distinguishing marks are attached to the use of phrasal verbs and are likely to get lost in the process of translation (Heliel, 1994, p.148). A translator must bear all of these features in mind when embarking on the task of translation and should also spend every effort to preserve and render as many properties as possible into the target language.
As far as the present paper is concerned, the assumption is that granted the idiosyncratic features associated with phrasal verbs in English, a Persian translator who sets out to render them into his or her language may encounter serious problems of one kind or another. It is the investigation of such problems that provides the incentive for the task in hand.
In many existing Persian translations of English texts, it can be easily observed that phrasal verbs have been neglected, misinterpreted or translated in such a way that they have lost many features originally attached to them.
This article intends to provide answers to three questions:
1. What methods have been used by Persian translators in rendering English phrasal verbs?
2. Which characteristic/s of English phrasal verbs is/are more likely to get lost while being translated into Persian?
3. What is the main reason for the possible loss of English phrasal verbs in the process of translation (i.e. the translator's lack of linguistic knowledge or the different linguistic structures of the two languages)?
In this study, the data gathered consist of all those phrasal verbs which occur in the text of an English novel, Lord of the Flies, by William Gerald Golding, together with their equivalents chosen by three Persian translators: Hamid Rafiee (1983), Susan Ardakani (1983) and Mojgan Mansouri (2003).
The way each property of English phrasal verbs is rendered into Persian will be discussed here. As far as the transparency of meaning is concerned, phrasal verbs are divided into literal, semi-idiomatic and idiomatic ones. In literal phrasal verbs the particle has a directional meaning. In semi-idioms, the particle doesn't have a directional meaning but the whole combination is different from an idiom in that it is not as semantically opaque as an idiom is (Bolinger, 1971, p.93). Some other phrasal verbs have idiomatic meanings. Gibbs (1994) believes that idiomatic phrasal verbs constitute an important part of English idioms, especially in modern English.
Taking into account all three Persian translations, the Farsi equivalents of English phrasal verbs can be categorized according to the models that the Persian translators have used. This can provide some clues to the most common methods that are applied to the translation of English phrasal verbs into Farsi:
1. Translating phrasal verbs into compound verbs
2. Translating phrasal verbs into verbal groups
3. Translating phrasal verbs into single-word (lexical) verbs
4. Translating phrasal verbs into two/more verbs
5. Translating phrasal verbs into complete sentences
6. Omission of the phrasal verb
According to the data of the study, most of the phrasal verbs have been translated into Farsi compound verbs. As Kalbasi (2000, p.71) points out, in Farsi, compound verbs are those combinations that are compose of a verbal element together with one or more non-verbal elements. Examples of such verbs include: كار كردن، از دست رفتن، لب فروبستن .Kalbasi (2000) also states that a sub-group of Farsi compound verbs are phrasal verbs (عبارات فعلي) in which the word-initial, non-verbal element is a preposition. Examples of such verbs are:
از پا در آمدن، به دست آوردن، از حال رفتن . many of the compound verbs that are used in modern Farsi have entered the language through translation. The reason for this, Farshidvard (2003, p.483) believes, is the fact that the number of lexical verbs in Farsi is limited and does not exceed 300 verbs; this explains why, over the years, most Arabic and European verbs have been translated into compound verbs in Farsi. These compound verbs are chosen from the data of the study:
(Someone) cry out فرياد كشيدن
(Something) mark (someone) out متمايز نمودن
(Voice) echo back طنين انداختن
(Someone) break in وسط حرف كسي پريدن
(Someone) take off (sweater) از تن درآوردن
According to the data of the study, some other English phrasal verbs are translated into Farsi verbal groups. Like compound verbs, verbal groups are also the combination of verbal and non-verbal elements. The difference between these two constructions is that in compound verbs the meaning of the component parts merge semantically (e.g. in جيغ زدن); in verbal groups, however, each component preserves its standard meaning (e.g. in نان خوردن). Some examples are provided from the data:
(Someone) stand up سر پا ايستادن
(Someone) hold back (something) عقب نگه داشتن
Another method used for translating English phrasal verbs into Farsi involves translating them into a single-word verb. Consider the following examples:
(Someone) snatch off (something) قاپيدن
(Someone) march away رفتن
Translating the English phrasal verbs into two/more verbs (lexical, compound or a combination of both) is another method used by the three translators. Here are some examples from the data:
(fire) burn out سوختن و خاموش شدن
(someone) run away دويدن و رفتن
(body) rot away پوسيدن و متلاشي شدن
Another method used includes translating English phrasal verbs into complete sentences in Farsi:
Smoke (him) out با دود او را از مخفيگاه بيرون كشيد
(someone) let (fire) out آتش را به حال خود گذاشت تا خاموش شود
Finally, omission is another strategy, if not called a method, used by the Persian translators when dealing with some phrasal verbs.
