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32 - Torop and translatability - part 2

We have seen, at the end of the previous unit, Torop's scheme of culture translatability. Let us now try to understand what these categories mean and what are their corresponding translation strategies.

  The language parameter is easy to intuitively understand even without explanations. It consists of:

  grammatical categories: in some cases two languages are different because of the presence/absence of some grammatical category. Translatability problems are linked to the absence, for example, of the article in some languages. In this case, when translating from one such language into a language with definite and indefinite articles, each name implies a difficult choice: translating without article, with definite or indefinite article? For example, when I have to translate the Russian word roza, I must choose among three possibilities: "rose", "a rose", and "the rose". The same goes for the presence/absence of declinations, prepositions, verbal tenses and so on.

  realia: these are words existing only in one given culture, like spaghetti in Italian, balalaika in Russian, hutzpah in Yiddish, Knödel in German, and so on. The translator can choose to simply transcribe (or transliterate when the alphabets are different) the word, or to translate it: in this case, she has the opportunity to create a neologism, to substitute the cultural words with other realia (usually of the receiving culture), to provide an approximate translation, or a translation fitting in that context only 1.

  The conversational etiquette is a peculiar case of realia: in each culture given types of relations in certain situations are taken for granted by convention. One particular example concerns the grammatical person used when addressing someone, which, in some cultures, expresses the degree of familiarity: translating from English, for example, the translator has the problem of the pronoun you that can suggest familiarity or not; in other languages, the non-familiar address is rendered with the third person, or with the plural second person, and so on.

  By associations we mean words with peculiar connotations not always understandable or easy to render in another language: for example, trade marks that give an idea of luxury or deprivation, colors indicating mourning, love, jealousy, etc.

  World image, i.e. the degree of explicitness of a language, can be a problem. Translating from a figurative language into a more explicit culture, often a text is obtained that is perceived as hermetic while, on the contrary, translating from a more explicit language into a more figurative culture, often results in a text that is perceived as redundant.

  The discourse aspect is linked to the awareness of the specific translation problems related to scientific and technical jargons.

  In the right column, the possible strategies are listed: those that tend add familiarity to the translated text (nationalization, for example), and those that tend to mix elements of different cultures.

  The time parameter concerns the period connected to the prototext culture, the author's historical time, and the historical time in which the narrated events are set. The more frequent translatability problem concerns the author's historical time, because the translator must choose between modernization and preservation of time distance (archaization), or can even try to recreate a distance between translator and reader comparable to the distance between author and author's contemporary reader (historization). If the historical distance is denied, the result is called neutralization. The time of the narrated events becomes a complex problem when, in the prototext, different periods appear, and each period has its own particular language 2.

  The space parameter. Social space consists in the preservation/suppression of sociolects. Since social differences are different in various cultures, dialects, slang, argot can sometimes be rendered with dialects of the receiving culture, but the result is never completely satisfactory and, in some cases, the translation loss is very conspicuous.

  Psychological space concerns both the reader and the translator. It is important for the reader to perceive the inner unity of the text, attainable using both lexical coherence and imagery in the text. In some cases, as far as the translator is concerned, it is important to reconstruct the concrete scene of the imaginary world described by the prototext.

   Among the possible strategies that come to mind are: localization (commented translation, with insertion of the translator's interventions), visualization (graphical representation of situations), adaptation to places familiar to the receiving reader, exotization (preservation of specific characteristics of an exotic culture), and neutralization (generalization of local peculiarities, standardization).

   In the next unit, we will examine the next three parameters: text, work, and socio-political determinacy.


Bibliographical references

TOROP P. La traduzione totale. Ed. by B. Osimo. Modena, Guaraldi Logos, 2000. ISBN 88-8049-195-4. Or. ed. Total´nyj perevod. Tartu, Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus [Tartu University Press], 1995. ISBN 9985-56-122-8.

VLAHOV S. FLORIN S. Neperevodimoe v perevode. Moskvà, 1980.

1 Vlachov , Florin 1980.
2 Torop 2000, p. 145.