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35 - Citations and quotations in translation

"Any name he mentioned, I never forgot; it turned into a specific atmosphere, to which he took me, and the wings he buckled on to me for such flights, without my noticing it, remained with me even after he left me, and now I flew there myself and looked about in amazement"1.

The 5966 ISO norm provides rules for quotations and citations in bibliography. If you want to abide by this international norm, you should use such rules for translated texts in the same way as you use them with texts in general.

1. Footnotes. Bibliographical references relative to the quote should appear on the same page as the quotations, and they must also be present at the end of the text, in the Bibliographical references. Footnotes containing such information can be very brief, so as to avoid repeating information already present in the list of bibliographical references. Long titles can be truncated, and the titles of periodical shortened according to the rules provided by the ISO 4 norm. The place of publication and the name of the publisher can be omitted. Usually the footnote uses only the surname of the author and the year of publication followed by the page on which the citation can be found. In the case of translations, when the translator has found an edition of the quoted text published in the receiving culture, she substitutes the local edition information for the original one.

2. Quotations within the text. The way in which the data of the quoted text appear when the quotations is within the text must match the criteria with which the bibliographical references at the end of the text are listed. One of two possible methods, now nearly out of use, consists in attributing a number to all texts present in the bibliographical references. The indication will be of this type:

...it has been noticed that in such cases (7) the patients...

and the list of bibliographical references will be so:

[7] COLOMBO E. Valutazione di qualità in traduzione, Modena, Yema, 2003.

The most popular method is instead the one called "name-date". In such a case the indication is based on this model:

...it has been noticed that in such cases (Colombo 2003: 7) patients...

and the list of bibliographical references will be like this:

COLOMBO E. Valutazione di qualità in traduzione, Modena, Yema, 2003.

or this:

COLOMBO E. 2003 Valutazione di qualità in traduzione, Modena, Yema, 2003.

The translator, once the edition in the receiving culture has been identified, substitutes the internal reference in this way:

...in similar cases it has been noted (Colombo 2004: 13) that patients...

and the list of bibliographical references will be so:

COLOMBO E. Quality Assessment in Translation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004. Original edition: Valutazione di qualità in traduzione, Modena, Yema, 2003, translated by Oronzo Pilloni.

or like this:

COLOMBO E. 2004 Quality Assessment in Translation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Original edition: Valutazione di qualità in traduzione, Modena, Yema, 2003, translated by Oronzo Pilloni.

When the translator wants to know if a given text has been translated into a given language, how should she behave? One of the simplest methods consists in consulting on-line catalogues of the National Library Services of the possible countries. For Italy, for example, the address is:


and, from the home page, you must click always on OPAC, an acronym meaning «Online Public Access Catalogue». Here are some addresses for Europe: for the United Kingdom the address is http://blpc.bl.uk/.

For Germany it is http://lcweb.loc.gov/homepage/lchp.html

For Finland http://www.lib.helsinki.fi/

Moreover, the Helsinki university kindly lists a page with links to all European national catalogues: http://www.lib.helsinki.fi/gabriel/libraries/libraries_frame_en.html

As for United States, the most important online catalogue, containing substantially everything, is the one of the biggest library in the world, Washington's Library of Congress, found at the address http://lcweb.loc.gov/homepage/lchp.html

Since central national libraries must preserve all the printed matter in their countries, usually the consultation of their sites is a sure method to check if a given translation exists. However, since cataloguing is lagging behind as compared to the printing of a book, by a few weeks or months, if a publication is recent it might not be present in catalogues. In such cases research on line can be made, putting the author's name in the search engine, and using the "advanced search" features limiting the search criteria to just the document in the language important for that search, the one of the receiving culture of the translation.

Another possibility is consulting the Index Translationum, a paper and electronic publication by Unesco, containing (in theory, at least) all what was translated. The address of the search grid is


And the really interesting aspect is that the search can be made indifferently from one of the following fields:


Word(s) from original or translation Title

Original Language

Target Language







Specific Year


The only problem with the Index Translationum, especially the printed version, is that it is updated with very little funding, and therefore, not always as rapidly as optimal.

Whenever a citation is not present in the receiving culture's literature, the translator may proceed with a "service" translation, presenting the original text of the quote in a footnote. In this case, obviously, the bibliographic references remain unaltered, and the title remains untranslated (to avoid giving the reader the impression that there is an existing translated version). One can, if necessary, indicate, in square brackets, an approximate translation after having cited it in the original.

The name of the city in which the work was published is always in the original language of the city itself (London, Moskvà, Den Haag, Frankfurt, Modena, Beijing). Usually, titles of magazines, books and volumes in general, are printed in italics, but each publishing house follows its preferred norms.


Bibliographical references

CANETTI ELIAS Die gerettete Zunge. - Die Fackel im Ohr. - Das Augenspiel, München, Carl Hanser Verlag, 1995, ISBN 3-446-18062-1.

CANETTI ELIAS The Tongue Set Free. Remembrance of a European Childhood, translated by Joachim Neugroschel, in The Memoirs of Elias Canetti, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999, ISBN 0-374-19950-7, p. 1-286.

1 Canetti 1999: 253.