The second question of the study relates to those original characteristics of English phrasal verbs that are the most likely ones to get lost in the process of translation. The findings of the study show that idiomatic meaning is the first feature that has a high risk of being lost while translating to Farsi.
The majority of the idiomatic phrasal verbs under investigation have been translated into non-idiomatic constructions. This confirms Gibb's (1994, p.143) statement that idioms are, to a great extent, untranslatable.
Also, the findings are in agreement with Newmark's (1988a) idea that pragmatic meaning is one of the most difficult types of meaning to be translated. While translated into Farsi, many of the English phrasal verbs under investigation have lost the pragmatic meaning they originally conveyed.
The third research question focuses on whether the loss of original features in translation is the result of translator's lack of linguistic knowledge or the outcome of different linguistic structures of Farsi and English. In this respect, the results of the present study points to both factors as liable sources for the loss of original features; however, of the factors mentioned, human errors seem to be less responsible (less than 10%).
The findings of this study reveal that in the case of translating English phrasal verbs, a Farsi translator may intentionally or unintentionally (as the result of the lack of linguistic knowledge) cause the loss of original features in one of the following ways:
• Failing to distinguish a phrasal verb from another construction that resembles it (i.e. a prepositional verb)
• Failing to guess the idiomatic meaning that a phrasal verb conveys in a special context
• Passing over the meaning that a phrasal verb contributes to the text and thus easily omit the whole item from the process of translation.
The data of the study proves that the majority of the losses that have occurred result from another source. This means that the translators have chosen Farsi equivalents that preserve only one or two of the original properties of the phrasal verbs because they have not been able to find equivalents that possess all those properties attached to the use of them in English. For example, the phrasal verb "loom up" is idiomatic, informal and has the pragmatic meaning of "being used for a frightening subject". When translated into Farsi as "آمدن" يا " ظاهر شدن", it will lose many of the features it had in English. Such losses are not to be laid at the door of the translators; rather, they are the results of the differences between the lexical systems of Farsi and English.
Two suggestions for translating phrasal verbs:
1. To provide a proper translation for English phrasal verbs, pay much attention to the collocating words of it and to the context in which they are used.
2. A good explanatory or specialized dictionary of phrasal verbs can be of great help to a translator.
As far as translating English phrasal verbs into Farsi is concerned, the results of this study show that it is impossible to preserve all semantic, syntactic, stylistic, register and pragmatic properties of them; however, as Newmark (1988a) argues, as a general rule, in any type of translation, regardless of what is getting translated, some type of change along with the loss and gain of some part of meaning is quite inevitable. This is in agreement with the theoretical position adopted by Snell-Hornby (1988) who believes that exact equivalence between any two languages (SL, TL) is impossible because of a great number of linguistic and non-linguistic differences in the grammar and the number of words; besides, the distinction between the two cultures and the way in which speech communities use languages can influence translation methods and its results.
Also, the results confirm that English phrasal verbs are often more economical than their Farsi translations; in other words, most phrasal verbs are translated into longer stretches of words that do not convey the same meaning in Farsi as they do in English.