Paul Howard (MML, Cambridge)
Moderator: Marcus Tomalin (Cambridge)
Diversity, in its diverse forms, has come to characterise those modern nation-states that advocate the socio-political advantages of cultural and ethnic pluralism – and sociolinguistic diversity in particular (whether inter- or intralingual) has received increasing consideration (e.g., Mayoral Asensio 1999, Cotterill and Ife 2000, Stolt 2010, Federici 2011, Hansen-Shirra et al. 2012). Communities subdivide themselves by means of distinctive languages, sociolects, genderlects, dialects, and the like -- and, in different contexts, they deploy different stylistic registers with varying degrees of prestige and validity. Naturally, this situation presents paradigmatic problems for translators, since any extended utterance is unavoidably riven with regional, ethnic, socio-economic, and/or socio-political connotations that are strongly embedded in the culture of the source language. However, this also provides wonderful opportunities too, since translations can help to bring distinct cultures into closer, more sympathetic, contact.
In his seminal work A Linguistic Theory of Translation (1965), John Catford considered various strategies for translating linguistic variation, noting that all too often a flattening or neutralizing effect predominates. Translation can, therefore, promote homogeneity rather than heterogeneity, often unwittingly. The literary critic Roland Barthes claimed that 'non-standard' forms have generally been treated inadequately by authors and translators alike, mainly because they have too often been deemed peripheral (Barthes 1984, 123). Yet attentiveness to such differences is sometimes unavoidable. It is a brave, if misguided, translator who renders the Italian phrase ‘mi fa cagare!’ literally into (say) Arabic, without considering its pragmatic implications. Nonetheless, such nuances are often hard to approximate. As Gillian Lane-Mercier has observed, all attempted renderings of non-standard forms inevitably reveal ‘the translator’s aesthetic, ideological and political responsibility’ (Lane Mercier 1997, sub-title). Consequently, whenever required to contend with instances of conspicuous linguistic variation, translators must necessarily participate in the fraught task of mediating diversity by means of language – and their decisions reveal much about their underlying worldviews and ideologies.
This workshop will provide an opportunity to explore the practice of translation in this area. Whether it is dealing with regional vocabulary that distinguishes the speech of characters in nineteenth-century novels, or the use of colloquial idioms by eye-witnesses in news reports, or the lexical distinctions that reinforce the Tamil caste system, translators working with such materials are compelled to confront differences that reveal something about the geographical locations, economic classes, or socio-political hierarchies that manifest themselves in the culture of the source language. And that is an activity that is necessarily fraught with danger.
Open to all. No registration required
Part of Cambridge Conversations in Translation Research Group Seminar Series
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